And That Happened: Wednesday's scores and highlights

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Cardinals 5, Brewers 1: Albert Pujols hits two homers and Adam
Wainwright throws seven shutout innings to claim his 18th win. Tony La
Russa was asked after the game if Pujols should win the MVP. What’s
Tony say? “Those are the kind of questions that are distracting and I
don’t answer them.” Pujols is hitting .331 with 47 homers and 124 RBIs
and is the most important player to the St. Louis Cardinals since
Musial retired and you can’t go way the hell out on a limb to say that,
yeah, in your considered opinion he’s the MVP? Christ on a crutch,
Tony, this is why so many people can’t stand you.

Diamondbacks 4, Dodgers 3: L.A. walks in the winning run– or
losing run, depending on how you view these things — in the ninth.
Before the winning/losing walk, however, there was a runner on third,
and Torre offered intentional passes to two Dbacks to load the bases.
I’ve never understood that move, especially with less than two outs.
Colorado is 2.5 back.

Astros 2, Braves 1: I’m guessing that after this one, Javier
Vazquez took young Tommy Hanson aside and told him that this is just
how pitching for the 2009 Braves goes, ya know? Eight innings, no runs,
no walks, seven strikeouts, no decision and the team loses because they
simply can’t score any runs. Oh, and Rafael Soriano is a shell of
whatever he was for those handful of games over the past couple of
years when he actually looked good. Bobby Cox: sit everyone down who
has a future with this team, play out the rest of the season with
whatever organizational soldiers you can muster, and regroup for 2010.

Marlins 6, Mets 3: The Mets took their team photo before the
game, with Jose Reyes, Johan Santana and Carlos Delgado in uniform. I
hope the stadium was closed to the fans at the time, because if not,
that’s pretty damn cruel, ain’t it?

Twins 4, Blue Jays 1: After a stellar start his last time out,
Roy Halladay’s nightmare second half continues. Well, nightmare is a
relative term — he pitched well despite taking the loss — but when
Carl Pavano outshines you, it’s not your best day. The crowd — 11,159
— was the smallest in the 20-year history of Rogers Centre/Sky Dome.
In the Jays’ defense, the Leafs’ rookie team was playing a preseason game in Kitchener last night.

Red Sox 7, Orioles 5: A pinch hit, three-run double from Victor
Martinez helps the Sox maintain their two-game lead over Texas. And if
you’ll pardon the partisanship here, allow me to say that in light of
the thirteen pitchers used and the 3:41 it took for this nine-inning
affair, I’m rooting like hell that the Rangers eke these guys out so
that I can get to bed at a decent hour once the playoffs start.

Phillies 6, Nationals 5: And your closer is . . . Ryan Madson.
This despite the fact that Manuel sorta kinda put his support behind
Lidge on Tuesday night. Having Manuel say that and then send Madson out
is the baseball equivalent of having your boss tell you how much he
likes you and then turning around and deactivating your keycard.

Padres 4, Giants 2: If the Giants want to look anywhere when
trying to figure out why they never caught the Rockies this year, they
can look at their 6-9 record against the Padres. Heath Bell is tied for
the league lead with 27 saves. Not bad for a team currently in a
dogfight to avoid last place.

Yankees 4, Rays 2: Another one of those silly three-inning Joba
Chamberlain starts doesn’t prevent the Yankees from handing the Rays
their eighth straight loss. And oh yeah, Jeter tied Gehrig for the team
lead in hits. I know no one is really tracking that, so I thought I’d
remind everyone.

Cubs 8, Pirates 5: Carlos Zambrano wins for the first time since
July 22nd as the Pirates just go through the motions and their fans
await Steelers and Penguins season.

Rangers 10, Indians 0: I’m guessing Marlon Byrd would like to
hit against Cleveland every day (2-4, HR 4 RBI). Esteban German, too,
as he went 5 for 5. Fausto Carmona lasted two whole thirds of an
inning, and from the looks of him, if the Indians are planning on
entering spring training 2010 counting on him to be in the rotation,
they’re deluding themselves.

Rockies 4, Reds 3: The Reds take the lead on a Scott Rolen homer
in the top of the ninth, but lose it on a Francisco Cordero meltdown in
the bottom of the ninth.

Royals 5, Tigers 1: Break up the Royals, as they’ve won three in
a row. Verlander takes the loss, which is relevant only insofar as it
relates to his Cy Young chances. Fernando Rodney probably has a beef
with the suspension he was given, but one wonders why he didn’t just
accept it and sit these games out against the Royals. He appealed,
however, and allowed himself the opportunity to give up three runs on
two hits with a walk in a basically meaningless game.

White Sox 4, Athletics 3: Tons of zeros put up by the bullpens
in this 13-inning affair. Octavio Dotel’s three scoreless innings to
end it were the most important.

Angels 6, Mariners 3: Jered Weaver allows two runs in six and a
third, and the Angels, unlike the Dodgers, keep their lead over the
upstart team behind them.

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.