And That Happened: Sunday's Scores and Highlights

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Yankees 5, Red Sox 2: Brutal weekend for Boston. Dropping four straight to the Yankees is bad enough, but doing it on the heels of dropping two to the Rays is something of a tone-setter. Especially considering how ugly a series this was for them: Thursday and Saturday were pathetic. Friday was a stomach punch. Last night started to unravel with a stomach punch (A-Rod, Damon and Teixeira homers) followed by the bullpen just rolling over in the eighth. The Sox are 6.5 out now. They’re tied with Texas for the wild card and only a game in front of the Rays. To suggest that the next seven games — four at home against first-place Detroit followed by three games in Texas — could make or break their season is not hyperbole. As for the Yankees, there’s no denying it: they’re the best team in baseball, and and it strains credulity to think that anyone can stop them. Oh, and after this weekend is anyone anywhere going to say that A-Rod isn’t clutch now? Wait, it’s A-Rod, so of course they’ll say it. They’ll just be wrong.

Reds 5, Giants 2: Aaron Harang: the best 13-loss pitcher in baseball. The Reds took two of three from the Giants over the weekend, beating Lincecum and Cain. Nice trick. The Rockies and Giants are now tied for the wild card lead. Query: how many of you thought that more than one team from the NL West had a shot at the playoffs before the season began? Of those, how many of you felt that one of them wouldn’t be the Dbacks? Anyone who says that they predicted that the Giants and the Rockies would spend August and September locked in combat over a playoff berth can go take a flying leap, because you’re totally lying.

Braves 8, Dodgers 2: After watching Los Angeles beat the tar out of the Braves last Sunday, it’s really nice (for me anyway) to see them take 3 of 4 from the Dodgers this weekend. Was there a better offseason pickup than Javier Vazquez? He has put together one of the quieter awesome seasons in recent memory (10-7, 2.90 ERA, 171 K, 32 BB, 155 IP). If he had any run support in the middle of the season he would be a Cy Young candidate right now. The Dodgers have lost 10 of 15 and stagger into San Francisco. Winning the West once seemed like a foregone conclusion for Los Angeles. I think they’ll still do it. But they’re only 5.5 up on both the Giants and Rockies now.

Marlins 12, Phillies 3: With the Marlins sweeping Philly and the Braves taking three of four in Los Angeles, we may very well have ourselves a race here in the East now. Heck, the Marlins and Braves’ division deficit is only a game greater than their wild card deficit. Jamie Moyer’s bad day (5 IP, 11 H, 3 ER) will have people saying he should make way for Pedro Martinez in the rotation. My solution: given that Moyer has alternated between good and bad starts for 11 turns now, and given that Pedro is certainly no less fragile than he has ever been, why not just alternate between the two of them whenever the fifth start comes up for the rest of the season? You make one or the other one available to be a long man/mop up guy in low leverage situations when he’s several days out from his next scheduled start. That kind of pen work would be less taxing than a start, but would be enough to (a) keep an old man loose; and (b) rest up more valuable members of the pen. And don’t tell me that Moyer can’t warm up like a reliever anymore. Guy throws 80. It doesn’t take much warming up to do that.

Blue Jays 7, Orioles 3: Steve Simmons of Sun Media wrote this yesterday morning about Roy Halladay: “It’s Halladay’s desire to pitch in the post-season, and if that’s the case he’s going to have to toughen up and get used to being swamped by the media (something he detests) and get used to pitching under pressure (the Blue Jays are 1-7 in his past eight starts).” What Simmons didn’t mention is that the Jays only scored 21 runs for Halladay in those eight starts, and that’s not going to help you no matter how you stack up psychologically, no matter how much guts you have, whether or not you have swagger or any of that garbage. Roy Halladay needed some run support. He got some. He won. It’s pretty simple. Simmons can take his pop psychology elsewhere.

Rangers 7, Angels 0: Derek Holland throws one of the more dominant starts of the year (CG, SHO, 3 H, 8K) against the best offense in baseball, and the Rangers take two of three from the division-leading Angels. The part of me that likes to see my preseason predictions borne out wants to see the Rangers overtake Anaheim, but I don’t really think that’s going to happen. The part of me that likes interesting things to happen in baseball would like much more to see the Rangers overtake the Sox for the wild card lead and hold it for the rest of the season. Given that they’re now tied, such a thing seems eminently doable.

