Settling the Score: Friday’s results

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Ryan Howard played in a major league game last night for the first time since rupturing his left Achilles tendon on the final out of the NLDS against the Cardinals last October. However, his return wasn’t enough to save the Phillies, as they fell 5-0 to the Braves.

Howard was greeted with a rousing standing ovation by the Philadelphia faithful for his first at-bat of the season in the second inning and responded with  long drive to center field. It landed on the warning track between Michael Bourn and Jason Heyward as Howard gently galloped his way to second base. He added a looping single to shallow center field in the seventh and finished the night 2-for-4.

The game was actually scoreless until the top of the eighth inning, when Antonio Bastardo walked Freddie Freeman with the bases loaded to force in a run. The very next batter, Brian McCann, hit a grand slam to center field to give the Braves some breathing room. Tim Hudson tossed seven innings of shutout ball in the win, despite not striking out a batter.

The Phillies are just 1-8 since the return of Chase Utley (and 0-1 since the return of Howard) and now sit at 37-48 on the season. This is the first time the club has been 11 games under .500 since June 5, 2002. The clock is ticking.

Your Friday box scores:

Giants 6, Pirates 5

Rays 10, Indians 3

Royals 2, Tigers 4

Rockies 5, Nationals 1

Yankees 10, Red Sox 8

Cubs 8, Mets 7

Twins 5, Rangers 1

Brewers 7, Astros 1

Blue Jays 2, White Sox 4

Marlins 3, Cardinals 2

Mariners 1, Athletics 4

Dodgers 3, Diamondbacks 5

Orioles 3, Angels 2

Reds 6, Padres 0

2017 Preview: The American League Central

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For the past few weeks we’ve been previewing the 2017 season. Here, in handy one-stop-shopping form, is our package of previews from the American League Central

Do the Indians have a weakness? Do the Tigers and Royals have one more playoff push in them or do they have to start contemplating rebuilds? The White Sox and Twins are rebuilding, but do either of them have a chance to be remotely competitive?

As we sit here in March, the answers are “not really,” “possibly,” and “not a chance.” There are no games that count this March, however, so they’re just guesses. But educated ones! Here are the links to our guesses and our education for all of the clubs of the AL Central:

Cleveland Indians
Detroit Tigers
Kansas City Royals
Chicago White Sox
Minnesota Twins

2017 Preview: The National League East

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For the past few weeks we’ve been previewing the 2017 season. Here, in handy one-stop-shopping form, is our package of previews from the National League East

The Washington Nationals crave a playoff run that doesn’t end at the division series. The Mets crave a season in which they don’t have a press conference about an injured pitcher. The Marlins are trying to put the nightmare of the end of the 2016 behind them. The Phillies and Braves are hoping to move on from the “lose tons of games” phase of their rebuilds and move on to the “hey, these kids can play!” phase.

There is a ton of star power in the NL East — Harper, Scherzer, Cespedes, Syndergaard, Stanton, Freeman — some great young talent on ever roster and, in Ichiro and Bartolo, the two oldest players in the game. Maybe the division can’t lay claim to the best team in baseball, but there will certainly be some interesting baseball in the division.

Here’s how each team breaks down:

Washington Nationals
New York Mets
Miami Marlins
Philadelphia Phillies
Atlanta Braves