And That Happened: Wednesday's Scores and Highlights

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Braves 5, Marlins 1: Sometimes there’s a man. I won’t say a hero, ’cause, what’s a hero?
But sometimes, there’s a man. And I’m talkin’ about Brooks Conrad here.
Sometimes, there’s a man, well, he’s the man for his time and place. He
fits right in there. And that’s Brooks Conrad, in Atlanta (1 for 4, HR, 3 RBI).

Padres 3, Cubs 0: San Diego snaps out of it and stays alive. A four-hitter led by Chris Young for five innings and finished by the pen. If the Padres do make it into the playoffs, Young will be huge for them. Partially because he’s 6’10” — that’s huge! — but also because he has an ERA of 0.90 in four starts this year.

Giants 3, Diamondbacks 1: But thanks to the Braves and Giants winning, the Padres don’t gain on anyone.  Eleven Ks in seven innings for Lincecum and a three-run home run for Pat Burrell. Burrell’s homer really shouldn’t count though, what with him being a guy who the Giants just went out and got and slapped “San Francisco” across his chest.

Rangers 6, Mariners 5: A walkoff strikeout. In which the winning team struck out. Classic. You gotta see it to believe it. The beautiful thing about this was that Nelson Cruz had to swing at a wild pitch for it work. If I ran the Rangers’ kangaroo court I’d probably fine him for that even if it did constitute the winning, um, strikeout.

Indians 4, Tigers 0; Indians 4, Tigers 3: Here’s something I’m having trouble processing: Johnny Damon’s start in the first game made him only the fifth player in history to play in 140 games in 15 consecutive seasons.
The others: Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Brooks Robinson
and Pete Rose. I never would have been able to come up with that list. I probably would have put Ripken on it and been wrong (thanks 1994 strike!). I never would have put Damon on it. Indians sweep the doubleheader, by the way.

Brewers 8, Mets 7; Brewers 3, Mets 1: In the first game, Milwaukee had a six run lead, blew it, and then came back to win it on a Prince Fielder RBI single in the eighth. According to the game story, only “several hundred fans” were in the crowd. In the second, Trevor Hoffman got the save. He wouldn’t have been closing if John Axford hadn’t closed the first game, but now he has 601 instead of 600. I can’t tell you how dissatisfying it is that he’s not finishing with a round number. It’s like one blade of grass sticking up out of the middle of an otherwise manicured lawn.

Angels 2, Athletics 1: The first sentence of the AP game story: “Torii Hunter’s two-out single had barely hit the outfield grass when pink fireworks shot up from the fake rock pile at Angel Stadium.” That sounds less like a game story than the opening lines of a novel written by a sophomore creative writing student. It’s about suburban ennui and the lack of authenticity in 21st century America. He wrote it in his parents’ basement in a upper middle class enclave — maybe Lake Forest, Illinois — right after an argument with his father about the scratch he put in door of the Volvo on the way back from Hot Topic, where he was buying a Che Guevara shirt.

Dodgers 7, Rockies 6: Matt Kemp — who hit a two-run homer on Tuesday night — smacked a grand slam yesterday. It’s been a long season, but he’s ending it strong: “End strong and give ’em a little preview of what is to come next year,” he said after the game. If the Dodgers sweep the Dbacks this weekend, they end at an even .500.

Cardinals 4, Pirates 1: With the exception of Colby Rasmus, the Cardinals basically put out the pu pu platter lineup. Really, it was one of the few times all year when the Pirates could be said to have had decidedly better hitters going than the opposition did. Didn’t matter, though, as the Bucs just couldn’t figure out P.J. Walters (7 IP, 3 H, 0 ER).

Astros 2, Reds 0: I’m kind of busy so I don’t have time to check the game story here, but based on the lineup that the Reds were running out for this one, I assume it was called in favor of the Astros when it got dark and the Reds batters had to go home. I mean, they have school this morning, and they get cranky if they don’t get in their jammies and into bed before 9.
 
Orioles 2, Rays 0: A capacity crowd of 36,973 was on hand! Which means that, once you take away the 20,000 free ones the team handed out, actual paid attendance was lower last night than it was on Tuesday. Eh, whatever. They’ll sell out their playoff games, people will ring those damn cowbells and wear the big blue mohawk wigs again, and we’ll all be wishing they stayed home. In other news: Kevin Millwood is still alive (7 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 7K).

Phillies 7, Nationals 1: The Phillies rested the starters they didn’t rest on Tuesday night and threw out Blanton instead of Oswalt. This time they cruise instead of lose. They should just play split squad games against themselves until the playoffs start. I’d watch that. Wouldn’t you watch that?  Adam Dunn got the golden sombrero (0 for 4, 4Ks) in what could have been his last home game as a Nat.

Blue Jays 8, Yankees 4: Know what’s gonna be hilarious? When Javier Vazquez signs with some big-park NL team next season and goes 15-8 with a 2.85 ERA. He and Carl Pavano can do commercials together. Yankees fans heads will explode. For now though, well, yuck (4.2 IP, 10 H, 7 ER). A-Rod hit a bomb to give him 30 on the year to go with his 100+ RBI. He has strung a bunch of those together.

