Raul Ibanez, Brian McCann

And That Happened: Sunday’s scores and highlights


Phillies 14, Braves 1: Like I’ve always said: you give Cole Hamels 14 runs to work with, and he’s probably going to win. Raul Ibanez drove in five runs in the entire month of June. He drove in six in this game. Oh, and watch the comments here: some readers/Braves fans foolishly bet some Phillies fans that, if the Phillies won this series, they’d write some variation of “Phillies Rule” in their comments today. I kept out of that because I’m neither a betting man nor am I deluded regarding the relative power of these two teams. But for those of you who did bet: keep your word, folks. Keep your word.

Yankees 1, Rays 0: CC Sabathia gets his 13th win with a four-hit shutout. James Shields’ throwing error led to the only run scored in the game.

Cardinals 4, Diamondbacks 2: Albert Pujols had a couple of hits to make for a pretty productive weekend and David Freese hit a homer because, well, he’s got to occasionally, right?

Tigers 2, Royals 1: I went outside for, like, ten minutes yesterday and almost collapsed from heat exhaustion. Justin Verlander allowed no earned runs over seven and two-thirds, and threw 119 pitches on a brutally hot day in Kansas City. Other than that, he and I are alike in all kinds of ways.

Brewers 4, Reds 3: Francisco Cordero came in to close things out with a one-run lead in the ninth but couldn’t get it done. An RBI single for Mark Kotsay tied it and a sacrifice for Craig Counsell won it for Milwaukee. In other news, I have mixed up Mark Kotsay and Craig Counsell for years, often referring to one when I meant the other. So, heck, maybe click through to the box score to make sure I’m right. Maybe Kotsay had the sac fly.

Twins 6, White Sox 3: Jake Peavy was eminently hittable. Anthony Swarzak pitched six strong innings. By the way, Anthony Swarzak is a pretty solid Midwestern name. Kind of has a Bill Brasky thing going on with it, so I hope he stays in Minnesota and pitches well for a long time.

Pirates 9, Cubs 1:  Andrew McCutchen homered and drove in five. The Pirates are 47-43, which is their best record at the break since Barry Bonds played there.

Red Sox 8, Orioles 6: A four-game sweep of the O’s for Boston. Baltimore is skidding out of control, having lost 12 of 13 and seven in a row. Both managers were ejected as there was more chin music in this one. Just an pug ugly series in a lot of ways.

Rangers 2, Athletics 0: An Adrian Beltre two-run homer took care of all of the offense. Matt Harrison and a couple of relievers took care of the shutout.

Nationals 2, Rockies 0: Much like the Rangers-A’s game. Jordan Zimmermann and three relievers combined for the shutout here. The Nationals are at .500 at the break, which wasn’t something a ton of people were expecting.

Marlins 5, Astros 4: I love the lede from the AP game story for this one:

With his enthusiasm and veteran leadership, center fielder Mike Cameron has helped rejuvenate the Florida Marlins, who are undefeated since he joined the team. On Sunday he contributed a hit, too.

I’ve read that a couple of times, and I can’t decide if the writer is being sincere about the value of Cameron’s leadership and enthusiasm or if he’s making a somewhat sly comment on that, noting the coincidence between Cameron’s presence and the Marlins’ wins in his first three games there.  Has me looking like this.

Blue Jays 7, Indians 1: A five-run third inning off Carlos Carrasco helped the Jays win their third in a row. The Indians fall a half-game back of Detroit at the break. I’m mildly pleased by this. Not because I’m rooting against Cleveland or anything, but I get mild pleasure from knowing that everyone writing their “first half in review” stories can’t go with the easy “well look who’s in first place” lead-in.

Angels 4, Mariners 2: Three straight games with a homer for Mark Trumbo. Who, whenever I hear his name, makes me think of Dalton Trumbo, which in turn makes me think of either (a) the Hollywood Blacklist; or (b) “Spartacus.”

Dodgers 4, Padres 1: Two homers for Andre Ethier and four wins in a row for the Dodgers. Almost enough to make you forget that the franchise is an utter train wreck. But just almost, or else I wouldn’t have typed that.

Giants 4, Mets 2: Pablo Sandoval extended his hitting streak to 21 games, hitting an RBI double. Matt Cain pitched six scoreless. Both All-Stars, you know, but then again, who isn’t an All-Star these days? I’m pretty sure I’m on the team too.

Which teams improved and declined the most in 2015?

Joe Maddon
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I was curious about which MLB teams changed their fortunes the most this season compared to last year, so I crunched the numbers.

First, here are the biggest win total improvements from 2014 to 2015:

+24 Cubs
+21 Rangers
+16 Astros
+15 Diamondbacks
+13 Twins
+11 Mets
+10 Blue Jays
+10 Cardinals
+10 Pirates

The top five teams on the biggest-improvement list all had managers in their first season on the job, led by Joe Maddon joining the Cubs after tons of success with the Rays. Also worth noting: Of the nine teams with the biggest win total improvement, eight made the playoffs. Only the Twins improved to double-digit games and still failed to make the playoffs.

Now, here are the biggest win total declines from 2014 to 2015:

-20 Athletics
-16 Tigers
-15 Orioles
-14 Brewers
-13 Nationals
-13 Angels
-12 Braves
-12 Reds
-11 Mariners

Not surprisingly, a whole lot of those teams have changed managers, general managers, or both. And a couple more may still do so before the offseason gets underway. Oakland retained manager Bob Melvin despite an MLB-high 20-win dropoff and just promoted Billy Beane from general manager to vice president of baseball operations.

MLB games were six minutes shorter this year

Pitch Clock
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According to STATS, INC., the average game in 2015 was 2 hours, 56 minutes. That’s six minutes faster than games in 2014.

The gains came in the first half, when games averaged 2:53. Second half games averaged three hours even. One can probably thank the expanded rosters in September for that, as games then see many more pitching changes. Of course, it’s likely that second half games were faster in 2015 than 2014 as well given the rules changes.

Those changes: agreement to enforce the rule requiring a hitter to keep at least one foot in the batter’s box and the installation of clocks timing pitching changes and between-inning breaks in ever ballpark.

It remains to be seen if MLB stays satisfied with that modest improvement or if chooses to go the way Triple-A and Double-A leagues did. They installed 20-second pitch clocks and started penalizing violators with balls and strikes. Triple-A’s two leagues, the International and Pacific Leagues, saw game-time decreases by 13 and 16 minutes, respectively.