And That Happened: Wednesday's Scores and Highlights

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Phillies 12, Cubs 5: Pedro Martinez wasn’t spectacular in his
2009 debut, but he was effective enough and showed that he still
belonged on a Major League mound (5 IP, 7 H, 3 ER, 5K). I was most
impressed by his first inning strikeout of Jake Fox where, after
consistently hitting 88 on the gun with his fastball to start off the
game, he ratcheted it up to 92 on strike three. That’s useful. One
wonders if it wouldn’t be more useful in the pen, but that’s something
we’ll figure out over the next couple of weeks. Jeff Samardzija made
his first start and it wasn’t pretty, as he gave up seven runs on eight
hits in 3.1 innings. Oh, and some dumb rich kid showered Shane
Victorino with beer as he caught a fly ball. No word on whether
Victorino picked up a rock and made a nice-sized dent in the fan’s
life-sized Hot Wheels car after the game. So what else do you want to
hear, I’m out of stories.

Braves 6, Nationals 2: It’s a lot of fun for me to watch the Braves win like this. Now if only Philly and Colorado will cooperate by losing a bit.

Rockies 8, Pirates 0: That’s not what I mean when I ask for cooperation. Ubaldo Jimenez makes short work of the Pirates (8IP, 3 H, 0 ER).

Twins 7, Royals 1: Brian Bannister gets shelled (6 IP, 9 H, 7
ER) and Francisco Liriano had his best start in, like, forever (7 IP, 3
H, 1 ER, 8K). Most of the damage against Bannister came in the first,
when the Twins hit four straight singles off of him, followed by a home
run. Bannister tried to explain to the Twins that all but the homer was
the result of an unusual run of BABIP luck, but they insisted on
celebrating anyway. Ignoramuses.

Giants 4, Dodgers 2: Juan Uribe wins it on a walkoff homer in
the 10th, though if it wasn’t for a bad call at first base that led to
a Dodger run, it would have ended in the ninth. There was some pushing
and shoving early in this one, but no Youkilis-Porcello moments. Which
is sad, because the inside pitch that caused the ire was to Pablo
Sandoval, and I would have liked to see his kung-fu in action.

Mets 6, Diamondbacks 4: Jon Rauch got pissed at the ump over
what he felt to be a shrinking strike zone in the eighth and charged in
to argue with him. Manager A.J. Hinch came out to protect his pitcher
and Rauch shoved him aside. “He really didn’t hold me back too much,
and I went and apologized for manhandling him.” You just can’t buy that
kind of respect from your subordinates. It has to be earned.

Red Sox 8, Tigers 2: Despite a fairly big series against the
Rangers this weekend, Youkilis began serving his suspension, and thus
sat this one out. Probably a good idea, though, because (a) the Sox
have approximately 347 guys who play first or third; and (b) who’s to
say the Tigers wouldn’t have thrown at him again? Josh Beckett goes
seven innings giving up two runs and notching his 14th win. I’m getting
this funny feeling that they’re going to give him the Cy Young award
this year despite the fact that there are several starting pitchers
more deserving. It just feels like a “look at the wins!” kind of year.

Rangers 5, Indians 0: Strike that — reverse it. Tommy Hunter
continues to impress (7.2 IP, 6 H. 0 ER 5K) and Josh Hamilton goes 3-4
with a couple of doubles as the Rangers replicate the Indians 5-0 win
from the previous night.



Cardinals 5, Reds 2: Chris Carpenter (7 IP, 8 H, 2 ER, 10K)
shuts down the Reds. A line drive off of Homer Bailey’s foot shuts down
Homer Bailey after throwing only 12 pitches. Pujols hit his 38th homer.
Matt Holliday goes 3 for 4.

Angels 10, Rays 5: Not a lot of pitching to be found here, as
the teams combine for 24 hits. From the Angels side it had to do with
the fact that Trevor Bell was making his major league debut. Rob wasn’t as impressed as the Angels’ announcers.
Bell wasn’t all that impressed with the majesty of the Major Leagues:
“But just talking to the veteran guys, they said the game is no
different up here. Just more people and better speakers.”