Twins 4, Royals 2: According to the game story, “Delmon Young became the fifth Minnesota Twin to hit 20 home runs, 40 doubles and drive in 100 runs in the same season.” The story said he “joined some elite company.”  Then the elite company was listed: Kirby Puckett, Justin Morneau, Torii Hunter and Michael Cuddyer. OK, I’ll grant you Puckett — Hall of Famer — and Morneau — former MVP — but Cuddyer and Hunter aren’t exactly “elite.” I mean, if I was running Club Awesome I’d probably allow my doorman to let them in eventually, but I’d probably have him make them cool their heels behind the velvet rope for a few minutes. And they would NOT get a nice table once inside.

White Sox 5, Red Sox 2: Josh Beckett finishes the season 6-6 with a 5.78 ERA. Thank GOD for that contract extension, or else the Sox wouldn’t have had this guy at $15.75 million a year through 2014. That’s a risk they could not have taken.

Cubs, Jake Arrieta avoid arbitration at $10.7 million

Jake Arrieta
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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The Associated Press is reporting that the Cubs and starter Jake Arrieta have avoided arbitration, agreeing to a $10.7 million salary for the 2016 season. That marks the highest salary on a one-year deal for a pitcher with four years of service, the AP notes. Arrieta and the Cubs were set to go before an independent arbitrator but now can simply focus on the season ahead.

Arrieta, 29, is in his second of three years of arbitration eligibility. He had filed for $13 million while the Cubs countered at $7.5 million. The $5.5 million gap was the largest among players who did not come to terms with their respective teams by the January deadline. The $10.7 million salary is $450,000 above the midpoint between the two submitted figures.

Arrieta won the National League Cy Young Award for his performance this past season, narrowly edging out Zack Greinke, then with the Dodgers. Arrieta led the majors with 22 wins, four complete games, and three shutouts. With that, he compiled a 1.77 ERA and a 236/48 K/BB ratio across 229 innings.

Once a top prospect in the Orioles’ minor league system, Arrieta struggled in the majors but found immediate success with the Cubs in 2013 after the O’s traded him along with Pedro Strop in exchange for Steve Clevenger and Scott Feldman.

Giants sign Conor Gillaspie to a minor league deal

Los Angeles Angels third baseman Conor Gillaspie is unable to hold on to the ball after catching a grounder hit by Kansas City Royals' Lorenzo Cain in the fourth inning of a baseball game at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., Friday, Aug. 14, 2015. (AP Photo/Colin E. Braley)
AP Photo/Colin E. Braley
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Per Baseball America’s Matt Eddy, the Giants have signed infielder Conor Gillaspie to a minor league deal. Gillaspie was selected by the Giants in the supplemental round of the 2008 draft, then was traded to the White Sox in February 2013.

Gillaspie, 28, hit a meager .228/.269/.359 with four home runs and 24 RBI in 253 plate appearances between the White Sox and Angels during the 2015 season. Almost all of his playing time has come at third base but he can also play first base if needed.

The Giants, thin on depth, will allow Gillaspie to audition in spring training for a spot on the 25-man roster.

Joe Nathan plans to pitch in 2016

Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Joe Nathan throws against the Chicago White Sox in the ninth inning of a baseball game in Detroit Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2014. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
AP Photo/Paul Sancya
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Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports that free agent reliever Joe Nathan, recovering from Tommy John surgery, plans to pitch in 2016 according to his agent Dave Pepe. According to Pepe, Nathan’s workouts are “going well” and the right-hander is “definitely planning on playing this year.”

Nathan, 41, got the final out on Opening Day (April 6) against the Twins before going on the disabled list with a flexor strain in his right elbow, causing him to miss the next 161 games. He will likely be able to contribute out of the bullpen in late May or early June if he has no setbacks. On a minor league deal or incentive-laden major league deal, Nathan could make for a low-risk gamble.

Over a 15-season career that dates back to 1999 (he did not pitch in the majors in 2001 or 2010), Nathan has 377 saves with a 2.89 ERA and a 967/340 K/BB ratio over 917 innings.

The Rays are considering reliever Tyler Clippard

New York Mets pitcher Tyler Clippard throws during the eighth inning of Game 4 of the National League baseball championship series against the Chicago Cubs Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2015, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh
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On Thursday, we learned that the Diamondbacks were still considering free agent reliever Tyler Clippard. You can add the Rays to the list as well, per Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times.

The Rays traded lefty reliever Jake McGee to the Rockies in exchange for outfielder Corey Dickerson in late January, so Clippard would be able to slot right in behind closer Brad Boxberger. Clippard, 30, compiled a 2.92 ERA with 64 strikeouts and 31 walks over 71 innings in a season split between the Athletics and Mets. The strikeout rate was at its lowest since the right-hander become a full-time reliever in 2009, and his walk rate was at its highest since 2010, which may be a factor in his still being a free agent in February.