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Puig's HR nets sweep as LA flexes atop West

Buehler strikes out career-high 12 over 6 sharp innings
MLB.com

LOS ANGELES -- In a quiet hallway beneath Dodger Stadium, not long after a thunderous roar of his creation had quieted, Yasiel Puig recalled a time he has been able to hit home runs with the ease he is operating at now.

"Yes," he said, "[in] my house on a video game."

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LOS ANGELES -- In a quiet hallway beneath Dodger Stadium, not long after a thunderous roar of his creation had quieted, Yasiel Puig recalled a time he has been able to hit home runs with the ease he is operating at now.

"Yes," he said, "[in] my house on a video game."

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Puig had just one at-bat as a pinch-hitter Wednesday night, and saw just two pitches, but he sent that second one screaming over the left-center-field fence for a three-run home run in the seventh inning that was the difference in a 5-2 victory over the Colorado Rockies.

Puig celebrates homer with epic bat flip

When the series against the Rockies started Monday, the Dodgers trailed Colorado by a half game. When the three-game sweep was completed, the Dodgers had opened a 2 1/2-game lead in the National League West with nine games remaining on their schedule.

Puig has been a big reason for the Dodgers' recent run that has given them seven victories over their last eight games, including three victories in four tries at contending St. Louis. Puig had two home runs against the Cardinals on Friday and three more Saturday.

Video: COL@LAD: Puig, Roberts on Dodgers' 5-2 victory

Puig's home run outburst was essentially what gave him the National League Player of the Week award. But he did not play Tuesday, and admitted that he was not even at Dodger Stadium when Chris Taylor hit a game-ending home run.

Reports indicated that Puig's Los Angeles-area home was robbed at some point while he was at Dodger Stadium for Tuesday's game. But he was in such a good mood Wednesday, he even joked about his efforts to return to Dodger Stadium before Tuesday's game ended.

"I tried to come back and said, 'Oh, I'm going to hit a home run. too," Puig said. "But [Taylor] hit it before I tried to come back. There was too much traffic and my pilot's not home. He had vacation."

Things are going so well for the Dodgers and manager Dave Roberts right now that they can hand pick key spots for their hottest hitter. Roberts elected to not start Puig for the last two games because the Rockies had a left-hander on the mound and Puig has struggled against lefties this season.

It helped that Dodgers starter Walker Buehler overcame a shaky first inning, when he gave up two runs, to strike out a career-best 12 batters.

Video: COL@LAD: Buehler K's career-high 12 over 6 frames

After Matt Kemp hit a home run in the second inning and Brian Dozier hit an RBI double in the fifth to tie the score at 2, the stage was set for Puig in the seventh against Rockies reliever Scott Oberg.

Video: COL@LAD: Dozier plates Hernandez with a double in 5th

"First of all, this game, this series was emblematic of our ballclub and how many people had their hands in this to help win three games," Roberts said. "Yasiel, to be able to put him in that leverage spot and to be prepared for that moment and to come through was huge, obviously."

"Prepared" might have been overstating it. Puig admitted that he did not pick up a bat until five minutes before he went to the plate. He got into a squat to stretch his legs right before stepping into the batter's box.

He hit the first pitch from Oberg foul down the third-base line, then jumped on a slider for his 22nd home run of the season.

"It was great," Puig said. "I didn't sleep too much yesterday and I came here early and really didn't work too much, only talking with my teammates. … God blessed me. I didn't try to hit a home run. I tried to put the ball into the air or do something, just not hit a ground-ball double play [so I can] put us up by a run."

Instead, he hit the jackpot.

"That's why I was excited because when my teammates do the same thing, I am excited for my teammates," Puig said. "That's one of the bigger reasons we're winning the last couple of days because everybody is enjoying the moment, everybody is together and everybody is like a family."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Dodgers reliever Kenta Maeda appears to be finding the form that made him an effective reliever last postseason. Maeda set the stage for a Kenley Jansen save when he struck out two more batters Wednesday. That gives him five strikeouts over five batters faced going back to Thursday's victory in 10 innings.

Maeda turned the ball over to Scott Alexander, who got Matt Holliday to ground out, ending the Rockies' half of the eighth. Jansen pitched a perfect ninth inning for his 36th save.

Video: COL@LAD: Jansen retires Iannetta to seal save, sweep

"Kenta has been great," Roberts said. "He's pitched three out of four [games] so I told him when he came out that he has tomorrow off."

SOUND SMART
Kemp gave the Dodgers a National League record with his home run in the second inning. Kemp's 20th of the season meant that seven players now have at least 20 home runs in a Dodgers uniform this season. Six American League teams have accomplished the feat, the most recent being the Orioles last season. With Taylor sitting on 17 homers, the Dodgers have a chance to set a Major League record.

Video: COL@LAD: Kemp drills a solo home run to left field

Including in-season acquisitions Manny Machado and Dozier, the Dodgers have nine hitters on the roster with at least 20 home runs.

HE SAID IT
"I was so excited because I'm finally doing something for my team coming from the dugout. It's one of my first hits coming from pinch-hitting and I was so excited running the bases.' -- Puig, who hit his second career pinch-hit home run and has gone 4-for-14 as a pinch-hitter this season

UP NEXT
After a day off Thursday, left-hander Rich Hill will take the mound Friday when the Dodgers open their final home series of the season, a three-game set against the Padres. Hill has given up four earned runs in each of his last three starts, but the Dodgers have scored a whopping 49 runs over the last five games he has started. The Padres will counter with left-hander Eric Lauer.

Doug Padilla is a contributor to MLB.com.

Los Angeles Dodgers, Walker Buehler, Yasiel Puig

Voit's two HRs deny Red Sox chance to clinch

MLB.com @BryanHoch

NEW YORK -- This is a different Yankees team than the fatigued group that rolled their bags out of Fenway Park following a fourth straight loss in early August, as the Red Sox have learned through the first 18 innings of their visit. Moving closer to full strength with some fresh faces mixed in, these division rivals would almost certainly make for a compelling postseason series.

Luke Voit homered twice as part of a career-high four-hit performance, supporting Luis Severino's sterling seven-inning outing. The Yankees kept the beer and bubbly shelved in the visiting clubhouse for a second consecutive evening, preventing the Red Sox from celebrating the American League East with a 10-1 rout on Wednesday at Yankee Stadium.

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NEW YORK -- This is a different Yankees team than the fatigued group that rolled their bags out of Fenway Park following a fourth straight loss in early August, as the Red Sox have learned through the first 18 innings of their visit. Moving closer to full strength with some fresh faces mixed in, these division rivals would almost certainly make for a compelling postseason series.

Luke Voit homered twice as part of a career-high four-hit performance, supporting Luis Severino's sterling seven-inning outing. The Yankees kept the beer and bubbly shelved in the visiting clubhouse for a second consecutive evening, preventing the Red Sox from celebrating the American League East with a 10-1 rout on Wednesday at Yankee Stadium.

