And That Happened: Tuesday's scores and highlights

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Orioles 11, Red Sox 10: John Smoltz pitched better (4 IP, 3 H, 1
ER) but had to leave when the rains came. I wouldn’t worry about the
short outing, however, because Francona may want him in the bullpen.
Why? Because Boston blew a 10-1 lead after their half of the
seventh. Among the big blows was an Oscar Salazar pinch-hit three run
homer and a Nick Markakis two-run double off of Papelbon after being
0-7 against him entering the game. It was the biggest comeback in
Baltimore Orioles history, and one that had to be particularly sweet
for Os fans who have had to put up with so many interlopers in their
ballpark for Sox games in recent years.

Pirates 3, Cubs 0: Ross Ohlendorf and Freddy Sanchez got to the
ballpark, realized that they were the only two Pirates not traded
yesterday, and went about their business, Bugs Bunny vs. Gashouse Gorillas-style:
Ohlendorf shut out the Cubs over seven innings (pasting those pathetic
palookas with his powerful, paralyzing, perfect pachydermous percussion
pitch) and Sanchez scored one run and drove in the other two for
Pittsburgh. Most people thought Sanchez would be out on that run he
scored in the fourth because Ted Lilly had the ball and was waiting for
him at home plate. Then again, most people probably didn’t count on
Sanchez having that 1940s pinup in his back pocket to distract Lilly

Braves 5, Phillies 4: I told Bill at Crashburn Alley
that the Braves would take two out of three in this series. So far, so
good. I never would have bet on the Bravos coming back in extra innings
after coughing up two late homers like they did in this one, however,
because they just don’t do that. Martin Prado was 4-5 with four RBI,
including the game-winner in the 10th. My guess is that puts Kelly
Johnson on the bench until the day Bobby Cox is buried in the cold,
cold ground.

Rays 4, Blue Jays 1: I was gonna get all cute and quote some
song lyrics here, but I couldn’t decide if I should go with “Running to
Stand Still,” or “Hold On, I’m Comin’.” I suppose that all depends on
how the Red Sox and Yankees do. Either way I have this feeling that the
AL East is going to be redonkulously exciting in the second half.

Diamondbacks 6, Reds 2: Danny Haren’s teammates have failed to
show up for him so many times this season that he would have been
forgiven if he had picked up a bat and beat them silly. Lucky for
everyone involved Haren is a clearer thinking guy than I am and decided
to simply take the bat to the opposition, going 2 for 2 with a homer
and a double. Oh, and he pitched seven innings of one run ball while
striking out nine. He then drove the team bus back to the hotel,
watched game film, set the lineups for the next week, called Billy
Beane and asked what he’d want for Matt Holliday and started
spitballin’ ideas for next season’s promotional calendar.

Giants 6, Cardinals 3: You had to figure Chris Carpenter was
going to come back down to Earth eventually. You just didn’t figure on
it happening all at once (5 IP, 11 H, 6 ER), especially against an
offense like the Giants’. Despite the loss, Pujols had his requisite
two home runs.

Brewers 6, Mets 3: That’s five losses in a row for the
Metropolitans, capping off a lovely 9-18 June. Though that’s maybe not
as important as the fact that, on June 1st, they were 2.5 games out of
first and now, on July 1st, they’re only 3 games out. My God, the NL
East is horrifying this year.

White Sox 11, Indians 4: Crisco. Bardol. Vagisil. Any one of
them will give you another two to three inches drop on your curve ball.
Of course if the umps are watching me real close I’ll rub a little
jalapeno up my nose, get it runnin’, and if I need to load the ball up
I just [wipe] wipe my nose. Hey, I haven’t got an arm like you, kid. I
have to put anything on it I can find. Someday you will too. [note: all
Indians losses are going to get “Major League” quotes until Eric Wedge
is fired or they win three in a row, whichever comes first].

Twins 2, Royals 1: The game story breaks out the first “hapless”
I’ve seen in at least a year. It also notes that the Royals “are among
the AL’s worst in hitting, runs, slugging percentage and on-base
percentage.” Anyone ever make a movie about the Royals? Maybe I should
be quoting that instead.

Marlins 7, Nationals 5: I called the Cardinals a one man gang the other day. So too are Hanley’s Fish (2-4, 4 RBI).

Rangers 9, Angels 5: Marlon Byrd homered twice and drove in five runs. Let’s hear it for Victor Conte’s supplements, everyone!

Yankees 8, Mariners 5: Mariano Rivera threw out the game’s first
pitch, yet somehow came back in in the ninth to get the save. Don
Wakamatsu, showing lots of class, decided not to protest the game.

Tigers 5, A’s 3: Armando Galarraga walked six guys. It’s not
everyday that you can do that and win, but then again, it was the A’s
he was facing and they are notably poor at making anyone pay for
anything. The A’s have plugged in Gio Gonzalez into the rotation three
or four or maybe fifty times this season, but pretty soon that
experiment has to end, right? Because he’s, like, terrible. Yesterday
he gave up three runs on seven hits in five innings, and you can make
the argument that that’s his best start of the year.

