San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner throws against the Colorado Rockies in their Major League Baseball game in Denver

And That Happened: Thursday’s scores and highlights

32 Comments

Giants 4, Rockies 2: Madison Bumgarner took a no-hitter into the sixth, silencing the Rockies bats that rocked Tim Lincecum’s world the night before. That, and some bad defense by Dexter Fowler, prevented Jamie Moyer from becoming the oldest pitcher to ever win a game. Can’t have errors behind the old guy or he’s toast. Why? Because as Jason Giambi said after the game: “He’s not a strikeout pitcher.” To which the interviewer responded thusly.

Cubs 8, Brewers 0: Attention Zack Greinke: you’re doing this whole free agency push thing wrong (3.2 IP, 9 H, 8 ER). Matt Garza, in contrast, was masterful (8.2 IP, 3 H, 0 ER).  Well, almost masterful.

Nationals 3, Reds 2: The first place Nationals one won (professional writer, folks!) their home opener in front of a sellout crowd. There are, like, three things unusual about that sentence. But which over the next several years will seem pretty normal I reckon. Ryan Zimmerman scored the winning run on an Alfredo Simon wild pitch in the 10th.

Rangers 5, Mariners 3: Michael Young went 3 for 4 and drove in four. Derek Holland struck out eight in seven and a third. The Rangers have gotten a lot of really good starting pitching over the past three games.

Twins 10, Angels 9: The Twins rapped out 20 hits, including homers from Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau (who were booed earlier in the game, BTW. What the hell is wrong with you people?). Not that it was an offensive tour de force, as Minnesota stranded a bunch of runners. But that paled compared to the Angels’ bullpen, which gave up 11 hits and seven runs over the last four innings.

Tigers 7, Rays 2: Drew Smyly made his major league debut for the Tigers. It was rough at first — he loaded the bases with no one out to start the game — but wiggled out of it. Still didn’t get the win, though, as he threw 90 pitches over four innings.  It was Brennan Boesch’s birthday, it was his birthday, so he partied like it was his birthday, driving in four.

Phillies 3, Marlins 1: Joe Blanton had no trouble handling the Marlins, giving up one run on three hits in seven innings.

Dodgers 3, Pirates 2: The Dodgers sweep. Third game in a row without Vin Scully, by the way, as he recovers from a bad cold. Which just means that when he comes  back and the Dodgers don’t win the division, I’m going to start claiming that it was because of the curse of Vin Scully. That ought to be popular.

Diamondbacks 3, Padres 1: Ian Kennedy strikes out nine in six innings. A lot of people, myself included, thought that Kennedy would regress some this season. I think what we were forgetting is just how many games he gets to pitch against the Padres each year.

Video: Nelson Cruz hits second-longest home run of 2016

ANAHEIM, CA - SEPTEMBER 14:  Nelson Cruz #23 of the Seattle Mariners celebrates his solo homerun with Daniel Vogelbach #20 of the Seattle Mariners to take a 2-1 lead over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim during the seventh inning at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on September 14, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Getty Images
1 Comment

There’s certainly never a bad time to hit a home run, but when you get the opportunity to crush a triple-deck, 493-foot shot off of Tyler Duffey, you should take it. With the Mariners down 2-0 to the Twins in the fourth inning, Cruz hammered a fastball to deep left field for his 39th long ball of the season — and the second-longest home run hit in 2016, to boot.

It doesn’t hurt that the Mariners are 1.5 games back of a playoff spot, although they’ll have to oust the Blue Jays, Orioles, or Tigers to get a wild card. They’ve gone 3-3 in the last week, dropping two consecutive series to the Astros and Blue Jays and taking their series opener against Minnesota 10-1 on Friday night.

Cruz, for his part, entered Saturday’s game with a .299/.337/.610 batting line and six home runs in September. According to ESPN.com’s Home Run Tracker, Cruz sits behind Edwin Encarnacion and Mike Napoli with 13 “no-doubt” home runs in 2016, third-most among major league sluggers. It’s safe to say he can add Saturday’s moonshot to that list.

Marlins’ outfielder and undisputed home run king Giancarlo Stanton remains untouched at the top of the Statcast leaderboard with a 504-ft. home run, and it’s difficult to envision any slugger reaching beyond that before the end of the season. Even so, Cruz won’t need to clear 500 feet to extend an impressive hitting record. One more home run will put the 36-year-old at 40 on the year, making 2016 his third consecutive season with at least 40 homers, and his second such season doing so in Seattle.

Report: John Farrell won’t rule out a postseason return for Pablo Sandoval

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - APRIL 11:  Pablo Sandoval #48 of the Boston Red Sox looks on from the dugout before the Red Sox home opener against the Baltimore Orioles at Fenway Park on April 11, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Orioles defeat the Red Sox 9-7.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Getty Images
7 Comments

It’s been a strange season for Red Sox’ third baseman Pablo Sandoval, who lost his starting role in spring training, went 0-for-6 in three regular season appearances, and underwent season-ending surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder in May. That was the last the Red Sox were supposed to hear about Sandoval until spring 2017, when he was expected to rejoin the team after a lengthy rehab stint in Florida.

On Saturday, manager John Farrell was telling a different story. Per MLB.com’s Sam Blum, Farrell hinted that Sandoval could return to the team as soon as October, albeit in a very limited capacity.

At the time of the surgery, it was all looking at the start of next Spring Training,” Farrell said. “We’re not getting too far ahead of ourselves here, but at the same time, we compliment him for the work he’s put in, the way he’s responded to the rehab, the way he’s worked himself into better condition. We’re staying open-minded.

If the 30-year-old does return in 2016, don’t expect him to look like the three-home run hitter of the 2012 World Series. Should the Red Sox lose another player to injury, Sandoval might be called on as a backup option, but he’s unlikely to see substantial playing time under any other circumstances. Despite making two appearances at DH in the instructional league, Sandoval has not started at third base since undergoing surgery, though Farrell noted that a return to third base would be the next logical step in his recovery process.

Sandoval has yet to hit his stride within the Red Sox’ organization after hitting career-worst numbers in 2015. According to FanGraphs, his Offensive Runs Above Average (Off) plummeted to -20.2, contributing approximately two wins fewer than the average offensive player in 2015. (The Diamondbacks’ Chris Owings held the lowest Off mark in 2015, with -26.3 runs below average.) Sandoval has not appeared in a postseason race since the Giants’ championship run in 2014.

Heading into Saturday evening, the Red Sox could clinch their spot in the postseason with a win over the Rays and an Orioles’ loss.