And That Happened: Thursday's Scores and Highlights

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Pirates foam fingers.jpgBrewers 20, Pirates 0: I think the most remarkable thing about this game is that the Brewers were set down 1-2-3 in the first inning.

Phillies 8, Braves 3: This series began with the Phillies bullpen breaking down, but that ended up being a fluke. The real story of the series was that the Phillies got great starting pitching in all three games, and between that, their patience at the plate and their excellent defense they clearly showed that they are the better team right now. And Derek Lowe showed something too: he has nothing left.

Rockies 2, Nationals 0: When Ubaldo Jiminez gave up the double to Willie Harris in the first inning, Johnny Vander Meer — as has become his tradition — opened up the bottle of champagne he’s been saving, celebrating and savoring the fact that he remains the only man to pitch back-to-back no hitters. Wait, what? Johnny Vander Meer died in 1997? Oh, never mind.

Athletics 4, Yankees 2: The Yankees turned a triple play and pissed off Dallas Braden something fierce, but they lost the game. My thought on the Braden thing: I’ve never heard of the unwritten rule about not walking on the mound, but I want to think less of A-Rod for it all the same if that makes any sense. Mostly I just want someone to recut the video of Braden jawing at Rodriguez with the audio from the “get off my f—— obstacle” scene from “Full Metal Jacket” because that would be cool.

Reds 8, Dodgers 5: Manny left in the sixth after straining his right calf.  When the season started I thought oblique injuries would be all the rage, but it turns out that calf injuries are really where it’s at. Just goes to show that you can’t predict fashion.

Mets 5, Cubs 2: Johan Santana blanked the Cubs for six innings and ended up giving up only one run, Ike Davis had three hits and K-Rod came into a jam in the 8th and put out the fire, earning his first save of the year. Those things together make this a very satisfying win for Mets fans.

Indians 8, Twins 1: A nice win for the Indians, but the big story coming out of Cleveland yesterday is that the Indians have invited me to the Tribe Social Deck for the game against the Tigers on May 7th. This gesture of taste and goodwill no doubt led to their fine performance.

Rangers 3, Red Sox 0: C.J. Wilson gets his first career win as a starter. He was matched by Clay Buchholz for most of the game, but things unraveled in the 7th as, after one run was already in, a stolen base put Nelson Cruz into position to score on a David Murphy double and a throwing error by Buchholz allowed Murphy to score.

Rays 10, White Sox 2: The rays outscored the White Sox 22-2 over the past two games to take the series. Tampa Bay completed a 9-1 road trip. Given the home field advantage they’ve come to expect in the Trop, this bodes well. Seven walks, seven hits and seven earned runs for Jake Peavy who, even if he can’t be happy about his game, has to at least appreciate the symmetry of his performance on an aesthetic level.

Tigers 5, Angels 4: Great moments in efficiency: Justin Verlander threw 125 pitches in five innings. He got the win, however, after he was bailed out by a Tigers’ bullpen which has thrown 15.2 consecutive scoreless innings. And here I thought that would be the team’s weakness this year.  In other news, Torri Hunter was presented with his Gold Glove before the game. He then proceeded to bat from the DH slot. There’s got to be some kind of lesson in there somewhere, but I just can’t tease it out.

Marlins 5, Astros 1: Jorge Cantu extends his hitting streak to 20 games.  Know what? I think baseball history needs a little shaking up and something as random as Jorge Cantu hitting in 57 straight games would totally do the trick. Viva chaos and all of that.

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.