And That Happened: Sunday's scores and highlights

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Phillies 9, Cardinals 2: Trading for Matt Holliday is all
Wellemeyer and good, but you gotta pitch too. Despite their new bauble,
the Cards drop two of three to the Phils, and find themselves knocked
out of first place because . . .

Cubs 5, Reds 2: The Cubbies are on fire. I was a guest on WDWS
radio in Champaign, Illinois last month, and host Brian Moline asked me
how I liked the Cardinals chances. My answer boiled down to “with
Albert, all things are possible.” I noted, however, that at the time
just about every single thing you can imagine had gone wrong for the
Cubs yet (a) they were still only two games out and; (b) some things
would stop going wrong for them eventually. That seems to have happened
(or stopped happening depending on your point of view), and it’s now a
very real race. I’m going to be on WDWS again on Tuesday, and I suspect
I will gloat a bit. I may even mention that I’m an Ohio State fan too,
which should really make me popular in Cardinals/Illini country.

Yankees 7, A’s 5: The Yankees are 9-1 out of the break. Sure,
seven of those ten games have come against last place teams (Baltimore
and Oakland) but they still count and there’s something to be said
about winning the ones you’re supposed to. Apropos of nothing, I’m
reading this box score as I watch the Tigers-White Sox game, and I’m
realizing that, all year, I thought that Adam Kennedy was playing for
the Tigers and Adam Everett was playing for the A’s instead of the
other way around. Not sure if that says more about those guys or me as
a writer. Either way, I’m sure I could have gone with that
misconception all season and never once had it really matter for bloggy

Orioles 6, Red Sox 2: Albert Einstein once said “The definition
of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting
different results.” Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Red Sox and
their use of John Smoltz. Smoltzie, who won’t get too many cheers from
me until he’s back in Atlanta for his number retiring ceremony next
summer, gave up another six runs on nine hits in five innings. As
predicted, he’s really becoming a difference maker in the AL East race.

Blue Jays 5, Rays 1: A bit of a letdown for the Rays after
mounting an eight-run comeback in twelve innings on Saturday night.
Which itself came a couple of days after getting blanked by Mark
Buehrle. Maybe the Rays were just tired of talking to the media about
big doings. Tampa Bay now has a series against the Yankees, a breather
against the Royals, and then a short series against the Red Sox.
Anytime is a good time, but now would be a particularly good time to
make a move and get off the fringes and into the, well, whatever the
opposite of “fringes” are of the AL East race. Is “fringes” a blanket
metaphor? What the hell do you call the middle of a blanket?

Braves 10, Brewers 2: A day off for Chipper meant a rare start
for Kelly Johnson, with Martin Prado sliding over to third. Johnson
responded by going 3-4 with a double, a homer and two RBI. Though it
makes sense that Prado has the job from here on out, I haven’t yet
given up on Kelly Johnson, and I believe that he can still be an
important part of this nutritious breakfast. Atlanta is making up no
ground on the Phillies these days because the Phillies don’t fell much
like losing anymore, but they’re only 3.5 back in the wild card race,
tied with an inferior Marlins team, and trailing the flailing Cards and
Giants. The Rockies sit at the top of that heap, however, and since
their turnaround this year seems to have been caused by one of these, they may be tough to catch.

Nationals 3, Padres 2: Without looking at official attendance,
I’m going to wager that tens and tens of people watched this one.
Probably fair to say that, overall records aside, the Padres are a
worse team than the Nats are. Royals too, for that matter. And speaking
of the Royals . . .

Rangers 7, Royals 2: You have to figure that the Royals are
going to win the game when Sidney frickin’ Ponson of all people throws
six scoreless innings, but it wasn’t to be. Another day, another
bullpen implosion, another loss. Can’t really blame Hillman for not
sending out Soria this time as he threw two innings and 37 pitches on
Saturday. You can blame Alberto Callaspo, however, who dropped a pop
fly that would have ended the seventh inning with no runs scoring
instead of the three that did, and Juan Cruz who got shellacked once
again. What’s with Cruz, anyway? After ending April with a 1.69 ERA, he
threw up a 6.00 for May, a 6.97 for June, and an 8.22 so far in July.
I’m no mathematician, but I think that puts him on pace to, um [carry
the two . . .] be really, really awful for August and September.

