And That Happened: Wednesday's Scores and Highlights

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Roger Bernadina.jpgNationals
6, Mets 4
: Roger Bernadina was 3 for 5 with two homers — including
the game-winner — and had a
sweet grab in right field
. And did Rob Dibble really say — in
dialect — “that boy’s good!” after his ninth inning homer?  Why yes, he
did
. Oy.

Blue Jays 3, Red Sox 2: Tim Wakefield’s knuckler was dancing all day, but it took a bad step in front of Travis Snider’s bat in the seventh. Shaun Marcum, in contrast, made almost no mistakes, allowing only two hits and shutting out the Sox over seven. Worth noting, even in a loss: David Ortiz has hit in five straight and is hitting.310 with three home runs in May.  Still striking out too much and not walking enough, but it’s something.

Rockies 4, Phillies 3: Miguel Olivo caps off a 5 for 5 day with a walkoff homer in the bottom of the tenth. Melvin Mora left the game with a strained butt.  Really. Indeed, it would be wholly accurate to say that Mora is day-to-day with an ass.

Twins 3, White Sox 2: I don’t care if the Twins won. This was a pretty sweet catch.

Cubs 4, Marlins 3: Carlos Silva at 4-0 is but a half-step down on the improbability scale from Ugly Kid Joe coming out with a hit single and selling out arenas.

Tigers 2, Yankees 0:  At least no one can blame this one on Javy Vazquez (7 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 7K). Or can they?

Yankees 8, Tigers 0: Phil Hughes was sharp once again and the Tigers wasted Jeremy Bonderman’s best start of the season. Well, maybe wasted is too strong a word — he stood to be the loser even when he left — but that six-spot the bullpen allowed in the ninth inning was pretty dispiriting all the same.

Braves 9, Brewers 2: Another bullpen catastrophe for the Brewers as Manny Parra and Carlos Villanueva each give up two runs in one inning of work and Trevor Hoffman allows three, raising his ERA to 12.00 on the season.  For the Braves, Eric Hinske may be winning the left field job, as he had his second multi-hit game in a row. Of course, the way the Brewers pitching has been going, this series sweep may not have provided a true read of any Braves hitter’s ability.

Reds 5, Pirates 0Handled this one yesterday afternoon.  Between this ugly and lifeless shutout and the Penguins’ Game-7 loss to the eighth-seeded Habs, yesterday may have been the worst day in Pittsburgh sports since Sid Bream slid home safe.  We now return this blog to another three years of ignoring hockey.

Rays 4, Angels 3: Usually when one team has a starter strike out 12 guys and the other team has to use six pitchers, the 12-strikeout guy’s team wins. Not so yesterday, as David Price and five Rays relievers beat Jered Weaver’s 12 Ks in seven innings. The Rays scored twice on passed balls charged to Angels’ catcher Ryan Budde. Scioscia ought to just pencil his own name into the lineup for day games after night games.

Orioles 5, ______ 2: Brad Bergesen pitched seven and two-thirds innings of one run ball as the Orioles win.  I will not name or talk about the O’s opponent in these recaps until they stop being jackasses and cease their juvenile blackballing of reporter Larry LaRue.

Astros 9, Cardinals 6: Kyle Lohse was on duty when the Astros scored all nine of their runs, but he was only charged with four. This says far more about the randomness of the earned run rule than it does about Loshe’s performance, because he was hit pretty hard, pretty often.

Rangers 10, Athletics 1: Remember that thing I said in the power rankings the other day? About
how the Rangers had been playing with one hand tied behind their back? 
Yeah, this is what I was talking about.Derek Holland struck out seven in six shutout innings in his first start of the season. The offense let loose. It’s not going to take much for a team to separate itself from the pack in the AL West this year. Perhaps the Rangers are doing it.

Padres 5, Giants 2: That sound you hear is the sound of people coming to grips with the fact of how for real this Padres team is. They’re now 5-0 against the Giants this year, the only team in the west who looks poised to put up much of a fight. I’m struggling to think of a team that, in the preseason, looked so bad but once the bell rung looked so good.

Dodgers 6, Diamondbacks 3: Hiroki Kuroda returned to the park where the comebacker smacked him in the head last year and, despite a leadoff walk he chalked up to nerves, cruised, striking out nine and giving up three runs in seven and a third.  Manny Ramirez had three RBI. I’m almost ashamed to admit that I hadn’t even realized that he had returned from the DL. If you can’t depend on ridiculous Manny hype in this world, what can you depend on?

