And That Happened: Sunday's scores and highlights

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Yankees 4, Red Sox 2: The Bombers clinch, win 100, guarantee home field, etc. Inevitable, but the exuberance looked a little less rote yesterday than I seem to remember it in years past. I think those who have been there a while have a new appreciation for making the post season after what happened last year. The guys like Sabathia and Teixeira probably feel like a lot of weight has been taken off their shoulders. At least for a week or so. This is strange to me: “The Yankees have the choice of whether they want to play in the division series that has a day off between Games 1 & 2.” Time out. Why do they get to choose? I mean, why don’t I get to choose, why doesn’t he get to choose? Better question: why isn’t that sort of thing just set up ahead of time? I actually thought it was.

Rockies 4, Cardinals 3: If the Braves miss the playoffs by one game I’m going to blame Matt Holliday’s hangover. Oh, I’m sorry, his “flulike symptoms” which just happened to show up the morning after the Cardinals doused themselves in booze for clinching the division. Their second most important hitter misses the day and Ryan Ludwick and Mark DeRosa combine to go 0-6 with five strikeouts. You telling me Matt Holliday couldn’t have managed one extra flare beyond what Ludwick and DeRosa did? Just one? A gork, a ground ball with eyes, a dying quail . . . just one more dying quail and the Cardinals could have won this game and the Braves would be one back in the loss column. Damnation.

Braves 6, Nationals 3: I wrote my team off so many times this year — and for good reason — that I feel like getting all giddy now would be like taking back a cheating girlfriend or something. But there they are, looking all fine and everything. I just know that if I lower my guard they’ll hurt me again, but I can’t keep my eyes off of them. Dude, seriously: don’t let me walk over there. I don’t care how much I drink tonight, do NOT let me walk over there and talk to them. And take my cell phone too. I just don’t trust myself . . . . . . . OK, give me my cell phone back. C’mon, I promise I’ll be cool.

Pirates 6, Dodgers 4: Ugly ending for Los Angeles, blowing a three run lead in the ninth to some dudes who stole the Pirates’ uniforms. Worth noting that L.A. was boned by Matt Holliday’s hangover too, as a Rockies loss would have given them the division title. They’ll get it though. More worrisome for L.A. was that Clayton Kershaw, though arguably effective, was kinda wild in his first game back since separating his shoulder. He’ll get one more start before the playoffs, and I’m sure the Dodgers would like to see him a bit sharper.

Phillies 6, Brewers 5: Dave Bush put the Brewers in a 6-1 hole, the offense came back, but it wasn’t enough and the Phillies magic number is down to three.

White Sox 8, Tigers 4: Detroit stumbles into the showdown with Minnesota with both Edwin Jackson and Fernando Rodney getting roughed up.

Royals 4, Twins 1: Minnesota doesn’t take advantage of Detroit’s stumble, but you have to figure that they had this one — a Zack Greinke start — penciled in as a loss anyway. Just another day at the office for Greinke (7 IP, 7 H, 1 ER, 8K). Less expected was Yuniesky Betancourt’s day (3-3, HR, 3 RBI).

Giants 5, Cubs 1: Matt Cain was dominant, shutting out the Cubs over eight innings. Eugenio Velez on the Giants’ playoff hopes: “We have to win all of our games and they have to lose all of their games. That’s how we have to look at it.” Eugenio, the chances of that happening are, like, a million to one. Velez: So you’re telling me there’s a chance… Yeah!

Rays 7, Rangers 6: If you’ve got a 5-0 lead with two outs in the eighth, you had best hold on to it. More Eugeino Velez thinking: the Rangers are still technically in the wild card race, much like I’m technically qualified to be President of the United States and technically capable of settling down and having a couple of kids with Salma Hayek.

Angels 7, Athletics 4: With this win and the Rangers’ loss, Anaheim merely need one of its next four games — all of which come against Texas — to seal the deal.

Mets 4, Marlins 0: File “Pat Misch throws a shutout” in the “stuff I didn’t expect to see before the season ended” drawer. Jeff Francoeur hit a homer and made a home run saving catch in support of Misch. Francoeur: “He’s going to buy me dinner and beers.” Jeffy, you really think it’s a good idea to keep track of when other people save your bacon? If people did that for you, you’d have spent enough on dinner and beer by this point to hold substantial stakes in Anheuser-Busch and several restaurant companies by now.

