And That Happened: Thursday's scores and highlights

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White Sox 9, Red Sox 5: Who needs Billy Wagner when you have
Nick Green? The shortstop pitches two shutout innings. That’s a huge
increase in the number of innings he’s thrown over last year, but don’t
worry: Since he’s over 25, the Verducci Effect probably doesn’t come into play.  By the way, I just love that picture. In it he’s actually throwing over to first, but it kind of looks like those old photos of deadball-era pitchers just hurling it up there without really putting their whole body into it.

Dodgers 3, Rockies 2: Vicente Padilla. Who knew? Nothing special
of course — two runs on six hits over five — but that’s a few fewer
hits and runs than you might have expected him to give up. This series
— and what came before and after it — represents everything fantastic
about baseball. The Rockies took three of four from the Giants and won
one in dramatic fashion against L.A. 48 hours ago. Then bam, bam,
they’re four games out and have to go to San Francisco and face Tim
Lincecum, a resurgent Barry Zito and Matt Cain. They could end the week
way worse off than they started it, and no one could have expected it
as late as Wednesday afternoon. It’s a relentless season that gives no
quarter. You can’t pump yourself up once a week or ride a hot hand.
Twenty-five guys have to go out there every single day and do it. It
actually makes exercises like these daily recaps rather silly, as the
true story of the season can only truly be seen from a distance. The
true mettle of a team revealed in its skills at long term survival.

Diamondbacks 11, Giants 0: Then again, maybe the Rockies don’t have much to worry about this weekend.

Pirates 3, Phillies 2: So your first closer blows one, and your
second closer blows one again the next night. Now what do you do? Well,
you can leave your starter out there the whole game, which is what
Charlie Manuel did with J.A. Happ last night. That didn’t work either
as Happ gives up two in the eighth, so now it looks like the Phils are
on to Plan D. Say, I wonder what would it take to pry Nick Green away
from Boston . . .

Braves 9, Padres 1: Atlanta salvages one behind seven shutout
innings by Javier Vazquez, who had an RBI to boot. Nine runs and
seventeen hits for the Braves, but the only extra-base hit was Adam
LaRoche’s homer in the sixth. Otherwise, it was single-fest.

Nationals 5, Cubs 4: Milton Bradley was 0 for 5, and is in a big
slump. I have no idea if Cubs fans actually hate him like he thinks
they do, but if they don’t already, he’s giving them ample reason. The
Cubs are now nine behind St. Louis. “Look, let’s just win some baseball
games. Forget the Cardinals and every other team,” said Lou Piniella
after the game. As long as that includes the Cubs, I think everyone is
on board.

Astros 4, Cardinals 3: Jeff Keppinger hit what would prove to be
the winning homer with two out in the ninth, averting a sweep by the
Cards. Nice rally, however small, the day after Oswalt said the team
was “dead.” Then again, maybe Oswalt didn’t really mean the team was
dead. I always have taken comments like that to be the way players
communicate their general unhappiness with the manager to the press and
team brass.

Indians 5, Royals 4: Andy Marte homered, tripled and drove in a
couple. He’s still no great shakes on the year, but he’s on a warmish
streak of late. If he keeps it up, he may actually be given one final
chance to be an all-season everyday starter in 2010. Because he’s a
former Braves prospect — and because I fear that the concept of being
a AAAA player extends to other walks of life beyond baseball and I thus
want to see it debunked out of fear and anxiety — I’m kind of rooting
for him to make it.



Rangers 7, Yankees 2: The team whose starter struck out 12 dudes
in six innings lost, and the team whose starter walked seven in 3.2 IP
won. That makes sense.

Reds 8, Brewers 5: Nothing I can say can beat the storylines as told by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinal. First, Tom Haudricourt’s game story
starts like this: “It was another discouraging day at Miller Park on
Thursday as the Brewers ended a discouraging series in what has become
a discouraging second half.” The headline to Michael Hunt’s column puts
it more succinctly: “Another dank day of despair for our ’09 Brewers.” I’m guessing they’ve all turned their attention to the Badgers and Pack by now.

