Carl Crawford, Mike Napoli

And That Happened: Wednesday’s scores and highlights

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Red Sox 13, Rangers 2: I would like to thank the Rangers’ pitchers for providing us with a pennant race in the AL West that we didn’t think we’d have. Carl Crawford was reanimated for this one and drove in five.

Angels 8, White Sox 0: It’s not just about Texas’ pitching sucking though. It’s a pennant race that the Angels are forcing due to their hot play since allegedly being knocked out of things by Texas in last week’s series. Guess not, because that’s six straight wins. Jered Weaver with eight strikeouts in seven shutout innings. Anaheim is only 2.5 back.

Athletics 6, Yankees 4: Coco Crisp made the Yankees people I follow on Twitter use a lot of bad words last night. Two homers including a three-run shot in the 10th inning. He drove in five overall. Nick Swisher had two homers also, but since he only cares about padding his statistics and not winning, they don’t count. This is the first series victory for Oakland over New York in eleven tries.

Rockies 7, Astros 6: Troy Tulowitzki scored on a wild pitch in the bottom of the 10th as the Rockies won their fifth straight. It feels like the Rockies have been out of contention forever and I wouldn’t bet a dime on their chances to get back into it, but it’s not against the laws of physics for there to be at least some sort of Rocktober — or is it Rocktember? — run in them that will at least give us something to talk about. I mean, it’s like either Arizona or San Francisco seems interested in taking the division by the throat.

Marlins 6, Reds 5Reds 3, Marlins 2: A homer for Logan Morrison in his first game back after being sent to his room for his impudence, er, I mean after being sent down to the minors to work on his hitting. In the nightcap Bronson Arroyo threw eight scoreless and Joey Votto homered. He actually homered in the day game too.

Mariners 9, Indians 2: Wily Mo Pena went 3 for 3 with four driven in, falling a triple short of the cycle. Would like to have seen him leg out a triple, but he also walked in this one, and you can only ask for so many once-in-a-lifetime occurrences. Kyle Seager went 4 for 4 and hit three doubles.

Dodgers 9, Cardinals 4: L.A. sweeps the reeling Cardinals. The reeling Cardinals who are ten games back of Milwaukee now, which is the biggest deficit for any second place team in baseball.

Mets 7, Phillies 4: Mike Pelfrey threw 125 pitches in only six innings and seemed like he tried to pick a fight with Placido Polanco. Sort of glad I didn’t watch this one because inefficiency and belligerence don’t make for good baseball in my book.  Whatever. The Mets avoid the sweep.

Pirates 2, Brewers 0:  Aaron Thompson made his big league debut and shut out the hottest team in baseball for nearly five innings. If it wasn’t for the hard pitch count he was on he would have got the win, but that’s life for a youngin.’ The pen finished the shutout and two sac flies was all the offense that anyone needed.

Diamondbacks 4, Nationals 2: Daniel Hudson allowed nothin’ but zeroes for eight and two-thirds and then gave up back-to-back homers. Not a shutout but ….

Blue Jays 4, Royals 3: I, for one, welcome our new Brett Lawrie overlords. He hit what proved to be the game-winning homer and also plated a run with a triple. The kid is now hitting .328/.379/.656 in 18 games.

Rays 3, Tigers 2: Elliot Johnson had the game-winning fielder’s choice. It came with two outs and the bases loaded, and the run scored because Sean Rodriguez booked it like no one’s business from first to second and avoided the force out. If he lollygags there, the game goes into the 11th.

Giants 2, Padres 1: Tim Lincecum allowed only one run in eight innings and drove one in himself, giving himself a 0 NLP — crap, I can’t remember the name of the phony statistic I came up with the other day. Carlos Beltran had a homer.

Cubs 3, Braves 2: Randy Wells more or less tied the Braves’ bats up into the seventh inning, allowing one run. He also drove one in.  Alfonso Soriano hit a two-run bob. Jason Heyward was 0 for 4 with a strikeout, so I guess my reverse jinx thing isn’t working anymore. Enjoy the bench today, big guy.

Orioles 6, Twins 1: A five run fifth makes this a laugher for Baltimore. The death of Mike Flanagan, however, takes all of the laughs away.

It’s May 4 and Daniel Murphy is still out-hitting Bryce Harper

Washington Nationals' Daniel Murphy hits an RBI single during the first inning of a baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals Saturday, April 30, 2016, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
AP Photo/Jeff Roberson
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Nationals second baseman Daniel Murphy flirted with the cycle in Wednesday afternoon’s 13-2 drubbing of the Royals, as he went 4-for-5 with a pair of singles, a two-run double, and a solo home run. That brings his triple-slash line on the season up to .398/.449/.663. Comparatively, teammate Bryce Harper — the defending NL MVP and arguably the best player in baseball — is currently hitting .266/.372/.649.

Murphy has always been an above-average hitter, but this level of hitting is something else. Of course, he flashed it in the post-season last year when he homered in six consecutive games, helping the Mets advance past the Dodgers in the NLDS and sweep the Cubs in the NLCS.

The Nats signed Murphy to a three-year, $37.5 million contract in January. If Neil Walker, acquired from the Pirates to replace Murphy, wasn’t hitting so well, the Mets would probably be jealous. Walker is hitting .296/.330/.582 with nine home runs and 19 RBI.