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Video: BOS@NYY: Voit, Boone discuss 10-1 win over Red Sox

"We don't want them to clinch here," Voit said. "They're our rival and we're going to try to do everything we can. We've been cold as a team and we haven't been our New York Yankees. It's huge to get [Aaron] Judge and Didi [Gregorius] back healthy, and Gary [Sanchez] and [Aroldis] Chapman. It's scary how good this team is going to be. We're looking to do some damage in the playoffs."

With 11 games left in the regular season, the Yankees hold a 2 1/2-game lead over the A's for the top AL Wild Card spot.

Video: BOS@NYY: Voit homers twice as Severino deals vs. Sox

Miguel Andujar hit his 25th homer as the Yankees battered familiar opponent David Price and Severino bounced back from an inconsistent second half to compile one of his best starts in weeks. Severino snapped a three-start winless streak, capping his six-hit, six-strikeout effort with a curveball that froze Mookie Betts for a called third strike.

Video: BOS@NYY: Andujar opens scoring with a solo HR in 2nd

"Every time we face the Red Sox, it's a huge series, huge game," Severino said. "I think facing a team like this brings out the best in everybody. My mindset today was to go over there and go after everybody. My last start before this wasn't that bad. I was feeling good, too, so I know I'm getting on track again."

Boston's only run off Severino came on Sandy Leon's fifth-inning single. With the Yankees eyeing a potential AL Wild Card Game, Severino could be bypassed in favor of Masahiro Tanaka or J.A. Happ, both of whom have pitched more consistently of late. But manager Aaron Boone said that the Yanks will need all three to pitch well if they intend to be the last team standing.

Video: BOS@NYY: Severino K's 6 over 7 frames for 18th win

Price has lost all six of his starts at Yankee Stadium since joining the Red Sox, thumped for six runs (four earned) and six hits in 5 1/3 innings. Andujar opened the scoring with a second-inning homer and third baseman Eduardo Nunez muffed an Aaron Judge grounder that chased home another two runs.

Video: BOS@NYY: Sanchez, Voit score on Nunez's error in 2nd

The barrel-chested Voit cleared the right-field wall with an opposite-field shot in the fourth, then went deep again to the same area in the sixth for a two-run blast, charging around the basepaths with his top jersey button undone as Price was dispatched to the showers. Price has allowed 33 runs in 30 1/3 innings (9.79 ERA) when pitching for Boston in the Bronx.

Voit bench presses 135 pounds with one arm

Video: Luke Voit joins MLB Tonight to discuss his 4-hit game

"We wanted to take it to these guys," Voit said. "Obviously probably down the line in the playoffs we're going to face them again. We want to get hot at the right time going into those games and it's nice to have a big night. We have to get this offense rolling. It's been dragging the last couple of weeks. That was a big game for us."

Chapman reinstated from disabled list

Video: BOS@NYY: Hicks plates 2 with a triple in the 6th

Aaron Hicks added a two-run triple off Joe Kelly, part of a three-RBI performance. Justus Sheffield, the Yankees' top-rated prospect according to MLB Pipeline, recorded the final three outs in his Major League debut. Sheffield loaded the bases on two singles and a walk before getting Betts to ground into a game-ending double play.

Video: BOS@NYY: Sheffield gets game-ending DP in MLB debut

"I was trying to breathe as much as I could, trying to settle down," Sheffield said. "Didi was out there and telling me to slow down and breathe. That's what I just kept doing. I knew that sooner or later if I kept doing that, I was going to make the right pitch."

Judge photobombs pregame dugout report

SOUND SMART
Voit's second homer gave the Yankees a Major League-leading 245 blasts for the season, equaling a franchise record set by the 2012 squad. With nine homers since joining the Yanks, Voit is one deep drive shy of becoming the 12th player on the roster with a double-digit home run total, which would set a Major League record.

Video: BOS@NYY: Voit belts 2nd HR for Yanks' 245th of 2018

"We have gotten it from a lot of different people," Boone said. "Obviously we've needed that. With Miggy kind of kicking in the door and taking that job early in the season and running with it, the role he's played. And then Voit; if you would've said a couple months ago that he'd be playing this kind of role and hitting for this kind of power with us, I don't think anyone saw it coming."

HE SAID IT
"My legs felt like Jell-O. The first thing I was thinking is, 'Don't trip on the mound. Just don't trip.'" -- Sheffield

Video: BOS@NYY: Sheffield learns of callup, makes MLB debut

MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
After Voit had rounded the bases for his sixth-inning home run, the umpires called for a review to see if a fan in the front row had interfered with the ball. The call on the field was confirmed, with the flight of the ball appearing to carry into the seating area. Neither of Voit's home runs were Statcast™ darlings -- the second came off his bat at 94.1 mph and traveled 343 feet -- but he and the Yankees certainly aren't complaining.

Video: BOS@NYY: Voit rips 2nd HR as call confirmed in 6th

"Tonight it was a little windier, so you didn't know," Voit said. "I thought I got that last one more than I did and it barely went out. Luckily it went over. You watch every guy hit a ball to right field, they're always looking at the outfielder and judging it. There's definitely cheap home runs, but you've got to take advantage of it."

UP NEXT
The Yankees will try to prevent the Red Sox from celebrating the AL East title for a third consecutive evening on Thursday as the rivals meet at 7:05 p.m. ET in an MLB Network Showcase Game. Tanaka (12-5, 3.47 ERA) will start for New York, having allowed two earned runs or fewer in nine of his past 11 starts, posting a 2.15 ERA over that span. Left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez (12-4, 3.53 ERA) has the ball for Boston.

Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook.

New York Yankees, Miguel Andujar, Luis Severino, Luke Voit

Kipnis clubs walk-off slam for 1,000th hit

Indians rally in 9th after Carrasco logs 11 K's in no-decision
MLB.com @MLBastian

CLEVELAND -- Jason Kipnis strolled up the first-base line, admiring his shot to the right-field seats as the Progressive Field crowd roared. In the on-deck circle, Francisco Lindor threw his bat high into the air, kicked his legs in celebration and ran onto the field like a little kid.

For most of Wednesday night, the Indians' offense was silent. Kipnis put an end to that with a walk-off grand slam off Ian Hamilton to give the Tribe a 4-1 victory over the White Sox. It marked the fifth walk-off win of the year for the American League Central champions and set off an on-field party that Cleveland hopes is a teaser for October.

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CLEVELAND -- Jason Kipnis strolled up the first-base line, admiring his shot to the right-field seats as the Progressive Field crowd roared. In the on-deck circle, Francisco Lindor threw his bat high into the air, kicked his legs in celebration and ran onto the field like a little kid.

For most of Wednesday night, the Indians' offense was silent. Kipnis put an end to that with a walk-off grand slam off Ian Hamilton to give the Tribe a 4-1 victory over the White Sox. It marked the fifth walk-off win of the year for the American League Central champions and set off an on-field party that Cleveland hopes is a teaser for October.

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"Couldn't draw it up much better than that one," Kipnis said. "That felt good."

Video: CWS@CLE: Francona, Carrasco on win against White Sox

Seven years ago, Kipnis' first career hit for the Indians was a walk-off single against the Angels. Carlos Santana scored the winning run and Austin Kearns and Travis Buck were the first to greet Kipnis on the infield with celebratory jabs in that one. Last month, Kipnis recorded an inside-the-park homer for his 100th career round-tripper.