Rockies 11, Cubs 5: Chicago out-hits the Rockies 17-14, but gets killed in the column that matters most, and by that I mean the column that reads “facial hair.” From reader Chris Koz: “I felt you should be alerted to Ryan Spilborghs’ new look. I was watching the Cubs-Rocks game and I’m not really sure what he was going for there . . . gay pirate, maybe? It was kind of a bulldog mustache with chops coming all the way out to the stache, coupled with a vertical stripe on the chin.” I’m not sure if that look has a name, but it certainly has power. In other news, I had mentioned several months ago that my four year-old boy wanted a new baseball cap (he was three when I first mentioned it). I let him look at every Major League cap, and stood ready to let him get any one he wanted (though I was going to veto Boston and New York on general principles). He picked the Cubs, probably because his name starts with a “C”. After many delays, he finally got the cap. He looks pretty spiffy in it. I sit here this morning wondering whether having the cap will turn him into a Cubs fan or whether he views it as nothing more than a cap.

Athletics 6, Royals 3: I grew up during the age of the two-division setup. For 25 seasons — 1969-1993 — the A’s and Royals shared the AL West. In 16 of those 25 years, one or the other won the division. In 1971, 1973, 1975, 1976, 1980, and 1989, the Royals and the A’s finished 1-2 (or 2-1). All through my childhood, then, one of those two teams, or both, represented the class of AL West baseball. I know the A’s are no longer a perennial power and I know it’s been a long time since the Royals have done anything, but something in my baseball DNA still twinges when I think of these franchises. Twinges in such a way as to make me take a little more notice of their futility than that of other bad teams. I think that’s why I tend to pick on the Royals and A’s more than a lot of other bad teams, anyway. Like they deserve my scorn more than, say, the Pirates, because once upon a time in my childhood, they used to be something in ways the Pirates (or whoever) never were. No point to this apart from it being more interesting to think about these teams’ pasts than their presents.

Mariners 11, Rays 2: Scott Kazmir’s nightmare season continues
(4.1 IP, 9 H, 7 ER). It was hot here in Columbus yesterday, and for
reasons that aren’t really important, I always make a point to listen
to Jane’s Addiction’s “Nothing Shocking” on the hottest days of the
summer. For that reason, when I looked at this box score and saw “D.
Navarro” I thought that Dave Navarro was catching for the Rays. That
would be cool.

Mets 5, Padres 1: Johan Santana (8 IP, 5 H, 1 ER; 2-3, RBI) was
one of the few bright spots for a Mets team that dropped the first
three of the weekend series to the Padres.

Cardinals 7, Pirates 3: Everything came unraveled for Pittsburgh
in the eighth, when Matt Capps gave up a pinch-hit homer to Schumaker
and then decided to plunk Pujols, got ejected, and then three more runs
scored. Joel Pineiro gave up nine hits, but he doesn’t walk anyone,
like ever, so he got away with it.

Tigers 8, Twins 7: Newly acquired starter Jarrod Washburn got beat
around for the the second time in two starts since the trade (6 IP, 10
H, 5 ER), but Twins’ starter Scott Baker was beat up worse (4.1 IP. 9
H, 6 ER). Michael Cuddyer had two homers. Curtis Granderson swiped a
base and is now in the 20-20 club for the second time. The Twins have
lost seven of nine and are now 5.5 back of Detroit.

Nationals 9, Diamondbacks 2: And that’s eight in a row for the
Nats. It’s really been the offense doing it for them, as their run
totals on this streak are 5-8-6-5-12-7-5-9.

Astros 2, Brewers 0: Wandy Rodriguez continues his fantasticness
(7 IP, 5 H, 0 ER). Houston is now tied with the Brewers for third in
the division, six back of St. Louis, though I don’t think that either
they or Milwaukee looks like they have the oomph to hold on and make
this a three or four team race.

Indians 8, White Sox 4: Cleveland has won 12 of 18. I guess they
should have ejected the core earlier. Jamey Carroll — Jamey Carroll?!
— went 2-5 with a double, a homer and three RBI.

The Yankees were booed last night. Did they deserve it?

