Joel Peralta

And That Happened: Sunday’s scores and highlights

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Rays 8, Red Sox 5: Tim Wakefield got a lot of love for his 200th win last week. But it didn’t change the fact that Tim Wakefield doesn’t have a whole hell of a lot left. Now only two games separate these two in the wild card race. And the Rays-love has gotten so crazy that I almost feel like going full-bore contrarian here and may start rooting for the Red Sox. Ah, maybe not. But the desire of the non-Boston people to see the Rays pull this off has gotten near-comical.

Blue Jays 3, Yankees 0: Adam Lind homered twice and Brandon Morrow shut the Yankees the hell down, allowing four hits in eight shutout innings, striking out eight.  To be fair, the Yankees sent out a lineup that you couldn’t pick out of a lineup. Maybe they knew the Red Sox would lose and that it didn’t matter?

Mets 7, Braves 5: Four driven in for Ruben Tejada as the Mets take two of three from the Braves. Johnny Venters walked three and gave up two hits, including a homer, in one inning of work. For those who care, the Braves had exactly two things going for them in their march to the playoffs: strong starting pitching and a shutdown pen. The first one went by the wayside with injures several weeks ago. Now the second one has questions too. R.I.P. Braves season. Whether it ends with the wild card or not, this is a dead team walking.

Giants 12, Rockies 5: And don’t look now, but the Giants are on a freaking roll.  Eight straight wins, this on the back of two Pablo Sandoval homers. Too little too late? I suspect so. And in some ways I hope so. Not because what’s good for them is bad for my team, but because I’m pretty sure there won’t be anything more insufferable on the planet than Giants fans playing the “no one believed in us” card if they make the playoffs. And they’ll be right. And they themselves were included in that as recently as a week ago, though I suppose that part will be conveniently forgotten.

Cardinals 5, Phillies 0: Two homers for Allen Craig and a homer for Albert Pujols. One freakin’ time all year I root for the Phillies and they drop two of the first three. Gee, thanks guys.

Nationals 4, Marlins 3: I think Jack McKeon and Davey Johnson arranged the Hand vs. Wang matchup just to see how many baseball writers would go crazy with the headlines. But not me. I’m above that. At least I am after Wang won the game.  If, however, Hand had handled Wang, I couldn’t have been held responsible for the sheer amount of juvenilia that would have emanated from my keyboard. Oh, and Hand has lost successive games to Wang and Dickey. Just so you know.

White Sox 10, Royals 5: A.J. Pierzynski hit two homers. I’m sure he did it in the nastinest way possible.

Indians 6, Twins 5: The Tribe scored six in the seventh, thanks in part to two fabulous things: a Shelley Duncan homer and a Jim Thome infield single. Jason Repko was beaned by a Justin Masterson sinker that didn’t sink and had to be taken to the hospital, so that sort of took the fun out of it all.

Brewers 8, Reds 1: Milwaukee sweeps the Reds behind homers from Prince Fielder, Carlos Gomez and Corey Hart and a nice outing from Zack Greinke. Cincinnati had only two hits for the second day in a row. Smells like they’re mailing in the last two weeks. Milwaukee will probably be the next team to clinch a playoff spot.

Diamondbacks 5, Padres 1:  Or maybe the Dbacks will be. For, yes, San Francisco is charging, but Arizona’s magic number is five, and that’s a pretty sure bet. Joe Saunders pitched splendidly. Paul Goldschmidt drove in three.

Angels 11, Orioles 2: Baltimore has been a pesky little spolier in the past week or so, but not yesterday. Erik Aybar went 4 for 4 with two homers and a walk and scored five times. The five runs ties a 13-year-old team record held by Tim Salmon. Jered Weaver pitched well on three-days’ rest, winning his 18th.

Rangers 3, Mariners 0: But no ground was gained by the Angels because the Rangers beat King Felix. Four Rangers pitchers combine to blank the M’s.

Dodgers 15, Pirates 1: Half a dozen NFL teams didn’t score 15 yesterday so, hey, nice goin’ L.A. Four a piece driven in by Jerry Sands and Juan Rivera.

Tigers 3, Athletics 0: Justin Verlander wins his 24th. Which seems like an MVP-type number in ways that 23 isn’t. No, I’m not changing my mind. I still don’t think Verlander should be the MVP. But I bet a lot of voters who were on the fence will be pushed there because of his 24th win. All of that said: Verlander’s wins seem a hell of a lot more solid than most guy’s gaudy win totals in recent history. This was a three-hitter over eight shutout innings. The vast majority of his wins have come with authority this season.

Astros 3, Cubs 2: A Carlos Pena would-be homer was called a double on replay — pretty correctly, I’ll add — but that didn’t stop Mike Quade from arguing it and getting himself ejected. Anyone else think that the Mike Quade administration is just about over?  Yeah, me too.

Brandon Belt signs $6.2 million deal, avoiding arbitration with Giants

Brandon Belt
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In a last-second compromise before a scheduled heading today, first baseman Brandon Belt and the Giants have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $6.2 million deal.

Belt requested $7.5 million and the Giants countered at $5.3 million, so they’ve settled slightly on the team-friendly side of the midpoint. Belt will be arbitration eligible again next season for the final time before hitting the open market as a free agent.

He’s coming off a very good season in which he hit .280 with 18 homers and an .834 OPS in 137 games and Belt has a lifetime .803 OPS through age 27, making him one of MLB’s most underrated all-around first baseman.

Orioles sign ex-Padres reliever Dale Thayer

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Right-hander Dale Thayer and the Orioles have agreed to a minor-league contract that includes an invitation to spring training.

Thayer had a rough 2015 season for the Padres, posting a 4.06 ERA and spending time in the minors, but he was a solid part of San Diego’s bullpen from 2012-2014 with a combined 3.02 ERA and 173/50 K/BB ratio in 188 innings.

At age 35 there’s no guarantee that Thayer will look good enough to claim a spot on the Opening Day roster, but he’s got a strong chance to wind up pitching middle relief for Baltimore.

Phillies acquire Taylor Featherston from Angels

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Taylor Featherston, who was designated for assignment by the Angels last week, has been traded to the Phillies for a player to be named later or cash.

Featherston stayed in the majors with the Angels for all of last season due to being a Rule 5 pick from the Rockies organization, but the 25-year-old infielder hit just .162 in 169 plate appearances.

He’s been much better in the minors, but nothing about his track record there screams quality regular and the Phillies are likely viewing him as a defense-first bench option for now.

Keith Law: The Braves have the best farm system in baseball

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Flags fly forever! Hooray for The Process championship!

Ah, sorry. This is about as much rooting as I’ll get to do this year, so cut me some slack.

This is the week when ESPN’s Keith Law releases his prospect and farm system rankings. He kicks off his content this week with a top-to-bottom ranking of all 30 farm systems. As a rule he limits his analysis to players who are currently in the minors and who have not yet exhausted their rookie of the year eligibility. The top system: the Atlanta Braves. The bottom: the Los Angeles Angels, about whom Law says “I’ve been doing these rankings for eight years now, and this is by far the worst system I’ve ever seen.” Enjoy Mike Trout, though, you guys.

If you want to know the reasons and the rankings of everyone in between you’ll have to get an ESPN Insider subscription. Sorry, I know everyone hates to pay for content on the Internet, but Keith and others who do this kind of work put a lot of damn work into it and this is what pays their bills. I typically don’t like to pay for content myself, but I do pay for an ESPN Insider subscription. It’s worth it for Law’s work alone. And though he drives me crazy sometimes, Buster Olney’s daily column/notes thing is also worth the money over the course of the year.