As the ninth inning took shape for the Indians -- Josh Donaldson beat out an infield hit, Yandy Diaz singled and Yan Gomes was hit by a pitch -- Kipnis thought ahead to another milestone. He was sitting on 999 career hits when he walked to the plate with one out and the bases loaded.

"There's just something going on with these round numbers," Kipnis said. "Going into the ninth inning, I thought, 'Wouldn't this be a way to get the 1,000th?' As it turned out, I got closer and closer to the on-deck circle and home plate. The thought would keep creeping into my head and actually gave me a little more confidence. I was like, 'It's meant to be.'

"It's weird what belief can do in these situations. I was like, 'It's going to happen, I know it's going to happen.'"

Hamilton worked the count full against Kipnis, who swung through a changeup in the heart of the zone on the second pitch of their battle. For the 3-2 pitch, the White Sox righty returned to the offspeed offering, sending one over the middle again. This time, Kipnis made the most of what was now a mistake pitch.

The result was a no-doubter and Kipnis' teammates celebrated accordingly, pouring from the dugout and forming a mob around the plate. After launching his bat high in the air, Lindor looked up and quickly recalled that gravity would return the spiraling lumber back to earth.

"I didn't know what to do. I was just freaking out," Lindor said with a laugh. "I threw it really high and I stood there with my hands up, and then I looked up and was like, 'Oh, [no]. Where am I going to go now?' It was a scary moment for a second."

Lindor sprinted to Rajai Davis, who was jogging home from third base, and began jumping and high-fiving him several steps ahead of the plate.

"That was a first," Davis chuckled.

As he closed in on the chaotic crowd of players, Kipnis spiked his helmet on the ground, let out a howl and high-fived Lindor with both hands. He then disappeared in the pile, while being doused with water and having his jersey tugged in all directions. Kipnis emerged from the pack and Lindor found him again, embracing him in a hug.

"That's a fun feeling," Kipnis said.

The game-winning jack took Indians starter Carlos Carrasco off the hook following 6 2/3 overpowering innings. The big right-hander piled up 11 strikeouts, walked one and made just one mistake. In the sixth, Daniel Palka crushed a low fastball out to center for a solo homer.

For eight innings, it looked like that might be enough to even the series. The primary issue was White Sox starter Dylan Covey, who stifled the Indians over six shutout innings before turning it over to the bullpen.

"It's one of those games where you hope one mistake didn't cost you a game," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "Because, that's all [Carrasco] really did."

Kipnis took care of that, providing another positive moment within what has been a trying season for the veteran.

His early-season offensive woes led to being removed from the No. 2 spot in the lineup. He now has a consistent home in the lower-third. The Aug. 31 acquisition of Donaldson forced Jose Ramirez to move to second, pushing Kipnis -- a long-time second baseman -- to center field, where he is adjusting on the fly.

Video: CWS@CLE: Kipnis on walk-off slam, 1,000th career hit

Throughout all the turbulence, Kipnis has remained focused on doing what is asked of him and preparing for the postseason.

"It doesn't matter what you do in the regular season," Lindor said. "If you go up in the postseason and you step up, and you help your team win, you're going to be remembered. People are going to remember you."

Dating to Aug. 26, when Kipnis implemented a mechanical adjustment involving his hands, he has hit .317/.405/.683 with six homers, five doubles, 23 RBIs and as many walks (eight) as strikeouts in 19 games. That stretch began with the game that included his milestone inside-the-park homer.

Kipnis certainly made the most of his 1,000th career hit.

"I'm still feeling good. I'm still feeling confident," Kipnis said. "This game is a metaphor for my season, too. I look for my openings, and where I can contribute and help out. It's up to me whether I can stay ready for it."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Donaldson's dribbler: The ninth inning began with Donaldson hitting a slow roller in front of the plate, where reliever Juan Minaya fielded the ball and fired it to first. Donaldson narrowly beat the throw, stepping on the bag as the ball was arriving into first baseman Matt Davidson's glove. The White Sox challenged, but the safe call stood, giving the Indians a critical baserunner for the game-winning push.

Video: CWS@CLE: Donaldson's infield single stands in 9th

"That's just the fun part of the game, you know?" Davis said. "Never giving up to the last out. Obviously, Donaldson set that up. I think that made up for all the hard-hit outs he's had. They made a nice play on him earlier in the game, but he got that nice infield hit at the right time and set the situation up."

Diaz finds the hole: After Donaldson reached in the ninth, he was replaced on the bases by the fleet-footed Davis. On a 2-1 pitch to Diaz, Davis broke for second base, forcing shortstop Tim Anderson to break for the bag. Diaz swung and sent a grounder through the hole created by Anderson's shift. Instead of a potential double-play ball, Diaz singled and the rally remained alive.

Video: CWS@CLE: Diaz singles as Anderson breaks for bag

"Pitchers, they're going to pitch a little bit under pressure, a little bit more stress," Davis said. "Yandy was able to put the bat on the ball and I was breaking at the time. Somebody's got to cover. It worked out for us. I'm thankful."

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Playing in back-to-back games for the first time since coming off the DL, Donaldson made a pair of impressive defensive plays at third. The first was a sliding back-handed grab on a grounder from Ryan Cordell in the third inning and firing a strong throw across the diamond. Cordell was robbed again in the seventh, when Donaldson lunged to his right to snare another grounder before again firing to first for a highlight-reel out.

Video: CWS@CLE: Donaldson flashes the leather against Sox

SOUND SMART
For Carrasco, this was his career-best seventh outing of the season with at least 10 strikeouts and the club's 29th individual double-digit strikeout performance, which leads the Major Leagues. It's the most in a single season in the Majors since 2002, when the D-backs had 30.

Video: CWS@CLE: Carrasco allows 1 run, K's 11 in 6 2/3

Kipnis is the 37th player in Indians history to reach 1,000 career hits with the franchise. He is the only player in club history to have at least 100 home runs, 100 steals and 1,000 hits. Kipnis and Davey Lopes (Sept. 2, 1979) are the only players in MLB history to hit a walk-off slam for their 1,000th career hit.

UP NEXT
Indians right-hander Josh Tomlin (1-5, 6.59 ERA) is scheduled to start the series finale against the White Sox at 7:10 p.m. ET on Thursday at Progressive Field. Tomlin has a 4.22 ERA in six appearances since coming off the disabled list. Chicago will counter with righty James Shields (7-16, 4.53 ERA).

Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and Facebook.

Cleveland Indians, Carlos Carrasco, Jason Kipnis

Postseason Picture: Where we are right now

A closer look at the divisions, Wild Cards and tiebreakers
MLB.com

The Dodgers tightened their grip on first place in the National League West on Wednesday by completing a big sweep of the Rockies to open up a 2 1/2-game lead with nine games to play, while the Brewers gained a game on the Cubs in the NL Central with a victory over the Reds and some help from the D-backs. In the NL East, the Braves won to maintain a 5 1/2-game advantage over the victorious Phillies, and with Atlanta's victory over St. Louis, the Cardinals remain 1 1/2 games ahead of the Colorado for the second NL Wild Card Spot.

