And That Happened: Wednesday's scores and highlights

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Brewers 3, Cubs 2: Prince Fielder pads his stats with a homer
and a couple of RBI. It’s easy to forget in all of the Cub-drama that
Chicago is actually a few games ahead of Milwaukee in the standings.

Astros 3, Cardinals 0: And look! The Cubs are technically still
alive! If St. Louis just loses its last nine while the Cubs win their
remaining. . . er, well, let’s just never mind, shall we? According to
the game story, St. Louis “had 25 cases of champagne waiting in the
clubhouse, but the bottles will remain corked for at least another
day.” Twenty-five cases? They got, what, 38 guys on the roster
right now? Add in eight or ten coaches and trainers and such. This is a
road game, so figure that front office staff is light: the GM, an
assistant or two, random traveling secretary types. Being generous,
we’ll call it a complement of 60 people with the team, and then some
random media guys who don’t care if partying up with the team hurts
their credibility. Tops — absolute tops — you have 75 people that
could even hope to be shooting champagne over one another, though many
of these people would never touch a bottle in such a situation because,
really, it’s the players’ thing. Twenty-five cases of champagne makes
for 300 bottles. I love drinkin’ as much as the next guy, but ain’t
that overdoing it a bit? And that’s before the beer cans you always see
guys throwing into the celebratory shower. Oh, one more thing: The Cubs
play tomorrow and the Cardinals don’t, which means that they can clinch
on their day off if Chicago loses to San Francisco. What the hell
happens to those 300 bottles if they clinch while on a day off? Do soup
kitchens take booze?

Giants 5, Diamondbacks 2: Bruce Bochy: “We’re still breathing. There’s still hope.” Four games back.

Braves 5, Mets 2: The ghost ship that is the New York Mets
continues to drift aimlessly around the National League, its crew
having all but abandoned it, a lamentable calm having descended over
its decks. The Braves, like the Giants, sit four back of Colorado.

Tigers 11, Indians 3: Four RBI and two homers for Carlos Guillen keep the Tigers two and a half up on Minnesota.

Twins 8, White Sox 6: The lights went out in U.S. Cellular Field.
What’s worse, they hung my brother before I could say that the tracks
he saw while on his way to Andy’s house and back that night were mine.

Red Sox 9, Royals 2: Josh Beckett gave up 12 hits, but they weren’t as big as the ones Luke Hochevar gave up.

Marlins 7, Phillies 6: Brad Lidge in the playoffs is gonna be
something special to behold. Last year’s Mr. Automatic blows yet
another save, this one a one-run lead in the ninth. He was apparently
getting the calls too, because Fredi Gonzalez was ejected with two out
in the ninth for arguing balls and strikes. Lidge wouldn’t record
another one, however, and his legend continues to grow.

Rays 5, Mariners 4: B.J. Upton had three RBI and made a spiffy
catch to rob Bill Hall of extra bases to end the game. Game story:
“Seattle 1B Russell Branyan (back) took 35 swings off a tee.” Despite
this, his downswing is too steep, his swing path is too outside-in, and
his clubface is open. Mariners’ hitting coach Alan Cockrell is watching
him closely, but he’s still cutting across the ball and pull-slicing it.

Reds 12, Pirates 2: Homer Bailey is 4-1 with a 1.99 ERA over the
past month. It will be fun to see how many fantasy players key on this
strong finish to the season, declaring Bailey a sleeper, without
realizing that three of those wins came against Pittsburgh. And now,
Deep Thoughts, with your host, John Russell: “Obviously, when you don’t
score runs, it doesn’t look like you’re playing very good. That’s one
of the things that always looks bad — you don’t score and the other
team’s scoring a lot, then they look a whole lot better than you do.”

Blue Jays 7, Orioles 3: Thirty years ago this fall, the Orioles played the Pirates in the World Series. May as well have been a billion years ago.

Nationals 5, Dodgers 4: Andre Ethier dropped a fly ball in the
ninth, allowing the Nats to win the game. If they had won this one,
they would have clinched the west because . . .

Padres 6, Rockies 3: The Rockies lost in San Diego, who were powered by Will Venebale’s four RBI.

Yankees 3, Angels 2: The Angels struck out 15 times in this one.
Ian Kennedy loaded the bases and then slithered out of the jam in his
first work in over a year. The Yankees took two of three from their
potential ALCS foe.

