Aubrey Huff, Orlando Cabrera, Pablo Sandoval, Jeff Keppinger

And That Happened: Wednesday’s scores and highlights


Giants 8, Diamondbacks 1: The Giants beat back the charging horde. Three hits and two runs scored for Carlos Beltran, three runs batted in for Orlando Cabrera and a strong six innings for Ryan Vogelsong. Jason Marquis: eh, not quite the game-changing acquisition Kevin Towers may have imagined.

Red Sox 4, Indians 3: Walkoff homer for Jacoby Ellsbury. His second game-winning hit in as many nights.

Mariners 7, Athletics 4: Get the sea-saw Seattle Mariners. Seventeen straight losses not too long ago and now five wins in their last seven. Charlie Furbush allowed one run and two hits while striking out three and not walking anybody. Not a world-beating performance, but it did at least allow me to say “Charlie Furbush.”

Phillies 8, Rockies 6: Ryan Howard drove in four with a homer and a double helping Roy Halladay get his 14th win despite not having his best stuff going.  Six wins in a row for inevitable and irresistible force that is the Philadelphia Phillies.

Brewers 10, Cardinals 5: I touched on this one yesterday. La Russa allowed Edwin Jackson to take just an awful beating. He said that it was because the bullpen needed the rest. Query: what is the point of having a zillion guys in your bullpen like La Russa insists upon if you can’t use the thing every day? Of course, La Russa largely led the charge to eliminate the traditional bullpen roles of “long man” and “mop up man,” each of whom would have been really useful here, so I guess we shouldn’t be shocked.  Three homers for Casey McGehee, by the way. Sorry to slight him here, but I’m still suffering from La Russa derangement syndrome.

Braves 6, Nationals 4: Nice to see that the real Dan Uggla has been returned to the Braves and that impostor Uggla who spent the first three and a half months with the team has been removed. Two-for-four with a big homer as Uggla extends his hitting streak to 25. As for the Nats: I think Chien-Ming Wang may be done. I like the guy, but if you face 23 Braves hitters and fail to strike out a single one, things are bleak. The Braves ain’t picky. Your mama could strike out six Braves hitters on short rest.

Cubs 1, Pirates 0: Matt Garza and Charlie Morton each threw seven shutout innings, but Starlin Castro connected on a solo homer off Chris Resop in the eighth. Oh, and Bob Davidson got all ejecty again in this one, because that’s what he does. Well, that and call an awful, awful strike zone, to the point where the announcers were openly wondering why he was still employed. Six straight losses for the former darlings of the NL Central.

Rays 9, Blue Jays 1: Carlos Villanueva didn’t fool anyone (2.2 IP, 9 H, 8 ER, 3 HR). Casey Kotchman, Ben Zobrist and Robinson Chirinos all went deep, and by then things were out of hand.

Tigers 5, Rangers 4: Doug Fister’s Detroit debut worked out quite nicely (7 IP, 8 H, 2 ER). Homers for Ryan Raburn and Alex Avila.

Twins 11, Angels 4; Michael Cuddyer and Delmon Young each had two homers. One of Cuddyer’s was a grand slam. This is what happens when a sinkerball — in this case Joel Piniero’s — doensn’t sink.

Padres 3, Dodgers 0: Tim Stauffer shut out the Dodgers for six innings. Homer from Jason Bartlett as the Padres avoid the sweep.

Astros 5, Reds 4: Jordan Lyles finally gets the winless monkey off his back. J.D. Martinez was 3 for 4 with a homer and four RBI.

Royals 6, Orioles 2: Luke Hochevar shut the O’s down into the eighth inning. Billy Butler had a three-run homer in the seventh to give the Royals some insurance.

Yankees 18, White Sox 7: Good for the Yankees — rah rah rah — but seriously: A.J. Burnett was given 13 runs to play with — 13! — and he still couldn’t last the five innings to pick up the win.  All kinds of crooked numbers in the box score. Granderson had five RBI. Jeter went 5-for-6 with two runs batted in.

Marlins vs. Mets: POSTPONED: Rain is grace; rain is the sky condescending to the earth; without rain, there would be no life.

Which teams improved and declined the most in 2015?

Joe Maddon

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.