And That Happened: Sunday’s scores and highlights

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Cardinals 6, Giants 1: So both my kids came down with strep throat at the same time. Figures. And it figures it would happen on the first truly warm and nice day of the spring. Sunny, breezy, pushing 80 and, with the exception of the trip to the urgent care to get the throat swab and antibiotics prescription, we’re inside all day. Which is cool. Make the most of it. Turn on a baseball game. I turned on this one late in the afternoon. The kids are too sick to go out and play but not so sick to where they can’t watch the game over my shoulder, telling me which players they think are lame (i.e. all of them), that it’s funny how, given that my name is Craig Allen, that there’s a player named Allen Craig, and reminding me when they see Tim Lincecum in the dugout — the only player they really know by sight — that mommy thinks he’s cute like those sketchy skater boys she used to date before she met me.  And yes, the kids know this. He’s “mom’s boyfriend.”  How was your Sunday?

Phillies 3, Braves 0: Cole Hamels was on point, striking out eight over seven innings, rendering last start’s boo-fest ancient history. The saving grace of the kids being sick is that I was at the urgent care for most of this one. Which I would have been watching and not enjoying too terribly much if they weren’t sick, so thanks streptococcal pharyngitis! To call the Braves’ offense sputtering is an insult to the concept of sputtering. Apart from Friday’s “where the hell did that come from” game against Cliff Lee, Braves hitters couldn’t bust a grape in a fruit fight.

Red Sox 4, Yankees 0: Josh Beckett looked better last night than he had in years. The velocity was up, the command was there and the Yankees didn’t have much of a chance. Open question: homers aside — and they do have a lot of them — is this a Yankees offense with real problems, or did they just catch a good pitcher on the wrong night, recapturing something we all thought he had lost?

White Sox 6, Rays 1: Paul Konerko was rockin’ (two homers) Gavin Floyd was rollin’ (eight, innings no earned runs), and the Rays continue to reel.  Babara Ann.

Brewers 6, Cubs 5: The Brewers are on a roll — they’ve won five of six — and Prince Fielder is on a roll too. He hit a two-run jack in this one and is now is 11 for his last 18 with two home runs and 11 RBIs.  Ryan Braun and Casey McGehee hit two-run shots too, McGehee’s a pinch hit job that brought the Brewers from behind and put them on top to stay.

Angels 3, Blue Jays 1: Anaheim is on a roll too, winners of four of five. Jered Weaver struck out 15 Jays in seven and two-thirds. It was his career high and the most for an Angel pitcher since Chuck Finely struck out 15 Yankees in 1995.  Weaver is 3-0 on the season with a cool 0.87 ERA.

Astros 7, Marlins 1: J.A. Happ pitched some righteous baseball into the eighth inning and was 2 for 3 with a couple of RBI as well.  Someone confirm for me that the Astros announcers said that Happ “helped his own cause.”  Because if they didn’t, they get fined. It’s right there in the guild’s bylaws. No, I’m sorry, I can’t show you the guild’s bylaws.  They’re secret.

Padres 7, Dodgers 2: San Diego salvages one behind Aaron Harang. Ryan Ludwick and Nick Hundley were in the middle of the action offensively, scoring four runs, getting two hits driving in three and walking three times between them.

Indians 6, Mariners 4: And the Tribe sweeps the Mariners, who are doing a great job of validating the preseason doom and gloom. Erik Bedard was shelled for six runs on ten hits in four innings. That’s seven straight for the Erie Warriors.

Athletics 5, Twins 3: Oakland takes two of three in Minnesota, showing some signs of offensive life in the process. The Twins continue to struggle in that department. They’ve only scored 24 runs in their nine games so far this year.

Diamondbacks 10, Reds 8: Arizona came back from a 5-0 deficit. Chris Young hit a big three-run homer and Stephen Drew reached base five times and had three RBIs as the Dbacks take two of three from the Reds.

Rockies 6, Pirates 5: Seth Smith with the always exciting game-winning bases loaded walk in the seventh. The walk came off Mike Crotta, who walked three of the four batters he faced. The other one — Jason Giambi — hit an RBI single.  Nice win, but I love how the AP game story has the Rockies talking about how much they’re proving by winning on the road in the early going this year. As if a series against the Pirates breaks the mold or makes a statement or something.

