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Best of MLB: Red Sox's Sale reaches 300 Ks; Marlins' Stanton hits 56th HR

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Best of MLB: Red Sox's Sale reaches 300 Ks; Marlins' Stanton hits 56th HR

BALTIMORE -- Chris Sale was at his very best -- right down to his momentous last pitch -- in another meaningful victory for the Boston Red Sox.

Sale struck out 13 to become the first AL pitcher in 18 years to reach the 300 mark, and Boston moved to the brink of clinching a playoff berth by beating the Baltimore Orioles 9-0 on Wednesday night.

Sale (17-7) reached the milestone on his 111th and final pitch, a called third strike against Ryan Flaherty to end the eighth inning. The last AL pitcher to fan 300 batters in a season was Boston's Pedro Martinez in 1999, when he set a club record with 313.

Red Sox manager John Farrell sent Sale back out for the eighth inning to give him a shot at getting No. 300 (see full recap).

Stanton hits 56th homer, Marlins sweep Mets
MIAMI -- Home runs before small crowds in the eighth inning of lopsided games between also-rans count, too, which is fortunate for Giancarlo Stanton.

Now he needs only five more for 61.

Stanton hit his major league-leading 56th homer in the eighth Wednesday to punctuate the Miami Marlins' 9-2 win over the New York Mets, which completed a three-game sweep.

Announced attendance was 16,033, but the actual turnout was perhaps one-third that total. The Marlins are destined to miss the playoffs for the 14th year in a row despite Stanton's homer show (see full recap).

Rays, Snell end Cubs' 7-game winning streak
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Their seven-game winning streak is over and the Chicago Cubs are still being challenged for the NL Central lead with 11 games left in the season.

Blake Snell gave up two hits in seven shutout innings and the Tampa Bay Rays ended the Cubs' season-best winning streak 8-1 on Wednesday night.

The Cubs, who had not lost since being swept by the Milwaukee Brewers in a three-game series in Chicago on Sept. 8-10, are scheduled to open a four-game series in Milwaukee on Thursday night, holding a 3 1/2-game lead over the Brewers.

"It's going to be very exciting," manager Joe Maddon said. "We got the split here, which is good. Moving it forward, you've got to beat ‘em straight-up sometimes and that's what we're going to have to do,” (see full recap).

Nationals rally for 6 runs in 8th to beat Braves
ATLANTA -- Manager Dusty Baker was hardly surprised that the heart of the Nationals' order took so many pitches in the eighth inning.

"It's easy to be patient when they're not near the strike zone," he said. "We capitalized on it. You're going to get hits after that."

Braves closer Arodys Vizcaino issued three bases-loaded walks in the six-run eighth, Gio Gonzalez pitched seven strong innings and Washington beat Atlanta 7-3 on Wednesday night (see full recap).

MLB Playoffs: Javier Baez snaps out of funk to help Cubs avoid sweep

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MLB Playoffs: Javier Baez snaps out of funk to help Cubs avoid sweep

CHICAGO -- Javier Baez snapped an 0-for-20 skid with two home runs, Wade Davis hung on for a six-out save and the Chicago Cubs avoided a sweep, holding off the Los Angeles Dodgers 3-2 Wednesday night in Game 4 of the NL Championship Series.

Jake Arrieta pitched three-hit ball into the seventh inning to held the defending World Series champion Cubs close their deficit to 3-1. Manager Joe Maddon got ejected for the second time in this series in the eighth, and a packed Wrigley Field crowd watched Davis get Cody Bellinger to ground into a game-ending double play.

Maddon was heavily criticized for not using Davis during a 4-1 loss in Game 2. This time, the Cubs closer threw 48 pitches to finish the job.

Willson Contreras also homered for the Cubs. Bellinger and Justin Turner connected for the Dodgers, who had won a team-record six straight playoff games.

Game 5 is Thursday, with Jose Quintana pitching for Chicago against Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw (see full recap).

Tanaka, Yankees blank Astros to take ALCS lead
NEW YORK -- Masahiro Tanaka pitched seven innings of three-hit ball and the New York Yankees finally solved Houston Astros nemesis Dallas Keuchel, beating the ace lefty 5-0 on Wednesday for a 3-2 lead in the AL Championship Series.

Gary Sanchez hit an RBI single off Keuchel and later homered to help the wild-card Yankees win for the third straight day at home and move within one victory of their first trip to the World Series since 2009.

The teams head back to Houston for Game 6 on Friday night, when Justin Verlander and the reeling Astros will try to regain their footing following an off day and force a decisive Game 7. Luis Severino is scheduled to start for New York.

Just days ago, Houston was up two games to none and appeared to be closing in on its second World Series appearance. But the Astros, like defending AL champion Cleveland before them, have been unable to put away these poised Yankees, who improved to 6-0 at home in this postseason in front of their cheering, chanting fans (see full recap).

MLB Playoffs: Yankees storm back for win over Astros to even ALCS

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MLB Playoffs: Yankees storm back for win over Astros to even ALCS

NEW YORK -- Aaron Judge ignited a rousing rally with a home run, then doubled during a four-run eighth inning to spur the New York Yankees over the Houston Astros 6-4 Tuesday night and level the AL Championship Series 2-2.

The Yankees trailed 4-0 against starter Lance McCullers Jr. until Judge homered leading off the seventh. He tied it with a line drive that nearly left the park in the eighth and scored on Gary Sanchez's go-ahead two-run double off loser Ken Giles.

The Yankees have rallied from a second straight 0-2 series deficit -- they beat Cleveland in the Division Series by winning three in a row to take that best-of-five matchup.

Aroldis Chapman struck out two in a perfect ninth, and New York improved to 5-0 at home in the playoffs.

Masahiro Tanaka pitches for New York against Dallas Keuchel in Game 5 Wednesday and rematch of the opener, won by the Astros 2-1 (see full recap).

Dodgers on brink of World Series after shutout
CHICAGO -- Yu Darvish pitched sparkling ball into the seventh inning, Chris Taylor homered again and the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Chicago Cubs 6-1 on Tuesday night to open a commanding 3-0 lead in the NL Championship Series.

Andre Ethier also went deep and Taylor added an RBI triple in the fifth as Los Angeles set a franchise record with its sixth consecutive playoff win. Yasiel Puig had two more hits in another entertaining performance that included an impressive bat flip -- on a long foul ball in the first inning.

Looking for a four-game sweep and their 22nd NL pennant, the Dodgers will send Alex Wood to the mound Wednesday night at Wrigley Field with a chance to reach the World Series for the first time since their last championship in 1988. Jake Arrieta, eligible for free agency after the season, pitches for the Cubs in what could be his final start with the team.

Los Angeles was eliminated by Chicago in the NLCS last year, but this is a different group of Dodgers. The lineup is patient and pesky and the pitching staff is much deeper, especially since Darvish was acquired in a trade with Texas in the final minutes before the July 31 deadline (see full recap).