And That Happened: Sunday's scores and highlights

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Braves 7, Mets 1: Correlation is not the same thing as
causation, but it’s worth noting that the Braves are 5-2 since
unloading Francoeur. The Mets are now seventeen games back of the Nats
in the Bryce Harper sweepstakes. Maybe that makes them a longshot, but
I like their chances of winning that race way more than I like them
winning the N.L. East.

Phillies 5, Marlins 0: While the Braves trend upwards and the
Mets trend down, the Phillies simply don’t plan on losing, it seems.
J.A. Happ shuts the Marlins down for seven and four others combine to
handle the remaining two innings, as the Phils sweep the Marlins. They
lead the East by 6.5 games, and no one else in that division looks as
though they have a higher gear.

Angels 1, Athletics 0: It was like Game 7 of the 1991 World
Series, but only if Jack Morris was lifted after nine and John Smoltz
was lifted after eight. And if Dan Gladden was a Venezuelan right
fielder with minimal range who homered instead of doubled. And if the
game really didn’t mean all that much. Hope you didn’t blink during
this one, though. It was 2 hours, 17 minutes for a 10 inning game.

Giants 4, Pirates 3: The Giants finally find some post-break
offense. Not a lot, mind you, but enough to finally win a game. Matt
Cain was strong (7 IP, 5 H, 1 ER). Heavy hearts in the San Francisco
dugout, as earlier in the day Giants’ part owner Sue Burns died of
complications from cancer. According to reports of her death, she was
diagnosed with the disease July 10. Christ, why do we care about most
of the stupid crap we care about in this world when any single one of
us can go from zero to cancer to the sweet hereafter in nine freakin’
days?

Dodgers 4, Astros 3: Big surprise as the Dodgers’ seventh hitter
goes 3-3, scores four runs and hits the game-winning dinger. Oh, wait.
It was Matt Kemp, so I suppose the only surprising thing about it is
that he’s still hitting seventh. Whatevers, Joe.

Rockies 6, Padres 1: It’s Jason Marquis’ world; the rest of us
are just, quite unexpectedly, living in it. The Major League leader in
wins — I repeat, Jason Marquis, the Major Leagues’ leader in victories
— not only pitches eight strong innings, but he doubles and drives in
two runs as well.

Cardinals 2, Diamondbacks 1: Joel Piniero is apparently living
in Jason Marquis’ world too, contributing on the hill and at the plate
(7 IP, 5 H, 1 ER; 1-3, 2B, 2 RBI).

Rays 4, Royals 3: Roman Colon walked in the winning run after
getting ahead of the hitter 0-2 which, like so many other things in
Kansas City these days, had to be kind of depressing. Luke Hochevar
pitched well. When asked about it, he sounded like he was sending Colon
a message: “I got to two strikes a lot and I tried to put them away.”
“Unlike that no-good sonofa@!$%# Colon,” Hochevar thought but did not
add. And this may mean nothing, but Joe Posnanski’s Facebook status
last night said “Something big coming?” I suppose it could mean that a
Skyline Chili is opening up in Kansas City, but with Joe that would
have inspired an exclamation point. No, if I had to guess, I’d say he
heard someone telling someone that someone was getting fired. Or
something.

Yankees 2, Tigers 1: Nice weekend for the Yankees as they sweep
Detroit, but this one is especially nice as Joba Chamberlain looked
good for the first time in a while. Can’t say that the Tigers looked
bad, though. Leyland pretty much said it all: “If you told me that we’d
hold those guys to nine runs in three games in this ballpark, I’d say
we’d have won two out of three for sure, maybe even sweep. We just
didn’t get any hits. Period.”

Orioles 10, White Sox 2: Jeremy Guthrie (8 IP, 3 H, 2 ER) and
Greg Zaun (3-4, HR, 4 RBI) had nice days to salvage one from the
Chisox. In other news, I like to say “Chisox.” Chisox, Chisox, Chisox.

Blue Jays 3, Red Sox 1: Halladay was his usual ridiculous self
(CG, 6 H, 1 ER, 7K, 0 BB). He’s still not going anywhere, despite what
the writers of all the game stories say in the seven paragraphs that
precede any discussion of the actual game action, but yes, he was
impressive. The Sox’ lead over the Yankees is now down to one game.

