And That Happened: Sunday's Scores and Highlights

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White Sox 15, Royals 5: Ladies and gentlemen: your first place Chicago White Sox.  Chicago has made up 10 games since June 9th, going from 9.5 out to .5 up. Without question, the most unexpected surge of the year. Yes, they had help from the Twins and, to a lesser extent, the Tigers’ poor play, but Ozzie Guillen’s squad is on fire. It has to kill them to be taking four days off right now, but it’s a break they’ve earned even if it’s one they don’t want.

Twins 6, Tigers 3: Which of these two are going to get it together and chase down the White Sox? I still like Minnesota overall. Maybe this win heading into the break will turn their heads around. Awful last week or so, though, no question about it.

Mets 3, Braves 0: Johan Santana pitches his second gem in a row, shutting out the Bravos over seven. It was merely a series-salvager, however, as the Mets dropped two of three to Atlanta over the weekend. Carlos Beltran comes back on Thursday, and we’ll see if that’s enough to launch New York forward.

Cardinals 4, Astros 2: What, Jeff Bagwell taking over as hitting coach didn’t bring immediate dividends? You know, if I didn’t know better, I’d say that firing Sean Berry and replacing him with a team legend was just a P.R./scapegoat move. Wait, forget I said anything. That’s just crazy talk.

Phillies 1, Reds 0: A four game sweep of a good team heading into the break has to give the Phillies some amount of relief after a roller coaster first half. Still — and not to take a thing away from Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels, who pitched Saturday’s and yesterday’s gems, respectively — Philly needs to figure out how to score some freakin’ runs, and fast.

Yankees 8, Mariners 2: The Yankees won it easily but anonymous front
office sources later said that the way the Mariners played was
totally bush league
that it was horsesh– that they had to
split the gate
.

Red Sox 3, Blue Jays 2: Dice-K allowed two runs and six hits, pitching into the seventh, while walking none and
striking out five. Only threw 88 pitches too.  I think the guy is totally schizophrenic, though, so next time look for 97 pitches (42 strikes, 55 balls) in, like, four innings.

Brewers 6, Pirates 5: Milwaukee went down 3-0 in the second, tied it up, went down 4-3 in the sixth, tied it up and then went down 5-4 in the ninth and won it on a two-run walkoff homer from Corey Hart.  Like I said in the Power Rankings not too long ago: Milwaukee has had a bad first half, but unlike some other teams in dire straits, they’ve never looked or felt like they were packing things in.

Rays 6, Indians 5: Walkoff RBI single for Jason Bartlett as the Rays take three of four from Cleveland and hit the break on a roll. Cleveland walked ten dudes, and you’re just not going to win doing that.

Marlins 2, Diamondbacks 0: Your standard six-pitchers-combine-for-a-shutout shutout. More amazing than the Marlins’ pen combining to keep Arizona off the board, however, was the fact that the Arizona bullpen threw four shutout innings of its own. That’s equivalent to like 40 real bullpen innings.

Padres 9, Rockies 7: San Diego salvages one of the three-game series in order to stay two up of the red hot Rockies and the less-hot-but-still-chugging Dodgers. A Matt Belisle throwing error on a comebacker allowed the Padres to go ahead in the eighth and Heath Bell got the five-out save to ice it.

Athletics 5, Angels 2: Trevor Cahill, the A’s starter in this one, was replaced on the All-Star roster by Jered
Weaver, the Angels starter in this one. But . . . since he can’t pitch on Tuesday either, he was replaced by A’s reliever Andrew Bailey who also pitched in this one. He’s a reliever though, so I guess that’s cool.  Weaver’s contract calls for a $50K bonus for making the All-Star team, by the way, and I assume he gets it for the 11 seconds he was on the squad. I’m picturing Angels owner Arte Moreno sitting in his office with a rather dazed look on his face right now.

Orioles 4, Rangers 1: The Orioles take four straight from the Rangers, which included some long balls on Saturday to render Cliff Lee’s Texas debut an ignominious one. Baltimore’s season may be a loss from a horse race perspective, but there’s a lot of pride to be regained and — let’s face it — some good old fashioned spoilin’ to be done. The Orioles are a more talented team than their record suggests. Maybe they can at least make the most of a bad situation.

