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 Phillies are trying out prospect J.P. Crawford at third base

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On Sunday, for the first time in his professional career, Phillies shortstop prospect J.P. Crawford started at third base. He picked up three hits in five at-bats, continuing his torrid pace. Since the start of July, he’s hitting .306/.397/.595 with 11 home runs, 28 RBI, 33 runs scored, and a 37/25 K/BB ratio in 199 plate appearances.

With September looming, the Phillies may be considering a promotion for Crawford. Shortstop, however, is currently taken by Freddy Galvis who has appeared in every game this season and has taken on a leadership role with the team. Meanwhile, third baseman Maikel Franco has been mired in a season-long slump as he’s carrying a devilish .666 OPS.

The Phillies haven’t been averse to trying their prospects out at new positions. Prior to his recent promotion, Rhys Hoskins had played only first base throughout his professional career, but the Phillies moved him to left field for a few games, then called him up to the majors. Hoskins has made nine starts in the outfield and two at first base in the majors thus far.

As MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki notes, the Phillies are also considering trying out second base prospect Scott Kingery at shortstop or third base before the end of the minor league season.

These aren’t long-term plans; it’s just a way for the Phillies to find meaningful playing time for their prospects and giving manager Pete Mackanin potential flexibility. Assistant GM Ned Rice said, “It benefits the player and benefits the team when more guys are able to play multiple positions. It just gives Pete [Mackanin] a lot more options at the big league level. The more guys we can bring up who have been exposed to different positions, the better.”

Players having great seasons under the radar

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Yesterday, I watched a myriad of defensive highlights from Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons (who also homered). Curious, I looked up his stats and found him among the leaders in Wins Above Replacement. And then I found a handful of other players having great seasons and realized I’ve hardly heard anything about them. Let this be my contribution towards raising them into the spotlight.

Andrelton Simmons (Angels): The 27-year-old is having the best offensive season of his career. He posted a .751 OPS in his rookie season, but that spanned only 49 games. From 2013-16, he had an aggregate .664 OPS. His defense never wavered, of course, which is why he kept getting regular playing time and why the Angels were eager to trade for him in November 2015. This season, however, he’s been a terrific hitter, batting .292/.345/.451 with 13 home runs, 57 RBI, 62 runs scored, and 17 stolen bases in 502 plate appearances. He’s four home runs away from matching a career-high. Simmons is 11th in baseball in FanGraphs’ version of WAR, heavily predicated on the valuation of his defense, but it’s not too outlandish for me to believe Simmons has added nearly two wins above replacement on defense alone. While Jose Altuve, Aaron Judge, and Mike Trout will fight for the lion’s share of AL MVP votes, Simmons could get some down ballot consideration.

Gio Gonzalez (Nationals): Gonzalez nearly threw a no-hitter earlier this season against the Marlins, which brought some eyeballs to his stat line. Still, he hasn’t been talked about much somehow. He’s 12-5 with a 2.39 ERA and a  150/62 K/BB ratio in 162 innings. It’s nothing new for Gonzalez, as he won 21 games with a 2.89 ERA en route to finishing third in Cy Young balloting in 2012. There’s also some reason to believe Gonzalez’s performance is in some part due to great fortune as his batting average on balls in play is about 50 points below league average and his rate of stranding runners on base is more than 11 percent higher than his career average. Clayton Kershaw and Max Scherzer have had better seasons and will be the first and second place finishers in this year’s balloting, but Gonzalez is looking at likely finishing third again, which is no small feat.

Aaron Nola (Phillies): After a dismal June 16 start against the Diamondbacks, Nola stood with a disappointing 4.76 ERA. After the first two innings of last Thursday’s start against the Giants, he briefly brought it under 3.00. Currently, it’s at 3.26 along with a 128/38 K/BB ratio in 124 1/3 innings. Since that June 16 start, he’s made 11 starts with a composite 2.21 ERA across 73 1/3 innings. The right-hander out of LSU showed promise in his rookie year in 2015, then struggled last year before succumbing to injury. Finally, it’s appearing that Nola is showing the promise the Phillies believed in when they took him in the first round (seventh overall) in the 2014 draft. Perhaps more importantly, he looks like a pitcher the Phillies can build around. If there’s one thing the Phillies have lacked since trading Cole Hamels, it’s a starter capable of throwing seven or eight innings and holding the opposition to one or two runs.

Chris Taylor (Dodgers): On a team that features Clayton Kershaw, Kenley Jansen, Corey Seager, Cody Bellinger, Justin Turner, Alex Wood, and recently added Yu Darvish, it’s understandable that Taylor would slip under the radar. He’s played five different positions this season — left field, second base, center field, third base, and shortstop — while batting .311/.383/.549 with 17 home runs, 58 RBI, 69 runs scored, and 14 stolen bases in 413 plate appearances. He’s played average to above-average defense at most of those positions, which is why his 4.6 fWAR ranks 13th in baseball and 10th in the National League. Before the Dodgers acquired him from the Mariners last June in a very little talked about trade, Taylor had been a weak-hitting utilityman. Now, he’s the starting center fielder for baseball’s best team.

Felipe Rivero (Pirates): The Pirates acquired Rivero from the Nationals last year in the Mark Melancon trade. It worked out well for the Buccos. Though the club sits at a disappointing 60-64 in fourth place in the NL Central, Rivero has been a bright spot, owning a major league best 1.31 ERA with 14 saves and a 73/16 K/BB ratio in 61 2/3 innings. The lefty took over the closer’s role when Tony Watson began to struggle in the first half. While Rivero has been terrific against right-handed hitters, limiting them to a .547 OPS, he’s been death to lefties (.227 OPS). After the season, Rivero will be eligible for arbitration for the first of four years, so it wouldn’t be shocking if he got traded at some point, but for now, they’ll enjoy his outstanding 2017 campaign.