Mets 10, Marlins 3: Day games in Miami in August make total
sense. The box score says that there over 12,000 paid to see this game,
but based on the crowd shots I saw, there couldn’t have been half that.
Which raises a philosophical question: if the Mets get 17 hits and no
one was there to see it, did it really happen?

Athletics 2, Angels 0: Trevor Cahill threw two-hit shutout ball
over seven innings and Mike Wuertz and Andrew Bailey shut out the
Angels for the remaining two innings. This is bizarre: “The Angels’
uniformed personnel and front office staff assembled in center field
before batting practice for the 2009 team photo, but RHP Jered Weaver
missed because he was home with the flu. So PR guy Eric Kay stood in
wearing Weaver’s No. 36 jersey, and the pitcher’s head will be
superimposed when it is printed.” What happens if, say, Juan Rivera
screws up something really bad in a playoff game that costs the team
the season. Do they airbrush him out like Stalin did with purged
political enemies? Because the possibilities here seem limitless.


It’s May 4 and Daniel Murphy is still out-hitting Bryce Harper

Washington Nationals' Daniel Murphy hits an RBI single during the first inning of a baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals Saturday, April 30, 2016, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
AP Photo/Jeff Roberson
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Nationals second baseman Daniel Murphy flirted with the cycle in Wednesday afternoon’s 13-2 drubbing of the Royals, as he went 4-for-5 with a pair of singles, a two-run double, and a solo home run. That brings his triple-slash line on the season up to .398/.449/.663. Comparatively, teammate Bryce Harper — the defending NL MVP and arguably the best player in baseball — is currently hitting .266/.372/.649.

Murphy has always been an above-average hitter, but this level of hitting is something else. Of course, he flashed it in the post-season last year when he homered in six consecutive games, helping the Mets advance past the Dodgers in the NLDS and sweep the Cubs in the NLCS.

The Nats signed Murphy to a three-year, $37.5 million contract in January. If Neil Walker, acquired from the Pirates to replace Murphy, wasn’t hitting so well, the Mets would probably be jealous. Walker is hitting .296/.330/.582 with nine home runs and 19 RBI.

Video: Jon Lester tosses his glove to get the out

Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Jon Lester throws against the Pittsburgh Pirates in the first inning of a baseball game, Wednesday, May 4, 2016, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
AP Photo/Keith Srakocic
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It’s always fun when this happens. Cubs starter Jon Lester snagged a grounder hit back up the middle by Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli in the bottom of the second inning. The only problem was that the ball got stuck in the webbing of his glove. Rather than fight to pry the ball out, Lester just lobbed his glove over to first baseman Anthony Rizzo to get the first out of the inning.

Lester has had issues throwing baseballs to first base, so maybe it was a good thing the ball got stuck in his glove.

Lester did this last year, too, by the way.

Alex Rodriguez lands on the 15-day DL with a strained hamstring

New York Yankees' Alex Rodriguez follows through on a single to right off a pitch from Texas Rangers' Shawn Tolleson in the ninth inning of a baseball game, Wednesday, April 27, 2016, in Arlington, Texas. The Yankees lost 3-2. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
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Yankees DH Alex Rodriguez strained his right hamstring running out a ground ball in the fifth inning of Tuesday’s loss to the Orioles. The club announced it has placed him on the 15-day disabled list and recalled pitcher James Pazos from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

Rodriguez lands on DL hitting .194/.275/.444 with five home runs and 12 RBI in 80 plate appearances.

Dustin Ackley replaced Rodriguez in Tuesday’s game, but the Yankees will likely cycle a handful of players in and out of the DH spot while Rodriguez heals.

What’s on Tap: Previewing Wednesday evening’s action

Philadelphia Phillies' Aaron Nola pitches to a Milwaukee Brewers batter during the first inning of a baseball game Friday, April 22, 2016, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Tom Lynn)
AP Photo/Tom Lynn
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We were treated to a handful of games this afternoon but we still have eight night games left. Let’s talk about the Phillies.

