Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim v Los Angeles Dodgers

And That Happened: Sunday’s scores and highlights

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I was out of town for the second weekend in a row. This time to West Virginia to visit my mother-in-law and to breathe some mountain air. Bonus: you can pick up the Beckley, West Virginia newspaper on Sunday morning and read last Wednesday’s box scores! Reminds me of being a baseball fan back in the 80s.

Thankfully I had my phone nearby. I rarely had more than one bar because my mother-in-law lives deep in a holler, but it was just enough to keep up. But really: this is the last time I go anywhere for a while. I’m pretty sure I suffer from minor convulsions and stuff without a solid Internet connection and MLB.tv, so in my fortified — and wired — compound I shall stay.

Dodgers 3, Angels 2: The Jered Weaver vs. Clayton Kershaw matchup lived up to the hype, with each pitching fabulously. Kershaw pitched a bit more fabulously, however, and a bit longer, going the distance and striking out 11, helping the Dodgers avoid the sweep. Tony Gwynn, Jr. with the walkoff RBI single.

Blue Jays 5, Cardinals 0: The Jays sweep the Cards, taking the last one on a Ricky Romero four-hit shutout.  St. Louis has lost 12 of 15 and are 1-5 since El Hombre went down. I won’t retract my “the Cardinals can weather the loss of Pujols” rebop yet, but as a talking point, it’s officially on notice.

Brewers 6, Twins 2: In contrast, I’m feeling way more comfortable with my “I declare the Twins dead” talking point from a couple of weeks ago. Minnesota is back to its run-impaired ways, having now lost five straight, scoring a total of eight runs in those five games.

Yankees 6, Rockies 4: Ty Wigginton had two homers in a game for the second time in a week, but it was — as they say — in a losing cause. Notice no one ever talks about sucky things happening “in a losing cause?” It would be apt to say something like “Joe Schmo struck out twice and totally half-assed a grounder hit right to him in a losing cause,” but we never say that for some reason.  Oh well. On Derek Jeter’s birthday, his fill-in, Eduardo Nunez, broke the tie with a seventh inning RBI single.

Buccaneers 14, Texans 10: See, it’s funny because they’re football team names that correspond with their local baseball teams on a day on which said baseball teams scored as though they were, in fact, football teams! It’s a clever juxtaposition! Aren’t I rich? A pill, I am! A pill!

Royals 6, Cubs 3: The first six Royals reached in the first inning, helping KC to a 4-0 lead that ended up being enough to win. In other news, my son has a Cubs cap, which he asked me to get for him because it had a “C” on it (his name begins with a C too). Yesterday he went outside to play and I made him wear his cap because it was really sunny out. He said “is it OK that I have a Cubs hat even though the Cubs aren’t very good?”  He’s 5 and does not really watch baseball at all, let alone follow it, so he would have no idea about how the Cubs do unless some kid on the playground told him that the Cubs suck while he had his hat on. This is what you’re up against, Chicago. Random kids 350 miles away are slamming you to random five year-olds. You cool with this?

Red Sox 4, Pirates 2: An error-filled game by Pittsburgh helps Boston avoid the sweep. Only one of Boston’s four runs was earned, so it’s not like the Sox bats are out of their mini-slump.

Nationals 2, White Sox 1: Phil Humber had a no-hitter into the sixth, but a two-run homer by Danny Espinosa in the seventh was enough for the Nats. With this game the John McLaren era ends for Washington. He finishes with a .667 winning percentage (2-1), which will probably have him at the top of the Nats’ leader board in that department for a long, long time.

Phillies 3, Athletics 1: Roy being Roy (CG, 8 H, 1 ER). An actual Charlie Manuel quote from after the game: “He’s pretty steady.” Gee, ya think, Cholly?  Jimmy Rollins went 4 for 4 and scored twice.

Orioles 7, Reds 5: Word to your moms, Baltimore came to drop bombs: three homers yesterday, nine in the series while scoring 17 runs. The O’s take two of three from Cincy.

Tigers 8, Diamondbacks 3: Detroit wins on the day Sparky Anderson’s number was retired. Somewhere — wherever Sparky’s soul resides — he probably told someone that Don Kelly was the next Tom Brookens and that Tom Brookens should have been the next George Kell. Which, if you followed Sparky’s career, makes total sense. A seven run eighth inning sealed it for Detroit. Jhonny Peralta was 3 for 4 with two RBI.

Mets 8, Rangers 5:  Jose Reyes had four hits and scored three runs because he’s pretty much unstoppable this year. Dillon Gee rebounds from a not-so-great start to win his eighth game with six solid innings.