Padres 4, Astros 3: Padres win, but Adrian Gonzalez got hurt.
Hard to tell if it’s major. Gonzalez doesn’t know himself: “Sometimes I
feel something and I wake up the next morning and I feel great. Then
sometimes I wake up and something aches that I didn’t feel the night
before.” I’m not sure why, but upon reading that I almost immediately
got a sonic image of that statement being sung by Kevin Cronin over
slowly ascending chords and making an almost perfect REO Speedwagon

Rockies 3, Dodgers 0: Jason Marquis pitches the game of his life
(CG, SHO, 2 H, 3 K, 0 BB), and only needed 86 (!) pitches to do it. And
Jim Tracy is the best quote in baseball: “In the seven-plus years I’ve
sat behind a desk like this, that’s the first time I’ve seen a starting
pitcher throw a nine-inning, complete-game shutout and do it with less
than 90 pitches.” He watches games from his desk? I’ve heard of
hands-off managers before, but that’s ridiculous. In other news, I was
finally getting used to the idea that Manny coming back on Friday would
be anti-climatic because the Dodgers simply didn’t need him too bad.
This skid they’re on is changing my mind back again.

Jessica Mendoza and Chris Archer were great in the booth

Jessica Mendoza

Not news: Jessica Mendoza, who has been excellent on all of the ESPN broadcasts she has done since taking over for Curt Schilling, was excellent last night too.

She was great on the nuts and bolts, continued to show that she can describe hitting mechanics better than most color commentators — way more of them seem to be more comfortable talking about pitching — and was a seamless presence in the booth in terms of flow, timbre and all of the aesthetic aspects of broadcasting. If she has a fault thus far it’s that she leans on some cliches about hitters’ mindsets and desire to win sometimes. This puts her in with approximately 100% of all other color commentators in baseball now and throughout the history of baseball, of course, so it’s not really a demerit.

Ultimately, the true test of a good commentator is whether they (a) add insight; and (b) do so without distracting or upstaging the game. In this Mendoza is superior to most commentators in baseball and clearly superior to the “stop and listen to me” brand of analysts the major networks have employed on national broadcasts in recent years.

Indeed, the best compliment I think I can give Mendoza is that she was — in the literal sense, not the judgmental sense — unremarkable. Meaning: during the game and after there was nothing she said or did that was worthy of the highly-critical remarks almost every broadcaster gets, going back through Schilling, Kruk, Harold Reynolds Tim McCarver, Joe Morgan and everyone else ESPN and Fox have forced upon us in their history doing playoff baseball. I’m on Twitter during most playoff games and sometimes the broadcaster bashing is more interesting than the game. Mendoza gives the would-be bashers very little material.

At least those who would bash on the actual merits. There remains a group of deadenders who are irked by her very presence in the booth because she is a woman. The New York times rounds up some of the less mouth-breathery types today, but God knows there are many, many worse. Some of them even in professional media. At least for now. Whether you choose to ignore those people or choose to engage them — which, their dead end opinions notwithstanding can be a useful exercise in my view — know that they are out there being miserable and sexist as God and the First Amendment intended them to be.

While there are many who slam Mendoza on the faulty premise that she lacks credentials and experience in the booth, there was one person in the ESPN booth last night, at least for a while, who was a total TV noob. His name was Chris Archer. He pitches a bit for the Tampa Bay Rays. And lo and behold, he was pretty damn good himself.

Archer needs some polish for style — he has a lot of “ummms” and “uhhhs” about him — but his analysis is both sharp and quick. Meaning he was RIGHT ON the points when he needed to be without any of the usual prompting guests in the booth need from the play-by-play guy. At one point he even flowed into play-by-play and did a pretty good job of it.  Chris: if that pitching stuff doesn’t work out, you have a bright, bright future in television.

So, on the first night of the playoffs, there were no complaints about the broadcast. Mostly because the broadcasters weren’t the stars of the show. The game was. And it was complemented nicely by a couple of good voices.

And John Kruk.

NL Wild Card Game: Cubs vs. Pirates lineups

Jake Arrieta

Here are the Cubs and Pirates lineups for tonight’s Wild Card game in Pittsburgh:

CF Dexter Fowler
RF Kyle Schwarber
LF Kris Bryant
1B Anthony Rizzo
3B Tommy La Stella
2B Starlin Castro
C Miguel Montero
SS Addison Russell
SP Jake Arrieta

Cubs manager Joe Maddon wanted Tommy La Stella in the lineup over Jorge Soler or Chris Coghlan, so he starts at third base and Kris Bryant shifts to left field. Bryant started just four games in left field all season, compared to 136 starts at third base. Also of note: After batting Addison Russell ninth–behind the pitcher–116 times this season Maddon has him in the more traditional eighth spot tonight.

RF Gregory Polanco
3B Josh Harrison
CF Andrew McCutchen
LF Starling Marte
C Francisco Cervelli
2B Neil Walker
SS Jordy Mercer
1B Sean Rodriguez
SP Gerrit Cole

Pedro Alvarez started 119 games at first base for the Pirates and with right-hander Jake Arrieta on the mound he was the presumed starter tonight, but instead manager Clint Hurdle has benched the 27-homer slugger in favor of utility man Sean Rodriguez. Alvarez is vastly superior to Rodriguez offensively, especially versus a righty, but he’s also very shaky defensively. During the regular season Rodriguez started a grand total of one game at first base against a right-hander, so this qualifies as a hunch by Hurdle.