Baltimore Orioles v Oakland Athletics

And That Happened: Sunday’s scores and highlights

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Orioles 9, Athletics 5: Baltimore salvages one. Which is important for two reasons. Reason 1:  It’s their 82nd win of the year, which means they will finish above .500 for the first time in forever.  More importantly: they really just need to avoid the disaster west coast trip here. If they take care of business against the Mariners this week they can call the trip a success. Or at least a non-calamity. They hold a two and a half game lead over the Angels and trail New York by one. Thirteen pitchers used in this game, by the way.

Cardinals 5, Dodgers 2: It was the ninth pitcher — out of ten total — that let it get away for the Dodgers. John Ely came in for the top of the 12th inning and walked a dude, but then got two outs. Then: Jon Jay doubled in a run, Carlos Beltran was walked intentionally, Matt Holliday was hit by a pitch, Allen Craig singled in a run and Yadier Molina walked to force in another. That was it for Mr. Ely and the Dodgers, who fall out of a tie for the second wild card slot.

Indians 7, Tigers 6: Oh brother. Not only do the Tigers blow this one in the ninth to the Tribe, but Alex Avila got hurt too. Lonnie Chisenhall singled in the winning run off Jose Valverde, who blew a two-run lead, ending the Tigers four-game winning streak.

White Sox 9, Twins 2: The sweep. And a rare instance of one of the two Central contenders taking care of business against inferior division foes lately.

Astros 7, Phillies 6: Philly’s surge came to a crashing halt in Houston, where they dropped three of four to the woeful Astros. It’s a familiar story, though one that hasn’t been a chronic problem in the second half: pathetic middle relief, with Phillip Aumont and Antonio Bastardo blowing Roy Halladay’s lead. Philly is four games back in the wild card now, with four teams ahead of them.

Cubs 13, Pirates 9: Wild card contenders losing to cupcakes is all the rage, apparently. Here the Pirates blew a 6-1 lead. Anthony Rizzo and Pedro Alvarez each had two homers. The Pirates have lost 12 of 15, including two of three to the Cubs.

Brewers 3, Mets 0: Wily Peralta tossed eight, two-hit shutout innings. Oh, and remember everyone who said that Ryan Braun was gonna fall off bigtime this year due to him being caught up in that testosterone business last year? Yeah, as if. Two more homers today. Braun is now hitting .312/.387/.602 with 40 homers and 103 RBI.  He should be a top MVP candidate again. Let’s see if he gets any love.

Braves 5, Nationals 1: The sweep. Still, I won’t be able to read this kind of thing without extreme anxiety until after the season is over:

Atlanta’s sweep solidified its return to the playoffs after a historic collapse in the final month last season. The Braves maintained a seven-game lead over the second wild-card spot, held by St. Louis, and are eight games up on the next club in the race, the Los Angeles Dodgers. It would take a more epic meltdown than even 2011 to squander that lead with only 15 games to go.

And that could never happen!  I’m …I’m almost certain of it.

Diamondbacks 10, Giants 2: Patrick Corbin wins the Helped His Own Cause Award, driving in four runs while tossing eight innings of two-run ball.

Angels 4, Royals 3: Dan Haren gave up three runs while pitching into the sixth and then a parade of relievers — Nick Maronde,Garrett Richards, Scott Downs, Jordan Walden and Kevin Jespen — shut the Royals down for the final three and a third. Mark Trumbo with a three-run homer. They remain two and a half back of the O’s in the wild card.

Reds 5, Marlins 4: Ryan Ludwick hit a go-ahead single in the 11th, capping a day in which the Reds got 17 hits but left a ton of men on base. Cincy avoids the sweep.

Blue Jays 5, Red Sox 0: The Jays avoid a sweep as well. Omar Vizquel had two hits. He’s about to pass Babe Ruth on the all-time hits list, by the way. I shall look no further than that stat and declare him Babe Ruth’s equal.

Yankees 6, Rays 4: Some people say the Yankees are too home-run dependent. Others say that small ball is no way to go. The Yankees compromised, doing both yesterday. Russell Martin hit a three-run homer. During that same inning the Yankees stole bases and Nick Swisher of all people had a sac bunt.

Rangers 2, Mariners 1: Texas is probably not too happy hearing all of that “The A’s are gunning for the division title, not just the wild card” talk. Their win and the A’s loss helps put that off a bit. Adrian Beltre hit a homer. Matt Harrison gave up one run over eight and two-thirds.