Diamondbacks 7, Padres 4: Adrian Gonzalez hits his 28th road home run this year vs. 12 at home. Man, if this guy played anywhere else but Petco Park . . .

Indians 9, Orioles 0: “It’s been a rough 10 games for us,” Baltimore manager Dave Trembley said after the game. The 145 before that weren’t a friggin’ picnic either, to be honest.

Blue Jays 5, Mariners 4: Seattle squanders 3-0 and 4-2 leads as the Blue Jays finish the season on a fairly strong note.

Astros 3, Reds 2: Wandy Rodriguez (6 IP, 9 H, 2 ER, 9K) is about the only good thing that has happened to Houston this year.

Just one note: you shouldn’t be surprised that the recaps for some of these games featuring non-contenders are going to be a bit cursory this last week of the season. I mean, sure, it’s possible that I’ll find myself on my deathbed one day saying “boy, I wish I had spent more time thinking about late September Astros-Reds games,” but I just sort of doubt it. If you’re a partisan of one of these dead teams walking and you really feel like I missed something important, by all means, let us know in the comments. I’ll edit the recaps to include really good stuff I learn after the fact.

Champagne after a loss? Why not?

Astros Wild Card
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There was some hockey person last week arguing about how it was silly or untoward for baseball teams to celebrate clinching wild cards or other, less-than-championship-level accomplishments. Calling it bush league or lacking in act-like-you’ve-been-thereness or what have you. I can only imagine what he’d say about the Astros celebrating with champagne following (a) winning a wild card; and (b) losing the game which immediately preceded the celebration.

But screw him. Seriously.

I used to think that way. Indeed, if you search the HBT archives I’m sure there’s a post or two in which I disapprove of teams engaging in multiple champagne celebrations. But I was wrong about that and I’ve changed my mind on the matter over the past year or too. And on some other matters as well, all for the same reason: athletes are people just like us, not some avatars for our machismo and our fantasies. They’re people who have spent their entire lives devoted to their calling and do it under a lot of pressure and in the face of a lot of criticism and expectations from others. Why on Earth would anyone deny them their happiness over an accomplishment?

This is even more true if you’re one of those misguided souls who erroneously believe that sports actually is separate from real life and believe them to be supremely and impossibly important. Even if you’re right — and you’re not — wouldn’t that give the athletes an even greater incentive to celebrate accomplishment? Funny how those people who who act as if sports is life and death would deny athletes their joy for defying death, as it were.

My view on the matter now is that if a guy hits a homer he should be able to celebrate it. If a pitcher strikes a guy out, he should be able to celebrate it. If a team makes the playoffs, no matter how low their seed and no matter the manner in which the accomplishment is achieved short of their competitors going down in a plane crash, they should be able to celebrate if they so choose.

So enjoy your hangovers this morning, Houston Astros.

And That Happened: Sunday’s scores and highlights


Diamondbacks 5, Astros 3: The Astros lost but, in the course of the loss, they learned the Rangers won and that was all Houston needed to clinch the wild card. No better way to evade beat writers’ questions about what went wrong out there than to be in the process of getting roaring drunk and thinking about playoff baseball, right? And come back in a bit, as I’m going to have a post up later in which I explain why it’s totally cool for a team to have a champagne celebration after clinching a mere wild card. Which some people think is lame.

Rangers 9, Angels 2: Cole Hamels was supposed to be a pickup for 2016 but, in his final start of 2015, he pitched the Rangers to the division title with a complete game. Adrian Beltre‘s homer and three RBI and the Angels’ craptastic bullpen, which uncorked a six-run seventh inning, didn’t help.

Orioles 9, Yankees 4: Joe Girardi whined a bit about having to start this game at 3pm, saying that an all-important game 162 shouldn’t be decided in long shadows. Hey Joe: if you had won either Game 160 or 161 on Saturday this game wouldn’t have mattered to you. Or if you had used your roster in a manner that suggested some manner of urgency, which you didn’t do in any of the games in this series against Baltimore, it wouldn’t have mattered either. And, of course, it ultimately didn’t matter thanks to the Astros’ loss. Wild Card game in the Bronx tomorrow. Viva long shadows.

