LEADING OFF: Cardinals seek franchise-best 15th straight win

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Harrison Bader

St. Louis Cardinals’ Harrison Bader celebrates his home run off Chicago Cubs relief pitcher Adam Morgan in front of the Chicago Cubs bench during the seventh inning of a baseball game Friday, Sept. 24, 2021, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

A look at what’s happening around the majors today:

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RED-HOT REDBIRDS

The soaring Cardinals will try for a franchise-record 15th consecutive victory when they play the Cubs at Wrigley Field. St. Louis swept a doubleheader from Chicago on Friday, equaling a 14-game run by the team in July 1935. The winning streak has rocketed the Cardinals into control of the second NL wild card, leading Philadelphia by five games.

Left-hander Jon Lester (7-6, 4.59 ERA) is slated to pitch for St. Louis against Chicago right-hander Adrian Sampson (3-3, 2.84).

WHAT’S THE SCENARIO?

With a little help, Tampa Bay and Milwaukee can both clinch division crowns.

The defending AL champion Rays, who secured a postseason spot Wednesday, need a victory at home over Miami and a Boston loss to the Yankees at Fenway Park to win their second consecutive AL East title.

Corbin Burnes and the Brewers, already assured their fourth straight playoff berth, would wrap up their first NL Central championship since 2018 with a victory at home against the Mets and a loss by St. Louis to the Cubs in Chicago.

WILD CHASE

The Yankees and Red Sox continue a three-game set at Fenway Park with huge postseason implications. New York beat Boston 8-3 on Friday night to pull within a game of the Red Sox for the top AL wild card. Toronto and Seattle are two games behind the Yankees.

Left-hander Nestor Cortes (2-2, 2.79 ERA) has been on a bat-missing roll this month for New York, striking out 30 and walking six over 22 1/3 innings spanning four starts. He’ll oppose Red Sox righty Nick Pivetta, who is winless in his past five starts and allowed four runs in 1 2/3 innings against the Yankees on Aug. 18.

TUNING UP

Clayton Kershaw (10-7, 3.27 ERA) makes his third start since returning from the injured list when the Los Angeles Dodgers play at last-place Arizona. The three-time Cy Young Award winner has allowed two runs and struck out 13 over 9 1/3 innings since missing more than two months with inflammation in his left elbow.

The defending World Series champions are a game behind first-place San Francisco in the NL West, though both teams have clinched a playoff berth. Anthony DeSclafani (12-7, 3.23) pitches for the Giants in Colorado.

RANGER DANGER

The Phillies put their NL East hopes on emerging left-hander Ranger Suarez (6-5, 1.60), who is 1-2 with a 1.99 ERA in 10 starts since moving from the bullpen to the rotation in August. The 26-year-old will face the Pirates in a matinee as Philadelphia tries to gain ground on first-place Atlanta.

Right-hander Wil Crow (4-7, 5.77) is slated to start for Pittsburgh.

CEASE DESISTS

The AL Central champion White Sox were dealt a potential blow to their playoff prep when starter Dylan Cease was struck in his pitching arm by a comebacker Friday night. The club said Cease has a bruised right triceps and X-rays were negative after he was hit by a one-hopper from Cleveland’s Bradley Zimmer in the sixth inning.

Cease attempted a few practice pitches before leaving the field, interrupting a shutout performance. He exited with nine strikeouts over 5 1/3 innings, lowering his ERA to 3.95.

BANNED BLUE JAY

Toronto reliever Ryan Borucki will sit out a second straight night against Minnesota after having a three-game suspension reduced to two Friday.

Borucki was punished by Major League Baseball on Thursday for intentionally hitting Tampa Bay’s Kevin Kiermaier with a pitch the day before. MLB banned Borucki three games, but he got the suspension reduced to two games via an appeal Friday.

Borucki was ejected after plunking Kiermaier in the back in the eighth inning. That came two days after Kiermaier scooped up a Toronto scouting report that had fallen off catcher Alejandro Kirk’s wristband during a play at the plate and refused to hand it back.

Toronto ace Robbie Ray (12-6, 2.72) can bolster his Cy Young Award resume. The lefty had the lowest ERA in the AL entering Friday and also led the league with 238 strikeouts.

Marcus Semien hit his 42nd home run for Toronto on Friday and is one shy of the single-season record for second basemen, set by Davey Johnson with Atlanta in 1973. Semien equaled Minnesota’s Brian Dozier (2016) and St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Famer Rogers Hornsby (1922).

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