And That Happened: Thursday's Scores and Highlights

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Cubs 1, Padres 0: It’s not the end, but it certainly is the beginning of the end for the Padres. They need to sweep the Giants to force a playoff for the NL West. They need to sweep the Giants and hope that the Braves lose 2 of 3 in order to get the Wild Card (or, I guess, take two of three from the Giants and hope the Braves get swept). Given that they can’t score a run to save their damn lives, however, neither scenario seems possible. Close — oh so close — but no cigar, it would seem, for the 2010 San Diego Padres.

Giants 4, Diamondbacks 1: San Francisco clinches no worse than a tie for the West, thanks to a Buster Posey blast. I still think Heyward would be my choice — and I say that objectively, not as a fan boy — but Posey may have won the Rookie of the Year Award for himself with that homer.

Royals 3, Rays 2: There’s a decent chance that this was Zack Greinke’s last start as a Royal. If so, it was a good one (7 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 9K).

Cardinals 6, Rockies 1: A four-hitter for Chris Carpenter busts him out of a terrible slump. The Rockies’ season-ending skid has been sad to watch. Maybe not as sad as, oh, Glenn Danzig wearing his own band’s shirt while carrying kitty litter, but pretty sad.

Marlins 11, Pirates 9: The Feesh had a 10-2 lead night to start the seventh inning, thanks in part to Mike Stanton’s five RBI night. The Pirates fought back, with Pedro Alvarez leading the charge with five RBIs of his own. It wasn’t enough, though, as Florida held on.

Rangers 3, Angels 2: Cliff Lee is ready for the playoffs (7 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 8K). His bullpen may not be — the save, she was blown, giving Lee a no-decision — but this all about tuning up right now for the Rangers. Josh Hamilton is supposed to be back tonight. Whether he can swing a bat is, by far, the most important question facing this team.

Brewers 9, Mets 2: Aw, darn. That loss ensures that the Mets will have a losing season. And here I had such hope.  I am sort of rooting for a Mets sweep of the Nats this weekend, though, because Ken Davidoff of Newsday predicted that they’d go 80-82 this season, and I love it when improbable, shot-in-the-dark predictions like that come true.

Reds 9, Astros 4: Bronson Arroyo wins his 17th as the Reds trounce the Astros. Jonny Gomes, Drew Stubbs and Brandon Phillips all homered. I don’t know if any NL team can beat Philly in the playoffs, but I like the Reds’ chances better than the Braves or the Giants. They have some bats there at least.

Blue Jays 13, Twins 2: A bloodbath for Minnesota, as they gave up two homers to Juan Jose Bautista [sue me, I was sleepy] — one an absolute monster shot — and two more to Edwin Encarnacion. Molina and Snider each had one as well.  Three of them came off Francisco Liriano. I’m not saying it’s time to panic yet, Twins fans, but if you do start panicking, no one is going to think you’re crazy.

White Sox 8, Red Sox 2: Paul Konerko hit a grand slam, spoiling Jon Lester’s shot at 20 wins. At one point, late in the game, the power went out, darkening U.S. Cellular Field. Everyone was calm, though, and eventually the lights came back on. If this had happened in the 70s, there would have been chaos and violence and all manner of mayhem. Man, I miss the 70s.

Athletics 8, Mariners 1: Gio Gonzalez beat the M’s to get his 15th win
of the season. Which, based on my reading of national baseball
commentary, makes him a better pitcher than Felix Hernandez.

Tigers vs. Orioles: Postponed: There is not even silence in the mountains, but a dry, sterile thunder without rain.  Wait, that’s not true. It rained a butt-ton yesterday. Let us go then, you and I, when the evening is spread out against the sky, for a doubleheader. Till human voices wake us, and we drown. 

Evan Longoria: “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base.”

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The Rays were busy over the weekend, trading starter Jake Odorizzi to the Twins, designating All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, and then picking up C.J. Cron in a deal with the Angels. The Rays saved about $4 million — Odorizzi’s $6.3 million less Cron’s $2.3 million salary — and picked up a prospect. They’re still on the hook for Dickerson’s $5.95 million salary until they can find a trade partner, which seems likely.

Those are some head-scratching moves if you’re a Rays fan or a member of the Rays. Dickerson hit .282/.325/.490 with 27 home runs, 62 RBI, and 84 runs scored in 629 plate appearances last season, part of which resulted in his first trip to the All-Star Game. Designating him for assignment is strictly a financial move, assuming he can be traded. The Rays are currently operating with a payroll below $70 million. This comes just a week and a half after Rays ownership proposed the public footing most of the bill for the club’s new stadium. And the Rays had traded third baseman Evan Longoria — then the face of the franchise — to the Giants earlier this offseason.

Longoria expressed sympathy for Rays fans for having to put up with this. Via Andrew Baggarly, Longoria said of the curious Dickerson move, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base. … I’m not going to take too many shots but it’s pretty obvious that guy is a valuable player and didn’t deserve to be DFAd. Corey was our best player last year.”

Longoria isn’t quite on the money there. By WAR, Dickerson ranked fifth among position players on the team, according to Baseball Reference. FanGraphs is also in agreement. Still, it’s indisputable that Dickerson, who turns 29 years old this May, more than pulled his weight. The Rays do not have a surfeit of starting outfielders, so it wasn’t like they were making room for other capable players. Mallex Smith, who put up a .684 OPS in 282 PA last year, is slated to start in left field at the moment. Designating Dickerson for assignment, as well as trading Longoria and Odorizzi, were simply cost-cutting decisions.

The Rays’ M.O. has been part of the problem leading to the current stagnant free agent market (sans Eric Hosmer‘s eight-year deal on Saturday). Teams like the Rays, Phillies, Reds, and Tigers have been explicitly putting out non-competitive teams in order to facilitate a rebuilding process. Longoria is right to express sympathy for Rays fans, who see their favorite team worsening a roster that went 80-82 last year. The Rays haven’t finished at .500 or above since 2013 and doesn’t figure to halt the streak this year.