Dodgers 6, Padres 3: Clayton Kershaw faced 13 batters in his final tuneup before the playoffs. He struck out seven of them. Yeah, gonna say he’s tuned up nicely. That gave him 301 strikeouts for the year. Before yesterday baseball had not had a 300-strikeout pitcher since 2002, when both Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling did it.

Braves 6, Cardinals 0; Braves 2, Cardinals 0: After a span of 24 winless starts stretching back to May 17, Shelby Miller finally gets a win. This is exactly the sort of thing which should set him on the right track and really help him in his next few starts.

Oh. Wait. Damn.

Phillies 7, Marlins 2: The game didn’t matter a bit in the standings but it mattered for Dee Gordon, who went 3-for-4 with a homer and a double and ended the season with a .333 average and the batting title thanks to Bryce Harper‘s 1-for-4 in the Mets-Nats game. Gordon bomes the first NL player to lead the league in batting average and stolen bases (.333/58) in the same season since Jackie Robinson did it in 1949. Which, wow.

Pirates 4, Reds 0: 98 wins and the Pirates are still playing a one-and-done game on Wednesday and needed this win just to clinch home field for that game. Man, the NL Central was rough this year.

Rockies 7, Giants 3: Down 3-0 in the ninth, the Rockies rallied for seven. Pretty sure the entire 2015 Rockies highlight reel will just be a quickly-burned DVD of that inning.

Tigers 6, White Sox 0: It was a year to forget for Detroit, but at least it ended with a young pitcher acquired in a mid-season white flag trade pitching a nice game. The pitcher was Daniel Norris who allowed one-hit over five innings. The outing allowed the Tigers to think a bit about the future.

Indians 3, Red Sox 1: And on the last day of the season the Indians move above .500. What a weird year for them. Such a talented team which had so many issues putting it together in the first half and, later, when it mattered most.

Cubs 3, Brewers 1: Chicago ended the regular season with a three-game sweep in Milwaukee and forced the Pirates to win one for home field advantage in the wild card. Regular season momentum doesn’t really mean much in the playoffs, but if it makes the Cubs feel better between now and Wednesday to say they have it, all the better for them.

Royals 6, Twins 1: Like I said: momentum doesn’t much matter, but on the off chance it actually does, Johnny Cueto has to feel OK, having allowed one run over five innings. We’ll forget for a second that it came against a deflated, recently-eliminated, spit squad Twins lineup.

Mariners 3, Athletics 2: After the game Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon tossed his cap into the crowd. Which is fine as it’s highly unlikely that he’ll be needed it next year. Not that I can act all smug given that I was one of those loonies who though the Mariners would make the World Series.

Mets 1, Nationals 0: Like Clayton Kershaw, Jacob deGrom was merely tuning up for the NLDS. He’s running just fine too, having tossed four shutout innings with seven strikeouts. They were no-hit innings too, actually, but it’s not like Terry Collins was going to leave him out there for that sort of thing with the playoffs looming. Curtis Granderson‘s eighth inning solo shot was the only scoring. The Nationals, finally, have been put out of their misery and can go home and wonder about what in the hell happened to them this season.

Rays 12, Blue Jays 3: Mark Buehrle was supposed to come in and pitch two innings to get his 200 for the year and then retire. Which would’ve been a neat thing for him given that he’d tossed 200+ innings for 14 straight years before that. He couldn’t escape the first inning, though, as first the Jays’ defense and then his ability to get dudes out disappeared. Oh well. One crap inning doesn’t negate a first-ballot Hall of Very Good career.

And with that another regular season is in the books. Another season of 8, 12, or (usually) 15-game days. Of flipping TV channels or radio stations or clicking between websites and between games. Games which, compared to the other 2,400 or so that happen during a season, mean nothing. But mean everything. Games which can be enjoyed and savored for a bit if your team won and enjoyed and easily forgotten if your team lost. The easy listening soundtrack of the past six months now fades away and in its place comes a 30-day burst of hardcore intensity.

And it’ll be a lot of fun. The playoffs are the point of it all, right? Assuming, that is, baseball has to have a point. Maybe it does, but it’s an assumption that, the older I get, is less and less necessary for me to hold in order for me to enjoy it.

Thanks for another good season, everyone.