Rangers 9, Athletics 8: Of all of the stuff that could be
mentioned about this game, this bit — the last thing in the little
notes section of the game story — is the most interesting: “The
Rangers stole four bases and moved past the Angels into second in the
AL with 143 steals.” I’ve said it many times this year, but this is not
your older brother’s Rangers team.

Video: Nelson Cruz hits second-longest home run of 2016

ANAHEIM, CA - SEPTEMBER 14:  Nelson Cruz #23 of the Seattle Mariners celebrates his solo homerun with Daniel Vogelbach #20 of the Seattle Mariners to take a 2-1 lead over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim during the seventh inning at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on September 14, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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There’s certainly never a bad time to hit a home run, but when you get the opportunity to crush a triple-deck, 493-foot shot off of Tyler Duffey, you should take it. With the Mariners down 2-0 to the Twins in the fourth inning, Cruz hammered a fastball to deep left field for his 39th long ball of the season — and the second-longest home run hit in 2016, to boot.

It doesn’t hurt that the Mariners are 1.5 games back of a playoff spot, although they’ll have to oust the Blue Jays, Orioles, or Tigers to get a wild card. They’ve gone 3-3 in the last week, dropping two consecutive series to the Astros and Blue Jays and taking their series opener against Minnesota 10-1 on Friday night.

Cruz, for his part, entered Saturday’s game with a .299/.337/.610 batting line and six home runs in September. According to ESPN.com’s Home Run Tracker, Cruz sits behind Edwin Encarnacion and Mike Napoli with 13 “no-doubt” home runs in 2016, third-most among major league sluggers. It’s safe to say he can add Saturday’s moonshot to that list.

Marlins’ outfielder and undisputed home run king Giancarlo Stanton remains untouched at the top of the Statcast leaderboard with a 504-ft. home run, and it’s difficult to envision any slugger reaching beyond that before the end of the season. Even so, Cruz won’t need to clear 500 feet to extend an impressive hitting record. One more home run will put the 36-year-old at 40 on the year, making 2016 his third consecutive season with at least 40 homers, and his second such season doing so in Seattle.

Report: John Farrell won’t rule out a postseason return for Pablo Sandoval

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - APRIL 11:  Pablo Sandoval #48 of the Boston Red Sox looks on from the dugout before the Red Sox home opener against the Baltimore Orioles at Fenway Park on April 11, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Orioles defeat the Red Sox 9-7.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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It’s been a strange season for Red Sox’ third baseman Pablo Sandoval, who lost his starting role in spring training, went 0-for-6 in three regular season appearances, and underwent season-ending surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder in May. That was the last the Red Sox were supposed to hear about Sandoval until spring 2017, when he was expected to rejoin the team after a lengthy rehab stint in Florida.

On Saturday, manager John Farrell was telling a different story. Per MLB.com’s Sam Blum, Farrell hinted that Sandoval could return to the team as soon as October, albeit in a very limited capacity.

At the time of the surgery, it was all looking at the start of next Spring Training,” Farrell said. “We’re not getting too far ahead of ourselves here, but at the same time, we compliment him for the work he’s put in, the way he’s responded to the rehab, the way he’s worked himself into better condition. We’re staying open-minded.

If the 30-year-old does return in 2016, don’t expect him to look like the three-home run hitter of the 2012 World Series. Should the Red Sox lose another player to injury, Sandoval might be called on as a backup option, but he’s unlikely to see substantial playing time under any other circumstances. Despite making two appearances at DH in the instructional league, Sandoval has not started at third base since undergoing surgery, though Farrell noted that a return to third base would be the next logical step in his recovery process.

Sandoval has yet to hit his stride within the Red Sox’ organization after hitting career-worst numbers in 2015. According to FanGraphs, his Offensive Runs Above Average (Off) plummeted to -20.2, contributing approximately two wins fewer than the average offensive player in 2015. (The Diamondbacks’ Chris Owings held the lowest Off mark in 2015, with -26.3 runs below average.) Sandoval has not appeared in a postseason race since the Giants’ championship run in 2014.

Heading into Saturday evening, the Red Sox could clinch their spot in the postseason with a win over the Rays and an Orioles’ loss.