And That Happened: Tuesday's Scores and Highlights

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Marlins 6, Astros 2: Two teams that, one day, we’ll all sit
around and say “yeah, I totally forgot that Pudge played for those
guys.” Stellar game for Ricky Nolasco (CG, 3 H, 2 ER, 10K). Three more
hits for Hanley.

Mets 9, Braves 4: Derek Lowe’s worst outing of the season (3.2
IP, 11 H, 8 ER) negates the Braves’ early four-run lead. Martin Prado
removed for a severe headache and will now go back to Georgia for
tests. When the Braves break bad, they really break bad.

Rays 5, Orioles 4: Every time I see Gabe Gross’ name I
immediately think of Greg Gross, but before the conscious part of my
brain concludes “different people,” the part of my brain that forms
impressions and snap-judgments thinks “man, that guy has to be 100
years old.” I’m guessing this will only get worse as I get older. Hell,
I picked Ivan DeJesus, Jr. in my Scoresheet League’s supplemental draft
yesterday and I’d by lying if I didn’t think of the late-70s Cubs as I
did it. Anyway, Gross hit a two-run homer, which ain’t too shabby for a
57 year-old guy who has hit only seven dingers over the course of his
17-year career.

Red Sox 10, Blue Jays 9: A couple of ugly starting pitching
performances from Ricky Romero and Josh Beckett, but the Red Sox
weathered the ugly storm a bit better. Kevin Youkilis returned from
suspension. Dustin Pedroia left the team to be with his wife who gave
birth. The little fellow was 5’9″ and 180 pounds. No word on the size
of the baby.

Giants 8, Reds 5: A day after Jonah pimps Lincecum’s MVP case,
Timmy drops a relative stinker (6 IP, 6 H, 5 R). The Giants pull it
out, however, because they’re facing the Reds, who hath been baptized
with a curse, and for whom a spirit of the air hath begirt them with a
snare and for whom in the wind there is a voice which shall forbid them
to rejoice. Or they just suck, I can’t decide which.

Tigers 5, Mariners 3: Porcello vs. Hernandez, the combined age
of whom is 0.93 Moyers. Hernandez pitches better (7 IP. 5 H. 1 ER, 9K),
but the Tigers beat up reliever Mark Lowe for the come from behind win.
Bad day to be a Lowe in baseball.

Pirates 5, Brewers 2: Ross Ohlendorf is putting together a nice second half, and gave up one run over seven innings at PNC last night.

Angels 5, Indians 4: I ripped this observation off of someone on
Facebook, but it’s worth repeating to those of you who, unlike me, have
real live friends: The batting averages of the Angels nine starters
after last night’s game: .308, .310, .310, .313, .303, .307, .300,
.300, 313. For those of you who care, two teams — The 1927
Philadelphia Athletics and 1930 St. Louis Cardinals — each had ten players who hit over .300 during the same season.

Rockies 4, Nationals 3: Carlos Gonzalez homers for the third
straight game. From the game story “Washington’s first game since
signing No. 1 draft pick Stephen Strasburg to a record $15.1 million
contract drew a crowd of only 18,192 — about 5,000 lower than the
team’s average attendance this season.” Well, it’s not like he was
gonna pitch or anything. What, people are supposed to show up at the
ballpark due to their euphoria that Boras got a couple million dollar
commission? It’s still the 2009 Nats we’re talking about here and it
was still a horrible hot and humid Swampland night.



Twins 9, Rangers 6: Joe Mauer went 3-5 with two homers and three
RBI. I know we have more than a month of baseball left to play, but
Teixeira-for-MVP people are going to have to start making their case in
terms of “why Joe Mauer isn’t the MVP” as opposed to making Teixeira’s
case on the power of some vague “run producer” noises. Seriously, tell
me how a plus-defense catcher hitting .380+ with power is not worthy.
My boy falls for the “I got your nose” trick, and even he wouldn’t buy
anyone’s anti-Mauer argument at this point.

Royals 5, White Sox 4: Unless the question is “who can make one
of baseball’s worst offenses look potent?” Freddy Garcia is not the
answer (4.1 IP, 7 H, 5 ER). Bonus: “He worked very slowly, repeatedly
fell behind batters and topped out at 90 mph.” Tasty! If Kenny Williams thinks the Sox were underperforming when they beat the Royals on Monday, I can’t imagine what he thought last night.

Phillies 5, Diamondbacks 1: Pedro started, the rains came, and
Moyer finished with six scoreless innings. Pedro after the game: “You
never know what you’re going to get when you put two old goats out
there.” The life expectancy of a goat is actually only 16 years, max,
so Martinez and Moyer were the combined equivalent of 5.188 goats. I
promise that is the last time I use Moyer-to-English conversions this
morning.

