And That Happened: Thursday’s scores and highlights

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Nationals 4, Dodgers 1: Congrats to the Nats for clinching the first postseason birth for a D.C. team since 1933. Pour one out for Joe Cronin, Moe Berg, Lefty Stewart and Heinie Manush.

Reds 5, Cubs 3: And congratulations to the Reds too, who clinched their spot hours before the Nats did.  The Reds are the best team in baseball that no one has paid a lick of attention to all year. It’ll be awesome if they win the World Series and the guys who make those season retrospective videos have to hire ten extra interns to go back and see what happened with this club all year.

Cardinals 5, Astros 4: The sweep. Allen Craig with a three-run homer and Carlos Beltran with a two-run pinch hit double. The Cards remain two and a half ahead of Milwaukee and three ahead of L.A.

Royals 4, White Sox 3: Blown chance by the Sox to put some distance between themselves and the Tigers. Eric Hosmer drove in the winning run. Before that, though, Robin Ventura thought it was smart to intentionally walk Jeff Francoeur with two outs. Why anyone intentionally walks Jeff Francoeur is beyond me.

Athletics 12, Tigers 4: Seth Smith homered, doubled and drove in four to help the A’s salvage one. The Road Trip of Death continues today, as Oakland heads into New York.

Rays 7, Red Sox 4: Walkoff for B.J. Upton of the three-run homer variety. The Rays rallied for six in the ninth. The homer came off Vicente Padilla, but Andrew Bailey poured the gas on the kindling before he came in.

Brewers 9, Pirates 7: For the first time since May 29 the Pirates are below .500.  For the 20th time since 1992 it appears as though they’ll finish the season that way. Just a crazy fall after being sixteen above even earlier this season.

Phillies 16, Mets 1: Eight in the first inning off Hefner:

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Yankees 10, Blue Jays 7: A grand slam for Nick Swisher in the seven-run fourth inning and the recently-rejuvenated Ichiro drove in three.

Giants 9, Rockies 2: Two homers for the Panda. Here’s the Rockies team picture, taken a week or two ago, but still representing them accurately.

Padres 6, Diamondbacks 5: Bud Black used five pitchers in the ninth innings. FIVE. I would just like those folks who are advocates of the whole “Games matter more in September!” school of thought to acknowledge that a lot of bullcrap happens in games in September.

Indians 4, Twins 3: A bases loaded single by Casey Kotchman in the 10th gives it to the Tribe. The race for fourth place in the AL Central is all tied up. The excitement is palpable. It can be palped.

Rangers 3, Angels 1: Adrian Beltre was sick before the game but he played hero in the ninth with a two-run homer. Before that: a tremendous pitching duel between Yu Darvish and Zack Greinke.

Javier Baez: “This is a game. It’s not as serious as a lot of people take it.”

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Infielder Javier Baez is back in camp with the Cubs after helping Puerto Rico to a second-place finish in the 2017 World Baseball Classic. He was the focal point of what was, to many, the most memorable play of the entire tournament: Baez pointed at catcher Yadier Molina, who was attempting to throw out a would-be base-stealer, before applying the tag for the final out of the eighth inning.

While Baez didn’t receive much criticism for his theatrics, aside from an insignificant handful of spoilsports, he is one of the players who most exemplifies the emotional, celebratory culture that foreign players bring to Major League Baseball. U.S. (and Tigers) second baseman Ian Kinsler is on the other side of that spectrum, as he said prior to the WBC final that he hopes kids mimic the solemn way U.S. players play the game rather than the emotional, passionate way players from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic play the game.

Baez isn’t about to apologize for the way he and his teammates play the game. Via CSN Chicago’s Patrick Mooney, Baez said, “We do a great job playing and having fun out there. That’s what it’s all about. This is a game. It’s not as serious as a lot of people take it. but, you know, everybody’s got their style and their talent. I have a lot of fun.”

He continued, “It’s their choice to look at how we play, how excited we get. To us, it’s really huge what we did, even though we didn’t win. All of Puerto Rico got really together. We were going through a hard time over there and everything got fixed up for at least three weeks. Hopefully, they keep it like that.”

Mike Trout proposes change to spring training umpiring

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Angels outfielder Mike Trout came up with an idea that would allow less experienced umpires an opportunity to call some major league spring training action. As ESPN’s Buster Olney reports, Trout thinks the veteran umpires should only call five or six innings as they get back into regular season shape. The rest of the innings could be called by minor league umpires.

According to Olney, baseball officials loved Trout’s idea when they heard about it last week. One official said, “It makes a lot of sense for a lot of different reasons.” Another said, “That’s Trout — he’s always paying attention to stuff beyond what he’s doing.”

Of course, I have to agree that the suggestion is a great one. As Olney notes, the turnover rate for umpires every year is relatively low, so younger, less-experienced umpires have few opportunities to get a feel for what it’s like calling major league action. Even beyond the actual interpretation of the rules, interacting with big league personalities would also be helpful for minor league umpires.