Rays' Evan Longoria runs to home plate as his teammates crowd around after his 12th inning home run to defeat the Yankees during their American League MLB baseball game in St. Petersburg, Florida

And That Happened: Wednesday’s scores and highlights

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Can we breathe now? Look guys, you know what happened in these games, so forgive me if I’m light on the details. We have full breakdowns all over the place. I’m still in shock.

Rays 8, Yankees 7: Evan Longoria. Dan Johnson. Oh my gods. Did that really happen? [checks] Yes. Yes, it did happen.

Orioles 4, Red Sox 3: Congratulations to Robert F***ing Andino on the creation of his new middle name.

Cardinals 8, Astros 0: No doubt about it. Brilliant performance by Chris Carpenter. A two-hit shutout. 11Ks. Yes, the Braves collapsed, but don’t undersell the Cardinals’ surge. It takes both, and it does a disservice to the Cardinals to make this all about the Braves gack-job.

Phillies 4, Braves 3: And it was a gack-job, but let’s not be content to call this some episode of mass choking. There were real people responsible here. The blown save by Craig Kimbrel in the 9th? The broken-bat single by Hunter Pence in the 13th? Both are on Fredi Gonzalez in my view. Kimbrel was murdered this year. Pence should have been walked. I can think of a half dozen games that Fredi’s small-ball, small-brain approach cost the Braves in 2011. And sure, any fan can say the same of his team, and I could say that of any Bobby Cox-led team of the previous 20 years. But Cox wouldn’t have let his team be as tight as these Braves have been the past three or four weeks. Just don’t see that ever happening.  It’s been real, Atlanta, but you didn’t belong in the playoffs in 2011. It’s pretty easy to see that now.

Padres 9, Cubs 2: Four RBI for Will Venable as the Padres destroy Ryan Dempster.

Brewers 7, Pirates 3: Milwaukee wins its 96th game, which is a franchise best. Zack Greinke finishes with an 11-0 home record this year. Which is pretty neat. 0 for 4 night for Braun, so I guess the fact that Jose Reyes left the game early didn’t matter.

Twins 1, Royals 0: A Carl Pavano shutout to end the season. Bruce Chen threw eight shutout innings himself. Maybe the Red Sox should have traded for him a couple of months ago.

Rockies 6, Giants 3: The Giants world title defense is over. Can they all shave now?

Nationals 3, Marlins 1: Stephen Strasburg’s late season return is like that episode where Q sends the Enterprise to another quadrant to see the Borg, just as a tease of what they’ll have to face in the future. Everyone in the NL East is gonna hate that dude for the next decade.

Rangers 3, Angels 1: Mike Napoli hit two homers. One wonders where this season would be for the Angels if Napoli still played for them instead of Texas.

Tigers 5, Indians 4: Nice, but the Rangers win means that Detroit has to go to New York to start the ALDS.

Blue Jays 3, White Sox 2: Chris Sale issued two bases loaded walks in the ninth. What an inspiring ending to the season for the White Sox, my AL Central pick back in March.

Mets 3, Reds 0: No one cared at all about this game outside of Jose Reyes taking himself out of it to guarantee his batting title. How very game-162.

Dodgers 7, Diamondbacks 5: Matt Kemp homered, giving him the home run and RBI crowns. He’s the first Dodger to do that in 70 years.

Athletics 2, Mariners 0: Gio Gonzalez starts the season the way he began it in spring training: dominantly. Of course on this night he could have thrown a 27-strikeout perfect game and it may not have led any of the highlights shows. Thems the breaks.

 

And another season ends. The day-by-day ho-hum of this feature is no longer operative as we head into the Everything Friggin’ Matters postseason.

I always have mixed feelings about this. The playoffs are great, sure. And last night — which was basically playoff baseball — was fantastic. Maybe the best night of regular season baseball I can ever remember.

But to me at least the beauty of baseball is all about those lazy Tuesday nights in June when nothing really matters. Baseball as a constant. As something we enjoy all evening but then let go when we go to bed because, hey, there are 15 more games tomorrow, and they’ll help us to forget our worries.

But that all happened already. It will happen again next year. Now it is over, and it’s time for the edge-of-your-seat stuff.

It’s been great seeing you all here each morning for our usual nonsense. Thanks for all of the fun folks.

The Chicago Cubs: Spring training games, regular season prices

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Craig Calcaterra
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MESA, AZ — I’ve been covering spring training for eight years, and in just those eight years a lot has changed in the Cactus and Grapefruit League experiences. The parks are bigger and fancier and the vibe is far more akin to a regular season major league one than the intimate and laid back atmosphere most people think of when they picture February and March baseball.

