And That Happened: Monday's scores and highlights

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Dunn.jpgAll law and no blogs makes Craig a dull boy. Let’s try to remedy that today, shall we?

Nationals 8, Pirates 4: The Laughingstock Series went four games, and nothing was decided. Adam Dunn went 3-for-4 and was a triple short of the cycle. He may as well have been eight unicorns, cold fusion and a perpetual motion machine short, because you were just as likely to see that stuff as an Adan Dunn triple.

Tigers 6, Orioles 5: I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that not many teams have tagged Justin Verlander for five runs right out the box and have gone on to lose the game. Heck, the Os had five hits in that first frame and only had three the rest of the night. I haven’t seen anyone start so fast and peter out so quickly since Christopher Cross won all those Grammy awards back in ’81.

Padres 4, Braves 2: Can someone explain to me why the Braves had to play the Sunday night game right before flying across the damn country and playing on the west coast without an off day? Twelve teams had friggin’ off days yesterday, but not the team who played the late game and had to fly to California? Sure, that’s fair. And tired or not tired, I couldn’t be more proud of my Bravos here, losing to perhaps the worst team in baseball on a night when they did not even play Adrian Gonzalez.

Brewers 6, Dodgers 5: And lest you think that previous bit is my Braves’ homerism coming out, it stunk that the Dodgers had to fly home and play without a day off too. Totally weak scheduling, here. At least the Dodgers had a chance here. Down 6-2 entering the ninth, the Dodgers came back to within one, loaded the bases and Manny Ramirez came to the plate . . . and flew out, alas.

Diamondbacks 6, Mets 5: The Dbacks teed off on Nelson Figueroa (1.2 IP, 10 H, 6 ER) and could have turned it into a laugher. Instead, New York clawed back, though just not quite enough. You’ll all be shocked to learn that Jeff Francoeur made the third out in the eighth inning with a bouncer to third to end a potential rally. Mark Reynolds took Sunday off, but still finished the series 5-for-12 with four homers and five RBIs.

Cubs 4, Reds 2: Thank goodness for Kevin Gregg’s tired arm, or else Lou might have been tempted to use him in this one. As it stood, Carlos Marmol just didn’t have it in him to cough this one away, instead only allowing one late run. Mike Fontenot’s three-run homer in the second was the big blow here. The Cubs are now 13-5 since the break. Paid attendance: 22,222. This means something. This is important.

Astros 4, Giants 3: You don’t see a ton of complete game losses anymore, but Matt Cain had one (8 IP, 8 H, 4 ER, 5K).

Rays 10, Royals 4: Zack Greinke has his worst start of the year. He hasn’t won since June 28th, though apart from last night he hasn’t pitched too terribly. Eventually you just sort of get dragged down by the folks around you, I guess. More surprising than Greinke getting roughed up — and maybe even more surprising than an Adam Dunn triple would be — was Yunieksy Betancourt hitting a homer. As for the Rays, Willy Aybar hit two homers and Scott Kazmir got his second straight win.

A’s 3, Rangers 2: Just a thought, but if you’re going to use Neftali Feliz out of the pen, maybe you want to think about using him as the closer. Dude pitched two innings, retired all six batters he faced in order, struck out the first four, in fact, with several pitches registering at 100 miles per hour. In the ninth, C.J. Wilson gave up three singles and a pinch hit triple to Rajai Davis, blowing a 2-0 lead.

Maybe Alcides Escobar shouldn’t bat leadoff

Alcides Escobar
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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.