And That Happened: Sunday’s scores and highlights

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Giants 4, Padres 1: Madison Bumgarner keeps rolling (7.2 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 6K). After the game he explained his recent success by saying “I’m just trying to make pitches.”  I’ve heard that for 30 years and I’m still not quite sure what it means but I always like hearing it for some reason. It’s a satisfying answer to me on some level. I think I’m going to start using it in everyday conversation:

Mookie: Dad, why do you keep putting strawberries in my lunch. You know I don’t like strawberries.

Me: Hey, I’m just trying to make pitches.

Dodgers 2, Nationals 0: Chris Capuano outpitches Gio Gonzalez as the Dodgers sweep the Nationals. They’re now 0-2 with Bryce Harper. Let’s pretend that’s a thing because it will probably annoy the hell out of him.

Twins 7, Royals 4: Single, double and a triple for Josh Willingham in his first game back from paternity leave. Man, I remember going back to work after my kids were born. Most relaxing place to be on the planet after a few days of that noise. Don’t look at me like that. The people with parents know what I’m talking about.

Mets 6, Rockies 5: Johan Santana was pretty awesome again, but he had a big lead blown when Tim Byrdak gave up an 8th inning pinch hit grand slam to Todd Helton. The Mets pull it out in extras, however, when Ike Davis singled home David Wright.

White Sox 4, Red Sox 1: Gavin Floyd took a no-hitter into the seventh but then he eased up on that stuff because he realized that if you throw a no-hitter you’re gonna suck on your next outing and he didn’t want any part of that. Just ask Phil Humber. Adam Dunn hit a two-run homer. He’s at .231/.368/.513 and is on pace for 35+ homers. So I guess that means Adam Dunn is back to being Adam Dunn.

Brewers 3, Cardinals 2: Zack Greinke scattered seven hits and gave up one run over six to help the Brewers avoid the sweep. The game ended on a strike-em-out, throw-em-out at the plate on a delayed double steal thing, which was kinda interesting.

Orioles 5, Athletics 2: The A’s led the O’s 2-0 entering the bottom of the ninth, but then Matt Wieters doubled home two runs to tie it and then Wilson Betemit walks off with a three-run homer. For the first place Orioles.

Cubs 5, Phillies 1: Matt Garza allowed one hit over seven innings and struck out ten. The hit was to Jimmy Rollins leading off the game and he wasn’t touched after that. Philly only got two hits all day. There is just little if any light to be seen with their offense right now. They just don’t have the talent in that lineup to get the job done. It’s that simple.

Blue Jays 7, Mariners 2: Edwin Encarnacion has homered in three straight games. The M’s were 0 for 14 with runners in scoring position.

Braves 4, Pirates 3: Welcome back Tim Hudson. He was rusty, but he survived and stranded a bunch of Pirates runners. Bad defense hurt Pittsburgh too. Andrew McCutchen just plain dropped a fly ball Hudson hit in the third, and Hudson eventually came around to score. In other news, I was reminded, as I am reminded every year, that Pirates games are blacked out in Columbus, Ohio. Which makes all kinds of friggin’ sense.

Indians 4, Angels 0: The best thing about the Angels since the callup of Mike Trout: outfield defense. Trout is great with the glove, Peter Bourjos is probably the best in baseball and Torii Hunter has a gajillion gold gloves. So of course the Indians scored two runs when Hunter done lost one in the sun. Manny Acta after the game: “The mighty sun was on our side today.”  I can just picture how he said it too. I love Manny Acta so much.

Diamondbacks 8, Marlins 4:  Wade Miley had a no hitter going into the sixth. In other news, I learned who Wade Miley was yesterday. Jason Kubel drove in three. Kubel is hitting .333/.400./528 this season. Guess he doesn’t miss Target Field all that much.

Yankees 6, Tigers 2: CC Sabathia was solid for eight innings and despite stranding a ton of runners early, the Yankees won easy. The Tigers have lost eight of ten.

Reds 6, Astros 5: Jay Bruce has hit four homers in four games. Joey Votto drove in four runs. The Reds entered April like a lamb but are leaving it like a lion.

Rays 5, Rangers 2:  David Price had struggled against Texas his entire career, but he beat ’em last night. Three hits for Ben Zobrist. Josh Hamilton left with back stiffness. Ron Washington left because he got ejected.

Report: Rangers agree to six-year extension with Rougned Odor

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The Rangers have reportedly agreed to a six-year, $49.5 million extension for second baseman Rougned Odor, according to Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports and Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. The extension comes with a club option for a seventh year, Heyman adds.

It’s close to the six-year, $52.5 million extension Jason Kipnis netted with the Indians in 2014, a sum Odor was rumored to be seeking during contract negotiations over the last two years. Granted, the circumstances are a little different this time around. Both players signed extensions on the cusp of their fourth year in the major leagues, but at 27 years old, Kipnis was coming off of an All-Star campaign and a career-high 4.5 fWAR performance. Odor, meanwhile, saw mixed results in 2016, batting 33 home runs and putting up 2.0 fWAR while struggling to stay consistent at the plate and exhibiting poor defense.

