And That Happened: Thursday’s scores and highlights

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Rays 10, Athletics 8: Oakland scored five in the first so it looked like another shellacking was on the way for Tampa Bay. But no! The Rays put up a seven-spot in the seventh thanks in part to Desmond Jennings who had a whale of a ballgame. Every Tampa Bay starter either got a hit or scored a run in the seventh inning.

Padres 4, Diamondbacks 3:  Heath Bell and Mike Adams pitched, so they’re still in San Diego. I hate to reduce this game to that little trade deadline factoid, but sadly, that’s what this week does to my brain.  We’ll be able to talk more about plain old baseball next week.

Brewers 4, Cubs 2: Three hits including a homer for Ryan Braun. Milwaukee sweeps the Cubbies. Chicago scored four runs in the three game series.

Royals 4, Red Sox 3: I’ve been mocking Red Sox trade rumors that involve hitters coming to Boston because it’s not like the Sox need offensive help. But given that Luke Hochevar of all people held them to two runs in seven innings, maybe they do. Three straight games with a homer for Billy Butler.

Mets 10, Reds 9: Boy howdy are the Reds sucking eggs right now. Homer Bailey got lit up like a Christmas tree. Lucas Duda and Jason Bay each drove in three for the Mets. David Wright is white hot since coming off the DL: he went 3-for-5 here, was 9-for-19 in this series and he’s 15-for-33 overall since his return.

Angels 12, Tigers 7: Mark Trumbo homered and drove in five, falling a single short of the cycle. Which, hey, fine. Brad Penny and Victor Martinez argued on the mound during the game. After the game Penny said it was fine and it was a minor disagreement. After the game Martinez would not answer questions and said he wouldn’t talk about it. Martinez has a reputation for being an extremely nice and thoughtful guy. Brad Penny is kind of a douche. You tell me if things are still fine.

Marlins 5, Nationals 2: Mike Stanton: Nationals Killer. Stanton homers for the fourth in his last six games. He now has eight home runs and 14 RBIs in 12 career games at Nationals Park.  Query: is it the aesthetics of the place or the crapitude of Nats pitching that is more to his liking?

Giants 4, Phillies 1: I love this mostly because it will make a certain segment of Phillies fandom go crazy for a couple of days thinking they have to trade Domonic Brown for whatever marginal offensive upgrade they can manage. Which wouldn’t bother me a bit. I mean, if they aren’t happy with being the best team in baseball already who am I to stop them from mortgaging the future?

Pirates 5, Braves 2: Andrew McCutchen and a two-run homer in the ninth to put the game out of reach. He had three hits overall, including a go-ahead double in the fifth. The Pirates split.

Rangers 4, Twins 1: Michael Young and Chris Davis each drove in a run on singles. Neftali Feliz with a flawless save, which should make everyone feel better.

Blue Jays 8, Orioles 5: Colby Rasmus made his Jays debut and went 0-for-5 with two strikeouts. His father then gave 15 interviews about how Toronto doesn’t know how to best utilize his son. J.J. Hardy had two homers in a losing effort.

Astros 5, Cardinals 3: The curse of Colby Rasmus stretches into a second day.

Astros vs. Dodgers is a match made in heaven

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A lot of people who work at the league office or who take paychecks from the Fox network probably wanted to see the Yankees and the Cubs in the World Series. They won’t admit it, of course, but I suspect that many did, as the ratings for a Cubs-Yankees Series might’ve broken modern records. If they are at all disappointed by the Astros and Dodgers winning the pennant, however, they should let that go because they’ve been gifted by a wonderful matchup from a purely baseball perspective. Indeed, it’s one of the best on-paper matchups we’ve had in the Fall Classic in many years.

Before the Dodgers went on their late-August, early-September swoon, this was the potential World Series pairing most folks who know a thing or two wanted to see. At least I did, and I don’t think I was alone. It was certainly the matchup which represented the teams with the two best regular season records and storylines at the time. While Cleveland ended up winning more games than Houston did, for the first time since 1970 we have a World Series pitting two 100-win teams against each other.

Like that Orioles-Reds series in 1970, which featured Johnny Bench, Pete Rose, Tony Perez, Jim Palmer, Brooks Robinson and a host of other All-Stars, the Dodgers-Astros provide us with an embarrassment of big names and future Hall of Famers. Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw and Astros DH/OF Carlos Beltran are destined for induction already. Astros ace Justin Verlander may very well join them, especially if his late 2017 surge is evidence of a second career peak. Houston second baseman Jose Altuve‘s first seven years and Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen‘s first eight are the stuff upon which Cooperstown resumes are made as well. People will be arguing Dodgers second baseman Chase Utley‘s Hall of Fame case for years once he retires.

Youth is served as well in this matchup, with each club featuring a handful of the game’s best young players to accompany their big name veteran stars.

The Dodgers will bat their no-doubt N.L. Rookie of the Year first baseman Cody Bellinger second or third in the lineup every game. 2016 Rookie of the Year Corey Seager, who sat out the NLCS with a bad back, is expected to be activated for the Series where he’ll be the Dodgers shortstop. The Astros are actually an old team on paper — Verlander, catcher Brian McCann, starter Charlie Morton, first baseman Yuli Gurriel, outfielder Josh Reddick and DH Evan Gattis are all over 30 while Beltran is 40 — but young players are essential to their attack as well. Shortstop Carlos Correa just turned 23 and he’s one of the game’s brightest stars. Third baseman Alex Bregman, also 23, made the play that may very well have broken the Yankees’ back during Saturday night’s pennant clincher. Age aside, the Astros are the product of a major, multi-year rebuild and many of their players are making their first national splash this postseason.

Beyond just the names and resumes, though, the Dodgers and Astros represent a fantastic strategic matchup. The Dodgers attack this postseason has featured admirable plate discipline, with third baseman Justin Turner, right fielder Yasiel Puig and center fielder Chris Taylor all letting balls out of the zone pass them by while abusing pitches left out over the plate. Astros pitchers not named Justin Verlander, however, have lived by getting the opposition to chase bad balls. Game one starter Dallas Keuchel did this by relying on his very fast sinker. Lance McCullers pitched well starting Game 4 of the ALCS and pitched spectacularly closing out the final four innings of Game 7 mostly by virtue of his curveball, which Yankees pitchers could simply not lay off. Indeed, his final 24 pitches of Game 7 were all curves, many of them low and away. Who will give in first in this series?

On the side of things, Dodgers relievers have made a living by pumping in strikes. Particularly strikes high in the zone from Jansen and Brandon Morrow. There may be no better fastball hitter in all of baseball than Jose Altuve, however, and the team as a whole was one of the best in the bigs in dealing with gas in the zone. This was a big reason why the Astros struck out less than any team in baseball this year while simultaneously boasting the best offense in the game. The Dodgers throw strikes. The Astros make you pay when you throw them strikes. Again, something’s gotta give.

Maybe the suits in New York wanted the Yankees and Cubs. But everyone else is getting exactly what we want: a matchup of the two best teams in the game. A matchup of strength against strength. What is, from a purely baseball perspective, the best World Series we could’ve possibly hoped for.