And That Happened: Sunday's Scores and Highlights

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Johan Santana sitting.jpgPhillies 11, Mets 5: Look, there are about 17 different ways in which
Johan Santana’s awful night could be described, but I think the fact
that he walked Jamie Moyer with the bases loaded in the fourth pretty
much tells you all you need to know. The Victorino grand slam that
immediately followed was less troublesome than that in my mind. Final line for
Santana: 3.2 IP, 8 H, 10 ER, 4 HR. On the bright side, after the
Phillies put up the nine-spot in the fourth, I was able to turn off the
game and go through the cool stuff I bought at the baseball card show I
went to yesterday. My favorite find: the SI issue from 1972 with Dick
Allen smoking a cig and juggling baseballs in the White Sox dugout on the cover
. It’s
totally going up on the wall of my office. You know, for inspiration.

Rays 1, Royals 0:  Gary Gooper in “High Noon” had more help than Zach Greinke has whenever he takes the hill. He ought to throw his badge in the dirt and get on the train with Grace Kelly and leave town. Four hit, a single earned run, six strikeouts and another loss. He’s gonna wind up dying all alone on some dirty street. For what? For nothing. For
a tin star.

Tigers 5, Angels 1: Justin Verlander had been as inefficient as a Rube Goldberg machine his past couple of starts, but he streamlined things nicely — at least for him — with a three-hit, 7K, 0BB 120-pitch outing against the Halos. He retired 23 straight Angels at one point.

Dodgers 9, Pirates 3: Eight strong innings from Hiroki Kuroda, four hits from Blake DeWitt, a 3 for 4 day from James Loney and a 3 for 5 with two homers from Andre Ethier help the Dodgers complete a ship-righting series against the Pirates.

Rockies 4, Giants 1:  Jason Giambi apparently created some sort of infinite improbability field in the fourth inning which allowed him to commit the quite improbable act of a lummox like him stealing second base. This no doubt rattled Jonathan Sanchez to no end, because he walked three straight batters after that, giving the Rockies a 1-0 lead. The rest of the game promptly vanished in a puff of ill-logic, at least from the Giants’ perspective.

Rangers 3, Mariners 1: Tough luck no-decision for Doug Fister, who was perfect into the sixth inning and gave up only three hits through eight, but then had David Aardma come in and blow the save. Not that he was rocked or anything. In fact, the Rangers won this one without the benefit of a single extra-base hit, which isn’t something you see every day.

Padres 8, Brewers 0: The Brewers were shutout in three of the four games of this series and were outscored 21-2. To say that they’re reeling would be such an insult to reels everywhere that the Zebco corporation would probably consider filing suit.

Orioles 3, Red Sox 2: And the sweep. Nice start from Josh Beckett, but Jason Varitek getting gunned down at home by a mile in the eighth (why was he not pinch-run for again, Terry?) and Jonathan Papelbon failing to get the job done in the tenth (his second inning of work) doomed Boston.   The Orioles have seven wins on the season. Four of them have come against the Bosox.

Cubs 10, Diamondbacks 5: The Cubs take three of four from Arizona on the strength of Alfonso Soriano’s four homers and 10 RBIs. The Cubs have won 7 of 10.

Blue Jays 9, Athletics 3: Shaun Marcum snags the win with plenty of run support after a handful of tough luck losses. The Jays are back to .500, confounding my expectations of them being some trainwreck of a 90+ loss team this year.

Cardinals 6, Reds 0: Chris Carpenter toyed with the Redlegs (7 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 8K). Albert Pujols had a bases loaded double. Aaron Harang has had a nightmare of a season so far, but he was decent enough yesterday, giving up three runs over six innings, striking out six and not walking anyone. The Reds highlight of the day, however, came up on Columbus at that card show I went to, when I spotted an autographed photo of Pete Rose flipping the bird while wearing a loud and garish 1970s business suit. Dude wanted too much for it, though, so I gave it a pass. I’m regretting it this morning.

Yankees 12, White Sox 3: Seven shutout innings from Phil Hughes and an offensive onslaught gives the Yankees yet another series win. Someone told Mark Teixeira it was May (4 for 5, 2B, 2 RBI).

Braves 7, Astros 1: A much-needed sweep for the Braves. Jason Heyward went 2 for 3 with 3 RBI (Yawn). Melky Cabrera went 2 for 3 with 3 RBI and Derek Lowe pitched well (someone alert the authorities).

Marlins 9, Nationals 3: Hanley Ramirez hit a pair of homers and had 4 RBI. Someone told Hanley it’s May too, because as soon as the calendar changed, he got hot.

Twins 8, Indians 3:  Catcher Wilson Ramos, filling in for the injured Joe Mauer, gets four hits in his major league debut. That’s a pretty rare feat, as it has been 12 years since the last time someone had four hits in his major league debut. Francisco Liriano was relatively mortal for once, giving up three runs in seven innings, but he still struck out nine, and with 20 hits behind him, he didn’t need to throw a one-hitter or anything crazy like that.

If you’re wanting to nitpick I suppose you could wonder how a team that got 20 hits and five walks only scored eight runs, but I’m not really in the mood to nitpick: I have a whole box of baseball card show swag to mess with this morning, and that’s way more fulfilling than talking about hitting with runners in scoring position and all that jive.

Justin Turner is a postseason monster

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A not-insignificant amount of the Dodgers’ success in recent years has to do with the emergence of Justin Turner. In his first five seasons with the Orioles and Mets, he was a forgettable infielder who had versatility, but no power. The Mets non-tendered him after the 2013 season, a move they now really regret.

In four regular seasons since, as a Dodger, Turner has hit an aggregate .303/.378/.502. His 162-game averages over those four seasons: 23 home runs, 36 doubles, 83 RBI, 80 runs scored. And he’s also a pretty good third baseman, it turns out. The Dodgers have averaged 95 wins per season over the past four years.

Turner, 32, has gotten better and better with each passing year. This year, he drew more walks (59) than strikeouts (56), a club only five other players (min. 300 PA) belonged to, and he trailed only Joey Votto (1.61) in BB/K ratio (1.05). He zoomed past his previous career-high in OPS, finishing at .945. His .415 on-base percentage was fourth-best in baseball. His batting average was fifth-best and only nine points behind NL batting champion Charlie Blackmon.

It doesn’t seem possible, but Turner has been even better in the postseason. He exemplified that with his walk-off home run to win Game 2 of the NLCS against the Cubs. Overall, entering Wednesday night’s action, he was batting .363/.474/.613 in 97 postseason plate appearances. In Game 4, he went 2-for-2 with two walks, a single, and a solo home run. That increases his postseason slash line to .378/.495/.659, now across 101 plate appearances. That’s a 1.154 OPS. The career-high regular season OPS for future first-ballot Hall of Famer Albert Pujols was 1.114 in 2008, when he won his third career MVP Award. Statistically, in the postseason, Turner hits slightly better than Pujols did in the prime of his career. Of course, we should adjust for leagues and parks and all that, but to even be in that neighborhood is incredible.

In the age of stats, the concept of “clutch” has rightfully eroded. We don’t really allow players to ascend to godlike levels anymore like the way we did Derek Jeter, for instance. (Jeter’s career OPS in the playoffs, by the way, was a comparatively pitiful .838.) Turner isn’t clutch; he’s just a damn good hitter whose careful approach at the plate has allowed him to shine in the postseason and the Dodgers can’t imagine life without him.