Postseason bracket

The Dodgers tightened their grip on first place in the National League West on Wednesday by completing a big sweep of the Rockies to open up a 2 1/2-game lead with nine games to play, while the Brewers gained a game on the Cubs in the NL Central with a victory over the Reds and some help from the D-backs. In the NL East, the Braves won to maintain a 5 1/2-game advantage over the victorious Phillies, and with Atlanta's victory over St. Louis, the Cardinals remain 1 1/2 games ahead of the Colorado for the second NL Wild Card Spot.

Postseason bracket

In the American League, the Yankees held off an AL East title-clinching victory by the Red Sox for the second consecutive night, and the A's won to inch closer to the Astros in the AL West while keeping pace with New York in the AL Wild Card race.

Here is a division-by-division breakdown of the playoff picture, recapping Wednesday's action and taking a look at where each contender stands heading into today. Within each division, clubs are listed in order of current standing.

Explaining tiebreaker scenarios for '18 postseason

AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST

RED SOX (103-49, .678)

Status: Clinched postseason berth. Lead NYY by 9 1/2 games for division title; lead HOU by 8 games for best record in MLB.

Yesterday's result: Lost to NYY, 10-1. Recap >

Key tiebreaker: Boston currently sits in front of AL West-leading Houston, but in the event the Astros catch the Sox, the season series would determine home field in a potential postseason matchup. The Astros won the season series, 4-3.

Today's schedule: at NYY (7:05 p.m. ET)

Key series remaining: Thursday at NYY, Sept. 21-23 at CLE, Sept. 28-30 vs. NYY

Video: BOS@NYY: Travis races 85 feet for grab, hits the wall

YANKEES (93-58, .616)

Status: Trail BOS by 9 1/2 games in AL East; lead OAK by 2 1/2 games for first AL Wild Card.

Yesterday's result: Beat BOS, 10-1. Recap >

Key tiebreaker: If the Yankees and A's tie for the two AL Wild Card spots, home field in the Wild Card Game would go to the winner of the season series, but with each club having won three games, the tiebreaker would go to the club with the better intradivision record. The Yankees (37-28 vs. AL East) hold a lead over the A's (34-35 vs. AL West) in that regard.

Today's schedule: vs. BOS (7:05 p.m. ET)

Key series remaining: Thursday vs. BOS, Sept. 28-30 at BOS

Video: Must C Combo: Voit gets jacked, then hits two jacks

RAYS (85-66, .563)

Status: Trail OAK by 5 1/2 games for second AL Wild Card.

Yesterday's result: Beat TEX, 9-3. Recap >

Key tiebreaker: If the Rays were to tie the A's for the AL's second Wild Card spot, they would host a tiebreaker play-in game because they won the season series over the A's, 5-2.

Today's schedule: at TOR (7:07 p.m. ET)

Key series remaining: Sept. 24-27 vs. NYY

Video: TB@TEX: Pham has first 2-HR game as a Ray

AL CENTRAL

INDIANS (85-66, .563)

Status: Clinched AL Central. Trail HOU by 9 1/2 games for No. 2 seed in AL.

Yesterday's result: Beat CWS, 4-1. Recap >

Key tiebreaker: If Cleveland were to pull even with Houston, it still would not host Game 1 of the ALDS, since the Astros took the season series, 4-3.

Today's schedule: vs. CWS (7:10 p.m. ET) 

Key series remaining: Friday-Sunday vs. BOS

Video: Must C Clutch: Kipnis gets hit 1,000 on walk-off slam

AL WEST

ASTROS (95-57, .625)

Status: Lead OAK by 4 games in AL West; lead CLE by 9 1/2 games for home field in ALDS; trail BOS by 8 games for the AL's best record.

Yesterday's result: Lost to SEA, 9-0. Recap >

Key tiebreaker: If Cleveland pulls even with Houston, the Astros still would host Game 1 of the ALDS, since they took the season series, 4-3. In the event of a tie with Oakland atop the AL West, the Astros would host a one-game tiebreaker by virtue of taking the season series, 12-7.

Today's schedule: Off

Video: SEA@HOU: Reddick sprints 83 ft. in 5 sec for catch

ATHLETICS (91-61, .599)

Status: Trail HOU by 4 games in AL West and NYY by 2 1/2 games for first AL Wild Card; lead TB by 5 1/2 games for second AL Wild Card.

Yesterday's result: Beat LAA, 10-0. Recap >

Key tiebreaker: If the A's and Yankees tie for the two AL Wild Card spots, home field in the Wild Card Game would go to the winner of the season series, but with both teams having won three games, the tiebreaker would go to the club with the better intradivision record. The Yankees (37-28 vs. AL East) hold a lead over the A's (34-35 vs. AL West) in that regard. If the A's tie the Astros for the AL West crown, Houston would host a one-game tiebreaker by virtue of taking the season series, 12-7.

Today's schedule: vs. LAA (3:35 p.m. ET)

Key series remaining: Sept. 24-26 at SEA

Video: LAA@OAK: Lowrie, Piscotty each plate 2 in a 6-run 4th

NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST

BRAVES (84-68, .553)

Status: Lead PHI by 5 1/2 games in NL East; trail CHC by 5 games for No. 1 seed in NL; trail LAD by a half-game for No. 2 seed in NL.

Yesterday's result: Beat STL, 7-3. Recap >

Key tiebreaker: A tie for the division crown would necessitate a tiebreaker game, and the Braves currently have the edge on the Phillies for home field in such a game. Atlanta leads the season series, 7-5, but the clubs have seven games remaining against each other. In the event of a tie for the best record in the NL, the higher seed would be determined by intradivision record, since the Braves and Cubs each won three games apiece in the season series. Atlanta (43-23) currently leads Chicago (37-32) in that department.

Today's schedule: vs. PHI (7:35 p.m. ET)

Key series remaining: Thursday-Sunday vs. PHI, Sept. 28-30 at PHI

Video: STL@ATL: Freeman cranks a 2-run homer, fan makes grab

PHILLIES (78-73, .517)

Status: Trail ATL by 5 1/2 games in NL East; 5 games out of the second NL Wild Card berth behind STL.

Yesterday's result: Beat NYM, 4-0. Recap >

Key tiebreaker: A tie for the division crown would necessitate a tiebreaker game, and the Braves currently have the edge on the Phillies for home field in such a game. Philadelphia trails the season series, 7-5, but the clubs have seven games remaining against each other.

Today's schedule: at ATL (7:35 p.m. ET)

Key series remaining: Thursday-Sunday at ATL, Sept. 24-27 at COL, Sept. 28-30 vs. ATL

Video: NYM@PHI: Eflin K's 9 over 5 scoreless frames vs. Mets

NL CENTRAL

CUBS (89-63, .586)

Status: Lead MIL by 2 1/2 games and STL by 5 1/2 games in NL Central; lead LAD by 4 1/2 games for No. 1 seed in NL.

Yesterday's result: Lost to ARI, 9-0. Recap >

Key tiebreaker: In the event of a tiebreaker game for the division title, the Cubs would have home-field advantage over the Brewers, by virtue of their 11-8 record vs. Milwaukee in the season series. In the event of a tie for the best record in the NL, the higher seed would be determined by intradivision record, since the Cubs and Braves each won three games apiece in the season series. Atlanta (43-23) currently leads Chicago (37-32) in that department.