Phillies vs. Rockies (game 2): Postponed: The sky was dark and gloomy, the air was damp and raw, the streets were
wet and sloppy. The smoke hung sluggishly above the chimney-tops as if
it lacked the courage to rise, and the rain came slowly and doggedly
down, as if it had not even the spirit to pour.

Indians 4, Royals 0: Multiple rain delays, so for a while I thought this one was going to be postponed. I even picked out a rain quote before I went to bed and everything: “Up the two terrace flights of steps the rain ran wildly, and beat at the
great door, like a swift messenger rousing those within.”  That’s from A Tale of Two Cities. As entertainments go, it’s far more engaging than a Royals-Indians tilt that stretches late into a Wednesday night and Thursday morning. Um, of course, I watched a lot of the Indians-Royals tilt and relied on Cliff’s Notes for a A Tale of Two Cities back in the day, so what does that say about me?

UPDATE: Donald Trump declines Nats offer to throw out the first pitch

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UPDATE: Welp, we wont’ get to see that:

Sad!

8:53 AM: It’s just gossip now, but Politico is hearing that Donald Trump is in talks to throw out the first pitch at Nationals Park on Opening Day. The Nats are not commenting. Neither are the Palm Beach Cardinals of the Florida State League, who no doubt feel slighted given that the president effectively is a local.

With the caveat that, on Opening Day, tickets are likely to be more expensive and thus you’re likely to have a lot more rich people and friends-of-the-owners in attendance, thereby ensuring a more conservative crowd, I’m struggling to imagine a situation in which Trump strolls on to a baseball field in a large American city and isn’t booed like crazy. He’s polling as low as 36% in some places. He’s not exactly Mr. Popular.

Oh well. I look forward to him three-bouncing one to Matt Wieters and then grabbing his phone and tweeting about how it was the best, most tremendous first pitch in baseball history. Or blaming Hillary Clinton for it in the event he admits that it was a bad pitch.

2017 Preview: Texas Rangers

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Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2017 season. Next up: The Texas Rangers.

The Rangers somehow won the AL West last year despite not being super great at any one aspect of the game. There are stars here — Adrian Beltre, Cole Hamels, Yu Darvish and Rougned Odor are all spiffy players — but the Rangers won the division by being greater than the sum of their parts. They scored a decent number of runs despite some bad collective peripheral numbers and they allowed more runs than anyone in the AL except the Twins and Athletics. Yet they had a great record in one-run games and outperformed their pythagorean record by a WHOLE lot. Luck shined brightly on the 2016 Rangers.

It’s hard to expect luck to hold in any instance, but that’s especially the case when there have been some pretty significant changes. Changes like the loss of Carlos Beltran, Ian Desmond and Mitch Moreland. In their place: A full season, the Rangers hope, from Shin-Soo Choo, a converted-to-outfield Jurickson Profar and Mike Napoli. That may wash out OK, especially if Choo is healthy, but it wouldn’t be shocking to see some regression in two of those offensive slots.

Starting pitching is also a big question mark. Cole Hamels at the top is not a problem, obviously, and if Yu Darvish is healthy and durable the Rangers have an outstanding 1-2 punch. Martin Perez in the third spot presents promise, but he’s been exactly average so far in five major league seasons. The back end of the rotation has some real problems. Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross are hurt at the moment and even if healthy, Cashner seems to be a shell of his once-promising self. A.J. Griffin is looking to pitch in his first full season since 2013. If the Rangers are strong contenders all year it’s gonna be on the “Spahn and Sain and two days of rain” model, but I have no idea what rhymes with “Darvish” and that’s sort of a problem.

The bullpen is going to look a lot like it did last year. Sam Dyson will close, but manager Jeff Banister has shown in the past that he’s not a slave to keeping guys in any one role down there. Jeremy Jeffress will likely set up but he’s closed before. Some think Matt Bush or Keone Kela could close. We’ll see Tanner Scheppers and lefty Alex Claudio. Banister has a Manager of the Year Award on his mantle and while that often doesn’t mean anything, it usually suggests that a guy knows how to deal with his pen. Banister will do OK with what he has.

Really, though, the rotation is a concern, as is hoping that a 35-year-old Mike Napoli and a soon-to-be 38-year-old Adrian Beltre can continue to be the types of players who can form the offensive core of a playoff team. There’s talent and a track record here, but there’s a lot of uncertainty. For that reason, I suspect the Rangers will fall back a smidge this year, even if they’re a playoff contender.

Prediction: Second Place, American League West.