And That Happened: Sunday's Scores and Highlights

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Diamondbacks 14, Mets 1: I was tempted to say that Adam LaRoche’s two three-run home runs yesterday are just the latest example of second-half greatness from a great second-half player, but check out his month-by-month OPSeseses: April: .953; May: .787; June: .698; July: .669. Contrary to his reputation, he’s gotten worse as the season has gone on. I wonder if those bombs are the opening salvo to a furious August and September to salvage that reputation.  Jerry Manuel on the Mets’ performance: “We didn’t pitch, we didn’t hit, we didn’t play defense.”

Rays 3, Yankees 0:
That’s eight of nine for the Rays, who pull to within one of the
Bombers. Joe Girardi felt obligated to use all of his shiny new toys —
Kearns! Berkman! Wood! — while giving A-Rod and Brett Gardner the day
off.  Made the box score look all Central Divisiony to me.

Reds 2, Braves 1: Some shaky defense and tons and tons of stranded runners by the Braves wastes an excellent performance by Tommy Hanson. Both Reds runs were the result of Braves’ defensive miscues: if Jason Heyward didn’t try to make a diving catch on Brandon Phillips’ triple it would have at best been a double with no run scoring, and of course, Alex Gonzalez’ error gave the Reds their second run. I’d rather they just get beat 14-1. When that happens I just let the game fall out of my head. These coulda-shoulda-woulda games stick with me all damn afternoon.

Phillies 6, Nationals 4: Philly had to come from behind and then get two RBI singles in the 11th to avoid a sweep by the Nats. Charlie Manuel had no problem giving Brad Lidge the ball to close this one despite him giving up the walkoff homer on Saturday night. Ryan Howard sprained his ankle in the first inning and was hobbling around the clubhouse in crutches after the game. For as bad as the Braves have been playing lately, if Lidge keeps closing and key players keep getting hurt for Philly, you have to like Atlanta’s chances.

Angels 4, Rangers 1: Jered Weaver and Cliff Lee are probably the two best starters in the AL this year. The former outpitched the latter yesterday. The Angels are still way back, but taking two of three from Texas may be the start of something, right?

Padres 5, Marlins 4: Josh Johnson has his worst start of the year, giving up five earned runs. Indeed, it was the first time he had given up more than three since his first start back on April 5th.  Ryan Ludwick gets a pinch hit and comes around to score in his Padre debut.

Rockies 8, Cubs 7: The Rockies are a streaky bunch. They take their fourth in a row after that big losing skid coming out of the break. Dexter Fowler saved the game with this awesome catch in the ninth, but he probably bought himself some time on the DL too. Way to take one for the team, Dex. Bad day medically all around, as Cubs’ starter Carlos Silva left the game in the first with an irregular heartbeat.

Cardinals 9, Pirates 1: I know it’s statistically impossible, but it at least seems like every single time Adam Wainwright pitches his line looks like this: 7 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 5K.

Twins 4, Mariners 0: Francisco Liriano struck out 11 and gave up only two hits. The M’s have lost seven in a row, three of which have been shutouts. Just terrible, terrible baseball. Who gets fired first: Wakamatsu or Manuel?

Astros 5, Brewers 2: See, all the Astros needed to do in order to go on a tear was trade away their best pitcher and best hitter. Seems obvious in hindsight. A pinch hit grand slam in the seventh by Jason Michaels was the big blast here.

Royals 5, Orioles 4: Bruce Chen was in a hell of a jam in the sixth — bases loaded, no one out — but reliever Kanekoa Texeira bailed him out. Texeira after the game: “I told Bruce today, ‘Big guy, I got your back. Bruce, don’t worry.” Amazing. No, not Texeira’s foresight, but rather that was the first time in his 33 years on Earth that anyone has ever called Bruce Chen “big guy.” By the way: anyone know what ever happened to Jung Bong?

