And That Happened: Tuesday's scores and highlights

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Twins 3, Tigers 2; Tigers 6, Twins 5: Porcello and Blackburn were each tough in game one, but Verlander wasn’t matched by Duensing in Game 2, putting his team in a 5-0 hole. A seriously long day for these two teams, and despite all of the drama, now they’re back (back) where they started, here they go ’round again. Day after day they get up and they’ll say, they have to do it again. Two more times.

Marlins 5, Braves 4: A three run homer from Matt Diaz to tie it up in the 6th had me dancing the dance of joy, but the Braves just couldn’t get over. When Chipper hit into that double play in the ninth all the air came out of the room. They can’t win every damn game, even if it seems like they can lately. The Rockies have to lose once in a while.

Rockies 7, Brewers 5: Crap, they didn’t lose. At first I was all prepared to write this one up as a 5-2 Rockies win last night when all of a sudden Kendall hit that three-run homer off Street. Jason effin’ Kendall. WATFO? But then Chris Iannetta does it his own self? Mercy. Oh well, I still have that NL East pipe dream I was harboring for a couple of hours yesterday . . .

Phillies 7, Astros 4: Double crap. I suppose it was too much to ask the Astros to lay the smackdown on the defending champs. The Phillies’ magic number is now one.

Reds 7, Cardinals 2: Jay Bruce hit two home runs. Homer Bailey pitched well. Joey Votto blasted one. This is sort of how Cincinnati drew it up in 2008 or so. Better late than never, I suppose. And the hot finish is likely enough to keep Reds’ fans warm over the winter.

Blue Jays 8, Red Sox 7: Take that, Jay Bruce: Adam Lind hit three home runs. Take that Adam Lind: Papelbon plunked Lind on the elbow his last time up. Classy as ever, Jonathan. The Red Sox clinched the wild card when the Rangers lost later in the evening (see below), but they really can’t be happy with this last week. Five straight losses. A circa late-July, early-August Clay Buchholz performance. Anaheim won’t lose to Boston in the first round forever, you know, and this year is looking pretty ripe for a change of pace.

Cubs 6, Pirates 0: I know he had the shutout going, but I’d like to think that at least a small part of the reason Lou Piniella left Dempster in there to finish the game was to show John Russell that the home crowd will give a pitcher a standing ovation even after the ballgame is over.

Rays 3, Orioles 1: Twelve straight losses for the O’s. There hasn’t been this much carnage in Baltimore since Junior Bunk opened fire in the squad room at the end of season six.

Nationals 4, Mets 3: Break up the Nats, who have won two in a row. They count as wins, even if they come at the expense of the Mets.

Yankees 4, Royals 3: The Cardinals clinched and have gone on a big slide. The Yankees clinched and haven’t lost since. This has to be a good sign, right? Let us consult some teams who entered the playoffs on a hot streak: 2005, 2006 and 2007 Yankees, what say you? Hmmm, they’re not answering. Maybe we should talk to some teams who stumbled to the end of the regular season: 2005 White Sox, 2006 Cardinals and 2007 Red Sox, wasn’t it a nightmare entering the playoffs with no momentum?

Angels 5, Rangers 2: Good night Rangers. All the more depressing for Rangers fans to have it happen against a second string Angels lineup and a spot starter. At the beginning of the season I picked the Rangers to win the west. Based on everyone else’s picks, I was pretty much alone in thinking they’d do anything. Well, they did a lot, and they have nothing to be ashamed of. There’s a good foundation here and a good future. They will be back.

Padres 3, Dodgers 1: I suppose they’ll clinch eventually, but in the meantime, losing a lot of games to the Padres and Pirates of the world can’t feel too nice. And really, between St. Louis, Los Angeles, and Philly, is there any NL team that wants to at least act like they have a shot in the postseason? Poor effort down the stretch, division leaders, really poor effort.

Giants 8, Diamondbacks 4: Those two home runs by Bengie Molina probably bought him another million in contract negotiations with Brian Sabean (but not any sane GM the Giants could hire or who works for another team). Probably bought Buster Posey another month in AAA or on the pine, too. Bruce Bochy: “We don’t know what’s going to happen and Bengie doesn’t know what’s going to happen. I do know he’s done a great job here. We wouldn’t be in this position … without Bengie.” What position is that, Bruce? Outside of the playoffs looking in despite a superior pitching staff by virtue of you having black holes every where you look on offense?

Mariners 6, Athletics 4: Did we see our last ever Ken Griffey, Jr. home run in this one? If so, the circumstances — a three-run job against a kid who was a year old when Junior debuted, at home, that essentially put the game away — is a fine way to go out. 628.

White Sox vs. Indians: Postponed: They could cancel it outright, but then they’d deprive the Indians of the dozens of dollars they stand to make in beer and hot dog sales during the makeup game later today.

In the playoffs, the Yankees’ weakness has become their strength

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Two weeks ago, when the playoffs began, the idea of “bullpenning” once again surfaced, this time with the Yankees as a focus. Because their starting pitching was believed to be a weakness — they had no obvious ace like a Dallas Keuchel or Corey Kluber — and their bullpen was a major strength, the idea of chaining relievers together starting from the first inning gained traction. The likes of Luis Severino, who struggled mightily in the AL Wild Card game, or Masahiro Tanaka (4.79 regular season ERA) couldn’t be relied upon in the postseason, the thought went.

That idea is no longer necessary for the Yankees because the starting rotation has become the club’s greatest strength. Tanaka fired seven shutout innings to help push the Yankees ahead of the Astros in the ALCS, three games to two. They are now one win away from reaching the World Series for the first time since 2009.

It hasn’t just been Tanaka. Since Game 3 of the ALDS, Yankees pitchers have made eight starts spanning 46 1/3 innings. They have allowed 10 runs (nine earned) on 25 hits and 12 walks with 45 strikeouts. That’s a 1.75 ERA with an 8.74 K/9 and 2.33 BB/9. In five of those eight starts, the starter went at least six innings, which has helped preserve the freshness and longevity of the bullpen.

Here’s the full list of performances for Yankee starters this postseason:

Game Starter IP H R ER BB SO HR
AL WC Luis Severino 1/3 4 3 3 1 0 2
ALDS 1 Sonny Gray 3 1/3 3 3 3 4 2 1
ALDS 2 CC Sabathia 5 1/3 3 4 2 3 5 0
ALDS 3 Masahiro Tanaka 7 3 0 0 1 7 0
ALDS 4 Luis Severino 7 4 3 3 1 9 2
ALDS 5 CC Sabathia 4 1/3 5 2 2 0 9 0
ALCS 1 Masahiro Tanaka 6 4 2 2 1 3 0
ALCS 2 Luis Severino 4 2 1 1 2 0 1
ALCS 3 CC Sabathia 6 3 0 0 4 5 0
ALCS 4 Sonny Gray 5 1 2 1 2 4 0
ALCS 5 Masahiro Tanaka 7 3 0 0 1 8 0
TOTAL 55 1/3 35 20 17 20 52 6

In particular, if you hone in on the ALCS starts specifically, Yankee starters have pitched 28 innings, allowing five runs (four earned) on 13 hits and 10 walks with 20 strikeouts. That’s a 1.61 ERA.

While the Yankees’ biggest weakness has become a strength, the Astros’ biggest weakness — the bullpen — has become an even bigger weakness. This is why the Yankees, who won 10 fewer games than the Astros during the regular season, are one win away from reaching the World Series and the Astros are not.