According to MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan, Odor previously agreed to a $563,180 salary for 2017. Depending on when the extension kicks in, it should cover all three of Odor’s arbitration-eligible seasons and two seasons of potential free agency. The team has yet to confirm the extension.

2017 Preview: Minnesota Twins

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Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2017 season. Next up: The Minnesota Twins.

Which iteration of the Twins will we get in 2017? The second-place contenders of 2015, blazing their way through the standings with 83 wins and a handful of hot prospects? The burnouts of 2016, flopping to the bottom of the division with 103 losses and a lineup held in place by Brian Dozier and, well, Brian Dozier? Or something in between?

Finishing dead last has its perks, namely a first-round draft pick and the feeling that things can’t be quite as bad as they were the year before. Unfortunately for the Twins, the only major preparation they made for the 2017 season came in the form of a front office shakeup. Derek Falvey assumed control of the club in October, bringing GM Thad Levine into the fold in November as the club assumed a more analytics-friendly approach toward the rebuilding movement.

When it came to roster revisions, however, there wasn’t much moving or shaking this winter. Third baseman Trevor Plouffe, catcher Kurt Suzuki and left-handers Tommy Milone and Pat Dean vacated their spots on the roster. Falvey avoided some of the bigger bats and bullpen arms in free agency and opted to sign backstop Jason Castro and journeyman reliever Ryan Vogelsong instead.

By and large, the core of the Twins’ roster remained the same. Center fielder Byron Buxton, infielder/outfielder Michael Sano and right-hander Jose Berrios still form the nucleus of the club’s top prospects. Middle infielder Brian Dozier will also return in 2017, though he appears to be on borrowed time with the Twins after putting up monster numbers in the second half of 2016. Ervin Santana will head the rotation again, accompanied by fellow veterans Hector Santiago, Kyle Gibson and Phil Hughes, while right-handed relievers Brandon Kintzler, Ryan Pressly and Matt Belisle and rehabbing lefty Glen Perkins attempt to prevent another bullpen collapse in 2017.

Without any major additions to the team (and, excepting the departure of Trevor Plouffe, any major subtractions), the Twins will look to their existing cadre of players for significant improvements in 2017. Miguel Sano is expected to take over third base in Plouffe’s absence, which will bring a welcome end to his short-lived and wholly unsuccessful experiment in right field. Brian Dozier, Jorge Polanco and Joe Mauer should round out the infield, with Byung Ho Park and Kennys Vargas currently vying for a spot as the team’s designated hitter.

The lineup is still four or five or six sluggers shy of formidable, but if Dozier can be counted on to repeat his 42-homer, 5.9 fWAR performance from 2016, there will be at least one Twin worth intentionally walking in 2017. Neither Miguel Sano nor Byron Buxton have quite found their footing against big league pitching yet, and another year spent struggling in the majors could mean another year of sub-optimal run production for the team as well. Jason Castro, who grades as an above-average defender behind the plate, is unlikely to provide any additional pop for the Twins at the plate after slashing just .210/.307/.377 through 376 PA with the Astros in 2016.

The pitching department also leaves a little to be desired in light of the league-worst 5.09 ERA they amassed last season. A veteran-heavy rotation could get a boost from the addition of fifth-starter candidate Jose Berrios, who is thought to be the favorite after fellow rotation candidate Trevor May underwent Tommy John surgery earlier this week. Right-hander Tyler Duffey and 23-year-old southpaw Adalberto Mejia are also waiting in the wings. Both have made convincing cases for their inclusion on the pitching staff this spring, but Duffey is coming off of a 6.43 ERA in 2016 and Mejia lacks some of the polish that Berrios offers. Still, stockpiling young pitching depth isn’t a bad thing, and could give the Twins a cushion in the event of injury or collapse down the stretch.

The bullpen outperformed the rotation in 2016, which is saying… something, though maybe not a lot. They still finished the year with a cumulative 4.63 ERA, good for last place among their American League rivals, and delivered just 2.1 fWAR while taking on the fourth-most innings in the league. The standout performer was 28-year-old righty Ryan Pressly, who worked a 3.70 ERA, 2.7 BB/9 and 8.0 SO/9 in 75 1/3 innings last year. In light of Ryan Vogelsong’s recent departure from the club, the Twins will round out their bullpen with left-hander Craig Breslow, who turned in a 4.50 ERA with the Marlins in 2016 and is looking for a bounce-back season of his own after reworking his delivery at age 36.

For now, it looks like Falvey and the Twins’ front office are taking a wait-and-see approach to the coming season, which bodes well for their long-term vision (assuming most of their young prospects pan out) and not so well for their chances of moving up in the division in the next year or so. That could change by the trade deadline if they can secure a worthwhile return for Dozier, though given the rumors of their understandably high asking price, it could take more than a few months to get a deal in place.

Even assuming that all the chips fall in the Twins’ favor in 2017 — prospects start hitting consistently, the rotation solidifies, and Falvey loosens the purse strings enough to net more established contenders — it’s difficult to imagine anything more than a fourth-place finish for the club as they continue to rebuild and regroup. Barring any major improvements on the inconsistent, if occasionally productive, lineup of 2016, another last-place finish feels imminent.

Prediction: Fifth place, AL Central.