Padres 12, Rockies 11: Twenty-three runs on 27 hits is not unusual when Colorado is involved. It is unusual, however, when the game is played in San Diego.  Of course there is a BIG difference between day games at Petco and night games. Yonder Alonso wins it with a walkoff single.

Yordano Ventura represented the best and worst of baseball’s culture

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 28:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers in the first inning during a game against the Boston Red Sox on August 28, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
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It was reported this morning that Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura was killed in a car accident in the Dominican Republic. Former prospect Andy Marte was also killed in a separate car accident. Along with Jose Fernandez and Oscar Taveras, the baseball world has lost a lot of young, exciting talent in a very short amount of time.

Ventura was, like all of us, a complex human being. At his best, he was an exciting, talented, emotive pitcher who featured an electric fastball which sat in the mid-90’s and occasionally touched 100 MPH. At his worst, he was an immature, impressionable kid trying to fit in by exacting revenge against batters he felt had wronged him by slinging those electric fastballs at vulnerable areas of their bodies.

Baseball needed Ventura when he was at his best. It is players like him and Fernandez, not Mike Trout, that bring in new fans to the sport. To baseball die-hards, Angels outfielder Mike Trout is the pinnacle of entertainment because we know he’s an otherworldly talent. But to the average fan, Trout is just another player who hits a couple of homers and doesn’t do anything particularly interesting otherwise. Trout is milquetoast. Ventura was never an All-Star, but fans knew who he was because he made his presence felt every time he made a start. He was fun, if sometimes vengeful.

Ventura’s baseball rap sheet is rather lengthy for someone who only pitched parts of four seasons in the big leagues. Early in the 2015 season, Ventura found himself in a handful of benches-clearing incidents in quick succession. On April 12, he jawed with Trout, apparently misunderstanding the motivation behind Trout yelling, “Let’s go!” Though catcher Salvador Perez intervened, Trout’s teammate Albert Pujols ran in from second base and the benches cleared shortly thereafter. On the 18th, some drama between the Athletics and Royals continued. Ventura fired a 99 MPH fastball at Brett Lawrie, resulting in his immediate ejection from the game. More beanball wars ensued in the series finale the following day. Finally, on the 23rd, Ventura hit White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu with a 99 MPH fastball in the fourth inning. Ventura was not ejected… until after the completion of the seventh inning. Walking back to the dugout, Ventura barked at White Sox outfielder Adam Eaton and — you guessed it — the benches cleared. All told, Ventura was fined for his behavior with the Athletics and suspended seven games for the White Sox incident.

In August 2015, Ventura called Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista a “nobody” and accused him of stealing signs. He apologized shortly thereafter. Two months later, during his start in Game 6 of the ALCS against the Blue Jays, Ventura got into it with Jays first base coach Tim Leiper. Nothing happened beyond that, but apparently it was part of the Jays’ plan to try to put Ventura “on tilt.”

Most recently, in June this past season, Ventura hit Orioles third baseman Manny Machado with a pitch. Machado charged the mound and got in at least one punch before the players spilled out onto the field in a blob of royal blue and orange. Ventura was suspended for eight games.

Ventura was by no means a model of civility, but he was a product of baseball’s intransigent culture forcing players to assimilate or be ostracized. The old culture taught players to never show emotion. Hit a home run? Put your head down and circle the bases in a timely fashion or risk taking a fastball to the ribs. Players like Fernandez and Bautista — typically players from Latin countries — challenged those old cultural norms and are, as a result, the vanguard of the new culture. Ventura displayed aspects of each, the worst of the old culture and the best of the new. He was not a one-dimensional person; he was strikingly complex. At one moment willing to use a fastball as a weapon, the next stopping by some kids’ lemonade stand and giving out fist bumps. Baseball is made more entertaining and more interesting by its personalities and Ventura’s was a behemoth, for better or worse. His absence from the sport will be felt.

MLB remembers Yordano Ventura and Andy Marte

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 28:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers in the first inning during a game against the Boston Red Sox on August 28, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
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Following the tragic passing of 25-year-old Yordano Ventura and 33-year-old Andy Marte, both of whom were killed in separate car crashes on Sunday morning, players and executives from around Major League Baseball expressed an outpouring of grief and support for the players’ families and former teams.

Fans have gathered at Kauffman Stadium in memory of the former pitcher.