And That Happened: Monday’s scores and highlights


Cardinals 3, Phillies 1: I had this game on in my den with the sound off while my wife watched “Black Swan” in the other room. That made it really creepy, especially when I tweeted about it last night and people kept proposing scenes in which Cliff Lee was the Natalie Portman character and Charlie Manuel was that letchy, Eurotrash director.  Try to get that out of your mind. Anyway, in four years every time he pitches, I see Lee obsessed, getting each and every pitch perfectly right but I never see him lose himself. Ever! All that discipline for what? Perfection? Perfection is not just about control. It’s also about letting go. He should surprise himself so he can surprise the audience. Transcendence! Very few have it in them.  Lee often does. But not last night, as he walked six dudes. Of course, he was getting squeezed by home plate umpire Gerry Davis really bad. Just like Portman got squeezed by the letchy Eurotrash director. Yikes! See what I mean?!

Red Sox 8, Orioles 7: A very Matsuzakian start for Matsuzaka (4.1 IP, 5 H, 5 ER, 7 BB) is salvaged by one near-comeback between the sixth inning in which Boston turned a 6-0 deficit into a 6-5 game and then a complete one in the ninth when the Sox scored two on the power of Kevin Gregg walks to Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia and then a game-winning double by Adrian Gonzalez.

Indians 19, Royals 1:  This is one of those games that’s gonna skew the Pythagorean record for both teams for a few weeks. And Vin Mazzaro’s ERA for, like, ever, thanks to him wearing one to the tune of 2.1 IP, 11 H, 14 ER, which is arguably the worst pitching performance in baseball history. Oh, and 76 pitches for Mazzaro too, which is insane. What, did Ned Yost catch poor Vin in bed with his wife or something?  The Royals starter, Kyle Davies, left in the first inning with some sort of shoulder injury, so the stage was set for disaster regardless. All the Royals can do is realize that it only counts as one loss.

Rays 6, Yankees 5:  Alright. Flush the bombers, get the subs in launch mode. We are at DEFCON 1.  You score five runs off David Price in five innings, you figure you’ll get the win. But A.J. gave up six, five of which came in the sixth inning.  Six losses in a row for New York, which is their longest streak in four years.

Rangers 4, White Sox 0: Colby Lewis pitches the shutout while striking out seven. After a little skid in late April, Lewis has put together four straight sharp starts.

Reds 7, Cubs 4: Carlos Zambrano was cruising with a one-hitter until he hit the sixth inning and promptly gave up six runs. In all, the Reds sent 12 batters to the plate. Which, aside from making their scorecards kind of a mess, pleased the hometown crowd.

Braves 3, Astros 2: Chipper Jones’ injury forced Martin Prado to third and put Eric Hinske in at left. Prado had a couple of fabulous defensive plays (and one awful one) and Hinske had three hits, including the tie-breaking single in the seventh. Just like they drew it up, I guess. A three-hit, ten-strikeout performance for Tommy Hanson.

Nationals 4, Pirates 2: Danny Espinosa had a two-run homer in the seventh to break the tie and give the Nats the win. The same Danny Espinosa who was hitting .193. Six straight losses for the Pirates, which makes it one of the few times in recent history when a comparison to the Yankees is apt.

Blue Jays 4, Tigers 2: Detroit finally loses one and Jose Bautista finally doesn’t hit a home run. Man, I don’t know what I can count on in this world anymore.

Marlins 2, Mets 1: A home run — and I mean a moon-shot — by Mike Stanton in the seventh tied it up at 1, the Mets failed to capitalize on a bases-loaded situation in the bottom of the ninth and then Burke Badenhop — really? The relief pitcher? — drove Stanton in on an RBI single in the 11th which proved to be the game-winner. Badenhop picked up the win too.

Rockies 7, Giants 4: The Giants had recently dominated the Rockies, but it was not Tim Lincecum’s night last night, as he walked six and gave up seven runs on nine hits. A three-run homer by Carlos Gonzalez sealed the awfulness for Timmy.

Brewers 2, Dodgers 1: L.A’s offense continues to be terrible. And it isn’t helped by stuff like Carlos Gomez robbing Juan Uribe of a homer with a great catch at the wall.

Mariners 5, Twins 2: Michael Pineda toyed with the Twins in a way that a rookie pitcher should never be allowed to toy with a major league lineup (7 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 7K).

Athletics 5, Angels 4: Stellar 10th inning for Fernando Rodney: in the bottom of the inning, Kurt Suzuki drew a one-out walk, moved to second on another walk then took third on a wild pitch. Mark Ellis then hit an infield grounder to a five-man infield that was deep enough in the hole to score Suzuki.

