And That Happened: Sunday's scores and highlights

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Tigers 5, White Sox 3; Twins 13, Royals 4: 162 games and nothing
is decided. Before Saturday night the Twins hadn’t smelled first place
since May. They were seven games out in early September. Now it all
comes down to Tuesday. I love me these 163-game seasons we’ve been
having the past couple of years, but then again, it hasn’t been my team
in the nerve racking playoff game. Moment of shallowness: does the fact
that Jason Kubel and Delmon Young came up bigger than Mauer did over
the weekend somehow cost Joe MVP votes? Obviously that shouldn’t be the
case — and really, the stathead paranoia that Mauer won’t win the MVP
is getting pretty tired by now — but if I let my imagination run wild,
I can feature someone thinking “you know, in the end, Mauer needed
help!”

Yankees 10, Rays 2: The fact that Alex Rodriguez’s 2 HR, 7 RBI
inning put him exactly on 30 homers and exactly on 100 RBI will cause
someone somewhere to count it against him as some personal
stats-inspired performance. Really, unless he bats .500/.750/1.750 in
the playoffs, there will be a hatchet job article about me-first A-Rod
referencing this game before spring training starts.

Dodgers 5, Rockies 3: Vicente Padilla shuts down a skeleton-crew
Rockies lineup in a meaningless game. And as per his tradition in
meaningless season finales, Joe Torre let the players take over. He
chose Brad Ausmus as manager, named Mark Loretta bench coach, Jim Thome
was the hitting coach and Jeff Weaver was the bullpen coach. I suppose
he could have given those responsibilities to more boring guys if he
tried, but the Dodgers probably would have had to make some roster
moves first. I know P.R. considerations wouldn’t let him name Manny
manager for a day, but a boy can dream, can’t he? Ausmus on his future
as a manager: “There are times when I think I’d like to do it, and
there’s times when I think I’d like to walk away from a baseball
stadium and never come back. But those are usually the days when I’m 0
for 4 with three strikeouts.” So what he’s saying is that the days he
wants to walk away and never come back far outnumber the “I want to be
a manager” days.

Mariners 4, Rangers 3: Griffey singled in his last at bat, cried
a bit, tipped his cap and was carried off the field on his teammates’
shoulders to wild ovations from the Seattle crowd. I don’t believe in
fate or magic or most other metaphysical baloney, but I’m going to go
out on a limb and suggest that the universe was telling you something,
Junior. There’s no way you’ll ever have a better way to go out and you
have absolutely zero to prove. So, unless the idea of retirement is
positively poison to you, call a press conference, fly back to Seattle
next opening day for the number retirement, and take your well-earned
place in Valhalla.

And yes, that advice for Griffey is 100% calculated to make life easier
for me to deal with the end of his career. He probably does not — and
probably should not — give a crap.

Giants 4, Padres 3: Not that anyone listens to me when it comes
to end-of-career advice anyway. The other day I thought that the Unit
should take the weekend off, having his career end at his home park
with a high five, a victory, and the cheer of hometown fans. Instead he
pitches an inning on the road, blows a lead and has his bacon saved by
Jeremy Affeldt, Brian Wilson and Pablo Sandoval. Oh well, everything
ends badly, or else it would never end.

Angels 5, Athletics 3: Has a team ever bounced back from as
horrible an April as the Angels? We can’t know because the reasons for
the horribleness are partially unquantifiable, but hats off to Anaheim
for a great season regardless. I have no rooting interests in this
year’s playoffs, and when that happens I tend to adopt a team. The
Yankees and Red Sox are never going to be that team because they don’t
need me and I don’t much like them. I have some historical issues with
the Twins, and even if I didn’t, if they pull it out on Tuesday, their
bandwagon is going to be pretty full. The Tigers are an old flame, but
I can’t see myself getting involved with someone who doesn’t have their
stuff together. The Phillies are my team’s division rival, and I can’t
bring myself to root for them at any time before the World Series, and
maybe not at all. The Cardinals and Dodgers made that list of teams to whom I could conceivably sell my allegiance and I am an NL guy at heart, but the Angels are at least shaping up to be the team I’d like to see come out of the AL.

