And That Happened: Tuesday's Scores and Highlights

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Twins 6, Indians 4; Athletics 7, White Sox 2:  These combined results hand the central division to Minnesota. The Twins lost their All-Star closer to Tommy John surgery in March. They lost their MVP candidate first baseman to a concussion in July. Their reigning MVP catcher’s OPS is down 150 points from a year ago. Going in and along the way there was much reason to doubt. In the end they become the first team to clinch. Congratulations 2010 Minnesota Twins, you defied expectations and adversity. This moment is yours.

Phillies 5, Braves 3: I’ll probably spend much of the winter wondering what might have happened if, before this pivotal series started, the Braves had managed to find (a) a starting pitcher who had reached puberty; and (b) an outfielder — one friggin’ outfielder — better than Nate McLouth, Melky Cabrera, Matt Diaz and Rick Ankiel to play next to Heyward. But we must deal with the world as it is, not how we wish it would be, and the world is set up thusly: with the Phillies are the better team, 20-win Roy Halladay is the likely Cy Young Award winner and the the NL East title is now virtually assured of remaining in Philadelphia. And don’t look back, Atlanta, because somethin’ might be gainin’ on ya. Specifically . . .

Giants 1, Cubs 0: Matt Cain and Carlos Zambrano trade zeroes for six innings each, but Buster Posey comes through with a solo blast in the eighth. Good thing too, because . . .

Padres 6, Dodgers 0: Clayton Richard scattered, smothered and covered eight hits while shutting out the Dodgers. The Padres gained a game on the Braves in the wild card. The Dodgers, alas, were eliminated from playoff contention.

Diamondbacks 3, Rockies 1: Colorado, unfortunately, loses ground, falling 2.5 games behind the Giants and three off the wild card pace. Joe Saunders (8 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 7K) must have had laser-like control last night, huh Carlos Gonzalez? “He was throwing balls everywhere and we were making it a lot easier on him because we were swinging at bad pitches.” Oh, well, in that case.

Yankees 8, Rays 3: The real Yankees starting lineup — which we haven’t seen much of lately — has returned this week, and with it the Yankees’ winning ways have as well. Funny how that works. This one was never really in doubt after a five-spot in the first, thanks in part to a Nick Swisher bomb. Oh and Jorge Posada may or may not have reached first base on a phantom hit by pitch. But really, I don’t have the energy to get worked up about this again so soon after last week’s Jeter thing. Maybe if it happened next week I’d muster some outrage at the outrage and play the frame-the-issue game and all of that again, but for now let’s all just pretend it never happened, OK?

Marlins 5, Mets 2: The Mets are officially eliminated from playoff contention. All of you who had paid for postseason ticket deposits may now apply for refunds.

Pirates 5, Cardinals 2: Break up the Pirates. Four in a row for Pittsburgh, their first four-game winning streak in over a year. Lately I have been making a habit of mentioning that the Cards have been losing to teams they shouldn’t be losing to, but I had no idea it was this bad. According to the game story, they’ve dropped seven straight series against sub-.500 teams.

Reds 4, Brewers 3: The Cardinals loss and the Reds win drops the magic number to four. The only negative here is seeing Jim Edmonds hurt himself on a home run trot. Stay down, champ! Stay down!

Orioles 9, Red Sox 1: Ty Wigginton hit a three-run homer in the seventh to put the O’s up 4-1, and then the Sox bullpen figured, eh, what the hell, and allowed five more. Four of those by Jon Papelbon, by the way, as he makes his impending non-tender easier and easier for everyone involved.

Blue Jays 5, Mariners 3: Three homers for the Jays. Ichiro went 4 for 4, putting him at 197 hits on the year. His 200-hit season streak is about all that’s left for anyone to check off a baseball to-do list in Seattle before putting things in storage for the winter.

Nationals 8, Astros 4: J.A. Happ threw six shutout innings and then the Houston bullpen allowed eight runs on eight hits over the next two. That’s special. And don’t look now but Chris Johnson was a triple short of the cycle!