Athletics 6, Orioles 3: The A’s finish up their
28-games-in-28-days stretch with a victory, resulting in a 14-14
record. In August 1990 I worked 28 straight days at the radio station
without a day off. All 11pm-6am shifts. I was pretty whipped by the end
of that stretch, and it was all I could do to read the station ID at
the top of the hour without slurring my speech or falling asleep. I
guess what I’m saying is that the A’s can declare victory with that
14-14.

Astros 14, Marlins 6: Hunter Pence had two homers — both of
them three-run jobs — and Ricky Nolasco continues to make people
wonder why he was such a hot fantasy property back in March (3.1 IP, 8
H, 10 ER).

Yankees 4, Blue Jays 3: A costly victory for the Yankees as
Jeter, Rodriguez and Posada all got beaten up by hit or pitched balls,
and Mariano Rivera didn’t even hang around for the game due to a
“cranky arm,” whatever the hell that means. They got a bit of a cushion
now, though, so they can give some guys a day off here or there.

Mariners 1, White Sox 0: Ken Griffey Jr. has had a rather poor
(presumably) final year in the majors, but he get a nice near-the-end
highlight here, singling home the game’s only run in the bottom of the
14th. I mentioned Josh Beckett’s Cy Young chances before. Among the
guys with better cases but who likely won’t get near the support are
Felix Hernandez, who threw seven shutout innings with ten strikeouts to
lower his ERA to 2.72. Mark Buehrle had a good game too — his first
since the perfecto — shutting Seattle out over eight.

Padres 6, Brewers 5: The new-look Brewers lose to a Padres team
that has won 5 of 6. After the game, Doug Melvin demoted Prince
Fielder, released Ryan Braun, fired Ken Macha and had three of every
five stadium vendors killed. Dude doesn’t mess around.

The Phillies are trying out prospect J.P. Crawford at third base

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On Sunday, for the first time in his professional career, Phillies shortstop prospect J.P. Crawford started at third base. He picked up three hits in five at-bats, continuing his torrid pace. Since the start of July, he’s hitting .306/.397/.595 with 11 home runs, 28 RBI, 33 runs scored, and a 37/25 K/BB ratio in 199 plate appearances.

With September looming, the Phillies may be considering a promotion for Crawford. Shortstop, however, is currently taken by Freddy Galvis who has appeared in every game this season and has taken on a leadership role with the team. Meanwhile, third baseman Maikel Franco has been mired in a season-long slump as he’s carrying a devilish .666 OPS.

The Phillies haven’t been averse to trying their prospects out at new positions. Prior to his recent promotion, Rhys Hoskins had played only first base throughout his professional career, but the Phillies moved him to left field for a few games, then called him up to the majors. Hoskins has made nine starts in the outfield and two at first base in the majors thus far.

As MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki notes, the Phillies are also considering trying out second base prospect Scott Kingery at shortstop or third base before the end of the minor league season.

These aren’t long-term plans; it’s just a way for the Phillies to find meaningful playing time for their prospects and giving manager Pete Mackanin potential flexibility. Assistant GM Ned Rice said, “It benefits the player and benefits the team when more guys are able to play multiple positions. It just gives Pete [Mackanin] a lot more options at the big league level. The more guys we can bring up who have been exposed to different positions, the better.”

Players having great seasons under the radar

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Yesterday, I watched a myriad of defensive highlights from Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons (who also homered). Curious, I looked up his stats and found him among the leaders in Wins Above Replacement. And then I found a handful of other players having great seasons and realized I’ve hardly heard anything about them. Let this be my contribution towards raising them into the spotlight.