Today's schedule: Off

Key series remaining: Sept. 28-30 vs. STL

Video: CHC@ARI: Russell, Baez combine for smooth double play

BREWERS (87-66, .569)

Status: Trail CHC by 2 1/2 games in NL Central; lead STL by 3 games for first NL Wild Card.

Yesterday's result: Beat CIN, 7-0. Recap >

Key tiebreaker: The Brewers' final three-game series against the Cardinals on Sept. 24-26 will determine the winner of the season series -- currently tied at 8-8 -- and who would have home-field advantage in the Wild Card Game if the two clubs finished tied for both Wild Card spots.

Today's schedule: Off

Key series remaining: Sept. 24-26 at STL

Video: CIN@MIL: Aguilar crushes a 3-run homer in the 3rd

CARDINALS (84-69, .549)

Status: Trail CHC by 5 1/2 games in NL Central; lead COL by 1 1/2 games for second NL Wild Card spot, trail MIL by 3 games for top NL Wild Card spot.

Yesterday's result: Lost to ATL, 7-3. Recap >

Key tiebreaker: The Cardinals' final three-game series against the Brewers on Sept. 24-26 will determine the winner of the season series -- currently tied at 8-8 -- and thereby who would have home-field advantage in the NL Wild Card Game if the two clubs finished tied for both Wild Card spots. Should St. Louis finish tied with Colorado for the second NL Wild Card spot, the Cardinals would host a tiebreaker by virtue of winning the season series, 5-2.

Today's schedule: Off

Key series remaining: Sept. 24-26 vs. MIL, Sept. 28-30 at CHC

Video: STL@ATL: Bader belts a towering solo shot to left

NL WEST

DODGERS (85-68, .556)

Status: Lead COL by 2 1/2 games in NL West; lead ATL by a half-game for No. 2 seed in NL.

Yesterday's result: Beat COL, 5-2. Recap >

Key tiebreaker: Should there be a tiebreaker game for the division title or the final NL Wild Card berth, Los Angeles is currently in position to host the Rockies (won the season series, 12-7) or play at Arizona (9-7 deficit), with more games left against Arizona. The Dodgers lost the season series to the Cardinals, 4-3, so in the event of a tie for a Wild Card spot, Los Angeles would play at St. Louis. 

Today's schedule: Off

Key series remaining: Sept. 24-26 at ARI

Video: Must C Clutch: Puig belts pinch-hit, go-ahead homer

ROCKIES (82-70, .539)

Status: Trail LAD by 2 1/2 in NL West; trail STL by 1 1/2 games for second NL Wild Card spot. 

Yesterday's result: Lost to LAD, 5-2. Recap >

Key tiebreaker: In the event of a tie for first place in the division, there would be a tiebreaker game to determine the NL West champion. As things stand now, the Rockies would be on the road for such a game against the Dodgers due to the results of their season series against Los Angeles (7-12), while Colorado's season series with the D-backs is currently even at 8-8 as the Rockies head to Arizona for a weekend series beginning Friday.

Today's schedule: Off

Key series remaining: Friday-Sunday at ARI

Video: COL@LAD: Anderson K's 4 over 6 innings vs. Dodgers

D-BACKS (79-74, .516)

Status: Trail LAD by 6 games in NL West; trail STL by 6 games for second NL Wild Card. 

Yesterday's result:  Beat CHC, 9-0. Recap >

Key tiebreaker: If the D-backs finish tied for the division title or final NL Wild Card berth, season series would determine home-field advantage in an extra game for the right to advance to the NL Wild Card Game. Arizona leads its season series against Los Angeles (9-7) and is tied with Colorado (8-8) and St. Louis (3-3). The D-backs and Rockies meet for a final regular season series starting Friday at Chase Field. Home field between Arizona and St. Louis would come down to intradivision record, with the Cardinals (40-30) currently leading the D-backs (36-31) in that race.

Today's schedule: Off

Key series remaining: Friday-Sunday vs. COL, Sept. 24-26 vs. LAD

Video: CHC@ARI: Walker crushes 445-ft. home run to center

POSTSEASON PICTURE

If the playoffs began today, here's how they would look:

Postseason schedule

NL Wild Card Game (Tues., Oct. 2)
Cardinals at Brewers

AL Wild Card Game (Wed., Oct. 3)
Athletics at Yankees

NL Division Series (begins Thurs., Oct. 4)
NL Wild Card Game winner at Cubs
Braves at Dodgers

AL Division Series (begins Fri., Oct. 5)
AL Wild Card Game winner at Red Sox
Indians at Astros

Andrew Simon is a research analyst for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB.

Do-Hyoung Park is a reporter for MLB.com based in the Bay Area. Follow him on Twitter at @dohyoungpark.

Manny Randhawa is a reporter for MLB.com based in Denver. Follow him on Twitter at @MannyOnMLB.

Matt Kelly is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @mattkellyMLB.

Milwaukee Brewers, Atlanta Braves, New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, Cleveland Indians, Oakland Athletics, Los Angeles Dodgers, Colorado Rockies, Houston Astros

Aguilar-led Crew gains on Cubs, pads WC lead

Gonzalez throws 6 innings of 2-hit ball; Pina hits 3-run HR after long AB
MLB.com @AdamMcCalvy

MILWAUKEE -- Jesus Aguilar had been hunting 100 RBIs for a while, and he got there with some small ball. Then he found his power stroke, too.

Aguilar's infield single in the first inning made him the 19th Brewers player to reach triple-digit RBIs in a season, and his three-run homer in the third sent Milwaukee cruising toward a 7-0 win over the Reds at Miller Park on Wednesday night. And another step closer to playing October baseball.

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MILWAUKEE -- Jesus Aguilar had been hunting 100 RBIs for a while, and he got there with some small ball. Then he found his power stroke, too.

Aguilar's infield single in the first inning made him the 19th Brewers player to reach triple-digit RBIs in a season, and his three-run homer in the third sent Milwaukee cruising toward a 7-0 win over the Reds at Miller Park on Wednesday night. And another step closer to playing October baseball.

View Full Game Coverage

"We feel like we're going the right way," said Aguilar. "We've got a lot of things to do."

Gio Gonzalez pitched six scoreless innings and Manny Pina added a three-run homer at the end of an epic at-bat for a series win over the Reds and a 3-3 penultimate homestand that left the Brewers an NL-best 19-9 since Aug. 19. They grew their lead atop the National League Wild Card standings to three games over the Cardinals and climbed within 2 1/2 games of the Cubs in the NL Central.

Video: CIN@MIL: Gonzalez K's 5 over 6 shutout innings

The remaining schedule looks like this: Three games in Pittsburgh beginning Friday night, then three in St. Louis that loom large. The Brewers finish the regular season at home with three against the Tigers.

"We've got nine games to go," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "We've got a ways to go. There's plenty of baseball left. There's going to be some great moments, there's going to be some tough moments. That's still ahead of us.