I wrote this preview of the Phillies just before the season started, predicting them to win only 65 games, which would mark only a marginal improvement over their 63-win season last year. In my defense, I wasn’t alone, as almost every expert as well as the projections had them finishing under 70 wins. And yet, here they are 27 games into the season with 16 wins. That’s on pace for a 96-win season. What the heck.

Aaron Nola pitched seven shutout innings against the Cardinals in a 1-0 victory on Tuesday, marking the Phillies’ sixth shutout of the year, the best mark in the majors. Even as the Phillies prepared to draft him, Nola was described as “major league ready” but no one expected him to be quite this dominant. In his first 19 major league starts, Nola has a 3.37 ERA with a 112/26 K/BB ratio over 117 2/3 innings. This year, not only has Nola been extremely stingy with the walks, but he’s been missing bats at an elite level. He’s only 22 years old.

Nola is joined in the rotation by Vincent Velasquez, the pitcher who highlighted the return from the Astros in the Ken Giles trade. The right-hander made headlines in April with a 16-strikeout performance against the Padres and currently stands with a 1.44 ERA with a 39/10 K/BB ratio in 31 1/3 innings. Unlike Nola, Velasquez was billed as a future ace or a dominant eighth- or ninth-inning guy.

Then there’s Jerad Eickhoff, who came over in the Cole Hamels trade last year. Though he has a ho-hum 4.15 ERA, Eickhoff is occasionally dominant as evidenced by his 32/5 K/BB ratio over 30 1/3 innings. He has a pretty curve. Look at it. Eickhoff probably won’t be an ace, but he wasn’t considered to be a future mainstay in the rotation when the Hamels trade went through. All he’s done so far is exceed expectations. Nola-Velasquez-Eickhoff makes for an outstanding start to a long-term starting rotation.

The offensive tools aren’t quite where the pitching is yet for the Phillies, as third baseman Maikel Franco has wavered between looking like Mike Schmidt and looking completely lost at the plate. He has only five hits (zero home runs) in his last 37 plate appearances. Shortstop prospect J.P. Crawford isn’t there yet, nor is outfielder Nick Williams, catcher Jorge Alfaro, and outfielder Cornelius Randolph. There’s certainly a lot of hope on the horizon.

In the interest of full disclosure, I’m a Phillies fan, but wearing rose-colored glasses isn’t a crime of which I’ve been often accused over the years. It has been one headache after another being a Phillies fan between 2012-15. The front office under former GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. was stubborn and out of touch. Now, under new president Andy MacPhail and GM Matt Klentak, the team has a goal and is seeing it through. No, the Phillies won’t win 96 games this year — they probably won’t even win 80 — but they’re certainly further along than a lot of us gave them credit for being.

The Phillies play game three of a four-game set in St. Louis tonight at 8:15 PM EDT. Lefty Adam Morgan will oppose the Cardinals’ Mike Leake.

The rest of Wednesday’s action…

Detroit Tigers (Anibal Sanchez) @ Cleveland Indians (Corey Kluber), 6:10 PM EDT

New York Yankees (CC Sabathia) @ Baltimore Orioles (Tyler Wilson), 7:05 PM EDT

Texas Rangers (Colby Lewis) @ Toronto Blue Jays (Aaron Sanchez), 7:07 PM EDT

Arizona Diamondbacks (Rubby De La Rosa) @ Miami Marlins (Jose Fernandez), 7:10 PM EDT

Los Angeles Dodgers (Alex Wood) @ Tampa Bay Rays (Drew Smyly), 7:10 PM EDT

Boston Red Sox (Clay Buchholz) @ Chicago White Sox (Carlos Rodon), 8:10 PM EDT

Minnesota Twins (Phil Hughes) @ Houston Astros (Mike Fiers), 8:10 PM EDT