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.

Aledmys Diaz is trying to improve his defense with strobe glasses

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MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch reports that Cardinals’ shortstop Aledmys Diaz has been sporting a new look around Busch Stadium with a pair of “strobe glasses,” technology-enhanced specs designed to help athletes focus on the ball. Like a strobe light, the lenses of these glasses affect a player’s vision by rapidly changing opacity, giving its wearers the illusion that the objects they see are moving more slowly than normal. Once a player adjusts to the new speed of play, they gain a greater sense of control and are able to time their actions with more precision.

Diaz isn’t the first MLB player to utilize the technology, just the first Cardinals’ player to do so. It’s been tested by Bryce Harper, Corey Brown, Tommy Joseph, Austin Hedges and Joe Mauer, among others around the league, and has been used for everything from refining a catcher’s reflexes behind the plate to tweaking a hitter’s ability to track a pitch. Per Langosch, Diaz has been using the glasses to hone in on the ball during pregame drills, increasing both his confidence and response time on the field and improving his defense at short.

The shortstop has been the focus of some concern this season after seeing a sizable dip in his production at the plate, and his five fielding errors, 0.6 UZR and 0.6 fWAR haven’t helped matters, either. He sustained a minor thumb injury during an at-bat on Friday night, and was left off of the Cardinals’ starting lineup on Saturday, though manager Mike Matheny didn’t rule out his ability to pinch-hit during the series. While the strobe glasses are a good start, Diaz will need more than a pair of specs to match the spotlight-worthy performance he turned out during his rookie season in 2016.

Eduardo Rodriguez could rejoin the Red Sox rotation in July

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Red Sox’ left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez may finally get a chance at cracking the rotation again, assuming all goes well in Double-A Portland first. Rodriguez took the field prior to the club’s afternoon session with the Angels, firing 68 pitches in a simulated game as he prepared for an upcoming rehab assignment in Portland on Thursday.

The 24-year-old southpaw suffered a right knee subluxation during pregame warmups on June 1, and it’s been a slow path to recovery ever since. It’s not the first time Rodriguez has had issues with his right knee — he sustained a similar injury during spring training last year — and this time around, the Red Sox weren’t about to gamble with their starter’s health. Ian Browne of MLB.com reports that Rodriguez was put in a knee brace and underwent exercises designed to help him regain some mobility and stability while he worked back up to full strength on the mound.

He’ll still need to prove he can throw a 75- to 80-pitch outing in Double-A, and barring any significant setbacks, will likely rejoin the Red Sox’ pitching staff when they visit the Rangers next month. In the meantime, the club will continue to cycle starters through the No. 5 spot, which has seen no fewer than three different pitchers since Rodriguez hit the disabled list. The lefty is 4-2 in 10 starts this season after logging a 3.54 ERA, 3.1 BB/9 and career-high 9.6 SO/9 through his first 61 innings.