And That Happened: Friday's scores and highlights

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Cardinals 3, Nationals 2: Pujols gets a walkoff homer, but the
bigger story is that John Smoltz was strong again, giving up one run
and striking out six over six innings. Yes, it was once again against a weak
team, but unlike San Diego, Washington can actually hit and are sixth
in the NL in runs per game.

Giants 2, Rockies 0: Eight shutout innings for Lincecum, and the Rockies wild card lead is down to two games.

Angels 11, Athletics 7: The A’s led this one 6-1 at one point,
but then Anaheim turned on the afterburners, mostly due to Kendry
Morales, who was 5-5 with a homer and six RBI. All seven of the Angels’
runs in the seventh were unearned.

Reds 4, Dodgers 2: It’s tempting to say that Homer Bailey has
finally turned the corner after a couple of strong starts (and this one
was strong: 8 IP, 0 ER, 7K), but he’s done this kind of thing before
only to revert back to, well, being Homer Bailey. The difference now is
that the Reds have no business messing with him anymore, and should
start next season with him in the rotation to either sink or swim for
good.

Yankees 5, White Sox 2: Three-run walkoff job for Robinson Cano
in the 10th. The Golden Sombrero for Jim Thome (0-4, 4 Ks). Not trying
to slam Thome here. I like him. I just like to say “Golden Sombrero.”

Phillies 4, Braves 2: Stupid rain. Due to a 45 minute rain delay
early in the game the Braves lost Tommy Hanson which, all due respect
to Pedro Martinez, is a bigger loss to them than losing Pedro was to
Philly. Moyer and Chen mop up for the Phillies, and Ryan Howard went 3
for 3 with two homers. I won’t say the Braves are quite done yet, but
if you took them off the fire and let them rest covered on the counter
for a little while they’ll probably be nice and medium rare in a few
minutes.

Red Sox 6, Blue Jays 5: Josh Beckett continues to struggle and give up long balls, but the Sox rallied.

Diamondbacks 14, Astros 7: Just like a 68 degree day in August
gives you a refreshing but premature taste of fall, a 14-7 game before
labor day between two non-contenders gives you a depressing but
premature taste of just-playing-out-the-string season.

Tigers 6, Rays 2: From the “You have GOT to be kidding me”
department, Brandon Inge: “There’s a kid named Noah that I’ve visited a
couple times in the hospital, and he’s at home right now, and I spent a
couple hours with him today. He asked me the dreaded question — could
I hit a home run for him in the game, and I told him I’d do the best I
could.” And he did.

Cubs 5, Mets 2: A three-run homer by Alfonso Soriano breaks a
tie in the eighth and wins the game. It was his first homer in a month.
Milton Bradley had three hits, but don’t think for a second he enjoyed
any of them.

Orioles 13, Indians 4: Matt Wieters was 3-4 with 4 RBI. Fausto Carmona, who looked so damn good his last time out, got shelled.

Brewers 8, Pirates 6: Braun, Fielder and Jason Bourgeois hit
homers. John Russell benched Ryan Doumit in the middle of the game and
the two of them had a closed-door meeting after the game. Neither of
them are talking to the media, so until we hear anything further, I’m
going to assume that they were arguing over whether Pitt the Elder or
Lord Palmerston was England’s greatest Prime Minister.

Padres 9, Marlins 5: Chris Volstad was lit up like a Christmas
tree. The Braves fan in me likes to see that San Diego is effectively
ending Florida’s shot at the wild card on the same road trip that they
killed the Braves’ chances.

Twins 3, Rangers 2: Brian Duensing is no fireballer, but he
struck out eight in seven innings. The Rangers’ Tommy Hunter looked
good too. He’s also tough: Justin Morneau lined one off his chest, but
Hunter stayed in the game.

Mariners 6, Royals 3: Mike Sweeney is 112 years old and really
hasn’t been able to run since he was in grade school, but he scored
from third on a comebacker to the mound in the second, belly-flopping
past Olivo as he tried to apply the tag. Calling hours for Sweeney will
be held for Sweeney at the Ranier Funeral Home this Tuesday. In lieu of
flowers, donations can be made to the Harold Baines Home for the Aged
and Decrepit.

Game 6: This is why the Astros traded for Justin Verlander

Associated Press
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Houston’s pitching has not been their biggest problem as they’ve watched their 2-0 series lead turn in to a 3-2 series deficit. It has not been good, mind you — Charlie Morton got rocked in Game 3, the bullpen collapsed on Game 4 and Dallas Keuchel was suddenly mortal in Game 5 — but even then it’s not been the biggest concern. The real problem has been the lack of offense.

The Astros led the majors in runs (896), batting average (.282), on-base percentage (.346) and slugging (.478) during the regular season and were second to the Yankees in homers. Despite that, they have scored just nine runs and have hit only one homer. The team’s ALCS batting line, those two wins included, is .147/.234/.213. As such, facing off against Luis Severino and a rested Yankees bullpen tonight can’t give them a ton of confidence.

They do have one thing going for them, however: Justin Verlander. The same Justin Verlander who received only two runs of support in Game 2 of the series but made it hold up thanks to his 124-pitch, 13-strikeout complete game victory. You can’t really expect a starter to do that sort of thing two times in a row, but that’s what the Astros acquired him for at the end of August. In a league where there are vanishingly few horses a team can ride to victory, Verlander stands as one of the few remaining old school aces. Expect A.J. Hinch to keep the bit in Verlander’s mouth for as long as this game is close and, even then, maybe an inning longer.

Is there any reason for optimism regarding the Astros’ lineup? Sure, of course. They didn’t suddenly all forget how to hit. Every team goes through a stretch of 3-5 games where the hits don’t seem to fall. There may, possibly, be some reason for hope in the man they’re facing too. Severino lasted only four innings in Game 2, having been removed early after taking a ground ball off his left wrist. Severino said he was fine and wished that Joe Girardi hadn’t taken him out, but (a) he was acting a little odd, shaking his arm out like he was trying to shake off some pain; and (b) starting pitchers almost always lie and say they’re better than they are. I’m certain Severino is healthy enough to go, but there’s at least a small chance that he’s vulnerable, somehow. At the very least Astros hitters can walk to the plate convincing themselves of it. Any edge you can either get or imagine, right?

Game 6 seems like it will have to be a matter of a small edge one way or another for both teams, really. The Yankees are rolling, but their assignment tonight is a tough one as they try to chase a guy who fancies himself — and has often shown himself — to be a rare throwback to those 1960s and 1970s aces who only seem to get better as the ballgame goes on. The Astros, meanwhile, are tasked with solving a young, fireballing stuff monster who has something to prove after his early exit in Game 2 and, even if he can’t prove it, a corps of relief aces who are among the most formidable in baseball. Add to that the notion that Major League Baseball, Fox and most commentators and casual fans outside of Houston want to see the 12th Yankees-Dodgers World Series matchup and the Astros have to be thinking everything’s against them.

Which is OK, though, right? Ballplayers love it when no one believes in them. That’s not better than six or seven runs of support, but the Astros will take anything they can get at the moment.