Baltimore Orioles v Toronto Blue Jays

And That Happened: Monday’s scores and highlights

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Orioles 4, Blues Jays 0; Rays 4, Yankees 3:  As mentioned yesterday, this combo brings the Yankees lead over the O’s down to one game in the AL East, with the Rays only two and a half back themselves. I don’t suppose we’re so lucky to have a Yankees collapse come a year after the Red Sox collapse, but it’s a possibility I suppose.

Mariners 4, Red Sox 1: The United States Postal Service lost $5.2 billion in the second quarter of 2012. The Red Sox are mailing it in so thoroughly these days, however, that the third quarter will likely have the USPS turning a profit. Seven straight losses for Boston. They’ve been outscored 58-16 in that span.

Nationals 2, Cubs 1: Washington clinches its first winning season. With that mission accomplished, Mike Rizzo shut down the whole roster.

Indians 3, Tigers 2: I’m not gonna say this game was boring, but my girlfriend — big Tigers fan — is here and was trying to watch this game yesterday. Not just watching it, she was watching the Tigers feed and playing the Rod Allen drinking game. And even with all of that incentive to stay tuned in she was bored out of her gourd. She ended up taking a nap, and that was before she even had a chance to finish more than half a beer.

White Sox 4, Twins 2: Hector Santiago — normally a relief pitcher — actually started this one. And won. And just like that the White Sox are back in first place by a game.

Cardinals 5, Mets 4: The Robot Umps would have gotten this one right. Apparently Carlos Beltran was the guy who told Mike Matheny to appeal the play. I’m sure Mets fans are happy to see Carlos Beltran contributing like that. Wondering why he never did that when he was in New York.

Giants 9, Diamondbacks 8: From the game story, describing the scene after Marco Scutaro’s game-winning hit:

Marco Scutaro had just rounded first base when the portly Pablo Sandoval caught him by surprise, tugged on his jersey and bear-hugged the second baseman …

It’s a long season even for the AP beat writers.

Astros 5, Pirates 1: Brett Wallace had three hits including a three run homer. The Pirates have lost 10 of 13. They’re lucky to only be two and a half back in the wild card race.

Marlins 7, Brewers 3: Jose Reyes: run producer. He’s hitting in the three spot now and drove in three. Coincidence? Yeah, probably, but it’s something to do as the Marlins play out the string.

Angels 8, Athletics 3: The A’s lose, ending their nine-game winning streak. Vernon Wells drew two walks and reached base four times in all. So obviously some sorcery was at work.

Phillies 4, Reds 2: Look at that lazy Jimmy Rollins, barely even running the bases. Oh, wait. He hit a three run homer and that was a trot. Carry on then.

Rangers 8, Royals 4: Yu Darvish retired the first seventeen batters he faced. Should have been eighteen, but what should have been strike three to Johnny Giavotella with two out in the fifth ended up being called ball four, which extended the inning and led to the Royals scoring thrice. The Rangers didn’t get too phased by it all, though. They hit five homers. One of them led to Nelson Cruz being plunked on the hiney, after which Michael Young hit another homer. That’s the best way to deal with that garbage, really.

Braves 6, Rockies 1: Kris Medlen is en fuego.

Dodgers 4, Padres 3: Two walkoff wins in a row, this one courtesy of an A.J. Ellis single in the 11th. And he got his jersey shredded for his troubles. That’s … an interesting tradition they have going there.

Video: Nelson Cruz hits second-longest home run of 2016

ANAHEIM, CA - SEPTEMBER 14:  Nelson Cruz #23 of the Seattle Mariners celebrates his solo homerun with Daniel Vogelbach #20 of the Seattle Mariners to take a 2-1 lead over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim during the seventh inning at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on September 14, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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There’s certainly never a bad time to hit a home run, but when you get the opportunity to crush a triple-deck, 493-foot shot off of Tyler Duffey, you should take it. With the Mariners down 2-0 to the Twins in the fourth inning, Cruz hammered a fastball to deep left field for his 39th long ball of the season — and the second-longest home run hit in 2016, to boot.

It doesn’t hurt that the Mariners are 1.5 games back of a playoff spot, although they’ll have to oust the Blue Jays, Orioles, or Tigers to get a wild card. They’ve gone 3-3 in the last week, dropping two consecutive series to the Astros and Blue Jays and taking their series opener against Minnesota 10-1 on Friday night.

Cruz, for his part, entered Saturday’s game with a .299/.337/.610 batting line and six home runs in September. According to ESPN.com’s Home Run Tracker, Cruz sits behind Edwin Encarnacion and Mike Napoli with 13 “no-doubt” home runs in 2016, third-most among major league sluggers. It’s safe to say he can add Saturday’s moonshot to that list.

Marlins’ outfielder and undisputed home run king Giancarlo Stanton remains untouched at the top of the Statcast leaderboard with a 504-ft. home run, and it’s difficult to envision any slugger reaching beyond that before the end of the season. Even so, Cruz won’t need to clear 500 feet to extend an impressive hitting record. One more home run will put the 36-year-old at 40 on the year, making 2016 his third consecutive season with at least 40 homers, and his second such season doing so in Seattle.

Report: John Farrell won’t rule out a postseason return for Pablo Sandoval

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - APRIL 11:  Pablo Sandoval #48 of the Boston Red Sox looks on from the dugout before the Red Sox home opener against the Baltimore Orioles at Fenway Park on April 11, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Orioles defeat the Red Sox 9-7.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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It’s been a strange season for Red Sox’ third baseman Pablo Sandoval, who lost his starting role in spring training, went 0-for-6 in three regular season appearances, and underwent season-ending surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder in May. That was the last the Red Sox were supposed to hear about Sandoval until spring 2017, when he was expected to rejoin the team after a lengthy rehab stint in Florida.

On Saturday, manager John Farrell was telling a different story. Per MLB.com’s Sam Blum, Farrell hinted that Sandoval could return to the team as soon as October, albeit in a very limited capacity.

At the time of the surgery, it was all looking at the start of next Spring Training,” Farrell said. “We’re not getting too far ahead of ourselves here, but at the same time, we compliment him for the work he’s put in, the way he’s responded to the rehab, the way he’s worked himself into better condition. We’re staying open-minded.

If the 30-year-old does return in 2016, don’t expect him to look like the three-home run hitter of the 2012 World Series. Should the Red Sox lose another player to injury, Sandoval might be called on as a backup option, but he’s unlikely to see substantial playing time under any other circumstances. Despite making two appearances at DH in the instructional league, Sandoval has not started at third base since undergoing surgery, though Farrell noted that a return to third base would be the next logical step in his recovery process.

Sandoval has yet to hit his stride within the Red Sox’ organization after hitting career-worst numbers in 2015. According to FanGraphs, his Offensive Runs Above Average (Off) plummeted to -20.2, contributing approximately two wins fewer than the average offensive player in 2015. (The Diamondbacks’ Chris Owings held the lowest Off mark in 2015, with -26.3 runs below average.) Sandoval has not appeared in a postseason race since the Giants’ championship run in 2014.

Heading into Saturday evening, the Red Sox could clinch their spot in the postseason with a win over the Rays and an Orioles’ loss.