Video: Jon Lester tosses his glove to get the out

Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Jon Lester throws against the Pittsburgh Pirates in the first inning of a baseball game, Wednesday, May 4, 2016, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
AP Photo/Keith Srakocic
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It’s always fun when this happens. Cubs starter Jon Lester snagged a grounder hit back up the middle by Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli in the bottom of the second inning. The only problem was that the ball got stuck in the webbing of his glove. Rather than fight to pry the ball out, Lester just lobbed his glove over to first baseman Anthony Rizzo to get the first out of the inning.

Lester has had issues throwing baseballs to first base, so maybe it was a good thing the ball got stuck in his glove.

Lester did this last year, too, by the way.

Alex Rodriguez lands on the 15-day DL with a strained hamstring

New York Yankees' Alex Rodriguez follows through on a single to right off a pitch from Texas Rangers' Shawn Tolleson in the ninth inning of a baseball game, Wednesday, April 27, 2016, in Arlington, Texas. The Yankees lost 3-2. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
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Yankees DH Alex Rodriguez strained his right hamstring running out a ground ball in the fifth inning of Tuesday’s loss to the Orioles. The club announced it has placed him on the 15-day disabled list and recalled pitcher James Pazos from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

Rodriguez lands on DL hitting .194/.275/.444 with five home runs and 12 RBI in 80 plate appearances.

Dustin Ackley replaced Rodriguez in Tuesday’s game, but the Yankees will likely cycle a handful of players in and out of the DH spot while Rodriguez heals.

What’s on Tap: Previewing Wednesday evening’s action

Philadelphia Phillies' Aaron Nola pitches to a Milwaukee Brewers batter during the first inning of a baseball game Friday, April 22, 2016, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Tom Lynn)
AP Photo/Tom Lynn
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We were treated to a handful of games this afternoon but we still have eight night games left. Let’s talk about the Phillies.

I wrote this preview of the Phillies just before the season started, predicting them to win only 65 games, which would mark only a marginal improvement over their 63-win season last year. In my defense, I wasn’t alone, as almost every expert as well as the projections had them finishing under 70 wins. And yet, here they are 27 games into the season with 16 wins. That’s on pace for a 96-win season. What the heck.

Aaron Nola pitched seven shutout innings against the Cardinals in a 1-0 victory on Tuesday, marking the Phillies’ sixth shutout of the year, the best mark in the majors. Even as the Phillies prepared to draft him, Nola was described as “major league ready” but no one expected him to be quite this dominant. In his first 19 major league starts, Nola has a 3.37 ERA with a 112/26 K/BB ratio over 117 2/3 innings. This year, not only has Nola been extremely stingy with the walks, but he’s been missing bats at an elite level. He’s only 22 years old.

Nola is joined in the rotation by Vincent Velasquez, the pitcher who highlighted the return from the Astros in the Ken Giles trade. The right-hander made headlines in April with a 16-strikeout performance against the Padres and currently stands with a 1.44 ERA with a 39/10 K/BB ratio in 31 1/3 innings. Unlike Nola, Velasquez was billed as a future ace or a dominant eighth- or ninth-inning guy.

Then there’s Jerad Eickhoff, who came over in the Cole Hamels trade last year. Though he has a ho-hum 4.15 ERA, Eickhoff is occasionally dominant as evidenced by his 32/5 K/BB ratio over 30 1/3 innings. He has a pretty curve. Look at it. Eickhoff probably won’t be an ace, but he wasn’t considered to be a future mainstay in the rotation when the Hamels trade went through. All he’s done so far is exceed expectations. Nola-Velasquez-Eickhoff makes for an outstanding start to a long-term starting rotation.

The offensive tools aren’t quite where the pitching is yet for the Phillies, as third baseman Maikel Franco has wavered between looking like Mike Schmidt and looking completely lost at the plate. He has only five hits (zero home runs) in his last 37 plate appearances. Shortstop prospect J.P. Crawford isn’t there yet, nor is outfielder Nick Williams, catcher Jorge Alfaro, and outfielder Cornelius Randolph. There’s certainly a lot of hope on the horizon.

In the interest of full disclosure, I’m a Phillies fan, but wearing rose-colored glasses isn’t a crime of which I’ve been often accused over the years. It has been one headache after another being a Phillies fan between 2012-15. The front office under former GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. was stubborn and out of touch. Now, under new president Andy MacPhail and GM Matt Klentak, the team has a goal and is seeing it through. No, the Phillies won’t win 96 games this year — they probably won’t even win 80 — but they’re certainly further along than a lot of us gave them credit for being.

The Phillies play game three of a four-game set in St. Louis tonight at 8:15 PM EDT. Lefty Adam Morgan will oppose the Cardinals’ Mike Leake.

The rest of Wednesday’s action…

Detroit Tigers (Anibal Sanchez) @ Cleveland Indians (Corey Kluber), 6:10 PM EDT

New York Yankees (CC Sabathia) @ Baltimore Orioles (Tyler Wilson), 7:05 PM EDT

Texas Rangers (Colby Lewis) @ Toronto Blue Jays (Aaron Sanchez), 7:07 PM EDT

Arizona Diamondbacks (Rubby De La Rosa) @ Miami Marlins (Jose Fernandez), 7:10 PM EDT

Los Angeles Dodgers (Alex Wood) @ Tampa Bay Rays (Drew Smyly), 7:10 PM EDT

Boston Red Sox (Clay Buchholz) @ Chicago White Sox (Carlos Rodon), 8:10 PM EDT

Minnesota Twins (Phil Hughes) @ Houston Astros (Mike Fiers), 8:10 PM EDT