Andrelton Simmons (Angels): The 27-year-old is having the best offensive season of his career. He posted a .751 OPS in his rookie season, but that spanned only 49 games. From 2013-16, he had an aggregate .664 OPS. His defense never wavered, of course, which is why he kept getting regular playing time and why the Angels were eager to trade for him in November 2015. This season, however, he’s been a terrific hitter, batting .292/.345/.451 with 13 home runs, 57 RBI, 62 runs scored, and 17 stolen bases in 502 plate appearances. He’s four home runs away from matching a career-high. Simmons is 11th in baseball in FanGraphs’ version of WAR, heavily predicated on the valuation of his defense, but it’s not too outlandish for me to believe Simmons has added nearly two wins above replacement on defense alone. While Jose Altuve, Aaron Judge, and Mike Trout will fight for the lion’s share of AL MVP votes, Simmons could get some down ballot consideration.

Gio Gonzalez (Nationals): Gonzalez nearly threw a no-hitter earlier this season against the Marlins, which brought some eyeballs to his stat line. Still, he hasn’t been talked about much somehow. He’s 12-5 with a 2.39 ERA and a  150/62 K/BB ratio in 162 innings. It’s nothing new for Gonzalez, as he won 21 games with a 2.89 ERA en route to finishing third in Cy Young balloting in 2012. There’s also some reason to believe Gonzalez’s performance is in some part due to great fortune as his batting average on balls in play is about 50 points below league average and his rate of stranding runners on base is more than 11 percent higher than his career average. Clayton Kershaw and Max Scherzer have had better seasons and will be the first and second place finishers in this year’s balloting, but Gonzalez is looking at likely finishing third again, which is no small feat.

Aaron Nola (Phillies): After a dismal June 16 start against the Diamondbacks, Nola stood with a disappointing 4.76 ERA. After the first two innings of last Thursday’s start against the Giants, he briefly brought it under 3.00. Currently, it’s at 3.26 along with a 128/38 K/BB ratio in 124 1/3 innings. Since that June 16 start, he’s made 11 starts with a composite 2.21 ERA across 73 1/3 innings. The right-hander out of LSU showed promise in his rookie year in 2015, then struggled last year before succumbing to injury. Finally, it’s appearing that Nola is showing the promise the Phillies believed in when they took him in the first round (seventh overall) in the 2014 draft. Perhaps more importantly, he looks like a pitcher the Phillies can build around. If there’s one thing the Phillies have lacked since trading Cole Hamels, it’s a starter capable of throwing seven or eight innings and holding the opposition to one or two runs.

Chris Taylor (Dodgers): On a team that features Clayton Kershaw, Kenley Jansen, Corey Seager, Cody Bellinger, Justin Turner, Alex Wood, and recently added Yu Darvish, it’s understandable that Taylor would slip under the radar. He’s played five different positions this season — left field, second base, center field, third base, and shortstop — while batting .311/.383/.549 with 17 home runs, 58 RBI, 69 runs scored, and 14 stolen bases in 413 plate appearances. He’s played average to above-average defense at most of those positions, which is why his 4.6 fWAR ranks 13th in baseball and 10th in the National League. Before the Dodgers acquired him from the Mariners last June in a very little talked about trade, Taylor had been a weak-hitting utilityman. Now, he’s the starting center fielder for baseball’s best team.

Felipe Rivero (Pirates): The Pirates acquired Rivero from the Nationals last year in the Mark Melancon trade. It worked out well for the Buccos. Though the club sits at a disappointing 60-64 in fourth place in the NL Central, Rivero has been a bright spot, owning a major league best 1.31 ERA with 14 saves and a 73/16 K/BB ratio in 61 2/3 innings. The lefty took over the closer’s role when Tony Watson began to struggle in the first half. While Rivero has been terrific against right-handed hitters, limiting them to a .547 OPS, he’s been death to lefties (.227 OPS). After the season, Rivero will be eligible for arbitration for the first of four years, so it wouldn’t be shocking if he got traded at some point, but for now, they’ll enjoy his outstanding 2017 campaign.