And That Happened: Thursday's scores and highlights

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Phillies 2, Giants 1: Fast Eddie beats Vincent. Or if you
prefer, Jheri Curl beats Mullet. OK, fine, so Lincecum’s isn’t really a
mullet. Maybe if it was he wouldn’t have given up that double to Ryan
Howard. Or did you not think of that?

White Sox 5, Cubs 0: Nothing like interleague play in September!
The Cubs struck out 9 times against six hits. I’m assuming that at this
point Lou is marking off the days until October 4th on his calendar
with little X’s.

Marlins 8, Braves 3: This clubhouse disarray business seems to
be working well for the Marlins: Hanley Ramirez gets a key pinch-hit
single, Dan Uggla doesn’t accost his team’s best player. Hell, it’s
paradise. The real key to this game, though, was Kris Medlen: middle
reliever. Though as Mac notes, this one is probably on Bobby for going to him on three straight nights.

Yankees 10, Blue Jays 5: When a team can throw a poo-poo platter
consisting of Gaudin, Aceves, Robertson, Bruney, Marte at you and still
cruise, you have to start thinking “team of destiny.” Posada: 4-5, 2B,
HR, 4 RBI. Somebody wake me when New York loses, because this is
getting monotonous.

Red Sox 6, Rays 3: This is not the same David Price the Red Sox
remember from last year’s playoffs (5.1 IP, 6 H, 4 ER). Not the same
Rays either. They’re basically over for the year, but they’ll be back.

Mets 8, Rockies 3: Wright went 3-for-4 in his second start since
coming off the 15-day disabled list. More importantly, he ditched the
big ass helmet. “It’s just not comfortable,” Wright said of the new
helmet that will be required in the minors next season. “The last thing
I need to worry about in the box is to try to shove it on my head. I
will stay with the one I used today.” I’m sure the fact that everyone
told him that he looked like a total tool in it had nothing to do with
it.

Tigers 4, Indians 3: Magglio Ordonez batted twice after entering
the game as a pinch hitter, so we can assume that either (a) the Tigers
have decided that they’re going to let him trigger his option; or (b) a
guy with a lead pipe is going to be waiting for him in the St. Pete
Marriott sometime this weekend.

Brewers 4, Cardinals 3: Smoltz wasn’t battered or anything, but
he did lose, proving that, at least for one afternoon, the NL isn’t the
equivalent of the old American Association. Casey McGehee hit a two run
homer, and drove in nine of the Brewers’ 13 runs in the series.

Dodgers 4, Diamondbacks 2: Thanks to Jon Garland (two earned
runs on five hits over seven) and Ron Belliard (2-3, 3 RBII) Ned
Colletti probably went to bed feeling pretty proud of himself.

Mariners 7, Athletics 4: Two run homers from Bill Hall, Franklin
Gutierrez and Kenji Johjima power the M’s. Game story: “The Mariners
were to take public transportation on the BART train to and from the
games for the rest of the series with the Bay Bridge connecting San
Francisco and Oakland closed for work all weekend.” There aren’t any
hotels in Oakland? What’s wrong with this place?

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.