And That Happened: Tuesday's Scores and Highlights

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Reds 3, Astros 2: If you’re gonna clinch the division, do it on a walkoff jack. Way to go Jay Bruce. Way to go Cincinnati Reds. Cincinnati was a great baseball town. Maybe still is a great baseball town. Definitely can be a great baseball town going forward. But it needed this division title to cleanse itself of the negativity that has pervaded Reds baseball for so many years. Not so much the team itself, but the fans and their relationship to it. It needed guys like Joey Votto and Jay Bruce and Brandon Phillips and, yes, Dusty Baker, to remind the town of how fun baseball really is.

Yankees 6, Blue Jays 1; Rays 5, Orioles 0: With these wins the Yankees and the Rays clinched playoff spots of their own. Both CC Sabathia (8.1 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 8K) and David Price (8 IP, 6 H, 0 ER, 8K) pitched gems. Lots of people will no doubt look at these games and decide that nice lines in clinching games = big money and put more steam behind what had been flagging Cy Young cases for each of them.

Mariners 3, Rangers 1: But anyone tempted to do so had best take heed: Felix Hernandez is still awesome: 8 IP, 5H, 1 ER, 5K). Will he start on Sunday, or was this it? Justin Smoak with a two-run homer that put the M’s up for good. Here’s hoping — for M’s fans’ sake — that this is a harbinger of thing to come, not just some weird spite thing against the Rangers.

Braves 3, Marlins 2: Eric Hinske’s pinch hit, two-run jack keeps the Braves on top in the wild card race. It was a another skin-of-their-teeth win, with Brooks Conrad (big RBI triple late in the game) and Melky Cabrera and Rick Ankiel (big defensive blunder, striking out with a runner on third with less than two outs) doing those things they do best.

Cubs 5, Padres 2: Alfonso Soriano hit two homers and the Padres bats continued to slumber. San Diego is now a game and a half back of the Braves in the wild card and are two back of the Giants with five to play.

Giants 4, Diamondbacks 2: Juan Uribe had a homer and Pablo Sandoval got a couple of hits, as the Giants moved one game closer to the playoffs. Sandoval: “Five more games. We have to play hard. Don’t get comfortable.” Nothin’ personal, but I have this feeling that Sandoval spends a large portion of his day trying to get comfortable.

Dodgers 9, Rockies 7: And so it ends for Colorado. All of these losses to the not-so-good teams in the last week — the Dbacks and Dodgers — may have put the final nail in the coffin, but their overall lack of consistency over the course of 162 games is the real cause of death. You can’t depend on a month’s worth of great play and do very well in this game.

Mets 4, Brewers 3: A two-run homer for David Wright and a two-run, game-winning double for Ruben Tejada. And Prince Fielder made a great defensive play in this one. That’s the first time I’ve ever written that. Now watch: per the Jayson Werth thing, Boras will start touting him as a centerfielder.

Nationals 2, Phillies 1: A walkoff homer for Adam Dunn against a Phillies lineup that I would have expected to have more bench players than it did a day after clinching. Howard, Utley, Rollins and Ibanez all got the start. Roy Osawalt did too, but he was yanked after 66 pitches, so this was clearly a less-than-100% outing for him, by design.

Royals 10, Twins 1: OK, I made a bit of fun of Ron Gardenhire for worrying about the Twins’ effort lately, but this is probably a legitimate concern at this point. Kila Ka’aihue hit two homers and had four RBI.

Pirates 7, Cardinals 2: The Cards were eliminated before this game was over thanks to Jay Bruce’s heroics in Cincinnati. Not that Cardinals fans knew it. According to several Cardinals writers who were tweeting during the game, the Cards out of town scoreboard wasn’t updated to show the Reds score for some time after it happened. The first sign to the crowd that the season had become a formality was the PA system blasting R.E.M.’s “It’s the End of the World As We Know It.”  Classic.

White Sox 5, Red Sox 4: Boston no doubt learned of their elimination in mid-game as well. Dayan Viciedo won it for the Chisox on a pinch-hit walkoff RBI single. Oh, and Daniel Bard blew a save in this one, so put that in your back pocket as you start gearing up for Boston’s hot stove season.

