And That Happened: Tuesday's scores and highlights

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Rockies 11, Padres 10: It’s long been obvious that the Rockies
are charmed this year, but when they win despite a horrible outing from
their starter and a bullpen meltdown and still win, that just seals it.
Inside the park homer for Barmes, though it took Edgar Gonzalez
dislocating his shoulder while diving for it to make it so.

Yankees 6, Angels 5: The Yankees clinch. They also came back after blowing five-run lead and held on for a rare win in Anaheim.

Diamondbacks 10, Giants 8: Mark Reynolds broke his own strikeout
record. Which shouldn’t be a big deal given that he’s got a .922 OPS,
but that didn’t stop the dude in front of me on the plane Monday night
going on and on about how Reynolds sucks “because he can’t make

Reds 10, Pirates 4: I have a friend with Pirates season tickets
for some reason. This is him via Blackberry during the game “I’m behind
home plate @ Pirates v. Reds – about 5 real players – this sucks – kill
me now.”

Athletics 9, Rangers 1: It’s easy this time of year to sort of
write off every team that has had a poor season as a wreck and feel
sorry for their fans and generally just want it to all end quickly (as
many of my recaps today suggest). But you have to remember that there
are still games to be played and that games, on an individual basis,
still matter. People still enjoy them for their own sake and haven’t
simply moved on to football or the hot stove season or whatever. That
was brought home to me during my trip this past weekend, as many people
I talked to in the Bay Area were rather excited about the A’s strong
September. They’re not showing up in droves, but people are watching
and listening and are simply happy to have baseball.

Cardinals 11, Astros 2: Often at this time a year I wonder if
teams can’t simply pay some fee to the league office that would allow
them to simply forfeit every remaining game rather than go out and
embarrass themselves the way Houston is as the season comes to a close.

Royals 5, Red Sox 1: Zack Greinke pretty much sewed up the Cy
Young award with this one, right? His 15th win in front of the
influential Boston press corps. puts the exclamation point on a strong

Dodgers 14, Nationals 2: Three . . . thats the magic number. Yes
it is. Its the magic number. Somewhere in this hip-hop soul community,
was born three Mase, Dove and me, and that’s the magic number.

Phillies 9, Marlins 3; Marlins 3, Phillies 0: Joe Blanton gave
up two hits in seven innings in the first; Anibal Sanchez allowed two
hits in eight innings in the second. I like symmetry.

Mariners 4, Rays 3: Tampa Bay is eliminated. The team, not the bay itself. That would be catastrophic.

Tigers 3, Indians 1: Some wonder
whether Edwin Jackson is hurt or tired or is tipping his pitches or
whatever, but it seems he simply hasn’t faced the Indians enough.

Braves 3, Mets 1: Jair Jurrjens allows only one run on five hits
as the Mets painful season draws closer and closer to a merciful end.
The Braves have won 10 of 12, but it’s going to be too little, too late.

Twins 8, White Sox 6: The Twins have won eight of nine, and are
showing themselves to be a better overall team than the Tigers, but can
they close the 2.5 game gap? Whatever happens, we can thank them for
giving us an actual race as the season winds down.

Cubs 7, Brewers 2: The Cubs won their third straight since
suspending Milton Bradley for the season. Coincidence? Doesn’t matter,
because it will not be viewed as such when it comes time to decide what
to do with the guy next year.

Blue Jays 6, Orioles 5: See Houston comment above.

2018 Preview: Oakland Athletics

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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 2018 season. Next up: The Oakland Athletics.

The A’s have finished last in the AL West for three straight years. If you believe the folks at Fangraphs and Baseball Prospectus and anyone else who makes projections, they’ll either finish in last again or come within a game or two of it. There’s not a lot of suspense to my prediction here — I’ll end up picking them to finish fifth — but the prediction is not really what a preview is about. It’s about the shape of the team and what we can expect in broad brushes.

While I can’t foretell greatness for the 2018 Oakland Athletics, I can’t say the broad brushes are bad. At least if you grade on a curve. It won’t be a good team, but they’ll be worth watching because they have a lot of good, fun and interesting players who are likely to be on that next good Oakland A’s team in the way Stephen Vogt and Brett Lawrie were not.

Their lineup is pretty spiffy for a second division team. Khris Davis, Matt Joyce and new acquisition Jonathan Lucroy are known commodities both inside and outside A’s fandom, but people who don’t pay much attention to the goings on in Oakland may not be fully aware of just how good and promising Matt Olson and Matt Chapman are. Olson hit 24 homers in 59 games last year. That’s not a sustainable pace — the league will figure him out to — but even regression from that will be fantastic. Chapman hit 14 in half a season and played superior defense at third base. He also struck out 92 times in half a season but who’s counting? [editor: everyone counts everything in baseball]. Hey, look, dingers! Yonder Alonso and Ryon Healey are gone from last year’s crew and Stephen Piscotty is new in town. Marcus Semien is a decent bat for a shortstop. All-in-all that’s a lineup that will play, and play very, very well if Chapman and Olson are what they’ve shown themselves to be thus far.

At the risk of criminal understatement, allow me to observe that the starting pitching is not as promising. Sean Manaea and Kendall Graveman are at the top of the rotation. On good teams they’d be in the middle or the back. The rest of their rotation options — Daniel Mengden, Andrew Triggs, Paul Blackburn, who will miss the start of the regular season with a sore forearm — are less-than-impressive. They just signed Trevor Cahill and Brett Anderson from the scrap heap hoping, I guess, to recreate some of that, uh, 2010 magic? 2010 was a long time ago!

Jharel Cotton would’ve been in the mix but he’s now out for the year for Tommy John surgery. A.J. Puk, the A’s top prospect would be a nice midseason upgrade, but he’s hurt. Not seriously, but the A’s will probably be more careful with him now than they would’ve been, which still would’ve been careful. All-in-all, there was a lack of quality arms to begin with, but with the injuries mounting, starting pitching could be a trash fire for the A’s.

The bullpen has a new look with newcomers Ryan Buchter, Yusmeiro Petit and Emilio Pagan joining 2017 in-season additions Blake Treinen and Chris Hatcher. That’s a pretty good and pretty interesting group which was going to see a lot of innings as it was in our new bullpenning era, but now that the rotation looks shaky as hell, they’ll see even more. If you’re curious about the limits of leaning on a bullpen, postseason-style are, Oakland will be running a pretty fun experiment to that end in 2018.

I look at this club’s bats — especially the young guys upon whom its so very easy to project so much promise and optimism, because I’m a sucker for hitting prospects — and think that they can outperform those statsy projections and be better than the Rangers and Mariners. Then I think about how the upside — UPSIDE! — for the rotation is 380 innings from Trevor Cahill and Brett Anderson and I sorta wanna cry.

If the A’s get some breaks and some unexpectedly good (or average) pitching performances, they could certainly finish above the cellar. Perhaps well above the cellar. For now, though, I’m guessing that they’ll be in 80-win territory at best and finish last in a division that does not have any teams totally punting, making for a competitive and, subsequently, tough year.

Prediction: Fifth place, AL West