And That Happened: Monday’s scores and highlights


Marlins 7, Rockies 4: Jamie Moyer pitched in his 50th different major league park. But he may have given up his longest most hellacious homer ever. Giancarlo Stanton hit a grand slam that went 438 feet in basically a straight line and broke the friggin’ scoreboard. Roy Hobbs stuff, there. Gave the Marlins the lead and, eventually, the game.

Nationals 2, Phillies 1: Ian Desmond drove in both Washington runs, one on a homer, and Gio Gonzalez pitched six scoreless for his sixth win. Bryce Harper had two hits, a stolen base and scored a run. No word on whether he was hit with any batteries.

Pirates 5, Mets 4: Michael McKenry hit a two-run homer in the seventh to tie it up and to chase Johan Santana. A Clint Barmes sac fly was the game winner. In other news, Clint Barmes still draws a major league paycheck. Who knew?

Reds 4, Braves 1: Mike Leake pitched eight strong innings and hit a homer. Drew Stubbs didn’t pitch at all but had two of his own. Cincinnati takes their third in a row and keeps the pressure on the Cardinals. Oh, and about that Aroldis Chapman arrest? It happened in Grove City, Ohio. Which is a Columbus suburb, 100 miles from Cincinnati. This on the morning after the Reds got back from a road trip and before a home game. I’m struggling to think what’s so appealing about my fair city for Chapman that he had to make a 200-mile+ road trip in such a short amount of time. But hey, at the speeds he was driving, I guess it’s a short trip.

Cardinals 4, Padres 3: St. Louis needed this one to avoid falling behind the Reds in the Central. They got it via a two-run Tyler Greene home run in the eighth. Clayton Richard pitched seven and a third, Jaime Garcia pitched seven, but they each gave up two runs on seven hit with one walk. Garcia struck out more. I wonder how often two starters have had the same exact pitching line. Had to have happened a few times before, right?

Astros 8, Cubs 3: A laugher. Matt Garza turned in his worst start of the year (3 IP, 5 H, 7 ER) and was countered by Bud Norris’ seven innings of shutout ball. Norris left with an 8-0 lead.

Blue Jays 6, Rays 2: I’ll let the box score speak for this one and instead note something that caught my eye in the scoring summary. Second inning: “E Thames singled to center, J Arencibia scored, E Thames out stretching at second.”  I read that and I pictured this for some reason. Just put Eric Thames’ head on the body.

Royals 6, Yankees 0: I’m not saying it would be nice for Royals fans to make “contract the Yankees” jokes like so many Yankees fans have done to them over the years, but I understand it if they do. The Yankees offensive impotence — 0 for 13 with runners in scoring position — hits bottom, they hope. I have this feeling today is gonna be super crazy in the tabloids.

Red Sox 8, Orioles 6: And part of that super crazy tabloid thing is gonna be based on the fact that the Yankees now have the same 21-21 record as do the Boston Red Sox who, as we’ve all been told to believe, are in utter chaos and whatnot. Not that we should be glib about that. They fell behind early before a six-run rally put them ahead and they still weren’t comfortable here.

Mariners 6, Rangers 1: The M’s are not impressed with Yu Darvish, who issued six walks. Felix Hernandez, in the meantime, allowed one run over eight. Ichiro tripled in a run and singled in two. I’m guessing that, in light of all of this, my friends in the Japanese media have a lot to write about today.

Dodgers 6, Diamondbacks 1: Matt Treanor, Andre Ethier and James Loney all homered. Chris Capuano is now 6-1. When people ask later why no one thought the Dodgers would contend, folks like me in the analysis business will say things like “we didn’t expect Chris Capuano to post an ERA more than two runs lower than his career norms.”

Giants 4, Brewers 3: Ryan Braun hit a two-run homer in the eighth to tie things up, but Hector Sanchez with a 14th inning homer to win it.  Lost in no-decision land was Madison Bumgarner who struck out 10 over seven and a third.

Athletics 2, Angels 1: The A’s have now won 5 of 7 matchups against the Angels. And we’re running out words to describe the Angels offense. Just perusing the thesaurus, I got: anemic, debilitated, decrepit, delicate, effete,enervated, exhausted, faint, feeble, flaccid,flimsy, forceless, fragile, frail, hesitant,impuissant, infirm, insubstantial, irresolute,lackadaisical, languid, languorous, limp,makeshift, out of gas, powerless, prostrate,puny, rickety, rocky, rotten, senile, shaky, sickly,sluggish, spent, spindly, supine, tender, torpid,uncertain, undependable, unsound, unsteady,unsubstantial, wasted, wavering, weakened,weakly, wobbly.

Pick a winner.

2018 Preview: New York Mets

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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 2018 season. Next up: The New York Mets.

Things couldn’t have gone much worse for the Mets in 2017, so the fact that they won 70 games is actually remarkable. Their hailed rotation was a shambles, as Noah Syndergaard made only seven starts. Zack Wheeler put up a 5.21 ERA over 17 starts; Matt Harvey was even worse with a 6.70 ERA across 18 starts and one relief appearance. Steven Matz compiled a 6.08 ERA in 13 starts. Just about the only consistency the club had came from Jacob deGrom, who finished with a career-high 3.53 ERA in 31 starts.

