And That Happened: Tuesday's Scores and Highlights

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Nationals 3, Braves 0: Stephen Strasburg was scratched, but at least he showed up at the ballpark. Can’t say the same for the Braves. Hell, I think they’re still stuck in the Miami airport waiting for their charter to D.C. Whoever it was playing in the road uniforms last night didn’t seem to give a rat’s patootie about this game, though. Two of the three Nats’ runs were unearned because the dudes wearing the Brian McCann and Chipper Jones replica jerseys threw the ball all over the place. Give a hand to Miguel Batista, though, for stepping in on short notice and throwing five innings of shutout ball. Whether it was against impostors or not, that’s some gutsy baseball right there.

Mets 8, Cardinals 2: Home sweet home for the Mets as they lay the beatdown on Adam Wainwright. Jeff Francoeur had a three-run homer because God wanted my Tuesday night to be as crappy as possible from a baseball perspective. In related news my dream last night was Kent Hrbek, Jim Leyritz and the ghost of Eric Gregg ganging up on me in an alley while Lonnie Smith yelled at me to “Run! Run! Run like your life depends on it, Craig!”

Indians 4, Yankees 1: Josh Tomlin makes his major league debut and shuts
down the Yankees over seven innings. At this point I would like to
mention that I saw Tomlin pitch here in Columbus back in May and
at the time I said that he looked better than anyone the Indians had on
their roster at the time, so maybe they should call him up
. I would also like to point out that Tomlin is facing felonious assault charges right now, — UPDATE: the charges were recently reduced to “disorderly conduct” — so maybe he figured “screw it; no reason to save any energy for tomorow because there may be no tomorrow for me.”

Phillies 9, Diamondbacks 5: Six straight for the Phillies behind homers from Werth and Howard. Bad news though too: Shane Victorino left the game with an oblique injury. Bad news for Arizona too as Justin Upton left with a bum hip.

White Sox 11, Mariners 0: Know how I know the Mariners suck? They had nearly a dozen runs scored on them by a team who was using Juan Pierre as their DH. That’s how I know the Mariners suck. Ryan-Rowland Smith keeps getting starts for these guys too. I mean, I keep telling Don Wakamatsu that Smith is bluffing and that he’d never release the pictures to the media because they’d be just as damning for him, but he apparently doesn’t believe me.

Rays 3, Tigers 2: Carlos Pena and Matt Joyce account for all the Rays runs. Joyce had the big hit on Monday night too. Given how charitable Detroit is to former Tigers, I expect Joe Maddon to employ the following lineup for tomorrow night’s game:

1. Ron LeFlore CF
2. Lou Whitaker 2B
3. Rusty Staub DH
4. Darrell Evans 1B
5. Kirk Gibson RF
6. Larry Herndon LF
7. George Kell 3B
8. Lance Parrish C
9. Ray Oyler SS

Yeah, it’s not perfect –Ray Oyler turns 72 next week and couldn’t hit when he was 30 and George Kell is dead for cryin’ out loud — but I like their chances against the current Tigers squad, don’t you?

Oh, and B.J. Upton got hurt too. Bad night for the Uptons. I’m going to assume that it was like Cheech and Chong in the Corsican Brothers and that each felt the others’ pain.

Rangers 3, Athletics 1: The Rangers just got done putting the Angels in
their place as would-be competitors and now they’re doing the same thing
to the A’s, who are tied with Anaheim for second. Cliff Lee was his
usual astounding self: Complete game nine innings (of course). No walks (of course).
Thirteen strikeouts (of course). Game score for pitchers isn’t the
be-all end-all, but it’s fun. Lee’s game score of 88 was the same as
Ubaldo Jimenez’s score for his no-hitter and the same as Armando
Galarraga’s for his near-perfect game.

Astros 6, Cubs 1: All this effort to trade Roy Oswalt when Brett Myers is (a) having a better year; and (b) is way more tradeable given his contract. Another great outing for him last night (CG 4 H, 1 ER, 12K). Ted Lilly did nothing to hurt his trade stock either, as he threw five and two-thirds shutout innings. They weren’t the most efficient innings on the planet, but good is good. The score is a function of a bullpen implosion.

Blue Jays 8, Orioles 2: Jose Bautista clubbed two more homers, bringing his league leading total to 30. It’s probably time for the O’s to shut Kevin Millwood down for the year following yet another awful outing. He’s either still injured or else he has a giant fork sticking out of his back.

Giants 6, Marlins 4: I declared the Giants dead a few weeks ago. Which goes to show you that you should never listen to anything I have to say about anything ever.

Dodgers 2, Padres 0: We should all probably thank the Padres and the Braves for taking one for the team and giving us all a couple of nice tight races this summer when they really didn’t have to. Billingsley Kuo and Broxton combine for the shutout.

Red Sox 4, Angels 2: John Lackey gives up two runs in seven and a third against his old mates. He was booed lustily by the Anaheim crowd in his second game against the Angels since leaving via free agency, though first in California.

Pirates 4, Rockies 2: Colorado is 2-10 since the All-Star break. It’s like the bizarro version of one of those incredible runs like they went on last year or in 2007.Clint Barmes after the game: “We’ve been playing bad baseball. We’re not doing the little things.”  That’s not fair, Clint. You guys aren’t doing the big things either.

Twins 11, Royals 2: Another day against the Royals another double-digit offensive output for the Twins. Another big day for Danny Valencia too, who went 4 for 5 with three RBI.  And the 13th win for Carl Pavanostache.

Reds 12, Brewers 4: Cincinnati raps out 19 hits and pull back into a tie in the NL Central. This was probably the ugliest game of the night. Eleven pitchers allow 28 hits, neither starter goes four innings and the whole shebang lasts 3:41. Edinson Volquez is probably back from surgery too soon, by the way. He may feel good but he has no command.

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.