Just imagine, however, how much has changed if you’ve been coming to Florida or Arizona for a really long time.

“When we first started coming, you could bring your own beer in,” says Don Harper, a lifelong Cubs fan from Kennewick, Washington who spends his winters in Arizona. “You couldn’t bring a cooler, but you could bring a case of beer and a bag of ice and you just set it down in between you and you just put the ice on it and keep it cold.”

I asked Don if the beer vendors complained.

“They didn’t sell beer,” he said.

That was three decades and two ballparks ago. They certainly sell beer at the Cubs’ gleaming new facility, Sloan Park. Cups of the stuff cost more than a couple of cases did back when Don first started coming to spring training.

The price of beer is not the only thing that has changed, of course. The price of tickets is not what it used to be either. Don told me that when he started coming to Cubs spring training games tickets ran about seven dollars. If that. It’s a bit pricer now. Face value for a single lawn ticket, where you’ll be sitting on a blanker on the outfield berm — can be as high as $47 depending on the day of the week and the opponent. Infield box seats run as high as $85.

The thing is, though, you’re not getting face value seats for Cubs spring training games. Half of the home games sold out within a week of tickets going on sale in January. Since then just about every other game has sold out or soon will. That will force you to get tickets on the secondary market. According to TickPick, the average — average! — Cubs spring training ticket on the secondary market is $106.30. For a single ticket. It’s easily the highest price for spring training tickets in all of baseball, and is $26 higher than secondary market tickets for the next highest team, the Red Sox:

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That may be shocking or even appalling to some, but as the automatic sellouts at Sloan Park and those high secondary market prices suggest, there are at least 15,000 people or so for each Cubs home game who don’t seem to mind. Supply meet demand meet the defending World Series champions.

I spoke with two younger Cubs fans, Corey Hayden and Eleanor Meloul, who traveled here from Salt Lake City. On Sunday they lucked out and got a couple of lawn seats for $28. On Saturday, however, they paid $100 a piece on StubHub to get some seats just beyond third base. I asked them if there is some price point that would keep them from coming.

“There isn’t one,” Hayden said. “I paid $4,500 for a World Series ticket, so . . .”

Don Harper wouldn’t do that, but he doesn’t really mind the higher prices he’s paying for his spring tickets. Of course, he’s a longtime season ticket holder so he gets access to the face value seats. I asked him whether his spring training habit would end if those prices got jacked up higher, as the market would seem to bear, or if he had to resort to the secondary market.

Don paused and sighed, suggesting it was a tough question. As he considered it, I put a hard number on it, asking him if he’d still go if he had to pay $50 per ticket. “Yeah, probably,” he said. “$75?” I asked. He paused again.

“As long as I got enough money.”

Don is a diehard who, one senses, will always find a way to make it work. Corey spent a wad of cash on that once-in-a-lifetime World Series ticket, but he and Eleanor seem content to bargain hunt for the most part and splurge strategically. If you’re a Cubs fan — and if you’re not rich — that’s what you’ll have to do. The ticket it just too hot.

Mets leaning on Jay Bruce, Neil Walker as Lucas Duda insurance

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MAY 12:  Pinch hitter Lucas Duda #21 of the New York Mets walks back to the dugout after striking out for the first out of the ninth inning against Clayton Kershaw #22 of the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on May 12, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  The Dodgers won 5-0.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
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The Mets have begun working outfielder Jay Bruce and second baseman Neil Walker at first base as potential insurance in the event Lucas Duda continues to experience back discomfort, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports. Duda has been sidelined recently due to back spasms and missed all but 47 games last season as a result of a stress fracture in his lower back.

Manager Terry Collins spoke about Bruce’s work at first base on Sunday, saying, “I liked everything I saw today. “It looks like he’s got the athleticism, he’s got the hands, he’s got the arm angle. He made some throws in our drills that you wouldn’t expect an outfielder to be able to make, but yet he does. If that’s where we have to go, I think we’ll be fine.”

Bruce has only three games’ worth of experience at first base at the major league level, but still has high expectations for himself. He said, “I am going to work at it. I want to give myself a chance and the team a chance. I am not going to go over there and be a butcher. It’s just not the way I go about my business on the baseball field and it wouldn’t be fair to the team if I wasn’t capable to do it, so I am going to work at it and we’ll see what happens.”

The Mets made Bruce available via trade over the offseason but didn’t get an offer that whet their appetite. As a result, Michael Conforto appears to be the odd man out in the Mets’ crowded outfield.