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Real or not? Dodgers back to winning, Cardinals are team to beat in NL Central

It had been a horrid stretch for the Los Angeles Dodgers, that one-game losing streak. Fans were questioning the amount of time they had devoted to the team. According to some reports, Corey Seager and Cody Bellinger were so tired of losing they contemplated just giving up the game and heading to college to study computer science, or maybe hospitality. Talk radio wanted Dave Roberts fired ... now.

Luckily, Alex Wood came to the rescue with six solid innings against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Bellinger then started a seventh-inning rally with a double -- he had homered earlier -- and Joc Pederson and Yasiel Puig delivered two-out RBI hits off Zack Greinke for a 3-2 lead. Roberts didn't mess around with any of his crummy left-handed relievers and let Josh Fields pitch two scoreless innings. And Kenley Jansen, of course, finished it off because he's Kenley Jansen and nobody is going to beat him this year.

It was a good game. You can question whether Torey Lovullo should have brought in a lefty to face Pederson, though Greinke had thrown fewer than 100 pitches and if Lovullo brings in, say, Andrew Chafin, his best lefty, Roberts probably counters with Kiké Hernandez. Greinke versus Pederson or Chafin versus Hernandez (or even Archie Bradley versus Pederson)? The catch is that Greinke hasn't fared as well when he gets deeper into games this season. His numbers heading into this game:

  • Pitches 1-25: .439 OPS allowed

  • Pitches 26-50: .727 OPS allowed

  • Pitches 51-75: .557 OPS allowed

  • Pitches 76-100: .881 OPS allowed

I get wanting to leave in your ace and let him escape the inning, but Greinke nosedives after 75 pitches. To be fair, he didn't have this problem last season or in 2015, but it's also not last season or 2015. Chalk it up as a valuable lesson for Lovullo: manage with your brain and not your heart. The Diamondbacks have a good bullpen, sixth in the majors in ERA. Lovullo should use it when the numbers say to use it.

By the way, the Dodgers are on track for 114 wins:

The Dodgers got back to winning with their victory over the Diamondbacks on Wednesday night. These Dodgers are now on pace for a run differential of +289, which would match their franchise record, set by the 1889 Brooklyn Bridegrooms (yes, that was their nickname)

ESPN Stats and Information ago

None of this matters anyway, because we have Rally Cat. Yep, we might as well consider the season over. The Dodgers have been great, maybe historic. Sorry, Houston Astros fans, you're not going to win your first World Series. The Cleveland Indians just acquired Jay Bruce to help them win their first World Series since 1948, but that's obviously going to be a pointless trade.

The St. Louis Cardinals have a kitty, and it's clear the baseball gods have spoken. Maybe they're just tired of hearing all the whining from Cardinals fans about what about a miserable season it has been in St. Louis. Maybe this is the gods just getting back at Chicago Cubs fans after finally granting them a reprieve from their sins last season. Whatever the reason, the season turned Wednesday night: The Cardinals are going to win the World Series.

I'll set the stage. The Royals were ahead 5-4 in the bottom of the sixth, bases loaded for the Cardinals, Yadier Molina at the plate, 1-0 count with two outs and Peter Moylan pitching. Cue the videos:

Then on the very next pitch, Molina does this:

The Cardinals win 8-5. They've won the first three games of the I-70 home-and-home with the Kansas City Royals and five in a row overall. Combined with another Cubs loss, they're now just 1½ games behind the Cubs in the National League Central. You might also remember what happened in 2011, when a squirrel interrupted play during Game 3 of the National League Division Series against the Philadelphia Phillies. The squirrel -- or maybe a different one, it's kind of hard to tell squirrels apart -- then ran across home plate in Game 4. A legend was born. The Cardinals went on to win the World Series, and the Rally Squirrel became a thing.

Mike Matheny after the game: "I'm not a cat person, but I sure like that one."

Molina: "You expect people to jump on the field, but you never expect animals. It was fun."

Cubs fans who remember 1969: "I hate cats."

But what happened to the cat? Cardinals writer Derrick Goold reports it vanished, kind of like Stephen Piscotty or maybe Matheny if the Cardinals don't make the playoffs:

If you're still not buying into all of this, well ...

Indians acquire Jay Bruce. I wrote about the trade here. It's still surprising that nobody wanted a guy who has hit 29 home runs -- Indians outfielders have combined to hit only 37 -- but much like Arizona getting J.D. Martinez without giving up much, nobody really wanted Bruce, and the Indians made this deal only after Michael Brantley landed on the disabled list because of a sprained ankle.

At the minimum, it gives Terry Francona a lot more depth and flexibility. Remember, the World Series ended last year with light-hitting Michael Martinez batting with the tying run on first. Assuming Brantley returns in good health, Francona can pick and choose between offense, defense and platoons in the outfield and DH.

Eight in a row for the Boston Red Sox. This is pretty amazing: 2016 Cy Young winner Rick Porcello won consecutive starts for the first time all season as Boston beat the Tampa Bay Rays 8-2. He also became the eighth pitcher this season to throw an immaculate inning, striking out Trevor Plouffe, Wilson Ramos and Mallex Smith in the fifth on nine pitches.

Tampa played a sloppy game, making two errors plus a couple of other miscues in the field, two wild pitches, a passed ball and two intentional walks that helped the Red Sox to a five-run fifth inning.

An intentional walk also backfired before the Molina grand slam, as Ned Yost put on Dexter Fowler to load the bases. That one I can sort of understand, as Moylan as a sidearmer with a huge platoon split. Still, it's always good to see intentional walks backfire.

Around the league. Good win for the Colorado Rockies after losing in the ninth inning on Sunday and Tuesday when Greg Holland blew back-to-back leads. Against the Indians, they tied the score in the ninth, then won the game on Charlie Blackmon's home run in the 12th. The bullpen tossed seven scoreless innings, with Tyler Chatwood getting the save instead of Holland (who had thrown 31 pitches Tuesday). Indians closer Cody Allen continues to be shaky in close games. It was only his third blown save, but he's also 0-6.

Nelson Cruz slammed two long home runs as the Seattle Mariners beat the Oakland Athletics to finish a 6-3 road trip. They head home now with a one-game lead for the second wild card -- and, yes, it's way too early to be obsessing about the wild card. Unless you're a Mariners fan and your team hasn't made the playoffs since 2001. Seattle plays the Angels and Orioles, two teams now looking up at them in the wild-card race, before heading out on a 12-game road trip.

Justin Verlander did this: 8 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 6 SO. He has given up 11 runs over his past seven starts. I still think a trade is unlikely, but this surge maybe gives the Tigers a window to make a deal.

Oh, and Bartolo Colon did this: 7 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 5 SO. You can't predict baseball!