Padres 8, Diamondbacks 4: If they’re not careful, the Padres hitters are gonna spoil their pitchers what with all of this run support they’ve been giving ’em.  Meanwhile, I’m not gonna say that Armando Galarraga — who got rocked — is worried about his job in the Dbacks’ rotation, but here was his response when asked a question about his purely hypothetical next start:

“What are you talking about the next start?” Galarraga said, glaring at the reporter. “Who you say I am going to be worried about my next start? Are you saying that I am going to lose my job? Are you trying to say that? I am frustrated about this start, not the next one.”

Careful, Armando! You can’t sell books about good sportsmanship and positive attitudes like that!

2018 Preview: Texas Rangers

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Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2018 season. Next up: The Texas Rangers.

The Texas Rangers had been, more or less, the class of the AL West for several years, but that came to an end last year. Injuries, a bad bullpen and underachievement doomed them early and before all the leaves were on the trees the Astros had all but locked up the division. There were some bright spots — Adrian Beltre notched his 3,000th hit and Joey Gallo emerged as the 40-homer threat many have long thought he might be — but otherwise it was a bad year for the Rangers.

Will it be another bad year? Hard to say no, though there is a lot more upside with this club than with a lot of other sub-80 win teams from 2017. For that upside to pay off, however, the Rangers are going to have to win a lot of bets.

The outfield is a good place to begin looking for that upside. Nomar Mazara has not yet put it together over the course of a whole season, but he has shown some promise and could be poised for a breakout. Delino DeShields may not be what many thought he might be a few years back, but he’s got wheels and can get on base. Left field is being kept warm for top prospect Willie Calhoun who came over in the Yu Darvish trade and is having his service time manipulated, but he’ll be up soon. He’s expected to rake. Whether he can hold the position or, rather, will have to take at-bats away from Shin-Soo Choo at DH is an open question.

The infield needs a couple of fairly attainable things to happen for the lineup to really be a plus. First, it needs Adrian Beltre to be healthy and to show that he has at least some gas left in the tank. I have learned over the past 20 years to not bet against Adrian Beltre, ever, so Father Time will have to prove me wrong. It also needs Rougned Odor to snap back into shape after a lost-in-the-woods 2017. I hate the phrase “he’s better than that,” but he really is better than that. Elvis Andrus is Elvis Andrus and that’s fine. If Gallo can cut down on the K’s even a little bit and mix in a couple of more base hits to go with all of that power he could be an MVP candidate. In order of likelihood, I put it (1) Beltre being Beltre; (b) Odor bouncing back; and (c) Gallo cutting down on strikeouts, but if just two of those things happen the Rangers lineup will be in good shape.

There are a lot of question marks with the starting pitching and a couple of lottery tickets. Yu Darvish is long gone, but Cole Hamels remains at the top of the rotation. The problem is that Hamels had his worst full season in several years last year and it may be that all of the miles on his odometer are catching up with him. The biggest offseason pickup for Texas was Mike Minor, who had a monster comeback season with the Royals after multiple years lost due to arm injuries. That monster year came out of the bullpen, though, so it remains to be seen if he can move back to the rotation and remain both impressive and durable. He’s one of the lottery tickets, although one with much better odds than, say, the Powerball. He’s like a scratch-off with some risk but a decent shot at some winnings.

A longer shot is Matt “Mega Millions” Moore. The one time top prospect of the Tampa Bay Rays is still somehow just 28, but he’s coming off a lousy year in San Francisco, in which he led the NL in both losses and earned runs while plying his trade in a pitcher’s park. I guess you can be a silver-lining guy and say he’s durable again or you could do that thing where people look at a one-time phenom and imagine that he has at least one full-promise year in him, but it’s not super likely either. Martin Perez and Doug Fister round things out. You basically know what you’re getting out of those two at this point: competence, but not necessarily any shot at greatness. Bartolo Colon is knocking around and he’ll likely get some starts at some point. He always gets starts.

The bullpen was a mess last year. It’s not clear that it’ll be better this year, but it’ll certainly be more interesting, as Jon Daniels went out and signed Tim Lincecum and gave him a big league deal from which to launch his comeback. He may challenge for the closer role, though Alex Claudio has it for now. Matt Bush will look to recapture 2016 form as a setup guy. Jake Diekman should be back to full strength after a mostly lost 2017 due to colon surgery. Not a great group, truth be told, even if they will be fun to watch at times.

Overall, I think the Rangers are better than bad but the pitching is a big problem and they need too many things to go their way to count on being good. If everyone stays healthy and more than half of the guys who struggled last year return to form or fulfill potential, hey, it’s a pretty interesting group of players. A group which, while not good enough to challenge Houston, could be in the mix with the Angels and the Mariners to be a Wild Card representative.

If most of those bets don’t pay off, though, it’s gonna be a long year. I’m a risk averse gambler, so I’m going to hope to be pleasantly surprised, but I predict that the upside will remain out of reach.

Prediction: Fourth Place, AL West