"There's a lot left to happen, and I think you're just open to it and ready for it to happen. We've put ourselves in a great position to enjoy the last 10 days of the season."

Video: CIN@MIL: Counsell on Gonzalez's strong outing

The early lead was a 33rd birthday present for Gonzalez, who scattered two hits and two walks in Milwaukee's first six-inning start in two weeks. Corey Knebel, Junior Guerra and Freddy Peralta finished the Brewers' fifth shutout victory over the Reds -- the first time Cincinnati had been blanked that many times in a season by a single opponent since 1960 against the Pirates, and the first time the Brewers had shut out an opponent five times since 1971 against the Angels.

It was Aguilar who supplied the early run support in another flashback to his fantastic first half. He leads Milwaukee with 33 home runs and 103 RBIs but had cooled significantly in September as he navigated the longest season of his career. He entered Wednesday slashing .245/.288/.377 since the end of August with one home run -- a solo shot in the ninth inning of a 3-2 loss to the Pirates on Sunday.

Both of Aguilar's run-scoring hits on Wednesday came against Cincinnati right-hander Matt Harvey, starting with a single over second base that scored Christian Yelich for a 1-0 lead. It gave the Brewers a 100-RBI player for the second straight season after a five-year drought. Travis Shaw drove in 101 runs in 2017.

Video: CIN@MIL: Aguilar plates Yelich for 100th RBI

Two innings later, after Harvey fumbled a Yelich grounder to put a second runner on base, Aguilar smashed an opposite-field home run to break the game open.

"I was thinking about that RBI almost every night until I got it," said Aguilar, who stalled at 97 on Sept. 7 before picking up one apiece on Friday and Sunday to put him on the brink. "Right after, I was like, 'Hey, I'm good.' I was thinking about that the last few nights, but it was an unbelievable feeling. When I got to 100, I'm like a new guy."

A new guy with a renewed focus.

"I'm going to try to get to the postseason," Aguilar said.

Video: CIN@MIL: Brewers on impressive 7-0 victory

MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Pina's marathon homer: Domingo Santana tripled with one out in the sixth before Harvey intentionally walked Mike Moustakas to set up a showdown with Pina, who fouled off nine of the first 12 pitches Harvey fired toward home plate before connecting with No. 13, a slider down the middle that Pina deposited into the left-field bleachers for three insurance runs that were important because after Knebel (who was already hot in the bullpen) pitched the seventh, Counsell was able to give his other primary relievers another day of rest heading into Milwaukee's final road trip.

"I was so focused, man," Pina said. "They gave the intentional walk to Moose, so I was like, 'I have to do something about it.' I was locked [in]."

Harvey threw the kitchen sink at him.

"He threw me pitches inside, outside, I was fighting it off," Pina said. "I knew he was kind of tired. I thought, 'He's going to hang me a pitch.' That's the pitch I hit for a homer. … I needed it. My mind right now is on 'help the team to make the playoffs.' That's what we want right now -- everybody. The fans need to see us in the playoffs, too."

Video: CIN@MIL: Pina cranks a 3-run homer on the 13th pitch

SOUND SMART
Yelich will be sorry to see the Reds go. He tallied multiple hits in seven of 14 games this season against Cincinnati and batted .482 (27-for-56) in those games for the fifth-highest single-season batting average against the Reds (minimum 50 at-bats) on record since 1908. The last hitter to fare better against Cincinnati pitching in a season was the Cubs' Mark DeRosa, who hit .510 (26-for-51) in 2007.

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
A crowd of 33,443 showed the Brewers some love Wednesday, but one fan in the front row along the third-base line got particularly up close and comfortable. On the very first pitch of the game, Reds leadoff man Scott Schebler sent a pop fly into foul ground. Brewers shortstop Orlando Arcia gave chase, covering 137 feet at a top sprint speed of 28.2 mph, according to Statcast™, to make a catch along the railing in front of that fan, who put his arms around Arcia and gave him a hug. It happened in the same spot where Arcia snuck a spoonful of a fan's ice cream last season, and Arcia wondered aloud on Wednesday whether it was the same group of guys.

"I was a little surprised, but it was fun," said Arcia. "They do show a lot of love there. All the time. Not only to me, but to all the guys."

Video: CIN@MIL: Arcia races for grab, gets embraced by fans

UP NEXT
The Brewers get one last chance to solve the pesky Pirates when Jhoulys Chacin opens a three-game road series on Friday at 6:05 p.m. CT. Pittsburgh, which sends tough right-hander Ivan Nova to the mound, has won 11 of the first 16 matchups between the teams, including two of three at Miller Park last weekend and all five games of a dismal series for the Brewers at PNC Park just before the All-Star break. Chacin has a 2.51 ERA against the Pirates in five starts this season, but he is yet to register a win.

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy and like him on Facebook.

Milwaukee Brewers, Jesus Aguilar

Aaron Judge expertly photobombed a pregame dugout report

Aaron Judge just returned from a stint on the disabled list and made his first start back in right field on Friday. And, while he has not yet launched his first post-injury home run into the stands, it hasn't taken him long to fully reacquaint himself with the gameday routine at Yankee Stadium.

While YES reporter Meredith Marakovits gave her pregame report from the dugout prior to Wednesday's 10-1 win over the Red Sox, Judge lingered in the background and let the camera know that he's watching.

Piscotty's 5 RBIs help A's cut magic number to 6

MLB.com @JaneMLB

OAKLAND -- The A's returned to the win column with a bang Wednesday night, clobbering the Angels behind a steady Brett Anderson to lower their magic number to six.

A quiet beginning led to a six-run outburst for the A's in the fourth inning, and Stephen Piscotty added to it with a three-run home run in the fifth, powering a 10-0 victory at the Coliseum.

View Full Game Coverage

OAKLAND -- The A's returned to the win column with a bang Wednesday night, clobbering the Angels behind a steady Brett Anderson to lower their magic number to six.

A quiet beginning led to a six-run outburst for the A's in the fourth inning, and Stephen Piscotty added to it with a three-run home run in the fifth, powering a 10-0 victory at the Coliseum.

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The A's, who snapped a three-game losing streak, maintained a 5 1/2-game lead over the Rays for the second American League Wild Card berth, but remained 2 1/2 behind the Yankees for the top AL Wild Card spot. Oakland trails Houston by four games in the AL West with 10 to play.

Video: LAA@OAK: Lowrie, Piscotty each plate 2 in a 6-run 4th

"I don't think we were too worried about the losing streak," said Piscotty, who also doubled and collected five RBIs. "I mean, we control our own destiny. It's go out and win that day. That's why this team is so great. We don't have to have a team meeting to talk about it. We understand what's at hand, and we go out and do it."

Piscotty's homer, his 25th of the season, reached the second deck in left field.

"He's got some juice in his bat," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "Upper deck, you don't see that much here. He's a smart hitter. He sits on pitches and will look for a certain pitch that he can drive. He's not afraid to wait around until he gets it."

Video: LAA@OAK: Melvin on 10-0 shut-out win over the Angels

Riding a ransacked rotation to the finish line -- a three-man staff has been supplemented by bullpen games -- the A's needed better from Anderson, who couldn't complete four innings in each of his previous two starts. The left-hander responded with 6 2/3 scoreless innings, working quickly from the get-go and holding the Angels to three hits while utilizing his effective breaking ball.

