Nationals' Strasburg pitches in the rain during the second inning of their MLB game against Braves in Washington

And That Happened: Tuesday’s scores and highlights

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Nationals 4, Braves 1: I have been arguing against a Stephen Strasburg shutdown for a while now, but allow me to say that if those dudes are really gonna do that, I wish they would have done it before last night. Strasburg struck out ten in six innings, allowing a single run and winning his 15th. Jesus Flores’ three-run homer was all Washington needed. The Braves are pretty much playing for the wild card now. Viva Los Nationals.

Royals 1, Rays 0: If you told me that a big time pitchers duel was going to go down involving David Price, sure, I’m on board. Luke Hochevar? Eh, color me skeptical. But that’s what we had. Each of the starters tossed eight shutout innings, with Hochevar giving up only one hit and Price three. It was decided in the 10th when Eric Hosmer singled in Jeff Francoeur, who wouldn’t have even been in scoring position but for a Ben Zobrist throwing error. In other words: offense was tough to come by here. BTW: David Price has been utterly fantastic in all of his no-decisions this year but has gotten butt for run support. Guess he doesn’t know how to win.

Rockies 6, Mets 2:  Jhoulys Chacin came back for the first time in nearly five months, holding the Mets to one run on four hits in six innings. Bad defense hurt the Mets, with Chris Young throwing a ball away, contributing to a big inning and the Mets botching a rundown. Is it Jets season yet?

Reds 5, Phillies 4: Cliff Lee was cruising until the seventh and then ran the heck out of gas in a hurry. By the time Charlie Manuel got him it was 3-1 Reds. Not that it was over by then. That’s when it went all see-saw. Philly tied it on a Jimmy Rollins RBI double in the bottom half, Todd Frazier homered in the eighth, Philly tied it back up in the bottom half, but then Zack Cozart homered in the ninth. And, yes, the Phillies threatened in the ninth, with Jimmy Rollins stealing and second and third with Chase Utley up to bat. Aroldis Chapman doesn’t give a flying eff, though, and throws a 102 m.p.h. fastball by him, leaves and presumably goes to sit in his hotel room and dream about someone who can challenge him one day.

Angels 5, Red Sox 3: The four game losing streak is over, thanks in part to Mark Trumbo’s 30th homer. Mike Trout had two hits, but the highlight of the game had to be Aaron Cook actually striking Trout out. Cook had struck out seven dudes all season before then. Trout probably saw Cook’s eminently hittable junk just hanging there and about came out of his shoes he was so excited to mash it. He didn’t, but every other Angel did, practically, so it was all good.

Tigers 5, Blues Jays 3: Max Scherzer struck out eight in seven innings, allowing one run. Rickey Romero: not so good. He lost his 10th straight decision, giving up five runs on seven hits while walking eight. EIGHT. And no, he didn’t strike out anyone. How Detroit only scored five here is a miracle.

White Sox 7, Yankees 3: It was 2-2 in the fifth when Kevin Youkilis walked up to the plate with the bases loaded. Bammo, grand slam. I’m sure the Yankees fans who came to love Youk so much over the years dug that.

Cardinals 7, Astros 0: St. Louis didn’t really need Adam Wainwright to throw eight and a third shutout innings while fanning 11 a shutout while striking out 12, but he did it anyway. Bring on Roger Clemens. Heck, bring on Mike Scott or J.R. Richard. The Astros could use a side show right around now. UPDATE: Glitch in the matrix on that Wainwright line. Wrote it last night after I saw from Twitter that the game ended, but the box score I had up didn’t refresh for some reason and I was too tired to notice. Derp.

Brewers 5, Cubs 2: Chris Rusin was meh at Iowa this year, but his major league started out well enough: 5 IP, 1 H, 1 ER. But then Alberto Cabrera came in and set fire to the place, allowing one run on a wild pitch and two more on an RBI double. Is it Bears season yet?

Orioles 5, Rangers 3: Manny Machado must have heard that I talked smack about him yesterday because he went 2 for 3 with an RBI triple. Nate McLouth, who is apparently alive, homered and scored on a wild pitch.

Mariners 5, Indians 1: Johnny Vander Meer’s legacy remains safe, but Felix Hernandez was once again fantastic, allowing one run over seven and two thirds.

Giants 4, Dodgers 1: Tim Lincecum beats Joe Blanton. Had decent velocity too, which has been elusive for him this season. The Giants lead over the Dodgers is now one and a half.

Padres 7, Pirates 5: Garrett Jones had two homers but Chase Headley’s walkoff in the 10th won it for San Diego. Headley has had a fantastic August, hitting nine homers and driving in 26 to lead the bigs. The Pirates are now 7.5 back of the Reds so, like Atlanta, they too are clearly in Wild Card City.

Athletics 4, Twins 1: Brett Anderson made his first start since mid-2011 and it was pretty darn good (7 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 6K).  The A’s turned a 5-4-3 triple play too, which is pretty nifty. Oakland is a half game back of Baltimore for the wild card.