Dodgers 7, Cubs 0: I can’t decide if that little 55 mile per hour
eephus/curve/whatever it is pitch Vicente Padilla throws is totally
annoying or the coolest thing ever. I mean, I like garbage pitches like
that as a matter of course. But I can’t enjoy watching Padilla do it for
some reason. Still, it was effective as all get out last night.

Giants 6, Nationals 2: Three RBI for Travis Ishikawa, who has been raking since the Molina trade, which gave him a chance to get out of the pinch hitting role. Since then the Giants have been scoring runs by the bucketful too. Coincidence, I think not.

Jose Canseco to join NBC Sports California as an A’s analyst

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Hey, I have a new coworker: Jose Canseco has been hired by NBC Sports California as an Athletics pregame analyst.

OK, maybe he’s not technically a coworker, as the folks at NBC Sports California — formerly CSN Bay Area — and I do not hang out at the water cooler, have potlucks in the conference room or exchange secret Santa gifts at Christmas time, but dang it, I’m gonna TELL people I work with Jose Canseco. The only downside will be people assuming that, because he and I are on the same team, my performance is something less than authentic. Or, perhaps, Canseco may write another book and tell all of my secrets.

Anyway, Canseco will be part of NBC Sports California’s A’s Pregame Live and A’s Postgame Live shows. Live TV can be hard. I’ve done a bit of it, and there is certainly more to that gig than meets the eye. You can’t always prepare for what happens on the fly. I’m sure Canseco will do well, however, as he’s great with coming up with the best stuff off the top of his head.

2017 Preview: Cleveland Indians

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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 Cleveland Indians.

The Cleveland Indians almost won the World Series without their best hitter for the whole season and two of their starting pitchers for the playoffs. This year that hitter — Michael Brantley — is back and the starters — Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar — are healthy. Oh, and they added arguably the best free agent bat available in Edwin Encarnacion.

Baseball teams love to downplay their expectations, but given where the Indians are at the moment, anything less than another American League Pennant will have to feel like a disappointment, right? Fortunately for the Indians, they stand as the favorites to do just that.

They didn’t lose much in the offseason. Yes, World Series hero Rajai Davis is gone, but the Indians outfield will be fine if Brantley remains healthy. Mike Napoli‘s loss will be felt but it will be made up for with Encarnacion’s bat and probably then some. Coco Crisp left too, but he was not a key part of the equation.

The biggest losses are guys from last year who will start the year on the disabled list, most notably Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall. Kipnis is just starting to work out following time off to rest his sore shoulder. Chisenhall ran into a wall the other day and is being evaluated. There is no sense that either will miss extended time, however.

Otherwise, the lineup should score a lot of runs, with on-base machines Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor setting the table for Encarnacion, Brantley and Carlos Santana, who is entering his walk year. The Indians trailed only the Red Sox in runs scored in the American League last year and they should score a lot of runs this year as well.

The strength of the club, however, remains its pitching. Corey Kluber looked like his old Cy Young self last year, particularly in the playoffs. Danny Salazar built on his excellent 2015 season in the first half before falling prey to injury. Carlos Carrasco posted an ERA+ of 141 before breaking his hand and Josh Tomlin and Trevor Bauer both stood out for fourth and fifth starters.

The bullpen is excellent too, as relief ace Andrew Miller is joined by Cody Allen, Bryan Shaw and newcomer Boone Logan make up one of the relief corps in baseball.

Pitcher health is probably the biggest uncertainty for any contender, but the Indians have the best pitching in the AL if everyone stays healthy. And maybe even if one or two guys don’t.

It’s hard to find much fault with the 2017 Cleveland Indians. They are the class of their division and, while the slog of the regular season turns a lot of surefire contenders into hash before it’s all said and done, there is no reason to look at the Indians right now and think of them as anything other than the best team in the American League.

Prediction: First place, American League Central.