Matt Kemp

And That Happened: Thursday’s scores and highlights

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Dodgers 5, Braves 3: A gut punch of a game for the Braves. Having rallied back against Clayton Kershaw in the 9th — Mattingly, seriously, what was he still doing out there? — and having squandered their own opportunities in extra innings, they watch as Matt Kemp hits his second walkoff homer of the week. Given the way they’ve been going, I want to say that the Braves merely tying it up was the best victory they’ve had all season. Blah. Oh well, at least I got four games of listening to Vin Scully in. Yesterday’s musing about how James Loney and Jamey Carrol basically have the first name but are called something different — concluding with “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet” — is the kind of thing no one else on the planet could pull off without being corny, but Scully makes it work. Really, about 60% of his stuff is corny but works fabulously. Even a dreadful game (from my perspective) is enjoyable when he’s talking.

Marlins 9, Pirates 5: Scott Cousins and Brett Hayes combined for seven RBI. In other news, guys named “Scott Cousins” and “Brett Hayes” could easily have been members of a mid-1980s NWA tag team. I picture them working the Mid South region as mild heels but capable of an occasional face turn when pitted against Russians, possibly partnered up with Hacksaw Jim Duggan in a six-man match. After they beat the Russians, though, Cousins and Hayes attack Duggan with folding chairs when they perceive him to take two much credit while holding the mic after the match. This sets off a feud lasting several months. Buddy Landel and Mr. Wrestling II are involved somehow too, but I’m not quite sure where they fit yet. Give me some time on that one.

Cardinals 5, Nationals 0: A two-hit shutout for Kyle Lohse and a homer by Albert Pujols help do in the Nats. True story: I was taping today’s installment of HBT Daily during this game yesterday — yeah, we do Friday’s a day in advance; sue me — and Tiffany and I were talking about Albert Pujols’ slump the very moment he hit his homer.  What a narrative killer.

Reds 7, Diamondbacks 4: The Dbacks were going for the sweep, but Mike Leake and the Reds steal one on getaway day.

White Sox 9, Rays 2: Jeff Niemann has been pretty terrible for the Rays this year. He’s had one good start in five this year and was a disaster in the second half of last season. Omar Vizquel, Paul Konerko and A.J. Pierzynski and Carlos Quentin each had a couple of RBIs.

Twins 3, Orioles 1: A pitchers’ duel with Scott Baker getting the best of Jeremy Guthrie. Jim Thome — who hadn’t had a hit since Sunday — hit a homer and an RBI single.

Mets 9, Astros 1: The Mets bust out the whuppin’ sticks for the first time in a while — it was the most runs they’ve scored in a game since the third day of the season — getting homers from David Wright, Ike Davis and Mike Nickeas of all people. Jason Bay returned and went 1 for 4 and scored a couple of runs.

Royals 3, Indians 2: We learned the other day that Chris Perez comes out to the song “Firestarter.” I guess that since he was on the road last night he didn’t get his song, but at least his pitching matched it in spirit. Called in to lock down a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the ninth, the Royals got three hits off him, with the last one — a two-run Melky Cabrera single  — giving the Royals the walkoff win. Cabrera also gunned down Carlos Santana at the plate in the eighth inning.  Overall: a 2-2 split and a well-played series for the two most surprising teams in baseball.

Phillies 3, Padres 0: Roy Oswalt and three relievers combine to shut out woeful Padres offense. Mat Latos continues to fail to inspire confidence (4.1. IP, 4 H, 3 ER).

Mariners 1, Athletics 0: King Felix makes one lone run stand up, because that what he does. An Adam Kennedy homer plated it. This is what 1968 must have felt like.

Red Sox 4, Angels 2: Josh Beckett and Tyler Chatwood were pretty even in regulation, but an Adrian Gonzalez double and a Jed Lowrie sac fly in the 11th was the difference.  And check this out: some moron decided to throw crumpled up dollar bills at Carl Crawford while he was in the on-deck circle. Nice protest. Those dollars are just going to get picked up by the grounds crew who will give them to Arte Moreno who will then not give them to a worthy free agent next year. Actually, maybe he’ll just give them to Vernon Wells.

Wade Davis? Greg Holland? Who needs ’em?

KANSAS CITY, MO - AUGUST 21: Joakim Soria #48 of the Kansas City Royals throws in the eighth inning against the Minnesota Twins at Kauffman Stadium on August 21, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
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The story of the two-time defending AL champion and current defending World Series champ Kansas City Royals cannot be told without talking at length about their bullpen.

In 2014, Wade Davis, Greg Holland and Kelvin Herrera formed a shutdown brigade that not only made it next to impossible for the opposition to mount late rallies, but managed something which seemed utterly impossible before 2014: they turned Ned Yost into a tactical genius. Indeed, the only time Yost got criticism at all that fall was when he messed with the autopilot formula that had that three-headed monster handling the 7th, 8th and 9th innings.

Much the same happened in 2015, of course, despite Holland’s sharp decline and eventual injury. Davis and Herrera continued their dominance. They were joined by Ryan Madson and a cast of other effective relievers who, along with timely hitting, great defense and good health, helped propel the Royals to the title.

This year had not been quite the same story. Holland has been out all year and Davis, while effective when he’s pitched, has missed time due to injury. As has longtime contributor and presumptive next-man-up Luke Hochevar. Herrera is basically still Herrera, but Ned Yost has been presented with a decidedly different set of choices. Lots of choices and Ned Yost don’t always go together well, but lately that hasn’t mattered.

Last night the Royals’ bullpen came in to a close game and tossed three scoreless innings. That set a franchise record with 32 straight scoreless frames, besting the previous record set back in the club’s inaugural season in 1969. The streak is a huge part of why the Royals have won nine games in a row.

Unlike the success of 2014-15, the streak is not a three-man show. As Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star notes, eight different relievers have appeared for Kansas City during the streak, with Joakim Soria and Matt Strahm leading the crew with five and a third innings pitched. Herrera has tossed five scoreless. Otherwise it’s been a group effort with even Peter Moylan offering a couple of scoreless frames. And here you thought Moylan was, I dunno, gearing up for the upcoming Brisbane Bandits season. Nope.

The Royals are still not, in my view anyway, a lock to make the postseason. It’s a a crowded field right now. They’re seven and a half back in the AL Central and four back in the Wild Card with a bunch of teams in front of them. But they’re certainly playing themselves back into the conversation. They’re interesting. And they’re doing it in much the same way they’ve done it the past two years. Only with different dudes doing the do.

Video: Mookie Betts made a ridiculous throw last night

Screen Shot 2016-08-24 at 10.16.51 AM
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Mookie Betts was an infielder once upon a time and the knock on him both then and since his move to the outfield was that maybe his arm was not fantastic. As an infielder there was talk that he was better suited to the right side than the left. As an outfielder people were saying that, with work, his arm could be average and/or serviceable. Not bad, of course, but not anything to write home about.

Maybe we need to reassess that, because last night he uncorked one from right field that would make Dwight Evans says “dang, man.”

 

And the throw mattered, as Kiermaier represented the tying run in a game that, at the time, the Sox were leading 2-1.

Betts is a dangerous middle-of-the-order bat at age 23. And now he shows that he’ll nail a fast runner with a frozen rope if he has to. The guy is going to win an MVP award some day. And maybe not just one.