Padres 4, Braves 1: It’s not every day you score four runs off Johnny Venters. In fact, it’s no day until yesterday, but the Padres smacked this year’s most unhittable reliever around for four on four hits and a couple of walks to rally in the eighth inning. Damndest thing was that Venters almost got out of it with no one scoring, but the Padres plated all four runs with two outs.

Giants 3, Indians 1: Last time we saw Madison Bumgarner he was allowing the first eight Minnesota Twins hitters he faced to reach and score. This time: he struck out 11 Indians and allowed only one run in seven innings. I guess he was well-rested this time out.

Mariners 2, Marlins 1: The go-ahead run scored when Marlin’s reliever Steve Cishek threw a wild pitch with a runner on third during an intentional walk. Holy schnikes! Best part: with the reason for the intentional walk now gone, Jack McKeon had Cishek actually pitch to the batter, who had been given three of the four balls for the walk already. Cishek struck him out. I don’t approve when pitchers come back to the dugout after a tough inning, punch something and break their hand, but in this case I think that would have been an acceptable behavior for Cishek.

Video: Nelson Cruz hits second-longest home run of 2016

ANAHEIM, CA - SEPTEMBER 14:  Nelson Cruz #23 of the Seattle Mariners celebrates his solo homerun with Daniel Vogelbach #20 of the Seattle Mariners to take a 2-1 lead over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim during the seventh inning at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on September 14, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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There’s certainly never a bad time to hit a home run, but when you get the opportunity to crush a triple-deck, 493-foot shot off of Tyler Duffey, you should take it. With the Mariners down 2-0 to the Twins in the fourth inning, Cruz hammered a fastball to deep left field for his 39th long ball of the season — and the second-longest home run hit in 2016, to boot.

It doesn’t hurt that the Mariners are 1.5 games back of a playoff spot, although they’ll have to oust the Blue Jays, Orioles, or Tigers to get a wild card. They’ve gone 3-3 in the last week, dropping two consecutive series to the Astros and Blue Jays and taking their series opener against Minnesota 10-1 on Friday night.

Cruz, for his part, entered Saturday’s game with a .299/.337/.610 batting line and six home runs in September. According to ESPN.com’s Home Run Tracker, Cruz sits behind Edwin Encarnacion and Mike Napoli with 13 “no-doubt” home runs in 2016, third-most among major league sluggers. It’s safe to say he can add Saturday’s moonshot to that list.

Marlins’ outfielder and undisputed home run king Giancarlo Stanton remains untouched at the top of the Statcast leaderboard with a 504-ft. home run, and it’s difficult to envision any slugger reaching beyond that before the end of the season. Even so, Cruz won’t need to clear 500 feet to extend an impressive hitting record. One more home run will put the 36-year-old at 40 on the year, making 2016 his third consecutive season with at least 40 homers, and his second such season doing so in Seattle.

Report: John Farrell won’t rule out a postseason return for Pablo Sandoval

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - APRIL 11:  Pablo Sandoval #48 of the Boston Red Sox looks on from the dugout before the Red Sox home opener against the Baltimore Orioles at Fenway Park on April 11, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Orioles defeat the Red Sox 9-7.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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It’s been a strange season for Red Sox’ third baseman Pablo Sandoval, who lost his starting role in spring training, went 0-for-6 in three regular season appearances, and underwent season-ending surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder in May. That was the last the Red Sox were supposed to hear about Sandoval until spring 2017, when he was expected to rejoin the team after a lengthy rehab stint in Florida.

On Saturday, manager John Farrell was telling a different story. Per MLB.com’s Sam Blum, Farrell hinted that Sandoval could return to the team as soon as October, albeit in a very limited capacity.

At the time of the surgery, it was all looking at the start of next Spring Training,” Farrell said. “We’re not getting too far ahead of ourselves here, but at the same time, we compliment him for the work he’s put in, the way he’s responded to the rehab, the way he’s worked himself into better condition. We’re staying open-minded.

If the 30-year-old does return in 2016, don’t expect him to look like the three-home run hitter of the 2012 World Series. Should the Red Sox lose another player to injury, Sandoval might be called on as a backup option, but he’s unlikely to see substantial playing time under any other circumstances. Despite making two appearances at DH in the instructional league, Sandoval has not started at third base since undergoing surgery, though Farrell noted that a return to third base would be the next logical step in his recovery process.

Sandoval has yet to hit his stride within the Red Sox’ organization after hitting career-worst numbers in 2015. According to FanGraphs, his Offensive Runs Above Average (Off) plummeted to -20.2, contributing approximately two wins fewer than the average offensive player in 2015. (The Diamondbacks’ Chris Owings held the lowest Off mark in 2015, with -26.3 runs below average.) Sandoval has not appeared in a postseason race since the Giants’ championship run in 2014.

Heading into Saturday evening, the Red Sox could clinch their spot in the postseason with a win over the Rays and an Orioles’ loss.