And That Happened: Tuesday’s scores and highlights

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Orioles 7, Red Sox 5: Guess that visit from Ric Flair didn’t pay off, eh?  It’s possible, I suppose, that the visit wasn’t from the man in his awesome Nature Boy persona, but rather, was the real life Ric Flair, who is pretty damn pathetic. Anyway, sure, Tampa Bay lost too and if these teams keep pace with one another for the next week Boston wins. On the other hand, yuuuuuck.  If Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon can’t combine in the eighth inning to shut down Baltimore, how much confidence do you have for the playoffs?

Yankees 5, Rays 0: Look, Tampa Bay: Boston isn’t gonna do all of the collapsing for you. You have to do your part too.

Braves 4, Marlins 0: Randall Delgado tossed five shutout innings for his first MLB win and Fredi Gonzalez was finally introduced to a couple of relievers who aren’t Craig Kimbrel and Jonny Venters to close things out. True fact: I actually own and still wear a sweatshirt that is older than Delgado. It’s a black I.O.U. number with purple lettering on it and the words “styled for the 90s” written across the bottom. I got it from an aunt in November 1989 (Delgado was born in February 1990). I have no idea why I’ve kept it so long, but I still sleep in it when it’s really cold. I could probably match it up with a pair of baggy acid wash jeans and some British Knights and really make the scene in some Eastern European village someplace.

Cardinals 11, Mets 6: Of course you can’t depend on the Mets to do anything for you. They had a 4-0 lead and blew it and then were back to a 6-5 lead in the seventh before giving up a bases-loaded Ryan Theriot double and six runs in all that inning. Albert Pujols was 4 for 5.

Dodgers 2, Giants 1: While St. Louis kept pace the same can’t be said of San Francisco. Clayton Kershaw pretty much owns the Giants and he flummoxed them again, winning his 20th. A James Loney single and a Jerry Sands homer gave him two runs to work with early and two runs tends to be all he needs.

Nationals 4, Phillies 3; Nationals 3, Phillies 0: Yeah, I know they’ve clinched their division and are a lock for the best record and that September records mean little for playoff teams and yadda, yadda yadda. But that said: aren’t you at least a bit worried about this offense?

Brewers 5, Cubs 1: I have no idea why the postal service is considering cutting off Saturday delivery to cut costs. The Cubs are so thoroughly mailing it in that the USPS budget should be balanced by next Wednesday.

Royals 10, Tigers 2: Eric Hosmer went 5 for 5 and drove in three. Brad Penny got lit up. The Royals have won eight of their last nine. If they pick up a pitcher or two this winter, they are gonna be everyone’s trendy pick next spring.

Mariners 5, Twins 4: Mike Carp was 5 for 5 but didn’t score once. I wonder how often that happens.

Reds 6, Astros 4: Homer Bailey scattered six hits while pitching and had three of his own while hitting. We always couch this as an individual sentiment, but really, there’s no “I” in “helped his own cause.”  Oh, wait. There is one “i” in there. It’s not capitalized though, so maybe we can let this one pass?

Angels 10, Blue Jays 6: Toronto fails to play spoiler on this night.  Know what would be really cool, though? If someone played The Spoiler. Anyone remember that guy? You, over there, in the I.O.U. sweater. You’re old enough, right?  Yeah, he kind of sucked actually, but the world needs high-level jobbers to get guys over, OK? Those superstars don’t sell themselves.

Padres 2. Rockies 1: Mat Latos struck out nine in eight and two-thirds but ran out of gas as the pitch count crossed the 120 mark. Heath Bell got a one out save.

Indians 4, White Sox 3White Sox 5, Indians 4: The only thing more meaningless than a White Sox-Indians game this time of the year is the White Sox and Indians splitting a double header. At least in a single game something perceptible happens in the standings. The split twin bill was about as eventful as making an angel in the gypsum at White Sands National Monument. Tomorrow, it’s as if it never happened.

Pirates 5, Diamondbacks 3: Charlie Morton threw six scoreless innings. The Dbacks magic number is down to three thanks to the Giants’ loss.

Rangers 7, Athletics 2: Michael Young got his 200th hit and Adrian Beltre hit a three-run homer. Texas has won eight of ten and is gonna cruise into the playoffs at this rate. The magic number is four.

Game 6: This is why the Astros traded for Justin Verlander

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Houston’s pitching has not been their biggest problem as they’ve watched their 2-0 series lead turn in to a 3-2 series deficit. It has not been good, mind you — Charlie Morton got rocked in Game 3, the bullpen collapsed on Game 4 and Dallas Keuchel was suddenly mortal in Game 5 — but even then it’s not been the biggest concern. The real problem has been the lack of offense.

The Astros led the majors in runs (896), batting average (.282), on-base percentage (.346) and slugging (.478) during the regular season and were second to the Yankees in homers. Despite that, they have scored just nine runs and have hit only one homer. The team’s ALCS batting line, those two wins included, is .147/.234/.213. As such, facing off against Luis Severino and a rested Yankees bullpen tonight can’t give them a ton of confidence.

They do have one thing going for them, however: Justin Verlander. The same Justin Verlander who received only two runs of support in Game 2 of the series but made it hold up thanks to his 124-pitch, 13-strikeout complete game victory. You can’t really expect a starter to do that sort of thing two times in a row, but that’s what the Astros acquired him for at the end of August. In a league where there are vanishingly few horses a team can ride to victory, Verlander stands as one of the few remaining old school aces. Expect A.J. Hinch to keep the bit in Verlander’s mouth for as long as this game is close and, even then, maybe an inning longer.

Is there any reason for optimism regarding the Astros’ lineup? Sure, of course. They didn’t suddenly all forget how to hit. Every team goes through a stretch of 3-5 games where the hits don’t seem to fall. There may, possibly, be some reason for hope in the man they’re facing too. Severino lasted only four innings in Game 2, having been removed early after taking a ground ball off his left wrist. Severino said he was fine and wished that Joe Girardi hadn’t taken him out, but (a) he was acting a little odd, shaking his arm out like he was trying to shake off some pain; and (b) starting pitchers almost always lie and say they’re better than they are. I’m certain Severino is healthy enough to go, but there’s at least a small chance that he’s vulnerable, somehow. At the very least Astros hitters can walk to the plate convincing themselves of it. Any edge you can either get or imagine, right?

Game 6 seems like it will have to be a matter of a small edge one way or another for both teams, really. The Yankees are rolling, but their assignment tonight is a tough one as they try to chase a guy who fancies himself — and has often shown himself — to be a rare throwback to those 1960s and 1970s aces who only seem to get better as the ballgame goes on. The Astros, meanwhile, are tasked with solving a young, fireballing stuff monster who has something to prove after his early exit in Game 2 and, even if he can’t prove it, a corps of relief aces who are among the most formidable in baseball. Add to that the notion that Major League Baseball, Fox and most commentators and casual fans outside of Houston want to see the 12th Yankees-Dodgers World Series matchup and the Astros have to be thinking everything’s against them.

Which is OK, though, right? Ballplayers love it when no one believes in them. That’s not better than six or seven runs of support, but the Astros will take anything they can get at the moment.