"Especially after my last outing, to pitch into the seventh, we have capable guys down there obviously, but as long as you're giving your team a chance to win, you want to pitch as long as you can, and today I was fairly efficient and getting early contact and early outs," Anderson said. "That's the best we've played here of late. Not that we played bad, but we've played some atypical games, and today was back to where we normally get those team wins."

Video: LAA@OAK: Anderson allows just 3 hits in 6 2/3 innings

The A's were hitless through three innings against Angels right-hander Felix Pena before jumping on the right-hander for four straight hits to begin an eventful fourth. Nick Martini and Matt Chapman led off with consecutive singles to open the inning, and both scored on Jed Lowrie's ensuing double for a 2-0 lead. Two batters later, Piscotty hit a two-run double of his own, and Ramon Laureano chipped in with an RBI single.

Jonathan Lucroy's sacrifice fly capped the inning, in which the A's sent 10 batters to the plate.

Video: LAA@OAK: Lucroy plates Piscotty with a sacrifice fly

MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Lowrie breaks through: Martini, seemingly always in the middle of the action, jump-started the six-run fourth, but it was Lowrie, who was 9-for-50 this month entering Wednesday, who plated the game's first runs. Lowrie's two-run double was only his second extra-base hit in September. He ranks seventh in the AL with 93 RBIs, a career high.

"He's consistent in his work and goes through periods where the average may come down some, but then when we need him, he comes up with a big hit," Melvin said. "This year is a big workload for him. He's not getting any younger, but the last two years he's been able to go out there pretty much every day. Sometimes it wears you down a bit, but he came through for us tonight."

Video: LAA@OAK: Lowrie drives in a pair with a double

SOUND SMART
Anderson became the first A's pitcher to go more than six innings in the past 26 games, ending the second-longest such streak in Oakland history.

HE SAID IT
"I've kind of weighed my successes more in cool moments and memories that stack up along the season, and this one is definitely at the top for sure." -- Piscotty, on his big night

UP NEXT
The A's will turn to right-hander Edwin Jackson (5-3, 3.17 ERA) in Wednesday's series finale against right-hander Matt Shoemaker (2-1, 3.98) and the Angels at 12:35 p.m. PT at the Coliseum. Jackson faced the Halos in Anaheim on Aug. 11, tossing 7 1/3 scoreless innings. The game can be watched exclusively on MLB Live on Facebook.

Jane Lee has covered the A's for MLB.com since 2010. Follow her on Twitter @JaneMLB.

Oakland Athletics, Stephen Piscotty

D-backs shake up lineup, rout Cubs in 1-hitter

Walker, Owings, Mathis homer to back Ray's 8-K gem
MLB.com @SteveGilbertMLB

PHOENIX -- D-backs manager Torey Lovullo knew what people would think when they saw his starting lineup for Wednesday night's game against the Cubs.

Mainstays Paul Goldschmidt, David Peralta, Eduardo Escobar, Steven Souza Jr. and A.J. Pollock were out. In their places were Christian Walker, Ildemaro Vargas, Patrick Kivlehan, Chris Owings and Jon Jay.

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PHOENIX -- D-backs manager Torey Lovullo knew what people would think when they saw his starting lineup for Wednesday night's game against the Cubs.

Mainstays Paul Goldschmidt, David Peralta, Eduardo Escobar, Steven Souza Jr. and A.J. Pollock were out. In their places were Christian Walker, Ildemaro Vargas, Patrick Kivlehan, Chris Owings and Jon Jay.

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"I know when you look at the lineup today, you're probably thinking we're throwing in the towel and I want to get a look at guys," Lovullo said. "That's not the case at all."

Lovullo looked like a genius as the D-backs scored four runs in the first inning and didn't look back, backing a Robbie Ray-led one-hitter en route to a 9-0 win over the Cubs at Chase Field.

Video: CHC@ARI: Ray K's 8, allows just 1 hit vs. Cubs

It was a windfall for a team that had scored just one run in each of the first two games of the series.

Vargas, Kivlehan, Walker, Owings and Jay combined to go 9-for-19 with a pair of homers, two triples and six RBIs.

"We were just joking around that it was like the [D-backs Triple-A] Reno Aces going out there or whatever," Kivlehan said. "We were just trying to keep it simple, not put too much pressure on ourselves. We knew we were facing Cole Hamels and they were playing all their guys so just go out there and have some fun."

Video: CHC@ARI: Lovullo on Ray's performance, offense in win

With the D-backs trailing the first-place Dodgers by six games in the National League West with just 10 games left on the schedule, Lovullo wanted to shake things up a bit. Arizona had lost four straight games and nine of its last 11, and Lovullo was looking for a spark.

"This lineup was prepared and excited and I just felt like they were going to go out and execute an energized game plan," Lovullo said. "That's really what I was looking for. Nothing against the guys who have been here doing it all year long. You know, everybody has children here, I'm sure. You look into your kids' eyes after they study for a test and they come home and they don't do their job. You know that look, you can tell what's on their mind. I've seen a few of those looks from our guys. I just thought it was time to give them a rest."

While fans lit up Twitter with memes about white flags being raised, Cubs manager Joe Maddon saw something different.

"I thought it was a smart move when I saw it," Maddon said before the game. "The fact they have a day off tomorrow, obviously, they're a little bit down right now, but why not regenerate their guys? I know one thing, the guys who are playing tonight, spearheaded by Jon Jay, you'll see a great effort out of this group tonight. A lot of energy, I would anticipate."

That's exactly what happened.

Video: CHC@ARI: Mathis belts a 2-run homer to extend lead

Friday, though, when the Rockies come to town to open a three-game series, don't expect to see this lineup out there again.

"You'll see the main guys back in there," Lovullo said. "I don't think Cole Hamels had a chance to prepare. He had been thinking for the past four days about Goldschmidt and Peralta and Pollock and all of a sudden he's getting some new names and he had to rush through their whole program. They did their job. They got up and socked them in the nose. That's what I was looking for."

Video: CHC@ARI: Chafin finishes combined 1-hitter in 9-0 win

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Big blow by Walker: If there were any lingering doubts about Lovullo's lineup they disappeared when Walker hit his three-run homer in the first inning. That gave the D-backs the shot of energy Lovullo was hoping for and set the tone for the rest of the night.

"What can you say?" Lovullo said. "You get the understudies in the ballgame, they bring a certain energy to the start of a game and we end up playing downhill baseball with that big three-run home run by Walker. I was really proud of the way they came out and they were ready to perform today."

Video: CHC@ARI: Walker crushes 445-ft. home run to center

SOUND SMART
With his two triples, Kivlehan became the eighth player in team history to record multiple triples in a single game and the first since Ketel Marte on April 2 against the Dodgers.

"I heard I tied it," Kivlehan said. "So that's pretty cool. That's lucky right there. I don't know if I've ever done that twice in one game, but I'll take it."

