And That Happened: Thursday's scores and highlights

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Nationals 11, Astros 10: Everyone will be writing this morning
about how Joel Hanrahan got the win in this game despite no longer
playing for the Nats and how Nyjer Morgan scored the winning run even
though he was playing for the Pirates when the game started. Even
trippier, though, is that (a) both men were succeeded by
vice-presidents named Johnson who were southern Democrats and former
senators; and (b) Hanrahan had a secretary named Morgan, and Morgan had
a secretary named Hanrahan!

Astros 9, Nationals 4: While this one wasn’t a continued game
like the previous on, Jose Cruz somehow drove in the winning run and
Bob Knepper got the win. Strange, really.

Indians 10, White Sox 8: They’re replaying this on STO as I
write this, but looking at this box score makes me want to run away
screaming. A 3:43 nine-inning game, the winning team’s starting
pitcher gave up eight runs on eleven hits in four and a third, and a
game story in which the manager says that he thought it was OK for the
closer to pitch a four-out save because, hey, he’s had four days off?
Nah, you can keep this one.

Yankees 6, Twins 4: The Alfredo Aceves-as-starter gambit didn’t
go quite according to plan (3.1 IP, 4 H, 4 R), but a win’s a win.
Actually, against the Twins this year, a win’s a win a win a win a win
a win a win a win.

Cardinals 5, Brewers 1: I suppose you could blame the Brewers’
bullpen for this — they gave up five runs in the eighth — but Joel
Pineiro pretty much had Milwaukee handcuffed (CG, 3 H, 1 R, 5 K, 100
pitches). The Cards are now 4-2 over the first six games of a ten game
road trip, and will enter the break after four against the Cubbies.

Rays 3, Blue Jays 2: How did David Price bounce back from his
awful start against the Rangers last week to beat Roy Halladay and the
Jays last night?

“Like every team, the Rays compile lots of data on opposing batters
and share it with pitchers before games. Maddon asked pitching coach
Jim Hickey not to go over the reports with Price. “We have so much
information, and it’s good. It’s good to utilize it and we do utilize
it,” he said. “But there are certain moments when you really want to
walk away from it and just permit your instincts” to take over.

That’s probably smart and all, but didn’t Price go to Vanderbilt?
They’re supposed to be pretty smart down at that place, so you’d think
he could handle the scouting reports too.

Phillies 9, Reds 6: Inside the park homerun for Chase Utley, but then again, you know how I feel about those.

Royals 8, Red Sox 6: David DeJesus hit a go-ahead two-run homer
in the sixth inning, pulling the Royals back from a four run deficit.
The loss pulls the Sox down into a first place tie with the Yankees.

Dodgers 11, Mets 2: The Dodgers rap out 17 hits and take 2 of 3
from the Mets, who have lost 10 of 13. 10 of 13. How’d they ever win
three? It’s a miracle!

By the way, here’s a great example of why I don’t get enough sleep
on nights I write these things. Looking at the Dodgers-Mets box score,
I notice that Manny Ramirez has a bunch of twos. Two hits, at bats,
runs, RBIs, walks, etc. I immediately think, “hmm, maybe I can say
something funny about that.” The first thing that pops into my mind is
Doublemint gum, which is almost immediately followed by some vague
memory of Mel Brooks telling a set of twins to “chew your gum” in one
of his movies. Wondering if there was any worthy context around that, I
search for “Mel Brooks” and “chew your gum.” I didn’t find what I was
looking for, but I did find the “Memorable Quotes” page for “Blazing Saddles.”
Forgetting that I have recaps to write, I read every single quote on
there, laughing my head off because I had forgotten just how funny
“Blazing Saddles” is. By the time I’m done I’m (a) wondering how many
protests and carefully-crafted damage control statements the release of
a movie half as explosive as “Blazing Saddles” would cause today; (b)
missing Madeline Kahn an awful, awful lot (It’s twue! It’s twue!); and
(c) many, many long minutes have passed and I’ve got nothing else to
write about the Dodgers-Mets game. So I punt, go with that vague
allusion to the “Bull Durham” quote, because really, that’s about 95%
of my material these days, and I move on.