Mets 8, Astros 3: Ponson and Livan Hernandez (7 IP, 8 H, 3 ER)
each pitched well yesterday. In other news, I started to dig a bunker
in the backyard. You can never be too careful with sings and portents
and whatnot.

Rockies 4, Giants 2: As mentioned in the Braves recap, the
Giants are in near free fall and the Rockies are bulletproof. Colorado
now goes on the road for ten games. In years past I’d say something
like “now’s the time when the competition can make their move,” but
this Rockies team isn’t like the Rockies teams of old. They have 54
wins this year. 27 of them came at home. 27 have come on the road.

Twins 10, Angels 1: Justin Morneau now leads the AL in both
homers and RBI. If he keeps that up, he may very well lead all of
baseball in the category of most undeserved MVP awards, lifetime.
Though to be fair to him, if the music stopped right now, a 2009 MVP
award would be less egregious than his 2006 award and his second place
finish in 2008. He’s having a good season. If either he or Mauer are
gonna get voter love, though, the Twins have to do better than this, as
they’re just 4-6 since the break.

Marlins 8, Dodgers 6: Jason Schmidt pitches again, is bad again,
but this time he doesn’t dodge the bullets he did against the Reds on
Monday. Will he get another start? If he does, this business will get
out of control. It will get out of control and we’ll be lucky to live
through it.

Indians 12, Mariners 3: Break up the Tribe! They sweep a good
Mariners team and are riding a four game winning streak. And they
really bombed out the Ms, outscoring them 31-6 in the three game
series. The Mariners fall to 7.5 games back of the Angels and 6.5 back
in the wild card race. Which sucks, but may make it easier for Jack
Zduriencik to do some deals that need doing rather than go through the
motions of being in a playoff race.

White Sox 5, Tigers 1: This one was over quick, as Rick Porcello
pitched the first inning like he was 20 years-old or somethin’:
nibbling, worrying about the runners too much, then making a mental
error on defense when he didn’t cover first like he should have, then
giving up a howitzer shot to Paul Konerko. Down 4-0 before even getting
to bat, The Tigers couldn’t muster much of anything against Clayton
Richard (8 IP, 5 H, 1 ER). Not even Adam EVERETT could get a hit. Still
a good weekend for Detroit, which beat back the Sox, taking three of
four as soon as they got really close at the end of last week.

Diamondbacks 9, Pirates 0: I wonder if pitchers watched Mark
Buehrle throw that perfecto the other day and thought “hey, why don’t I
work quickly, trust my stuff, and throw strikes more often?” Max
Scherzer may have, because he was down to bidness yesterday, throwing
85 of his 109 pitches for strikes, didn’t walk anyone, which is rare
for him, and reached a three-ball count only twice. Gerardo Parra
finished a triple short of the cycle. Story of my life, man.

Erik Johnson likely to open 2016 in the White Sox rotation

DENVER, CO - APRIL 09:  Starting pitcher Erik Johnson #45 of the Chicago White Sox delivers against the Colorado Rockies during Interleague play at Coors Field on April 9, 2014 in Denver, Colorado. The Rockies defeated the White Sox 10-4.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
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With the White Sox losing Jeff Samardzija to free agency, Erik Johnson will likely get a shot to contribute out of the rotation to open up the 2016 season, GM Rick Hahn said in a conference call on Wednesday, per a report from’s Scott Merkin.

“As we sit here today, I think it will be an opportunity for Erik Johnson to convert on sort of the return to form he showed back in 2015 when he was International League pitcher of the year for [Triple-A] Charlotte,” Hahn said. “Obviously, he got some starts in September and continued to show the progress in Chicago he had shown in the Minor Leagues over the course of the last season.

