And That Happened: Thursday's Scores and Highlights

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Andre Ethier Slam.jpgDodgers 7, Brewers 3:  Walkoff slam for Andre Ethier! Jonathan Broxton had blown a two-run lead in the top of the ninth, but Either untied it with authority to end it. It was Ethier’s second game-ending hit of the season and 11th since the
start of 2008. Video here.

Rangers 13, Royals 12: Texas jumped out to an eight run lead, blew it, and then hit back-to-back homers off Joakim Soria to come from behind. Note to the Rangers: there are no adjustments given for degree-of-difficulty. Just win the friggin’ ballgame the easy way next time, OK? In other news, make sure you have emergency provisions, your bible, your gun and head into your panic room, because the end is nigh: Yuniesky Betancourt walked twice.

Nationals 3, Braves 2: Scott Olson takes a no-hitter into the eighth, only to have it broken up by singles from David Ross and Nate McLouth. Then, 17 personnel changes of questionable wisdom later, Tyler Clippard gave up a two-run, pinch hit single to Jason Heyward — Jason Heyward? — yes, Jason Heyward.  All seemed lost for the Nats as the Braves loaded up the bases with one out in the ninth but this time Ross grounded into a double play. The Nats scored the winning run on a walk, a double, a walk and a single.  On some level it’s just easier to lose 5-1.

Phillies 7, Cardinals 2: I talked about Halladay’s day here, so I’ll leave that alone.  Here’s something to chew on: the Cardinals have looked absolutely lost in series against the Phillies and the Giants who — nothin’ personal San Diego Padres — look like a couple of teams St. Louis might face in the playoffs.

Pirates 11, Cubs 1:  The Cubs had a bit of momentum and the Pirates dead ahead, so you figured things would keep looking up. Then Pittsburgh sweeps ’em. And what’s this? The Pirates actually win a blowout?  Must be the result of the Pirates’ “two-hour pregame meeting with a communications coach designed to build
their social skills and boost their image” reported in the game story. Word on the street is that they learned during the meeting that losing is a disease. As contagious as polio.

Giants 6, Marlins 3: Matt Cain had a no-hitter through six and pitched into the eighth. After him it took four relievers to get the final six outs, but really this one wasn’t close. San Francisco is in first place all by its lonesome now.

Diamondbacks 6, Astros 3: There goes Houston’s 1-game winning streak. Kelly Johnson hit his 10th home run which is further proof that the universe is random and lawless and that anything can happen.

Orioles 2, Twins 0: I’d like to think that the Orioles pitchers are getting a secret kick out of Andy MacPhail publicly criticize all the hitters, what with all of that “the hitting should be fine but the pitching will be a question mark” jazz from the spring.

Blue Jays 2, White Sox 0: The Jays’ fifth straight victory. If you weight the wins to account for the fact that three of them came against Cleveland, however, it comes out to 2.2 victories. Dana Eveland — who I continue to maintain is really the name of a second-tier actress from the old studio system days — three seven shutout innings, allowing only two hits.

Red Sox 11, Angels 6: Dear God, the Angels are playing some craptacular baseball lately. Scott Kazmir was terrible and his relief was not much better. Daisuke Matsuzaka walked three and allowed four runs in the
first inning, but after that he settled down. Victor Martinez homered and drove in four.  That’s, like, a gabillion straight losses for the Angels.

Rays 8, Mariners 0: I don’t outsource my recaps very often, but in this case I’ll make an exception. Here’s Dave Cameron of U.S.S. Mariner on last night’s game (“Hyphen” is M’s starter Ryan Rowland-Smith]: “You don’t need a recap of that. Hyphen sucked, the offense sucked, the
defense sucked, Snell sucked, and the weather sucked. So, why should
the recap be any different? They get the recap they deserve. When they
play like a major league team, they’ll get written up like one. Until
then, they get this.”  But seriously, Dave: don’t hold back. Tell us how you really feel.

What’s on Tap: Previewing Thursday’s action

BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 18:  Manny Machado #13 of the Baltimore Orioles celbrates hitting a solo home run in the sixth inning during a baseball game against the against the Tampa Bay Rays at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on September 18, 2016 in Baltimore, Maryland.  The Orioles won 2-1.  (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
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With each division now spoken for, our attention now turns to the Wild Card races. The Blue Jays hold a one-game lead over the Orioles for the first Wild Card slot in the American League while the Orioles have a one-game lead over the Tigers for the second slot. The Jays and O’s will do battle on Thursday night and each of the four other teams alive in the AL Wild Card race are rooting for the Jays to win. The Yankees and Astros can both be eliminated from Wild Card contention if the Orioles win one more game or if they each lose one more game. The Mariners are also active in the Wild Card hunt, currently two games behind the Orioles.

Over in the National League, the Giants have a one-game lead over the Cardinals for the second Wild Card slot. The Giants get to play the Rockies while the Cardinals face the lowly Reds. The Mets, who currently own the first Wild Card slot, have the night off.