Diamondbacks 5, Cubs 2: The regular season ends for Chicago. And the what-in-tarnation-are-we-going-to-do-about-Milton Bradley season begins.

Brewers 9, Cardinals 7: The stumble-to-the-finish-line Cardinals
are set to face the stumble-to-the-finish-line Dodgers. It’s been
nearly 20 years since I took a physics class, so someone is going to
have to tell me what it is that happens when an eminently resistible
force meets a totally movable object.

Phillies 7, Marlins 6: I’m not going to say that Philadelphia
was thinking more about Colorado than Florida in this game, but they
used eight pitchers and thirteen position players, none of whom were
named Howard, Rollins or Utley. For what it’s worth, Hanley Ramirez
wins the batting title, though that was decided a while ago.

Red Sox 12, Indians 7: Clay Buchholz gives up 13 runs in eight
innings over his last two starts. In light of that, if you’re the
Angels, you gotta be thinking “split at home, and we’re sitting
pretty.” Game story: “Jason Bay did not make an error this season,
becoming the fourth qualifying Red Sox outfielder with a 1.000 fielding
percentage.” If Jason Bay finishing with a 1.000 fielding percentage
does not make every last person finally reject fielding percentage as a
legitimate measure of defensive prowess, nothing will.

Nationals 2, Braves 1: What an up and down year for the Braves.
At least they enter an offseason with the good kinds of question marks
(which of the six good starters we have will we keep? When will we call
up our stud corner outfielder?) instead of the bad ones (is this the
year Francoeur figures it out? Can anyone besides Chipper hit the
ball?).

Reds 6, Pirates 4: The Pirates got shut out 17 times this sason. But you probably didn’t need me to tell you that it wasn’t their year.

Mets 4, Astros 0: Mercifully, 2009 ends for the Mets. Even more
mercifully, no one threw their back out or pulled their hamstring while
cleaning out their locker.

Orioles 5, Blue Jays 4: For finishing the season with four straight wins and for avoiding 100 losses, the Orioles don’t
get a “Homicide” quote: “You better calm yourself down before I haul
off and smack you upside your wide, wide head. We killed your husband.
And I ain’t your maid anymore b*tch. I’m your sister in crime!” I
apologize if you haven’t seen that movie. I apologize even more if you
have.

An so our revels now are ended. I and the other guys will certainly be recapping game 163 between the
Twins and Tigers and the playoff games too, but on some level, it’s just
not the same. The playoffs bring a bothersome importance to everything.
The kid of importance that saps this unimportant little daily recap feature of all
of its fun.

Beginnings are nice. We get them every April. Endings are glorious.
We’ll have one in a few weeks. Personally, however, I prefer the
middles. A full slate of near-meaningless late-July Wednesday night
games. The day-in-day out of it all. Broadcasts without extreme
closeups and storylines. People doing things both heroic and
ignominious every night that are basically forgotten by noon the next
day because, hell, there’s another ballgame in a few hours.

The
playoffs are great in their own way, but nothing beats everyday
baseball, and I am once again sad to see it go.

The Mets are among six teams that help Dominican prospects earn high school diplomas

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND - APRIL 19:  A detailed view of the blackboard with theoretical physics equations in chalk by Alberto Ramos, Theoretical Physics Fellow and visitor, Antonio Gonzalez-Arroyo from the Universidad Autonoma de Madrid (both not in frame) at The European Organization for Nuclear Research commonly know as CERN on April 19, 2016 in Geneva, Switzerland.  (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
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In a special for USA TODAY Sports, Mike Vorkunov details how six teams — the Mets in particular — provide an education program that helps their Dominican prospects earn high school diplomas. It seems like an obvious win-win: smarter players make smarter decisions, making them more likely to achieve their potential as athletes. That, of course, requires spending money, which is why only six teams make the investment. For the players, if baseball doesn’t work out, they are better able to support themselves in other ways.

