Cards Win, Braves Lose, Wild Card Gap Just 1 Game

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Everything's falling into place.

Oh, not for the Atlanta Braves. Sunday afternoon in our nation's capital, the Braves were whitewashed by Washington's Ross Detwiler and a trio of relievers. For the rest of us, though, events have conspired to give us a great deal to watch in the National League, which certainly isn't what we expected just a week or two ago. Because with the Braves losing and the Cardinals winning ... Well, keep reading. We'll save the consequences for the end.

Detwiler befuddled the Braves for six innings, scattering four hits and two walks. Henry Rodriguez, perhaps the hardest thrower in the major leagues, pitched the seventh and struck out all three Braves he faced. Tyler Clippard nearly matched Rodriguez with two strikeouts in a perfect eighth. And Drew Storen closed out the Braves with a perfect ninth, striking out Chipper Jones before retiring Dan Uggla and Freddie Freeman on ground-outs for his 42nd save of the season.

Meanwhile, the Nationals got all the scoring they needed in the fourth inning, when Wilson Ramos hit a solo homer off Braves starter Mike Minor (who was yanked in the fourth). But two more runs came in the seventh on Mike Morse's two-run home run -- his 29th blast of the season -- off Cristhian Martinez.

Right about when the Braves finished losing (again), the Cardinals were tied 2-2 with the Cubs in St. Louis. Randy Wells had pitched well for Chicago, Edwin Jackson for St. Louis. But where Jackson came out of the game after seven innings, Wells remained to pitch the eighth ... and after taking a strike, leadoff man Rafael Furcal hit Wells' next pitch over the right-field fence to give the Cardinals -- and their delirious fans -- a 3-2 lead.

That was all St. Louis would get, and all they would need. Jason Motte pitched the ninth. Marlon Byrd led of with a line-out, but Motte then struck out Geovany Soto and pinch-hitter Reed Johnson to earn his ninth save and -- more to the point -- get the Cardinals to within a single game of the Wild Card-leading Braves.

Monday night, the Braves host the tuning-up Phillies in their season-ending series, while the Cardinals visit the bottom-dwelling Astros for a three-game set. Charlie Manuel will obviously be under some pressure to play his regulars, but he also has to think about next weekend's Division Series. The Astros ... well, they're playing for pride. Sometimes that works, and sometimes it doesn't.

All we know for sure is that Monday and Tuesday will feature four vitally important National League games. And now there's a pretty good chance that Wednesday's games will matter, too.

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