Five cuts from Sunday's action:
It was, after all, the Braves' and Giants' epic 1993 NL West race that provided key motivation for the advent of the wild card. That year the Braves and Giants entered the final day of the regular season with 103 wins each, only for Atlanta to win and San Francisco to lose, thereby giving the division to the Braves and sending the Giants home despite a 103-59 record.
The Braves' support of the Giants will be short-lived, however. The two teams meet Thursday in San Francisco in the NL Division Series. The other first-round NL series pits the Reds at the Phillies, beginning Wednesday.
The infielder contributed two hits and two RBIs on Sunday but committed another error, his fourth in the last four games, even after Cox moved him from third base to his more familiar second base, while flipping
Then again, Infante also booted a ball at third for an eighth-inning error, leading to a pair of unearned runs. The realization may simply be that the Braves only have a mediocre overall defense anyway -- they rank No. 13 in the majors according to Baseball Prospectus' Park-Adjusted Defensive Efficiency -- with particularly poor infield defense, thanks to the injuries to
Still, Cox's best bet is to continue playing Conrad at second and Infante at third. Though Conrad has made 22 starts at third for the Braves this year and now only two at second base, he spent most of his minor-league career at second and,
Though the Phillies had already locked up homefield advantage and the best record in the NL, manager
Manuel saw the pros and cons of that decision in the third inning. His catcher,
In the top half of the third, Heyward robbed Phillies centerfielder
In the bottom half of the third, Heyward smoked a grounder down the rightfield line and into the corner for an RBI triple. In the eighth, Heyward singled, alertly reached second on a pitch in the dirt and then stole third base.
He finishes the Braves' 162nd game with a .277/.393/.456 hitting line with 18 home runs and 72 RBIs. His .417 OBP since the All-Star break ranks third in the majors.
The Rays nevertheless have secured the top seed in the AL and will host the Rangers in the ALDS starting Wednesday.
The Twins lost 2-1 to the Blue Jays but had no chance on Sunday of catching the Rays anyway, as it entered a game behind Tampa Bay, which had won five of their eight meetings and thus held the tiebreaker. In the other first-round playoff series, Minnesota will welcome the Yankees to Target Field, against whom they are 2-14 since the start of 2009, including a 3-0 ALDS sweep last year. That series also begins Wednesday.