Multiply that by 15 games a night, five nights a week, and you see where my sleep deficit comes from. Moving right along:

Giants 9, Padres 3: Lincecum continued to be ridiculous in the
way he’s been ridiculous lately into the seventh inning, but then he
ran into trouble. Relatively speaking, of course, because to him,
giving up three runs is like most pitchers getting touched for, like,
six. His scoreless innings streak ends at 29.

Marlins 14, Diamondbacks 7: This looks like the NL version of that Cleveland game.

Rockies 7, Braves 6: Some of the pixie dust comes off of Tommy
Hanson, as he gives up four runs on six hits in five innings. Still, he
stood to be the winner until Pete Moylan and Mike Gonzales got into the
game. I feel obligated to acknowledge the fact that Jeff Francoeur had
a good game, going 3-4 with a double and a couple of RBI. This in no
way constitutes an endorsement, however. Garrett Atkins, who has had a
hell of a time this year, came through with a two-out, two-run,
pinch-hit double in the eighth inning that proved to be the winner.

Mariners 3, Rangers 1: How interesting and unexpected would it
be if the Mariners sweep Texas and the AL West goes into the break as a
log-jam of a three-way race? It’s been a couple of years since that
division has been really exciting, but when it is — like it was back
in 2002, say — it’s always fun for those of us back east to wake up in
the morning and see what crazy stuff happened while we were sleeping.

Playoff Reset: The Cards and Dodgers have their backs against the wall

Clayton Kershaw

Historically speaking, the Cardinals and Dodgers are the class of the National League. A couple of organizations which have won a ton, have had a lot of classy alpha-types running their respective shows over the years, no shortage of glory, no shortage of history and enough evocative and grand footage in the can to make Ken Burns sepia with envy.

Meanwhile, the Cubs and Mets, while they’ve won some and have some wonderful history too, are far better known for their failures. For dubious achievements and fan bases which have, collectively, spent far more time smacking their own foreheads than high-fiving the guy in the seat next to them. Nevertheless, by the time we go to bed tonight it’s quite possible that the classy organizations with the long resumes of winning baseball will have been eliminated by the sad sacks and that we’re going to be treated to a Mets-Cubs NLCS.

In short: today’s NLDS contests are “the big game” sequences in any late-70s-mid-90s “slobs vs. snobs” comedy movie. Camp Mohawk vs. Camp Northstar. Lane Meyer vs. Roy Stalin skiing the K-12. Thornton Mellon vs. Chas in the diving meet. Once these things are over don’t be surprised to see someone on the Mets or Cubs kissing some girl way out of their league and to be asking yourself, “wait, why are there cheerleaders at a diving meet?”

Of course baseball isn’t as scripted as all of that and William Zabka is, according to IMDb, in pre-production on some Civil War project, so he can’t make it. I have no idea what that’s about. I can only assume he’s playing some stuck-up Confederate General who will lose to Curtis Armstrong’s disheveled Union general in The Big Battle, after which we cut to credits over some tossed-off Dave Edmunds song he wrote for the soundtrack just for the money.

Which is to say: we have to watch these games to see what happens:

The Game: St. Louis Cardinals vs. Chicago Cubs
The Time: 4:37 p.m. ET
The Place: Wrigley Field
The Channel: TBS
The Starters: John Lackey vs. Jason Hammel
The Upshot: Wow, those were a lot of dingers given up by Michael Wacha and his friends last night, huh? The god news is that they’re running Lackey out there this afternoon and Lackey has owned the Cubs of late, going 3-0 with a 0.93 ERA in four starts against them, including his gem in Game 1 on Friday night. The bad news: even a half dozen recent starts aren’t great predictively speaking, and Lackey is on short rest. TBS will show highlights of Lackey pitching on short rest in the 2002 World Series today, but think about what you were doing in 2002 and whether you’d be just as good at it today as then. Hammel has the ball for the Cubs. He has not fared well against the Cardinals this season (5.37 ERA) but the same small sample stuff applies.

Injuries could be a key consideration here, as Addison Russell may be on the shelf for the Cubs following his hamstring tweak in last night’s game. Likewise Yadier Molina left early, apparently having aggravated his thumb injury. Otherwise: wear a helmet if you’re in the Bleachers at Wrigley this afternoon. Balls may be flying out your way.

