And That Happened: Wednesday’s scores and highlights

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Twins 6, Yankees 5: Justin Morneau hit two homers. That’s four homers in six games, which hopefully means that Morneau is back to his mashing ways. Jason Marquis, who missed most of spring training when his daughter was seriously injured in a bicycle accident, made his first ever start in Yankee Stadium and got the win with his daughter — now healthy — looking on.

Rockies 8, Padres 4: Chase Headley had two homers too, though they were in a losing effort. Still count, though. It says so right there in the rules.

Cardinals 11, Reds 1: The Cards’ bats continue to go nuts, touching Matt Latos for eight runs in five and two-thirds. Carlos Beltran and Tyler Greene homered. Jaime Garcia, in addition to handcuffing the Reds, tripled in a couple of runs. This was Adam Wainwright’s reaction to it. I think the Cardinals are having fun.

Rangers 6, Red Sox 3: Mike Napoli hit a two-run homer — his fourth bomb in three games — and drove in four. Bobby Valentine got booed when he made a pitching change in the eighth. Kevin Youkilis hit a home run, but his heart wasn’t in it, I hear.

Marlins 9, Cubs 1: Miami racked up 14 hits including a dinger from Hanley Ramirez, his third in as many games. Four straight losses for the Cubs.

Nationals 3, Astros 2: Three Astros relievers combined to walk three Nationals and allow two runs in the eighth inning. One of them was on a bases loaded walk to Jayson Werth. Washington pitching was good again, but they only struck out four in nine innings. Dudes: we’re used to K Street here, not 6-3 street, OK?

White Sox 8, Orioles 1: Jake Peavy and Adam Dunn have, at various times over the past year or so, looked like they had giant forks sticking out of their backs. Last night Peavy pitched seven strong innings and Dunn doubled in three runs to break it open late and walked a couple of times.

Pirates 2, Diamondbacks 1: Pittsburgh started the west coast swing poorly but finished strong. Pedro Alvarez hit a homer and, as the game story noted, “he raised his batting average 32 points to .074.” Good times.

Rays 12, Blue Jays 2: Four homers for the Rays including a Luke Scott grand slam. He asked the official scorer to only grant him three RBI for it because even numbers are socialist.

Braves 14, Mets 6: Atlanta knocked R.A. Dickey out early and kept piling on runs. This with Chipper Jones and Brian McCann out of the lineup (though Jones did pinch hit, doubling in a run and scoring). The offensive outburst overshadowed a poor outing by Jair Jurrjens, who couldn’t make it to the fifth inning.  His performance this season has thus far been … worrisome.

Tigers 4, Royals 3: I could tell you all about what went down here, but I’ll just note that Prince Fielder stole a friggin’ base and let you pick the pieces of your mind up off the floor for the remainder of the morning.

Brewers 3, Dodgers 2: A walkoff sacrifice fly for Ryan Braun in the 10th. More impressive: Zack Greinke hit a double. Him and Jaime Garcia: making the case against the DH last night.

Giants 1, Phillies 0: Holy crap. Cliff Lee threw ten shutout innings and got a no decision. That’s because Matt Cain threw nine shutout innings and three Giants relievers combined for a tenth and eleventh while Melky Cabrera singled home Brandon Belt in the Giants’ half of the eleventh inning for the win. More on this one later this morning.

Athletics 6, Angels 0: Meanwhile Bartolo Colon shut the Angels out on four hits over eight innings himself. Yoenis Cespedes hit a three-run homer. The Angels are kinda reeling, yes?

Mariners 4, Indians 1: Jason Vargas was on it, striking out seven in seven innings in front of the smallest crowd in Safeco Field history (11,343). Apparently seeing Eric Wedge’s old team come to town is not a big deal to some people. The Indians’ four-game winning streak comes to an end.

In the playoffs, the Yankees’ weakness has become their strength

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Two weeks ago, when the playoffs began, the idea of “bullpenning” once again surfaced, this time with the Yankees as a focus. Because their starting pitching was believed to be a weakness — they had no obvious ace like a Dallas Keuchel or Corey Kluber — and their bullpen was a major strength, the idea of chaining relievers together starting from the first inning gained traction. The likes of Luis Severino, who struggled mightily in the AL Wild Card game, or Masahiro Tanaka (4.79 regular season ERA) couldn’t be relied upon in the postseason, the thought went.

That idea is no longer necessary for the Yankees because the starting rotation has become the club’s greatest strength. Tanaka fired seven shutout innings to help push the Yankees ahead of the Astros in the ALCS, three games to two. They are now one win away from reaching the World Series for the first time since 2009.

It hasn’t just been Tanaka. Since Game 3 of the ALDS, Yankees pitchers have made eight starts spanning 46 1/3 innings. They have allowed 10 runs (nine earned) on 25 hits and 12 walks with 45 strikeouts. That’s a 1.75 ERA with an 8.74 K/9 and 2.33 BB/9. In five of those eight starts, the starter went at least six innings, which has helped preserve the freshness and longevity of the bullpen.

Here’s the full list of performances for Yankee starters this postseason:

Game Starter IP H R ER BB SO HR
AL WC Luis Severino 1/3 4 3 3 1 0 2
ALDS 1 Sonny Gray 3 1/3 3 3 3 4 2 1
ALDS 2 CC Sabathia 5 1/3 3 4 2 3 5 0
ALDS 3 Masahiro Tanaka 7 3 0 0 1 7 0
ALDS 4 Luis Severino 7 4 3 3 1 9 2
ALDS 5 CC Sabathia 4 1/3 5 2 2 0 9 0
ALCS 1 Masahiro Tanaka 6 4 2 2 1 3 0
ALCS 2 Luis Severino 4 2 1 1 2 0 1
ALCS 3 CC Sabathia 6 3 0 0 4 5 0
ALCS 4 Sonny Gray 5 1 2 1 2 4 0
ALCS 5 Masahiro Tanaka 7 3 0 0 1 8 0
TOTAL 55 1/3 35 20 17 20 52 6

In particular, if you hone in on the ALCS starts specifically, Yankee starters have pitched 28 innings, allowing five runs (four earned) on 13 hits and 10 walks with 20 strikeouts. That’s a 1.61 ERA.

While the Yankees’ biggest weakness has become a strength, the Astros’ biggest weakness — the bullpen — has become an even bigger weakness. This is why the Yankees, who won 10 fewer games than the Astros during the regular season, are one win away from reaching the World Series and the Astros are not.