The Upper Deck

Welcome to The Upper Deck, Baseball America's daily look at the biggest stories around the game and some lighter fare.

WORTH THE WAIT

The Nationals became the first team to clinch a playoff berth—but they had to wait about an hour and a half to celebrate. After beating the Phillies 3-2 behind Stephen Strasburg, the Nats held the champagne until the Braves beat the Marlins, officially eliminating Miami from the division race.

Now the question becomes whether the Nats can advance beyond the division series. Washington has won the NL East four times in the past six seasons, only to stall in the first round.


JUDGE AND GARY

Aaron Judge became just the second rookie in big league history to hit 40 homers in a season after he blasted two Sunday against the Rangers, giving him 41. Only Mark McGwire hit more in his first year when he launched 49 in 1987. But don’t forget the exploits of Gary Sanchez. The slugging catcher, who hit 20 homers in just 53 games in 2016, hit two Sunday as well and has 30 this season, and 50 in 161 games since his 2015 debut.


LOSING NOT SO LOVABLE

The Cubs saw their NL Central lead shrink to two games over the Brewers and Cardinals as they were swept at home by Milwaukee this weekend. The World Champions next play host to the downtrodden Mets, while Milwaukee hosts Pittsburgh and the Cardinals play host to the Reds. There is increased urgency for NL Central clubs to win the division, since wild-card leader Arizona holds an eight-game edge and Colorado holds a three-game lead for the second wild-card spot.


DODGING WINS

First, the good news: the Dodgers still have the best record in baseball, by four games over the Nationals. But that’s about the only good news. L.A. lost its 10th in a row Sunday, tying a franchise record, and its 15th in 16 games, dropping an 8-1 decision to the Rockies.

The Dodgers were outscored 47-13 in a seven-game homestand against Arizona and Colorado, and what was once a 21-game lead in the NL West is down to a still-tough-to-overcome nine-game lead. And no one’s immune. Not Clayton Kershaw, not Yu Darvish, not top prospect Walker Buehler, who gave up a grand slam Sunday.

"Yeah," Cody Bellinger told the Los Angeles Times, "it sucks."


GOLD STANDARD

USA Baseball’s 18U team won its fourth straight World Cup gold medal Sunday, blanking Korea 8-0. Carlos Collazo has more.

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