And That Happened: Sunday's scores and highlights

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Hello all. I’m pinch-hitting for Craig as he works on perfecting his Perry Mason imitation. Go easy on me. I can’t even imitate Rusty Hardin.

Dodgers 9, Braves 1: Chad Billingsley struck out nine in five innings, but Joe Torre sat him down after the pitcher came down with a cramp in his hamstring. Billingsley’s knee appeared to buckle as he followed through on a pitch in the fifth inning, but the right-hander said “I always do it. That’s nothing new.”

Rangers 4, Mariners 2: Ian Snell was solid in Seattle debut (6 innings, 3 hits, two runs), but the Rangers continued to play home run derby (Young, Murphy, Saltalamacchia), taking three of four in series. Mariners fans will probably prefer the headline on this story.

Marlins 3, Cubs 2: Dan Uggla hit a home run in the ninth that might still be circling the Earth. Cody Ross followed with his second of the game — on the very next pitch — to give the Marlins a dramatic win. It was Kevin Gregg’s second blown save in as many days and his fifth in 26 chances this season. Don’t look now, but the Marlins are five game behind the Phillies.

Blue Jays 7, Athletics 2: Jays starter Ricky Romero discovered that when you’re facing the A’s, all you have to do is throw your fastball across the plate and you’ll be OK. A’s starter Vin Mazzaro discovered that it’s not the same when facing the Blue Jays. Aaron Hill proves it with two-run home run.

Giants 7, Phillies 3: San Francisco finished off a 6-1 homestand as Freddy Sanchez – one of 10 ex-Pirates enjoying their recent call-ups to the actual majors – comes up with two hits and two RBIs in his Giants debut. Also, Barry Zito pitches like its 2002.

Brewers 6, Padres 1: Trevor Hoffman faced his old team in a surreal setting, closing out a scoreless ninth in a non-save situation. Interestingly, it was not the first time he had faced the Padres (twice in 1993 when with the Marlins). Furthering the Padres’ misery, pitcher Kevin Correia hit into a double play after faking a bunt with runners on first and second and nobody out in the fifth inning.

Astros 2, Cardinals 0: Bud Norris dominated the Cardinals in his first major league start, allowing just two hits in seven sharp innings and giving our own D.J. Short great joy. Norris actually carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning before St. Louis pitcher Adam Wainwright led off with a single. Tony La Russa admitted after the game that Albert Pujols is “in a funk.”

Angels 13, Twins 4: Who needs Torii Hunter and Vladimir Guerrero? Kendry Morales hit a pair of three-run home runs and drove in a career-high six RBIs in the destruction of the Twins. The Halos have won 13 of 15 and now have the best record (63-40) in the AL. Said Twins outfielder Denard Span: “Thank God they’re getting out of here. The last two days, they were just pretty much stealing our lunch money, kicking our butts.”

Yankees 8, White Sox 5: Melky Cabrera became the first Yankee to hit for the cycle since – you guessed it – Tony Fernandez in 1995. The expected pitcher’s duel between CC Sabathia and Mark Buerhle becomes a slugfest.

Royals 4, Rays 1: James Shields carried a no-hitter into the eighth inning, but then the Rays do their best Royals imitation, giving away the victory. Tropicana Field now has gone 940 regular season games without witnessing a no-hitter. Or the warm Florida sun.

Red Sox 18, Orioles 10: Putting Victor Martinez at catcher in place of Jason Varitek proves advantageous to the Patriots – err Red Sox, as Boston’s new slugger goes 5-for-6. Red Sox have won four straight and are ½ game behind the Yankees. The Orioles are just happy their not the Nats.

Indians 11, Tigers 1: Carl Pavano pitched eight sharp innings in a rout of the Tigers. “The key was keeping the ball in the park,” he said. I’m guessing a lot of Yankees fans wished he had figured that out a long time ago.

Diamondbacks 5, Mets 2: Chad Tracy robbed Gary Sheffield of a “scud missile” during a key moment in the fifth inning, sparking Jon Garland in a complete game victory. But don’t worry Mets fans, help is on the way. Nelson Figueroa will be activated on Monday to start against Dan Haren. Seems like a fair fight.

Rockies 6, Reds 4, 11 inn.: Dexter Fowler won the game with a two-out RBI triple in the 11th. It was the fourth straight win for the Rockies, who remain tied for the NL wild card lead. In just his second game for Cincinnati since being traded from Toronto on Friday, Scott Rolen was hit in the helmet with a pitch. He didn’t sound badly hurt, saying “It stunned me, but I could still cuss.”