Cubs 11, Nationals 3: Julian Tavarez had another bad outing and was designated for assignment after the game. Chico Harlan has a detailed story about it all,
and it’s actually kind of sad. Tavarez lives in a hotel room near the
stadium in Washington and keeps no friends in D.C. He gets to the park
early. He does nothing else but play, go home, sleep, and then come to
the park again. He says that baseball is everything to him. You hear
about a guy like that and hope that he can stick around a while. When
he doesn’t, you probably have to worry about him even more than you did
when he was on the team.

Mariners 5, Indians 3: If there were any doubts — and I suppose
there could have been a few — as to whether Ichiro was a Hall of Famer
based solely on his U.S. output, they’re being put to rest this season.
He went 3-4 yesterday, raising his average to .363, which suggests a
Tony Gwynn-decline, not a Roberto Alomar one. As for the Indians, I’m
running out of smack to talk. There was a “the bright side of the 2009
Indians” kind of article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer yesterday, and
it focused on Sizemore, Choo, Martinez and Cabrera. Those dudes
combined to go 0-15.

Reds 5, Brewers 3: It’s curious that the Brewers have now lost
four straight Yovani Gallardo starts. I mean, usually you’re better off
with your ace on the mound. Lots of complaining about the umps
in this one from the Milwaukee side of things. “[Dale Sveum] felt that
this guy’s strike zone was a little erratic,” manager Ken Macha said,
adding that “the strike zone got a little wide in the eighth and ninth
innings.” Well yeah. Umps got flights to catch after Sunday games just
like anyone else. What does Sveum expect?

Rangers 5, Twins 3: Ian Kinsler starts the game with a leadoff
homer and ends it with a walkoff. Pretty neat! Not so neat that he did
it off of a knuckleballer, of course — Karma’s gonna kick him in the
jewels for that somehow — but I suppose he’s riding pretty high today,
anyway.

Brandon Belt signs $6.2 million deal, avoiding arbitration with Giants

Brandon Belt
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In a last-second compromise before a scheduled heading today, first baseman Brandon Belt and the Giants have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $6.2 million deal.

Belt requested $7.5 million and the Giants countered at $5.3 million, so they’ve settled slightly on the team-friendly side of the midpoint. Belt will be arbitration eligible again next season for the final time before hitting the open market as a free agent.

He’s coming off a very good season in which he hit .280 with 18 homers and an .834 OPS in 137 games and Belt has a lifetime .803 OPS through age 27, making him one of MLB’s most underrated all-around first baseman.

Orioles sign ex-Padres reliever Dale Thayer

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Right-hander Dale Thayer and the Orioles have agreed to a minor-league contract that includes an invitation to spring training.

Thayer had a rough 2015 season for the Padres, posting a 4.06 ERA and spending time in the minors, but he was a solid part of San Diego’s bullpen from 2012-2014 with a combined 3.02 ERA and 173/50 K/BB ratio in 188 innings.

At age 35 there’s no guarantee that Thayer will look good enough to claim a spot on the Opening Day roster, but he’s got a strong chance to wind up pitching middle relief for Baltimore.

Phillies acquire Taylor Featherston from Angels

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Taylor Featherston, who was designated for assignment by the Angels last week, has been traded to the Phillies for a player to be named later or cash.

Featherston stayed in the majors with the Angels for all of last season due to being a Rule 5 pick from the Rockies organization, but the 25-year-old infielder hit just .162 in 169 plate appearances.

He’s been much better in the minors, but nothing about his track record there screams quality regular and the Phillies are likely viewing him as a defense-first bench option for now.

Keith Law: The Braves have the best farm system in baseball

Braves 2
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Flags fly forever! Hooray for The Process championship!

Ah, sorry. This is about as much rooting as I’ll get to do this year, so cut me some slack.

This is the week when ESPN’s Keith Law releases his prospect and farm system rankings. He kicks off his content this week with a top-to-bottom ranking of all 30 farm systems. As a rule he limits his analysis to players who are currently in the minors and who have not yet exhausted their rookie of the year eligibility. The top system: the Atlanta Braves. The bottom: the Los Angeles Angels, about whom Law says “I’ve been doing these rankings for eight years now, and this is by far the worst system I’ve ever seen.” Enjoy Mike Trout, though, you guys.

If you want to know the reasons and the rankings of everyone in between you’ll have to get an ESPN Insider subscription. Sorry, I know everyone hates to pay for content on the Internet, but Keith and others who do this kind of work put a lot of damn work into it and this is what pays their bills. I typically don’t like to pay for content myself, but I do pay for an ESPN Insider subscription. It’s worth it for Law’s work alone. And though he drives me crazy sometimes, Buster Olney’s daily column/notes thing is also worth the money over the course of the year.