Vorkunov lists the Pirates, Tigers, Phillies, Diamondbacks, and Mariners as the other teams who provide an education program for their Dominican prospects. We learned earlier this month that the Phillies were also investing in making sure their minor leaguers eat healthy. As Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer reported, “few teams” supply their minor league players with healthy food options.

Juan Henderson, the head of the Mets’ Dominican academy, said, “We see the benefit of it. I gotta tell you, we’re working with a new generation of baseball players. You see in the past that players just carry a bat and a glove and a helmet on the baseball field and in the academy. Those years, I think, are going to be pretty much over. Now they also do that, but they also carry books, they also carry an iPad, they also carry a laptop.”

Kudos to the six teams for making a great decision and here’s hoping the other 24 teams follow suit.

Video: Albert Pujols hits 569th career home run, tying Rafael Palmeiro

ANAHEIM, CA - MAY 22:  Albert Pujols #5 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim returns to the dugout after scoring in the third inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on May 22, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)
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Angels first baseman Albert Pujols cranked out a two-run home run in the third inning against Rangers starter Derek Holland, breaking a scoreless tie. It’s the ninth homer of the season for Pujols and the 569th of his career, putting him into a tie with Rafael Palmeiro for 12th on baseball’s all-time home run leaderboard.

Harmon Killebrew is Pujols’ next target at 573, followed by Mark McGwire at 583 and Frank Robinson at 586.

Pujols hadn’t homered since May 13. He entered Monday night hitting a mediocre .228/.309/.395 with eight home runs and 28 RBI in 188 plate appearances.

Alex Gordon to miss three to four weeks with a fractured scaphoid bone

CHICAGO, IL - MAY 22:  Alex Gordon #4 and Mike Moustakas #8 of the Kansas City Royals collide going for a foul ball against the Chicago White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field on May 22, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. The White Sox defeated the Royals 3-2.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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Monday has unfortunately been a day of injury news. Royals outfielder Alex Gordon is the latest to hit the 15-day disabled list, as he has been diagnosed with a fractured scaphoid bone in his right wrist. The club has recalled infielder Cheslor Cuthbert from Triple-A Omaha.

Gordon suffered the injury colliding with third baseman Mike Moustakas attempting to catch a fly ball on Sunday afternoon. He is expected to miss three to four weeks, MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan reports.

Gordon was having a tough 2016 campaign and the injury only makes it worse. He’s hitting .211/.319/.331 with four home runs and 10 RBI in 166 plate appearances on the year.

The Royals will likely use Jarrod Dyson and Paulo Orlando in left field in Gordon’s absence.

Orioles trade reliever Brian Matusz to the Braves

BALTIMORE, MD - MAY 17:  Brian Matusz #17 of the Baltimore Orioles pitches against the Seattle Mariners during the fifth inning on May 17, 2016 in Baltimore, Maryland.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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The Orioles announced on Monday night that the club has traded reliever Brian Matusz to the Braves in exchange for minor league pitchers Brandon Barker and Trevor Belicek. The Braves are also receiving a Competitive Balance Round B pick (76th overall) in the 2016 draft.

Matusz, 29, made his season debut on April 23 after battling a back injury since early March. It’s been a struggle, as the lefty has yielded eight runs on 11 hits and seven walks with just one strikeout in six innings. He is earning $3.9 million and can become a free agent after the season.

MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reports that the Braves are expected to designate Matusz for assignment. Essentially, the Braves bought the draft pick for Matusz’s remaining salary of $3 million of $3.9 million total.

Barker, 23, has been pitching at Double-A Mississippi after getting a taste of Triple-A last year. So far this season, the right-hander has a 2.00 ERA with a 40/12 K/BB ratio in 45 innings spanning eight starts and a relief appearance.

Belicek, a 23-year-old left-hander, has spent most of the year with Single-A Rome, compiling a 2.49 ERA with a 29/1 K/BB ratio in 25 1/3 innings over 11 relief appearances.