Dodgers 7, Cardinals 3: Chad Billingsley returns after missing a
start and throws six decent innings, and Albert Pujols and Matt
Holliday combine to go 0-for-8.

Padres 6, Cubs 3: A day after hitting a walkoff homer, Kyle
Blanks hits an inside the park homer. Blanks is 6’6″ and 285 pounds. I
am now going to find some video of that bad boy, because I can’t even
picture a guy that big rumbling around the bases.

Yankees 7, Athletics 2: Sabathia wins his 14th and Derek Jeter
goes 3-5. Jeter is 20 for his last 36. Game story: “Girardi spent the
morning watching a joint practice between the Oakland Raiders and San
Francisco 49ers as a guest of Niners coach Mike Singletary. Girardi met
former Raiders coach John Madden and owner Al Davis. “Mr. Davis told me
to tell Mr. Steinbrenner, ‘Hi,” Girardi said.” Huh. You’d think Davis
would simply say hello to Steinbrenner himself at the next Big Conclave
of the Supremely Evil.

UPDATE: Donald Trump declines Nats offer to throw out the first pitch

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UPDATE: Welp, we wont’ get to see that:

Sad!

8:53 AM: It’s just gossip now, but Politico is hearing that Donald Trump is in talks to throw out the first pitch at Nationals Park on Opening Day. The Nats are not commenting. Neither are the Palm Beach Cardinals of the Florida State League, who no doubt feel slighted given that the president effectively is a local.

With the caveat that, on Opening Day, tickets are likely to be more expensive and thus you’re likely to have a lot more rich people and friends-of-the-owners in attendance, thereby ensuring a more conservative crowd, I’m struggling to imagine a situation in which Trump strolls on to a baseball field in a large American city and isn’t booed like crazy. He’s polling as low as 36% in some places. He’s not exactly Mr. Popular.

Oh well. I look forward to him three-bouncing one to Matt Wieters and then grabbing his phone and tweeting about how it was the best, most tremendous first pitch in baseball history. Or blaming Hillary Clinton for it in the event he admits that it was a bad pitch.

2017 Preview: Texas Rangers

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Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2017 season. Next up: The Texas Rangers.

The Rangers somehow won the AL West last year despite not being super great at any one aspect of the game. There are stars here — Adrian Beltre, Cole Hamels, Yu Darvish and Rougned Odor are all spiffy players — but the Rangers won the division by being greater than the sum of their parts. They scored a decent number of runs despite some bad collective peripheral numbers and they allowed more runs than anyone in the AL except the Twins and Athletics. Yet they had a great record in one-run games and outperformed their pythagorean record by a WHOLE lot. Luck shined brightly on the 2016 Rangers.

It’s hard to expect luck to hold in any instance, but that’s especially the case when there have been some pretty significant changes. Changes like the loss of Carlos Beltran, Ian Desmond and Mitch Moreland. In their place: A full season, the Rangers hope, from Shin-Soo Choo, a converted-to-outfield Jurickson Profar and Mike Napoli. That may wash out OK, especially if Choo is healthy, but it wouldn’t be shocking to see some regression in two of those offensive slots.

Starting pitching is also a big question mark. Cole Hamels at the top is not a problem, obviously, and if Yu Darvish is healthy and durable the Rangers have an outstanding 1-2 punch. Martin Perez in the third spot presents promise, but he’s been exactly average so far in five major league seasons. The back end of the rotation has some real problems. Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross are hurt at the moment and even if healthy, Cashner seems to be a shell of his once-promising self. A.J. Griffin is looking to pitch in his first full season since 2013. If the Rangers are strong contenders all year it’s gonna be on the “Spahn and Sain and two days of rain” model, but I have no idea what rhymes with “Darvish” and that’s sort of a problem.

The bullpen is going to look a lot like it did last year. Sam Dyson will close, but manager Jeff Banister has shown in the past that he’s not a slave to keeping guys in any one role down there. Jeremy Jeffress will likely set up but he’s closed before. Some think Matt Bush or Keone Kela could close. We’ll see Tanner Scheppers and lefty Alex Claudio. Banister has a Manager of the Year Award on his mantle and while that often doesn’t mean anything, it usually suggests that a guy knows how to deal with his pen. Banister will do OK with what he has.

Really, though, the rotation is a concern, as is hoping that a 35-year-old Mike Napoli and a soon-to-be 38-year-old Adrian Beltre can continue to be the types of players who can form the offensive core of a playoff team. There’s talent and a track record here, but there’s a lot of uncertainty. For that reason, I suspect the Rangers will fall back a smidge this year, even if they’re a playoff contender.

Prediction: Second Place, American League West.