Nationals 5, Pirates 3: Had to save the best for last, of course. The highlight of the game? Had to be when Nats pitcher Sean Burnett was booed upon entering the game. He was the one who had the nerve to call the Pirates the “laughingstock of baseball.”

Burnett said he’d never been booed before, which seems unlikely.



Maybe Alcides Escobar shouldn’t bat leadoff

Alcides Escobar

Alcides Escobar finished with a .292 OBP this year. He came in at .246 in 117 at-bats in August and .257 in 109 at-bats between September and October, so he wasn’t exactly flying high entering the postseason. Still, that didn’t stop Ned Yost from putting him into the leadoff spot for Thursday’s Game 1 against the Astros.

Yost finally did reconsider hitting Escobar first in September. It took Alex Gordon‘s return to health, plus the previous addition of Ben Zobrist to the lineup, in order to make that happen. However, it didn’t stick. Escobar hit ninth in each of his starts from Sept. 7-26, batting .236 with a .276 OBP during that span. With five games left to go, he was suddenly returned to the leadoff spot. The Royals went on to win all five games. Yost saw it as a sign, even though Escobar went 5-for-22 with no walks in those games.

Escobar went 0-for-4 in Thursday’s loss to the Astros. He did not swing at the first pitch of the game, which probably explains the defeat.

It’s been difficult to argue with Yost since last year’s World Series run and this year’s incredible run out of the game. The blind spot with Escobar, though, gets rather infuriating. One can defend hitting him leadoff against the Astros’ lefties. His career OBP against southpaws is .319 (.316 this year). Against righties, he’s the most obvious No. 9 hitter alive, with a career .258/.290/.342 line (.252/.284/.314 this year). He’s not a pace-setter. He’s not a spark plug. He’s a liability.

Astros top Royals in Game 1 of ALDS

Houston Astros' Jose Altuve, left, celebrates with teammate Luis Valbuena after scoring a run during the first inning in Game 1 of baseball's American League Division Series against the Kansas City Royals, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

After shutting out the Yankees in the AL Wild Card game on Tuesday, the Astros beat the Royals 5-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS on Thursday at Kauffman Stadium. Road teams are now 4-0 to begin the 2015 postseason.

The Astros grabbed an early 3-0 lead against Yordano Ventura through two innings. Chris Young took over for the Royals after a 47-minute rain delay and was very effective for the most part, allowing just a solo homer to George Springer over four innings while striking out seven batters. Colby Rasmus, who homered in the Wild Card game, took Ryan Madson deep in the eighth inning to give the Astros’ bullpen some extra breathing room.

Collin McHugh stayed in after the rain delay and ended up tossing six innings while allowing just four hits and one walk. Kendrys Morales did all the damage against him with a pair of solo homers. He’s the first Royals player to hit two home runs in a postseason game since George Brett in the 1985 ALCS.

The Royals’ offense showed some signs of life in the bottom of the eighth inning with back-to-back two-out hits against Will Harris, but Oliver Perez got Eric Hosmer to foul out to end the threat. Luke Gregerson tossed a scoreless ninth inning to finish off the victory.

Consistent with their identity during the regular season, the Astros won despite striking out 14 times. The same goes for the Royals, as they struck out just four times. Despite putting the ball into play more often, the Kansas City lineup wasn’t able to muster anything aside from the home runs by Morales.

Game 2 of the ALDS will begin Friday at 3:45 p.m. ET. Scott Kazmir will pitch for the Astros and Johnny Cueto will get the ball for the Royals.

George Springer homers to extend Astros’ lead over Royals

Houston Astros' George Springer (4) celebrates with teammates after scoring a run in the first inning in Game 1 of baseball's American League Division Series against the Kansas City Royals, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
AP Photo/Charlie Riedel
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After Kendrys Morales brought the Royals within one run in the bottom of the fourth inning with his second solo home run of the game, George Springer took Chris Young deep in the top of the fifth to extend the Astros’ lead to 4-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS.

According to Statcast, the ball traveled an estimated 422 feet and left Springer’s bat at 109 mph. Royals fans are happy it was just a solo home run. It could have been worse, as Jose Altuve singled to lead off the fifth inning before being thrown out trying to steal second base during Springer’s at-bat.

The Royals will try to answer as we move to the bottom of the fifth inning at Kauffman Stadium.