And That Happened: Monday's Scores and Highlights

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Angel Pagan homer.jpgMets 6, Cubs 1: A pitchers’ duel until the 7th when the Mets unloaded on the Cubs’ bullpen, courtesy of an Angel Pagan homer, a Jason Bay double, an Ike Davis single and a Sean Marshall wild pitch.

The Pagan at bat was hilarious. Jose Reyes was on first base, getting a few throws over, but never really looking like he was stealing, mostly because he couldn’t figure out James Russell’s move. The ESPN crew was going on and on with that totally cliched rebop about how a fast guy “changes everything” when he’s on the bases, and all of that. Pagan then golfs one out to the deep part of the park, rendering the running game rather quaint and totally moot. Any acknowledgment of this fact by the announcers? Nah. They go into that “you can credit Reyes for disrupting the pitcher” jive. Just reminds you that so much of what we hear in a baseball broadcast is received wisdom bordering on religion. Pagan just timed it perfectly and unloaded with a beautiful, powerful swing. But no, gotta talk up that non-factor of a running game because you heard someone say that one time back when Lou Brock roamed the Earth.

Oh, Ike Davis debut: 2-4 with an RBI. Just before the RBI single Sean Marshall totally buckled his knees with a couple of curveballs, suggesting exactly why Davis has a reputation of being lost against lefties. The fact he stuck in on the third pitch and got the hit suggested, however, that it’s something he’s going to be able to overcome.

Rays 8, Red Sox 2: We spoke about this one at length already, but let’s add one more nugget in the form of a Victor Martinez quote after the game: “It’s kind of weird. Nothing is going our way. Every team we play, it
keeps falling their way.” I didn’t know that V-Mart wrote emo lyrics.

Nationals 5, Rockies 2: A homer and four RBI for Willie Harris puts the Nationals over .500, and I have to ask myself: did I rank these guys too low? More importantly, did I overrate the Rockies? Smallest crowd in Nats’ history, by the way.

Blue Jays 8, Royals 1: Brandon Morrow impressed, allowing one run and three hits and striking out eight and Jose Bautista hit two homers and the Jays won in a laugher. A record low crowd for Rogers Centre, breaking the old record which was set five days previously. I guess the Royals coming to town doesn’t really compete with Hockey Night in Canada during the playoffs.

Padres 3, Giants 2: Break up the Padres. Their fourth straight win came in dramatic fashion: a David Eckstein walkoff homer in the tenth. The little guy’s homer helped bail out Heath Bell, who had blown the save in the ninth by serving up a dinger to Juan Uribe.  Oh, and Chase Headley was nearly smacked in the head with the barrel of Uribe’s bat in the fourth inning after it was splintered by a Clayton Richard pitch.

Angels 2, Tigers 0: Joel Piniero’s good night (7.1 IP, 9 H, 0 ER) overshadows Dontrelle Willis’ pretty good night (6 IP, 4H, 2 ER, 2 BB).

Cardinals 4, Diamondbacks 2: Five straight losses for Arizona. Matt Holliday was 3-5 with a homer and 2 RBI. Brad Penny threw seven strong innings. Pfun Pfact: Albert Pujols went 0 or 3 against starter Rodrigo Lopez last night and is 0 for 8
against him in his career. Lopez should retire now so he can tell his grandkids about that.

Mariners 8, Orioles 2: The M’s put up seven in the third, so they didn’t really need Doug Fister to no-hit the Orioles into the seventh inning, but he went ahead and did it anyway.  Chone Figgins on the 6’8″ Fister: “It’s good being tall.”  Oh, and this game featured the third record-low crowd of the night.

Maybe Alcides Escobar shouldn’t bat leadoff

Alcides Escobar
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Alcides Escobar finished with a .292 OBP this year. He came in at .246 in 117 at-bats in August and .257 in 109 at-bats between September and October, so he wasn’t exactly flying high entering the postseason. Still, that didn’t stop Ned Yost from putting him into the leadoff spot for Thursday’s Game 1 against the Astros.

Yost finally did reconsider hitting Escobar first in September. It took Alex Gordon‘s return to health, plus the previous addition of Ben Zobrist to the lineup, in order to make that happen. However, it didn’t stick. Escobar hit ninth in each of his starts from Sept. 7-26, batting .236 with a .276 OBP during that span. With five games left to go, he was suddenly returned to the leadoff spot. The Royals went on to win all five games. Yost saw it as a sign, even though Escobar went 5-for-22 with no walks in those games.

Escobar went 0-for-4 in Thursday’s loss to the Astros. He did not swing at the first pitch of the game, which probably explains the defeat.

It’s been difficult to argue with Yost since last year’s World Series run and this year’s incredible run out of the game. The blind spot with Escobar, though, gets rather infuriating. One can defend hitting him leadoff against the Astros’ lefties. His career OBP against southpaws is .319 (.316 this year). Against righties, he’s the most obvious No. 9 hitter alive, with a career .258/.290/.342 line (.252/.284/.314 this year). He’s not a pace-setter. He’s not a spark plug. He’s a liability.

Astros top Royals in Game 1 of ALDS

Houston Astros' Jose Altuve, left, celebrates with teammate Luis Valbuena after scoring a run during the first inning in Game 1 of baseball's American League Division Series against the Kansas City Royals, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

After shutting out the Yankees in the AL Wild Card game on Tuesday, the Astros beat the Royals 5-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS on Thursday at Kauffman Stadium. Road teams are now 4-0 to begin the 2015 postseason.

The Astros grabbed an early 3-0 lead against Yordano Ventura through two innings. Chris Young took over for the Royals after a 47-minute rain delay and was very effective for the most part, allowing just a solo homer to George Springer over four innings while striking out seven batters. Colby Rasmus, who homered in the Wild Card game, took Ryan Madson deep in the eighth inning to give the Astros’ bullpen some extra breathing room.

Collin McHugh stayed in after the rain delay and ended up tossing six innings while allowing just four hits and one walk. Kendrys Morales did all the damage against him with a pair of solo homers. He’s the first Royals player to hit two home runs in a postseason game since George Brett in the 1985 ALCS.

The Royals’ offense showed some signs of life in the bottom of the eighth inning with back-to-back two-out hits against Will Harris, but Oliver Perez got Eric Hosmer to foul out to end the threat. Luke Gregerson tossed a scoreless ninth inning to finish off the victory.

Consistent with their identity during the regular season, the Astros won despite striking out 14 times. The same goes for the Royals, as they struck out just four times. Despite putting the ball into play more often, the Kansas City lineup wasn’t able to muster anything aside from the home runs by Morales.

Game 2 of the ALDS will begin Friday at 3:45 p.m. ET. Scott Kazmir will pitch for the Astros and Johnny Cueto will get the ball for the Royals.

George Springer homers to extend Astros’ lead over Royals

Houston Astros' George Springer (4) celebrates with teammates after scoring a run in the first inning in Game 1 of baseball's American League Division Series against the Kansas City Royals, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
AP Photo/Charlie Riedel
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After Kendrys Morales brought the Royals within one run in the bottom of the fourth inning with his second solo home run of the game, George Springer took Chris Young deep in the top of the fifth to extend the Astros’ lead to 4-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS.

According to Statcast, the ball traveled an estimated 422 feet and left Springer’s bat at 109 mph. Royals fans are happy it was just a solo home run. It could have been worse, as Jose Altuve singled to lead off the fifth inning before being thrown out trying to steal second base during Springer’s at-bat.

The Royals will try to answer as we move to the bottom of the fifth inning at Kauffman Stadium.