Acuña, Braves pound Nationals, clinch playoff spot

(Photo by Austin McAfee)

Ronald Acuña Jr. ignited a four-run rally with the go-ahead, two-run double, and the NL East-leading Atlanta Braves clinched a playoff berth with a 10-1 victory over the Washington Nationals on Saturday.

Acuña's double down the left-field line off reliever Fernando Rodney added fuel to a dramatic seventh inning for the Braves (93-57), who reduced their magic number to four to clinch their 19th division title.

Earlier in the seventh, Charlie Culberson was struck directly on the right cheekbone by a 91-mph fastball on Rodney's first pitch of the game.

Culberson remained on his back for several minutes as trainers pressed a towel to his face. He was eventually helped to his feet and onto the back of a cart.

The Braves have won the last 11 games started by Mike Foltynewicz (7-5), who pitched six solid innings.

Rodney (0-6) was charged with the loss in the latest bullpen meltdown for the Nationals, who saw their lead in the NL wild card race shrink to 1½ games over the Chicago Cubs.


TORONTO (AP) - James Paxton pitched five innings to win his ninth straight start, Brett Gardner homered twice and drove in five runs and New York hit five homers against Toronto.

Gleyber Torres and Luke Voit also homered for the Yankees, going back-to-back off right-hander Brock Stewart in the fifth, as the AL East leaders won for the 14th time in 19 games.

DJ LeMahieu had four hits for New York, his AL-leading 58th multi-hit game of the season.

Paxton (14-6) allowed one run on three hits, becoming the first Yankees pitcher since Mike Mussina to win nine consecutive starts.

Jacob Waguespack (4-5) allowed three runs and seven hits in 3 2/3 innings.


CHICAGO (AP) - Kris Bryant and rookie Nico Hoerner each homered among three hits, and Chicago went deep four times to set a club record with 237 home runs while pounding Pittsburgh.

Bryant hit a two-run shot in the fourth and had four RBIs. Hoerner's second homer in two days, a three-run drive in the sixth, broke the Cubs' old mark of 235, established in 2004.

Ben Zobrist and Victor Caratini added solo shots as the Cubs used a second straight big day at the plate to strengthen their bid for a fifth straight postseason berth.

Kyle Hendricks (11-9) allowed a run on seven hits in six innings while walking one for his third straight solid outing.

James Marvel (0-2) allowed seven runs on nine hits in four innings in his second major league start.


CLEVELAND (AP) - Five Minnesota pitchers combined to stop Cleveland's offense and the Twins widened their lead in the AL Central by defeating the Indians 2-0 in the first game of a doubleheader.

Zack Littell (5-0) relieved starter Devin Smeltzer in the fourth and struck out two in two innings.

Taylor Rogers got the final five outs for his 26th save, but had to work out of trouble in the eighth and ninth.

Jorge Polanco hit a two-run homer in the second off Mike Clevinger (11-3), who had won 10 consecutive decisions. Clevinger struck out 10 in eight innings, but lost for the first time since June 28.


More AP MLB: and