Royals 9, Tigers 6: Detroit had a 3-0 lead after four but then gave up nine runs before a mini-rally in the ninth which made the final score look closer than the game really was.

Angels 2, Rangers 0: Ervin Santana with the five-hit shutout. I don’t think you can say “scattered” with five hits, though, which makes me sad because I was going to use another Waffle House menu item for this one like I did in the Padres-Dodgers recap. Alas.

Kolten Wong lashes out after losing his starting role with the Cardinals

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Kolten Wong is no longer the only second baseman being considered for a starting role on the Cardinals’ roster, and he’s not happy about it. On Saturday, GM John Mozeliak and manager Mike Matheny hinted that Wong could lose playing time to Jedd Gyorko or Greg Garcia in 2017 — in other words, an infielder who brings a little more pop at the plate. Prior to the Cardinals’ game against the Marlins on Sunday, Wong gave his heated response to the media. Via Ben Frederickson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

I don’t think you give somebody a contract for no reason,” Wong said. “When you are given a contract, you are expected to get a chance to work through some things and figure yourself out. Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista, all these guys never figured their stuff out until later on down the road. It’s the big leagues. It’s tough, man. For me, the biggest thing is I just need people to have my back. When that comes, it will be good. But, I think right now, it’s just staying with my play, understanding I’m working toward getting myself more consistent, understanding what kind of player I can be. If that’s going to be with another team, so be it.

When pressed, Wong said that he would rather be traded away from St. Louis than step into a limited role with the team. “I don’t want to be here wasting my time,” he told the press. “I know what kind of player I am. If I don’t have the belief here, then I’ll go somewhere else.” The 26-year-old was inked to a five-year, $25.5 million extension prior to the 2016 season, complete with a $12.5 million option and $1 million buyout.

Part of Wong’s frustration stems from the Cardinals’ backtracking on their stated commitment to him as their starting second baseman last winter. Mozeliak admitted that while Wong had the defensive tools necessary to hold down the position, he failed to impress at the plate. It’s an argument that Wong hasn’t been able to rebut this spring, going 8-for-44 with two extra bases and 10 strikeouts in camp. He hasn’t looked much better in the regular season, sustaining a career .248/.309/.370 batting line with a .678 OPS and 5.1 fWAR over four years with the organization.

Still, the second baseman feels that he should have been given some heads up that he was playing to keep his starting role this spring, admitting that he entered camp with the mentality of someone who had a guaranteed spot on the Cardinals’ roster and not someone whose job security was dependent on his day-to-day results. “I need the time to consistently figure out how to be me and succeed at this level,” said Wong. “Everybody goes through it. Not everybody is Mike Trout.”

The Tigers are trying to convert Anthony Gose into a pitcher

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Tigers’ center fielder Anthony Gose wants to try his hand at pitching, according to comments made by manager Brad Ausmus on Sunday. Gose is poised to start the year in Triple-A Toledo after receiving a midseason demotion to Double-A last summer following an altercation with Triple-A manager Lloyd McClendon.

While the experiment won’t detract from Gose’s outfield work in Triple-A, the 26-year-old is expected to take on additional bullpen sessions throughout the year. According to MLB.com’s Jason Beck, the left-handed hitter last took the mound in high school, where his fastball was clocked as fast as 97 m.p.h. Gose ultimately rejected the idea of starting his professional career as a pitcher, despite receiving favorable assessments from scouts.

Ausmus said the idea first surfaced at the end of the 2016 season. It appears to be a fallback option for the outfielder, who has struggled at the plate over his five-year career in the majors. Via Chris McCosky of the Detroit News:

Doolittle in Oakland did it and he was in the big leagues a couple of years later,” Ausmus said. “It’s going to take some time. He’s going to have to be a sponge and catch up on experience fast. But we feel it’s worth investigating.