Video: CHC@ARI: Kivlehan laces a triple to left-center field

HE SAID IT
"It was a lot of fun. For him to put the faith in us and for us to deliver, it speaks volumes to the trust he has in us and this team and the character that we have." -- Kivlehan

UP NEXT
After a day off Thursday, the D-backs open a three-game series with the Rockies at 6:40 MST on Friday night at Chase Field. Zack Greinke (14-10, 3.20 ERA) starts the opener just 5 2/3 innings shy of reaching 200 innings for the eighth time in his career. The right-hander is 3-0 with a 2.77 ERA in four starts this season against the Rockies, who will counter with German Marquez (12-10, 3.96).

Steve Gilbert has covered the D-backs for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB.

Arizona Diamondbacks, Jeff Mathis, Chris Owings, Robbie Ray, Christian Walker

Mariners hit 3 HRs, blank Astros in rout

Seven pitchers combine to hold reigning champs to five singles
MLB.com @gregjohnsmlb

HOUSTON -- The Mariners went with an "opener" for the first time on Wednesday and the idea worked so well, they closed out their season series with a 9-0 victory over the Astros.

With James Paxton still sidelined following a bout of pneumonia, manager Scott Servais opted for a bullpen day, started with one scoreless inning from rookie reliever Matt Festa and followed by a parade of six relievers who held Houston to five hits in the combined shutout.

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HOUSTON -- The Mariners went with an "opener" for the first time on Wednesday and the idea worked so well, they closed out their season series with a 9-0 victory over the Astros.

With James Paxton still sidelined following a bout of pneumonia, manager Scott Servais opted for a bullpen day, started with one scoreless inning from rookie reliever Matt Festa and followed by a parade of six relievers who held Houston to five hits in the combined shutout.

View Full Game Coverage

Seattle's offense opened up as well, as home runs by Kyle Seager, Mitch Haniger and Guillermo Heredia led an 11-hit attack and the Mariners' highest-scoring output since a 14-10 loss at Boston on June 22.

The nine-run winning margin was the biggest of the season for a Seattle squad that has specialized in close wins and still has a run differential of minus-38 despite being 16 games over .500.

The Mariners have seen their playoff hopes fade in a disappointing second half, but they proved plenty competitive against the defending World Series champion Astros, winning the season series, 10-9, after going 20-37 against Houston over the previous three years.

"That's a good ballclub over there, with good arms and a good lineup," Haniger said. "We always want to play them tough. We feel like we match up well with them and are in every game. Any team we play, we're trying to win and take the series. But it's always good beating them; they're the defending world champs, and it just speaks to what we've got in this clubhouse."

The Mariners are 5-2 on their 10-game road trip and head to Texas 84-68 overall with 10 games remaining, though their Wild Card elimination number (any combination of Oakland wins or Seattle losses) is down to four after the A's defeated the Angels on Wednesday night.

Robinson Cano went 3-for-4 with two doubles and three RBIs to lift his average to .290, while Haniger continued his excellent run in the leadoff spot with a 2-for-3 night with three runs scored. He's hit .333 with 15 doubles, eight homers and 28 runs in 37 games since moving to the top of the order.

Video: SEA@HOU: Haniger cranks a solo home run to left

Festa, a 25-year-old who spent most of the year with Double-A Arkansas, retired the Astros in order in the first. Casey Lawrence wound up credited with the win after throwing three innings of one-hit ball. None of Seattle's seven pitchers was with the club when the season started.

"To throw nine zeros up there, it's hard to do, certainly against this team in this ballpark," Servais said. "But our guys were really sharp tonight. A few hadn't pitched in a long, long time, and they went out there and threw strikes and got soft contact early in the count, and it was a great result tonight."

Festa hadn't started a game at any level since a spot start two years ago for Class A Advanced Modesto. Servais pulled him aside after Tuesday's game and told him he'd be first up in the finale.

"I got so excited, I almost hugged him," Festa said. "I called my family, called by brothers, called my best friends. My phone was blowing up. Everybody was saying, 'You're starting, you're starting.' Well, I'm opening, but it was going to be exciting either way."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
The Mariners scored three runs off Dallas Keuchel in the first inning, included one that was literally "off" the former AL Cy Young Award winner, as Seager ripped a 99-mph line drive that deflected off Keuchel's head and into shallow right field. Keuchel shrugged off that glancing blow and stayed in the game, retiring the next 12 batters, but that RBI single was the fourth hit of the frame and gave Seattle a quick 3-0 lead.

Video: SEA@HOU: Seager rips RBI hit that caroms off Keuchel

"Nobody likes that stuff," said Seager. "Luckily, he was fine. He didn't even come out of the game. Thankfully, he's all right, but that's scary. I don't like that. When I saw the ball going back at him, I couldn't tell if his glove touched it first or not, but I could definitely see it hit him in the head. You could kind of hear the thud a little. It was terrible. Thankfully, he was OK. He went five innings, so he was good."

"I had a few concussions in high school from football and stuff, and I immediately knew how I was going to feel," Keuchel said. "I felt fine. ... We talked some stuff over and I really told them I was fine, and to give me a few pitches. I wasn't going to push it by any means if I was groggy or lightheaded. Everything checked out well."

SOUND SMART
Cano's two doubles give him four in the past two games as he continues rising up MLB's all-time list. The veteran second baseman has 532 in his 14-year career, just two shy of Lou Gehrig for 40th place.

Video: SEA@HOU: Cano plates Segura with an RBI double

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Haniger has seemingly done it all for Seattle of late, and the All-Star right fielder showed off his sliding skills again with an athletic swim move to get around catcher Martin Maldonado for a run in the fifth. Haniger scored from first on Cano's double into the gap in left-center, sliding around Maldonado and diving back to touch the plate before Maldonado could tag him.

Video: SEA@HOU: Haniger avoids tag at home with great slide

"I couldn't get my hand in, and then I kind of waited. I'm assuming he thought I got in there, so luckily I snuck back in," Haniger said. "I knew I hadn't touched it, so I had to go back. If I'd have went in with my hand and tried to swipe the plate, I think he'd have got me. So I just tried to maneuver around him."

Haniger used an 80-grade swim slide to avoid being tagged

"What an unbelievable slide," Servais said. "It's some kind of athlete he is to make the adjustments and get around the tag. He hits a home run again. He's done it as consistently as any player I've seen since I've been here, the entire year. He's been really fun to watch."

HE SAID IT
"We've played well here all year. Our guys enjoy coming in here, they swing the bats well here. I think a few of our guys get energized here for whatever reason. It might be the fact they won the World Series last year and they certainly had our number here in the past. One of our goals was to play better against them, and we certainly have. It's nice coming in here and beating them, no doubt." -- Servais, on the Mariners going 7-2 at Minute Maid Park this season

UP NEXT
Erasmo Ramirez (2-3, 5.65 ERA) gets the start in Friday's 5:05 p.m. PT game in Arlington as Seattle opens its final road series of the season. The 28-year-old right-hander is 2-1 with a 4.32 ERA in seven starts since returning from the DL. The Rangers will counter with an "opener" in right-hander Connor Sadzeck, a rookie who has thrown 6 1/3 scoreless innings in eight appearances, before turning things over to previously scheduled starter Ariel Jurado (3-5, 7.01).

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.

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