White Sox 4, Athletics 1: A complete game with 11 strikeouts for Gio Gonzalez, but it was not enough on a day when Gavin Floyd had a perfect game into the sixth inning. Dude’s been on fire for basically two months and the Chisox simply don’t lose at home anymore.  Speaking of New Comiskey: I was chatting with my HBT Daily/Extra cohort Tiffany the other day, who just got back from a trip to Chicago. She contends that a day at Comiskey is way better than a day at Wrigley. I’ve not been there, but based on her and others’ descriptions — and based on my own experiences at Wrigley — I think I can see that. I bet that, rooting interests notwithstanding, serious Chicago baseball fans would make a strong case for the South Side simply because you don’t have all of that party atmosphere baloney going on down there. Thoughts?

Red Sox 4, Tigers 3: Nice vulture job by Papelbon, as he blows the save in the ninth yet was the pitcher of record when the Tigers threw the ball away to allow the winning run score on a bunt single in the bottom of the ninth. I wonder if some day Clay Buchholz will have 288 wins or something and some baseball writer will keep him off his Hall of Fame ballot because he “just didn’t know how to win.”

Indians 5, Blue Jays 4: If Cleveland could play Toronto 162 games a year they’d be, like, the best team ever. They’ve taken six of seven from the Jays, this one on the strength of a two-run homer from Asdrubal Cabrera.

Giants 2, Dodgers 0:
Matt Cain threw shutout ball into the eighth, and both Giants runs came
in on an Edgar Renteria triple in the sixth. I usually watch a good bit
of the Sunday night game if not all of it, but I randomly picked up
“Ball Four” last night and started thumbing through it. By the time I
looked up I realized that the damn game was most of the way over.
I certainly consider it time well spent, however.

Reid Brignac is trying to become a switch hitter

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL - FEBRUARY 26:  Reid Brignac #4 of the Atlanta Braves poses on photo day at Champion Stadium on February 26, 2016 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images
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Veteran utilityman Reid Brignac is in camp with the Astros on a minor league deal. The 31-year-old is close to being done as a major leaguer as he owns a career .219/.264/.309 triple-slash line across parts of nine seasons. In an effort to prolong his big league career, Brignac is now attempting to become a switch-hitter, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart reports.

I’m going to try it out this year. It was something that I just thought long and hard about and I was like, ‘OK, I’m going to try and see how it goes.’ I used to switch-hit when I was younger off and on, nothing consistent. I could always handle the bat right-handed. I play golf right-handed, so I do a lot of things that way that feel natural.

I just want to get to the point where I’m trying to stay in games, not get pinch-hit for, not starting games because a lefty is starting. … That could help me stay in the games longer. I’m trying to add a new element. I play multiple positions and now if I can switch hit and be consistent at it, then that can only help me.

As Brignac mentions, he’s also verstile. He’s a shortstop by trade, but has also logged plenty of innings at second base and third base, and has occasionally played corner outfield.

There aren’t any examples — at least that I can think of — where players began switch-hitting late in their careers and actually succeeding in the major leagues. As the saying goes, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. But here’s hoping Brignac bucks the trend.

Video: Andrelton Simmons makes a heads-up play to catch Carlos Asuaje off first base

ANAHEIM, CA - AUGUST 03:  Andrelton Simmons #2 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim returns to the dugout after scoring in the second inning against the Oakland Athletics at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on August 3, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)
Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images
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Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons fell off the map a bit last year due to a combination of the Angels’ mediocrity, Simmons’ lack of offense, and a month-plus of missed action due to a torn ligament in his left thumb.

Simmons is still as good and as smart as ever on defense. That was on full display Monday when the Angels hosted the Padres for an afternoon spring exhibition.

With a runner on first base and nobody out in the top of the second inning, Carlos Asuaje grounded a 2-0 J.C. Ramirez fastball to right field. The runner, Hunter Renfroe, advanced to third base. Meanwhile, Asuaje wandered a little too far off the first base bag. Simmons cut off the throw to first base, spun around and fired to Luis Valbuena at first base. Valbuena swiped the tag on Asuaje for the first out of the inning.