Asterisks denote that the game is relevant to the Wild Card.

The rest of Thursday’s action…

*Boston Red Sox (Henry Owens) @ New York Yankees (CC Sabathia), 7:05 PM EDT

Chicago Cubs (Rob Zastryzny) @ Pittsburgh Pirates (Ivan Nova), 7:05 PM EDT

*Baltimore Orioles (Ubaldo Jimenez) @ Toronto Blue Jays (Marcus Stroman), 7:07 PM EDT

Philadelphia Phillies (Jeremy Hellickson) @ Atlanta Braves (Josh Collmenter), 7:10 PM EDT

*Cincinnati Reds (Dan Straily) @ St. Louis Cardinals (Alex Reyes), 7:15 PM EDT

Minnesota Twins (Kyle Gibson) @ Kansas City Royals (Danny Duffy), 7:15 PM EDT

Tampa Bay Rays (Chris Archer) @ Chicago White Sox (Jose Quintana), 8:10 PM EDT

Los Angeles Dodgers (Julio Urias) @ San Diego Padres (Christian Friedrich), 9:10 PM EDT

*Oakland Athletics (Kendall Graveman) @ Seattle Mariners (Ariel Miranda), 10:10 PM EDT

*Colorado Rockies (Jon Gray) @ San Francisco Giants (Johnny Cueto), 10:15 PM EDT

Who should win the MVP Awards? Who will?

CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 20:  Kris Bryant #17 of the Chicago Cubs bats during the second inning against the St. Louis Cardinals at Wrigley Field on September 20, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. The Cardinals defeated the Cubs 4-3. (Photo by John Konstantaras/Getty Images)
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With the regular season ending on Sunday and most of the playoff spots locked up, there’s really only one big thing left to argue about: postseason awards. So let’s spend some time looking at who should win each of the four major awards and who will win them. Which are often totally different things. First up: The MVP Awards. 

Who should win the AL MVP Award? 

We at HBT have tended to lean toward the idea that the best player should win the MVP Award, regardless of whether his team wins or not. It’s not an iron-clad thing, of course. In the past I’ve supported some more narrative-driven MVP candidates and, more importantly, deciding who is “the best player” in an objective sense is not always a cut-and-dried endeavor. Defense is an inexact science. Players often have competing apples and oranges arguments for their candidacies.

If you look at “best overall player” this year, however, it’s hard to say that Mike Trout and his line of .318/.441/.556 with 29 homers and his usual solid-to-outstanding center field defense is not that guy. Yes, his team stinks, and no, his 2016 season isn’t head and shoulders above any number of his other excellent seasons, making him a less-than-sexy choice in a lot of ways. But it’s hard to stand head and shoulders above uniform excellence and no matter what you think of stuff like WAR and all that goes into it, Trout has a 1.5 WAR lead over Mookie Betts according to FanGraphs and 1.3 according to Baseball Reference. It’s a pretty significant separation, especially when you realize that, dang, Betts is having a whale of a season himself (.320/.365/.538).

Still, Trout isn’t a unanimous pick even with the HBT team, which has it this way:

Craig: Trout
Bill: Trout
Ashley: Betts

Who will win the AL MVP Award?

There has been a lot of talk about Betts and his teammate, David Ortiz, splitting the vote, as it were. Maybe that was a thing that happened more often back in the day when narrative-driven awards were more common, but I think today’s BBWAA voters are way more savvy than that. I think that Ortiz will get some votes thrown his way by virtue of his outstanding offensive season (.316/.401/.622, 37 HR, 124 RBI) and the storybook ending to his career, but I think Betts will ultimately carry the day with the better overall and all-around performance. MVP PREDICTION: MOOKIE BETTS.

Who should win the NL MVP Award?

There are a lot of guys putting up years that, under different circumstances, would be MVP worthy. Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Freddie Freeman, Nolan Arenado, Daniel Murphy, Joey Votto and Corey Seager are all having outstanding campaigns. Most of them are bunched up as far as WAR goes, more so with Baseball-Reference.com’s version, a little less so with FanGraphs. Bryant leads both versions and is putting up outstanding offensive numbers. Murphy, Freeman and Votto are hitting a tad better than him depending on how you measure it, but have less defensive value. Seager’s mix of defense and offense may be closer to what Bryant is doing, although Arenado might have something to say about that. There are a lot of good choices.

Bryant is the best choice, however. His hitting — .293/.387/.560, 39 HR, 101 RBI — is better than the other all-around candidates and his defensive versatility — he’s played all three outfield positions as well as his usual third base — sets him apart. He’s been the best player in the NL this year.

Craig: Bryant
Bill: Bryant
Ashley:Bryant

Who will win the NL MVP Award?

This is one of those years where I suspect our views will match that of the voters. MVP PREDICTION: Bryant, possibly unanimously.