Rangers 3, Orioles 0:  The Rangers have the best pitching in the AL right now and the second best offense. Other than that, I suppose they’re in good shape.

Royals 9, Tigers 5: I had been thinking before the season that for the Tigers to do anything this year, they needed Rick Porcello to put it together. He’s not putting it together. But hey, he’s consistent! In each of his first two starts he’s given up five runs on nine hits in five innings. Wilson Betemit went 4 for 4 with two doubles and a walk.

Nationals 7, Mets 3:  Chris Young deserved a better fate after allowing one run on one hit in seven innings, but that’s bullpens for ya. D.J. Carrasco gave up the lead in the eighth, Blaine Boyer gave up the game in the eleventh.

The 2017 Yankees are, somehow, plucky underdogs

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There’s a lot that has happened in the past year that I never, ever would’ve thought would or even could happen in America. Many of them are serious, some are not, some make me kinda happy and some make me terribly sad. I’m sure a lot of people have felt that way in this oddest of years.

There’s one thing in baseball, however, that still has me searching my feelings in a desperate effort to know what to feel: The New York Yankees are the postseason’s plucky underdogs.

This is not about them being lovable or likable — we touched on that last week — it’s more about the role they play in the grand postseason drama. A postseason they weren’t even supposed to be in.

None of the three writers of this website thought the Yankees would win the AL East or a Wild Card. ESPN had 35 “experts” make predictions back in March, and only one of them — Steve Wulf — thought the Yankees would make the postseason (he thought they’d win the division). I’m sure if you go over the plethora of professional prognosticator’s predictions a few would have the Yankees squeaking in to the postseason on the Wild Card, but that was nothing approaching a consensus view. Their 2017 regular season was a surprise to almost everyone, with the expectation of a solid, if unspectacular rebuilding year being greatly exceeded. To use a sports cliche, nobody believed in them.

Then came the playoffs. Most people figured the Yankees would beat the Twins in the Wild Card game and they did, but most figured they’d be cannon fodder for the Indians. And yep, they fell down early, losing the first two games of the series and shooting themselves in the foot in spectacular fashion in the process. Yet they came back, beating arguably the best team in baseball and certainly the best team in the American League in three straight games despite the fact that . . . nobody believed in them.

Now we’re in the ALCS. The Astros — the other choice for best team in the American League if you didn’t think the Indians were — jumped out to a 2-0 lead, quieting the Yankees’ powerful bats. While a lot of teams have come back from 0-2 holes in seven game series, the feel of this thing as late as Monday morning was that, even if the Yankees take a game at home, Houston was going to cruise into the World Series. Once again . . . nobody believed in them.

Yet, here we are on this late Wednesday morning, with the Yankees having tied things up 2-2. As I wrote this morning, you still have to like the Astros’ chances given that their aces, Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander, are set to go in Games 5 and 6. I’m sure a lot of people feel still like the Astros’ chances for that reason. So that leads us to this . . .

It’s one thing for no one to have, objectively, believed in the Yankees chances. It’s another thing, though, for the New York Yankees — the 27-time World Champions, the 40-time American League pennant winners, the richest team in the game, the house-at-the-casino, U.S. Steel and the Evil Empire all wrapped into one — to officially play the “nobody believed in us” card on their own account. That’s the stuff of underdogs. Of Davids facing Goliaths. Of The Little Guy, demanding respect that no one ever considered affording them. If you’re not one of those underdogs and you’re playing that card, you’re almost always doing it out of some weird self-motivational technique and no one else will ever take you seriously. And now you’re telling me the NEW YORK FRIGGIN’ YANKEES are playing that card?

Thing is: they’re right. They’ve totally earned the right to play it because, really, no one believed in them. Even tied 2-2, I presume most people still don’t, actually.

I don’t know how to process this. Nothing in my 40 years of baseball fandom has prepared me for the Yankees to be the David to someone else’s Goliath and to claim righteous entitlement to the whole “nobody believed in us” thing.

Which, as I said at the beginning, is nothing new in the year 2017. I just never thought it’d happen in baseball.