Masahiro Tanaka

The boos came raining down from the Yankee Stadium faithful last night. They started when Brett Gardner grounded out in the eighth inning. More came later. A lot of it was, no doubt, based on Gardner’s disappointing performance late in the season. A lot of it was because, around that time, it seemed like the Yankees had zero shot whatsoever to mount a comeback. Which, in fact, they didn’t. A lot of it was pent-up frustration, I assume, from a late season skid which saw the Yankees lose their lead in the AL East and wind up in the Wild Card Game in the first place.

Anyone who buys a ticket has a right to boo. Especially when they buy a ticket as expensive as Yankees tickets are. It’s obviously understandable to be disappointed when your team loses. Especially when your team is eliminated like the Yankees were. And last night’s game was particularly deflating, with that 3-0 Astros lead feeling more like 10-0 given how things were going.

But isn’t booing something more than a mere manifestation of disappointment? Isn’t a step beyond? Booing isn’t saying “I’m sad.” It’s saying “you suck!” It’s not saying “I’m disappointed,” it’s saying “you should be ashamed of yourselves!” And with all respect to Yankees fans, the 2015 Yankees have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of.

This was a club expected to miss the playoffs, full stop. Maybe some people allowed for an if-everything-breaks-right flight of fancy, but hardly anyone expected them to play meaningful games late in the year, let alone a playoff game. They were too old. Too injured. There weren’t enough young reinforcements to fill the gaps. Some even went so far as to claim that they were about to spend years in the wilderness.

But then A-Rod broke out of the gate strong. And Michael Pineda had a really nice first couple of months. And Mark Teixeira put up numbers that wouldn’t have been out of place for him several years ago. The bullpen did what it was supposed to do and more, Masahiro Tanaka held together somehow and, eventually, a couple of young players like Greg Bird and Luis Severino came in to reinforce things. The not-going-anywhere Yankees were contenders. And they led the division for a good while. Of course they stumbled late. And of course they lost last night, but by just about any reasonable measure, this was a good team — better than expected — and, unlike a lot of Yankees teams in the past, was pretty darn enjoyable to watch.

Then the boos. I just can’t see how this Yankees team deserved that.

I realize a lot of people in the media have duped a lot of people into thinking that a team with a high payroll is supposed to be dominant. And I realize George Steinbrenner duped a whole lot of people into thinking that anything less than a World Series championship for the New York Yankees is failure. But that’s rhetoric and branding, not reason. In the real world where baseball players play baseball games World Series titles are rare, even for the Yankees. At the end of the season all but one of 30 teams are either at home for the playoffs or went home after suffering a gut-wrenching playoff loss. The Yankees are the most dominant franchise in the history of American professional sports yet they still have finished their year without a title over 75% of the time.

With that as a given, fans are left to judge their team’s performance based on its talent, its health, its heart, its entertainment value and the strength of the opposition which ultimately vanquished it. The Yankees weren’t nearly as talented as many, yet made the playoffs anyway. They were a walking hospital ward, let limped on. They never quit and never got pulled down into the sort of muck a lot of New York teams find themselves in when things start to go sideways. And, ultimately, they were simply beat by a better team. By any reasonable measure the 2015 Yankees were a good story, a successful enterprise, a resilient bunch and no small amount of fun.

It’s OK to be sad that it ended as it did. But that doesn’t deserve to be booed. Not by a long shot.

Collin McHugh will start Game 1 of the ALDS for the Astros

Collin McHugh Astros
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After using ace left-hander Dallas Keuchel to get past the Yankees in the Wild Card game the Astros will turn to right-hander Collin McHugh in Game 1 of the ALDS versus the Royals.

McHugh had an up-and-down year, posting a 3.89 ERA compared to his 2.73 mark last season, but thanks to good teammate support he had a 19-7 record and his 171/53 K/BB ratio in 204 innings was solid. He was particularly good down the stretch, posting a 2.89 ERA and 69/20 K/BB ratio in 72 innings after August 1.

McHugh will match up against Royals right-hander Yordano Ventura in Game 1. Houston hasn’t named a starter for Game 2 yet, while Kansas City is going with Johnny Cueto. And then the Game 3 matchup figures to be Dallas Keuchel versus Edinson Volquez.