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.

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.