The Game: Los Angels Dodgers vs. New York Mets
The Time: 8:07 p.m. ET
The Place: Citi Field
The Channel: TBS
The Starters: Clayton Kershaw vs. Steven Matz
The Upshot: The Clayton Kershaw Legacy Game. It’s not fair to Kershaw that, after eight years of completely dominating Major League Baseball people will deem him worthy or unworthy of, well, whatever, based on his 10th postseason start, but they will. If he falters today on short rest, with no reliable bullpen to bail him out, people will call him some sort of choke artist. If he dominates he’ll be considered redeemed, though he’s never been a guy in need of redemption. I don’t care much for that game, but it’s inevitable it will be played so let’s just silently roll our eyes and go with it. The Mets may have a bigger question mark on the mound in Steven Matz, who hasn’t pitched in a couple of weeks thanks to a tweak in his back in the last week of the season.

This should feel like a totally different game. The Utley drama has to subside now, especially given that he’s unlikely to get the start against a tough lefty. And that tough lefty is, with all due respect, no Brett Anderson. You can bet against Clayton Kershaw and win, but it’s not the sort of thing I’d make a habit of.

In any event, the Cubs and Mets should play this on a loop in the Clubhouse before today’s games. Because . . . it just doesn’t matter!

Yoenis Cespedes and his bat flip say good morning

Yoenis Cespedes

It was a late night last night. Especially for old farts like me. I turned on my TV at 12:30 yesterday afternoon and there was baseball on it for just about 12 hours straight. Not too shabby unless you happen to root for the Astros, Rangers, Cardinals or Dodgers. Oh well, today is another day. Or tomorrow if today is a travel day.

In the meantime, we have Yoenis Cespedes to keep us happy, alert and occupied. Again, unless you’re a Dodgers fan. Of course, if you are a Dodgers fan you got absolutely no right to be upset at a bat flip following a homer. And if I catch you complaining, you’re getting a time out.

The Mets break out the whuppin’ sticks, rout the Dodgers 13-7

Cespedes d'Arnaud

So often in life the anticipation of something outpaces its reality. For Mets fans tonight, it was the exact opposite. They had a grand old time. The Mets broke out the lumber and overwhelmed the Dodgers 13-4 to take a 2-1 lead in NLDS.

So much of that anticipation was about revenge, really. Hitting Chase Utley if he was in the lineup, perhaps, or at the very least sending some sort of retaliatory message the Dodgers’ way in response to Utley breaking Ruben Tejada‘s leg on Saturday. But with Utley out of the lineup — and the notion that base runners matter a whole heck of a lot in a playoff game — Matt Harvey just set out to pitch, not plunk. And Mets hitters set out to beat the living heck out of Brett Anderson and a couple Dodgers relievers. Living well is the best revenge, and for a major league team, winning baseball games is living well.

It didn’t start out so well for Harvey, as Yasmani Grandal singled in two runs in the top of the second with a third run scoring on a Curtis Granderson error on the same play. It was 3-0 Dodgers early and Mets’ fans sphincters’ clenched. But only momentarily.

The Mets came right back in the bottom of the second with four runs with a Travis d'Arnaud single and a bases-loaded, bases-clearing double from Curtis Granderson. In the next inning d’Arnaud hit a two-run shot. In the fourth Daniel Murphy singled in a run and Yoenis Cespedes hit a three-run bomb to left to make it 10-3. The Dodgers got one back in the top of the seventh but New York scored three more of their own in the bottom half. It was never a ballgame after the third inning.

Brett Anderson was the author of the damage through three, Alex Wood gave up the four runs in the fourth and hung on in the fifth in what became mop-up duty. Harvey was done after five and took the win. He wasn’t necessarily sharp, but he did strike out seven and was good enough. Some late damage from the Dodgers, including a three-run homer in the ninth from Howie Kendrick, was too little, too late. Granderson and d’Arnaud did the damage for New York, driving in five and three runs, respectively.

Once the competitive portion of this game was over, the Mets’ crowd turned to more important matters. Chanting things like “We want Utley!” Don Mattingly didn’t give him to ’em, probably because there was no downside to smacking him after the game got out of hand. But no upside either. Because of that stuff about living well, remember?

Now it’s on Clayton Kershaw to save the Dodgers from elimination [looks at watch] tonight, technically. If he doesn’t, his detractors will write another page in their Big Book of Clayton Kershaw Playoff Failures. If he does, we get a Game 5 back in Los Angeles.

Maybe Chase Utley gets into one of those.