Angels 4, Athletics 2: I hope Peter Bourjos can hit in this league, because I’d sure like to see him do this sort of thing for a long time.

Tigers vs. Indians: Postponed: Let us keep our feet in wool slippers and mix hot punches–and talk about
mail carriers and messenger boys slipping along the icy sidewalks. Let
us write of olden, golden days and hunters of the Holy Grail and men
called “knights” riding horses in the rain, in the cold frozen rain for
ladies they loved.

Report: Teams reluctant to gamble on Cliff Lee

Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Cliff Lee throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park Thursday, July 31, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
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In Saturday’s column for the Boston Globe, Nick Cafardo suggests that free agent Cliff Lee is seeking a guaranteed major league deal between $6 and $8 million plus incentives. That is turning some otherwise interested teams away, as the lefty is still recovering from a torn flexor tendon in his left elbow. Lee hasn’t pitched since July 31, 2014.

Last month, Lee’s agent Darek Braunecker said the pitcher would need “a perfect fit” to pitch in 2016. He also noted that Lee has begun a full offseason throwing program.

In his most recent season, Lee compiled a 3.65 ERA with 72 strikeouts and 12 walks in 81 1/3 innings for the Phillies. The Phillies had signed him to a five-year, $120 million contract in December 2010 but declined a club option for the 2016 season, instead buying him out for $12.5 million.

Orioles reconsidering signing Yovani Gallardo

Yovani Gallardo
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
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In an article for MASN on Friday, Steve Melewski noted that the Orioles were reluctant to forfeit their first round draft pick (14th overall) in order to sign free agent starter Yovani Gallardo. The club is now reconsidering its stance and rechecking the right-handers medicals, MASN’s Roch Kubatko reports.

Gallardo, who turns 30 on February 27, posted a 3.42 ERA with 121 strikeouts and 68 walks over 184 1/3 innings for the Rangers last season. The Rangers had acquired him in a trade with the Brewers, sending Luis Sardinas, Corey Knebel, and minor leaguer Marcos Diplan to Milwaukee.

Gallardo has posted an ERA below 4.00 in six of his last seven seasons. He remains unsigned into February, however, because his strikeout rate has rapidly decreased with each year since 2012. Per FanGraphs, that rate was 23.7 percent in 2012, then went to 18.6 percent, 17.9 percent, and 15.3 percent progressively. Some of that may have to do with diminishing fastball velocity, as Gallardo’s 90.4 MPH average marked a career low among his eight full seasons with at least 100 innings pitched.

The Orioles lost starter Wei-Yin Chen, who signed with the Marlins, and the back end of their rotation is highly speculative with Kevin Gausman, Mike Wright, Odrisamer Despaigne, and Tyler Wilson. Adding a veteran like Gallardo, even if he is apparently declining, may be stabilizing.

Freddy Garcia is calling it a career

Screenshot 2016-02-07 at 10.16.43 AM
Elsa/Getty Images North America
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MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez passes along word from the Dominican Republic that right-hander Freddy Garcia will hang up his cleats for good after Sunday’s Caribbean Series championship game.

Garcia will start that game for the Tigres de Aragua out of Venezuela. He’s taking on Mexico’s Venados de Mazatlan.

“Venezuelan fans are expecting something good from Freddy and so is everybody,” said Tigres de Aragua manager Eddie Perez, who also serves as the bullpen coach for the Atlanta Braves. “Knowing that it’s his last game is going to make it very special. We all hope he pitches a really good game so he can retire in a good way and bring the title for Venezuela. Everybody who is rooting for Venezuela expects him to do well.”

Garcia’s last major league game was in the 2013 postseason. The 39-year-0ld will finish with a 4.15 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, and 6.4 K/9 in 2,264 career regular-season innings. He had a 3.26 ERA in 11 playoff starts, winning a World Series title with the White Sox in 2005.

Video: 2016 will be a season to remember

Carlos+Correa+Houston+Astros+v+Arizona+Diamondbacks+Ctyu5RiU3SWl
Christian Petersen/Getty Images North America
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MLB.com put together this very cool video montage reviewing the 2015 season and setting us up for what should be a wild 2016. Young stars, veterans chasing milestones, unpredictable divisional races.

It’s so close to spring training. Let’s do this.