Marlins 6, Diamondbacks 5: Arizona jumped out to a 5-run lead in the first but that’s all they’d get, as the Fish chipped away and Giancarlo Stanton delivered an RBI single in the 10th. “We should have won that game,” Kirk Gibson said afterward. Yep, you should have.

The Chicago Cubs: Spring training games, regular season prices

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Craig Calcaterra
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MESA, AZ — I’ve been covering spring training for eight years, and in just those eight years a lot has changed in the Cactus and Grapefruit League experiences. The parks are bigger and fancier and the vibe is far more akin to a regular season major league one than the intimate and laid back atmosphere most people think of when they picture February and March baseball.

Just imagine, however, how much has changed if you’ve been coming to Florida or Arizona for a really long time.

“When we first started coming, you could bring your own beer in,” says Don Harper, a lifelong Cubs fan from Kennewick, Washington who spends his winters in Arizona. “You couldn’t bring a cooler, but you could bring a case of beer and a bag of ice and you just set it down in between you and you just put the ice on it and keep it cold.”

I asked Don if the beer vendors complained.

“They didn’t sell beer,” he said.

That was three decades and two ballparks ago. They certainly sell beer at the Cubs’ gleaming new facility, Sloan Park. Cups of the stuff cost more than a couple of cases did back when Don first started coming to spring training.

The price of beer is not the only thing that has changed, of course. The price of tickets is not what it used to be either. Don told me that when he started coming to Cubs spring training games tickets ran about seven dollars. If that. It’s a bit pricer now. Face value for a single lawn ticket, where you’ll be sitting on a blanker on the outfield berm — can be as high as $47 depending on the day of the week and the opponent. Infield box seats run as high as $85.

The thing is, though, you’re not getting face value seats for Cubs spring training games. Half of the home games sold out within a week of tickets going on sale in January. Since then just about every other game has sold out or soon will. That will force you to get tickets on the secondary market. According to TickPick, the average — average! — Cubs spring training ticket on the secondary market is $106.30. For a single ticket. It’s easily the highest price for spring training tickets in all of baseball, and is $26 higher than secondary market tickets for the next highest team, the Red Sox:

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That may be shocking or even appalling to some, but as the automatic sellouts at Sloan Park and those high secondary market prices suggest, there are at least 15,000 people or so for each Cubs home game who don’t seem to mind. Supply meet demand meet the defending World Series champions.

I spoke with two younger Cubs fans, Corey Hayden and Eleanor Meloul, who traveled here from Salt Lake City. On Sunday they lucked out and got a couple of lawn seats for $28. On Saturday, however, they paid $100 a piece on StubHub to get some seats just beyond third base. I asked them if there is some price point that would keep them from coming.

“There isn’t one,” Hayden said. “I paid $4,500 for a World Series ticket, so . . .”

Don Harper wouldn’t do that, but he doesn’t really mind the higher prices he’s paying for his spring tickets. Of course, he’s a longtime season ticket holder so he gets access to the face value seats. I asked him whether his spring training habit would end if those prices got jacked up higher, as the market would seem to bear, or if he had to resort to the secondary market.

Don paused and sighed, suggesting it was a tough question. As he considered it, I put a hard number on it, asking him if he’d still go if he had to pay $50 per ticket. “Yeah, probably,” he said. “$75?” I asked. He paused again.

“As long as I got enough money.”

Don is a diehard who, one senses, will always find a way to make it work. Corey spent a wad of cash on that once-in-a-lifetime World Series ticket, but he and Eleanor seem content to bargain hunt for the most part and splurge strategically. If you’re a Cubs fan — and if you’re not rich — that’s what you’ll have to do. The ticket it just too hot.

Mets leaning on Jay Bruce, Neil Walker as Lucas Duda insurance

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MAY 12:  Pinch hitter Lucas Duda #21 of the New York Mets walks back to the dugout after striking out for the first out of the ninth inning against Clayton Kershaw #22 of the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on May 12, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  The Dodgers won 5-0.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
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The Mets have begun working outfielder Jay Bruce and second baseman Neil Walker at first base as potential insurance in the event Lucas Duda continues to experience back discomfort, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports. Duda has been sidelined recently due to back spasms and missed all but 47 games last season as a result of a stress fracture in his lower back.

Manager Terry Collins spoke about Bruce’s work at first base on Sunday, saying, “I liked everything I saw today. “It looks like he’s got the athleticism, he’s got the hands, he’s got the arm angle. He made some throws in our drills that you wouldn’t expect an outfielder to be able to make, but yet he does. If that’s where we have to go, I think we’ll be fine.”

Bruce has only three games’ worth of experience at first base at the major league level, but still has high expectations for himself. He said, “I am going to work at it. I want to give myself a chance and the team a chance. I am not going to go over there and be a butcher. It’s just not the way I go about my business on the baseball field and it wouldn’t be fair to the team if I wasn’t capable to do it, so I am going to work at it and we’ll see what happens.”

The Mets made Bruce available via trade over the offseason but didn’t get an offer that whet their appetite. As a result, Michael Conforto appears to be the odd man out in the Mets’ crowded outfield.