“So if Opening Day were today, then I think Johnson is penciled in to that spot in the rotation right now. In all probability, once we get closer to spring, there will be some competition for him to earn that spot. But if we were strictly looking at today, then I would think Johnson has the inside track on filling Samardzija’s innings.”

Johnson was called up from Triple-A Charlotte in September and made six starts, allowing 14 runs (13 earned) on 32 hits and 17 walks with 30 strikeouts in 35 innings. That followed up an impressive five months in the minors where he compiled a 2.37 ERA and a 136/41 K/BB ratio across 132 2/3 innings.

Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, and each included Johnson on their top-100 prospect lists, ranking him 63rd, 67th, and 70th, respectively. The right-hander was selected by the White Sox in the second round of the 2011 draft.

Major League Baseball will investigate Yasiel Puig for his role in Miami nightclub brawl

Yasiel Puig
AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi

It was reported on Friday afternoon that Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig was involved in a brawl at a Miami nightclub. Details were scant at the time, but he reportedly left with a bruise on his face.

Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times reports that Major League Baseball plans to investigate Puig under the league’s new domestic violence policy for his role in the brawl. Citing a report from TMZ, Hernandez notes that Puig shoved his sister, “brutally sucker-punched” the manager of the bar, and instigated the brawl.

The Dodgers and Puig’s agent have thus far refused to comment on the situation.

Rockies shortstop Jose Reyes was the first player to be investigated under the league’s new domestic violence policy earlier this month, as he allegedly assaulted his wife. Reyes has pleaded not guilty after he was charged with domestic abuse in Hawaii.

As our own Craig Calcaterra pointed out, commissioner Rob Manfred does not need to wait for Puig to plead guilty or to be found guilty to levy a punishment.

Dayan Viciedo close to signing with Japan’s Chunichi Dragons

Dayan Viciedo
AP Photo/Carlos Osorio
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Patrick Newman is reporting that the Chunichi Dragons of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball and outfielder Dayan Viciedo are close to an agreement on a contract. Newman notes that the Dragons are close to signing pitcher Jordan Norberto as well.

Viciedo, 26, has struggled since making his major league debut in 2010 with the White Sox, batting an aggregate .254/.298/.424 with 66 home runs and 211 RBI in 1,798 plate appearances. He spent the 2015 season with Triple-A Charlotte (White Sox) and Nashville (Athletics), hitting a composite .287/.348/.450. While Viciedo can hit the occasional home run, he hasn’t shown the ability to do much else at the big league level. Given his age, he could prove himself in Japan and parlay that into a renewed shot in the majors in the future.

The White Sox signed Viciedo out of Cuba in December 2008, agreeing to a four-year, $10 million deal. The club re-signed him to one-year deals in 2013 and ’14 for $2.8 million each and $4.4 million ahead of the 2015 season.

Blue Jays sign J.A. Happ to a three-year, $36 million contract

J.A. Happ
AP Photo/David Zalubowski

Update (8:45 PM EST): Per Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi, Happ will get $10 million in 2016 and $13 million each in 2017 and ’18.

*’s Gregor Chisholm reports that the Blue Jays have signed lefty J.A. Happ to a three-year deal worth $36 million.

Happ, 33, had a rebirth as a member of the Pirates last season after starting the season with 20 subpar starts with the Mariners. He made 11 starts for the Buccos, boasting a 1.85 ERA with a 69/13 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings.

Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported this past August that Happ’s newfound success had to do with a delivery tweak suggested by Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage. The Blue Jays are certainly hoping that adjustment is the full explanation for his success.

The Jays’ signing of Happ most likely signifies they won’t be pursuing free agent lefty David Price.

This will be Happ’s second stint with the Blue Jays. The Astros dealt him to Toronto in a July 2012 trade. He posted a 4.39 ERA with a 256/113 K/BB ratio in 291 innings with the Jays, then went to the Mariners in a trade this past December that brought outfielder Michael Saunders to the Jays.