The Juice: Justin Upton’s walk-off home run pushes Braves lead to 15 1/2 games in NL East

Mark Townsend

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The race in the National League East is all but decided at this point, but the Atlanta Braves don't look like a team that's content with its position. I guess a late-season collapse like the one suffered in 2011 will give you that continued sense of urgency, and the Braves are channeling it perfectly.

On Friday, they extended their lead in the division to 15 1/2 games with a 3-2 victory over the Washington Nationals in 10 innings. Justin Upton played the role of hero, delivering his second walk-off home run of the season — No. 23 overall — as Atlanta improved to 11-3 against the defending division champions.

And no, they still aren't comfortable.

From the Associated Press:

''There's a lot of baseball to be played,'' Upton said. ''Our lead is pretty big right now, but crazier things have happened in baseball. You've got to go out and win as many games as you can.''

Indeed crazier things have happened, but an Atlanta collapse this season would certainly challenge for the crown.

Phillies fall in Ryne Sandberg’s debut: By firing the most successful manager in franchise history, Charlie Manuel, on Friday, the Philadelphia Phillies did replacement Ryne Sandberg both a favor and a disservice. Of course promoting him to manager is the favor, but putting him in the dugout immediately ahead of their weekend series with the sizzling Los Angeles Dodgers is anything but.

Sandberg and the Phillies couldn't avoid the buzzsaw on Friday, managing only three hits in a 4-0 loss. Zack Greinke did the bulk of the work on the hill for LA, tossing 7 1/3 innings. Paco Rodriguez, Ronald Belisario and Kenley Jansen closed it out as the Dodgers picked up their 41st win in their last 49 games.

Giants 14, Marlins 10: This slugfest was certainly unexpected. Brandon Belt, Hunter Pence and Pablo Sandoval combined to go 11 for 16 with four doubles, two triples, nine RBIs and eight runs scored. I hope they were all if your fantasy baseball lineups.


Royals 2-3, Tigers 1-0: Prince Fielder and Victor Martinez were a combined 1 for 16 as Kansas City sweeps the day-night doubleheader.

Cubs 7, Cardinals 0: Chicago evens the season series at 7-7 behind seven shutout innings from Jake Arrieta.

Rockies 6, Orioles 3: Colorado is suddenly rolling with six wins in their last seven games.

Pirates 6, Diamondbacks 2: Gerrit Cole tossed six strong innings to earn his sixth victory.

Yankees 10, Red Sox 3: Mark Reynolds homers in Yankees debut. Also, Alfonso Soriano cannot be stopped.

Brewers 7, Reds 6: Jonathan Lucroy stunned Aroldis Chapman with a two-run, walk-off home run.

Rays 5, Blue Jays 4: Jose Lobaton blocked a ninth inning pitch in the dirt to save a run and then tripled home the game-winner as Tampa Bay moves to within one game of Boston in the AL East.

Mariners 3, Rangers 1: In another case of excellent timing, Kyle Seager snapped an 0 for 21 with a two-run homer in the eighth.

White Sox 5, Twins 2: Somewhere Hawk Harrelson is telling anyone who will listen just how happy he is the Twins moved out of the Metrodome.

Mets 5, Padres 2: Jonathan Niese struck out a season-high nine in six innings for New York.

A's 3, Indians 2: Oakland wins for the first time in five games against Cleveland and pulls to within a half game of Texas

Astros 8, Angels 2: Houston is 6-2 at the Big A in Anaheim this season.

''We had a lot of guys getting on base, a lot of action, and we scored enough runs to get the win, so it felt good."

— Hunter Pence (but you probably already guessed that)

Alex Rodriguez got the reception you'd expect in Boston.

• The Rockies won their first road game when the opponent scored first. They were 0-28 on the season coming in. (via Brittany Ghiroli)

• Prior to his walk-off home run, Jonathan Lucroy was 0 for 5 with five strikeouts against Aroldis Chapman.

• 22 different players have homered for the Yankees this season, tying a team record set in 1965 and 2000. (via ESPN Stats & Info)

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