The rotation, as of right now, is healthy, save for deGrom, who has been battling a minor back issue during this spring. But so far, so good for everyone else. Well, there was Jason Vargas, who signed a two-year, $16 million deal with the Mets last month and suffered a non-displaced fracture of the hamate bone in his non-throwing hand. He underwent surgery and is expected to return shortly after the start of the regular season. But I mean, at least they still have everyone else!

Well, Michael Conforto is still recovering from shoulder surgery last September. The Mets are targeting May 1 for his return. That’s everyone, right? Wright? Where’s David Wright? The third baseman underwent two surgeries in September and October last year for his shoulder and back and still isn’t feeling well enough to play baseball, so the Mets shut him down for eight weeks.

The Mets haven’t had a legitimate full-time third baseman since 2014, Wright’s last full season. No Mets third baseman has played more than 55 games in a season at third base in the last three seasons. So the club went out and signed Todd Frazier to a two-year, $17 million contract. Frazier split last season with the White Sox and Yankees, hitting a combined .213/.344/.428 with 27 home runs and 76 RBI. While Frazier is now 32 years old and has seen a decline in power, he did set a career-high in walk rate last year at 14.4 percent and he’s still a solid defender. Frazier is still more than a capable player and he’ll look like a Greek god at the hot corner compared to what the Mets have trotted out there lately.

Shortstop at Citi Field now belongs to 22-year-old Amed Rosario. Among the top prospects in baseball, Rosario struggled last year, batting .248/.271/.394 across 46 games. Rosario has the most upside of any position player on the Mets’ roster, so his success will play a rather large factor in the team’s success this year. He can be a doubles and triples machine and a big threat on the bases if he gets his feet underneath him against big league competition.

Asdrubal Cabrera will handle second base. He’s been, quietly, quite good for the Mets over the last two seasons, offering a solid offensive approach along with his versatility – he played second and third base as well as shortstop last season. Now 32 years old, Cabrera hit .280/.351/.434 with 14 home runs and 59 RBI last season, which is more than enough when manning a position in the middle of the infield.

At first base, the Mets were able to pluck Adrian Gonzalez off the free agent wire. Gonzalez had gone to the Braves in the Matt Kemp trade, but the Braves quickly dropped him. The 35-year-old had a nightmarish 2017, compiling a .642 OPS in 71 games as he was bothered by back issues throughout the year. He became overshadowed in Los Angeles by Cody Bellinger, who won the NL Rookie of the Year Award, so the Dodgers had no reason to keep him around. Dominic Smith had been another first base option but he suffered a quad injury early in spring training and likely won’t be ready by Opening Day.

Travis d’Arnaud will get the lion’s share of starts behind the plate, backed up by Kevin Plawecki. d’Arnaud provides power, which is always nice to have from a catcher, but he doesn’t hit for average or draw walks, so his batting average and on-base percentage are underwhelming. And while d’Arnaud hasn’t been anything to write home about stopping the running game, he’s regarded as a good pitch framer.

In left field will stand the Mets’ biggest offensive threat, Yoenis Cespedes. Sadly, the slugger was limited to 81 games last year as he battled various leg injuries. When he was in the lineup, he hit .292/.352/.540 with 17 home runs and 42 RBI in 321 plate appearances. Among hitters who have taken at least 1,000 plate appearances since the start of the 2015 season, only 21 have put up a higher weighted on-base average than Cespedes (.368), who finds himself just ahead of Carlos Correa and just behind Corey Seager on that list.

Juan Lagares and Brandon Nimmo will share center field for the time being. Nimmo is having a big spring, putting up a .283/.361/.585 line with eight extra-base hits and 10 RBI in 61 spring plate appearances. He’s likely to bat leadoff against right-handed starters. Lagares isn’t having nearly as good a spring (.483 OPS) but will be in the lineup against lefties and will provide value with his Gold Glove-caliber defense. It’s also quite possible the Mets will trade him as they have gotten some interest lately.

Jay Bruce returns to right field after inking a three-year, $39 million contract in January. The slugger put up a solid .254/.324/.508 line last year between the Mets and Indians with 36 home runs and 101 RBI. Though he struggled – for the most part — in his first go-around with the Mets in the second half of 2016, he’s good for at least 25 home runs and 90 RBI if he can stay healthy, which the soon-to-be 31-year-old has been able to do in recent years.

New manager Mickey Callaway says he plans to use a closer-by-committee which will include Jeurys Familia, Jerry Blevins, A.J. Ramos and Anthony Swarzak. It’s a committee that could certainly have success, but Familia and Ramos are both coming off of down years and Swarzak has been slowed in spring training by a calf injury. The Mets will also have Paul Sewald, Hansel Robles, Rafael Montero, Seth Lugo, and Robert Gsellman providing help from the ‘pen. Wheeler could as well if the Mets determine he can provide more in a relief role than in a starting role.

With all their warts, the Mets do have a competitive roster. The starting rotation has the potential to be really good, led by a now-healthy Syndergaard and followed by deGrom. The offense should be a buoy in the midst of all of the other displeasing variance the Mets will likely wade through during the season. The bullpen won’t be world-beating but will likely not be a serious source of concern given their options. FanGraphs is projecting the Mets to win 82 games while PECOTA has them at 81, which means they’ll be in the mix for the NL Wild Card. That sounds about right to me, but ultimately I think they’ll fall just a bit short of .500.

Prediction: 79-83, third place in NL East.