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.

Angels ink Javy Guerra to minor league deal

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Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times reports that the Angels have agreed to terms on a minor league contract with right-handed reliever Javy Guerra. The deal includes an invitation to major league spring training.

Guerra was suspended 50 games by Major League Baseball last July after testing positive for a drug of abuse. That suspension is now over, though Guerra is probably ticketed for the Angels’ Triple-A affiliate to begin the 2016 season.

The 30-year-old made just three major league appearances in 2015 for the White Sox before getting outrighted off Chicago’s 40-man roster. He does own a 2.87 ERA in 150 1/3 career innings, but it has come with bouts of inconsistency and unreliability.

Maybe he can get everything going in the right direction with Anaheim.

Braves sign reliever Carlos Torres

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As first reported by Bill Shanks of Fox Sports 1670, the Braves have signed right-handed reliever Carlos Torres to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.

Torres was waived by the Mets in January, somewhat surprisingly, and elected to become a free agent. The 33-year-old ultimately chose Atlanta, where he should have a good shot at an Opening Day roster out of spring training with the rapidly-rebuilding Braves.

Torres posted an ugly 4.68 ERA in 57 2/3 innings last season for the Mets, but he registered a gorgeous 3.06 ERA and 96 strikeouts across 97 innings in 2014.

If he gets off to a good start in 2016, he could become valuable trade bait.

Blue Jays will have a closer competition this spring

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Roberto Osuna became the youngest pitcher to ever play for the Blue Jays last season at age 20 and he rose to the challenge with a 2.58 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, and 75/16 K/BB ratio in 69 2/3 frames. Osuna eventually took over as Toronto’s closer, earning 20 regular-season saves and one in the American League Division Series — a five-out effort in Game 5 to close out the visiting Rangers.

But the Jays upgraded the back end of their bullpen this winter, acquiring Drew Storen from the Nationals in early January for speedy outfielder Ben Revere. Jesse Chavez was also brought to Toronto in a trade with the A’s.

Storen has more experience at closer than Osuna, and Storen struggled when the Nationals tried to put him in a setup role. Storen, in his final year of salary arbitration, also gets paid much more. He’s probably going to enter spring training as the favorite for the Jays’ ninth-inning gig, but there will be a competition …

Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins told Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca on Wednesday that he doesn’t expect the team to choose between Osuna or Storen until midway through spring training, if not later.

There’s been talk of making Osuna a starter, so add that wrinkle.

Storen, 28, boasts 95 career major league saves.

Orioles plotting late-offseason push? Gallardo, Fowler, Alvarez, Bruce in consideration

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Baltimore’s front office appears to be lining up a run of potential roster additions leading into the beginning of spring training.

We’ve already passed along the reports suggesting they are close to a three-year deal with free agent starter Yovani Gallardo, but now FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal adds that free agent outfielder Dexter Fowler could be next on the Orioles’ target list. It they get those two deals done, the O’s could then chase free agent slugger Pedro Alvarez.

Rosenthal says the Orioles are even eyeing Jay Bruce of the Reds, though the FOX reporter hears the O’s might not have the prospects to pull off that kind of trade.

The focus for the Orioles out of the gate this winter was re-signing Matt Wieters and Chris Davis. Wieters accepted his one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer in November and Davis was locked up to a seven-year, $161 million contract in mid-January.

Now the O’s are spending a little leftover cash on late-offseason additions to improve their position in what should be a tight 2016 American League East race.