And That Happened: Wednesday’s scores and highlights

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Orioles 12, Blue Jays 2: Bombs away. Chris Davis and Manny Machado each had two homers and the O’s hit seven in all, keeping pace with the Yankees, who maintain their one and a half game lead.

Yankees 8, Twins 2: CC Sabathia looks to be back on his game, and that will be huge for the Yankees in the playoffs. The big guy struck out ten over eight innings.

Tigers 5, Royals 4: Andy Dirks broke up what would have been an inning-ending double play in the eighth inning which allowed Don Kelly to score. Little things can make all the difference between winning the division and sitting at home in October.

Nationals 8, Phillies 4: Bryce Harper became only the second teenager to hit 20 homers in a season. Tony Conigliaro was the other. Ryan Howard got booed. Jayson Werth got booed. Lotta booing in Philly last night.

Astros 2, Cardinals 0: Norris. Bud Norris. He gave up two hits over seven and a third.

Dodgers 8, Padres 2: Matt Kemp was 4 for 5 with four driven in. Too little too late, of course.

Mets 6, Pirates 0: Jeremy Hefner shuts out the Pirates for seven innings and Ruben Tejada has four hits, eliminating Pittsburgh from playoff contention. Nice run for a while Buccos. But:

Brewers 8, Reds 1: Ryan Braun hot a homer — he leads the National League — keeping the Brewers on life support for another day. Cincinnati falls a game back of Washington for the best record in the NL and home field advantage in the NLCS, should they make it there.

Braves 3, Marlins 0: Martin Prado homered and drove in another run with a single. Dan Uggla stole home (what?) and Paul Maholm was sharp. The Marlins, of course, have given up, so whatever.

Rays 4, Reds Sox 2: Know what? The White Sox have to play four games against the hot-and-spoiling-to-spoil Rays this weekend. That seems like it bodes poorly.

Athletics 9, Rangers 3: Oakland jumped out to a 5-0 lead before the Rangers even got to bat and Martin Perez couldn’t even make it out of the inning.

Indians 6, White Sox 4: And the Sox fall out of first place for the first time since July 23. They had a 3-1 lead after the first, but Hector Santiago couldn’t make it out of the fourth inning.

Giants 6, Diamondbacks 0: Matt Cain shut ’em out for seven innings and worked out of a couple of jams. He hasn’t lost in nine starts.

Rockies 6, Cubs 0: Drew Pomeranz shut looked sharp and the Rockies won their third in a row.

Angels 4, Mariners 3: L.A. just has to keep winning and hope that the Rangers take care of the A’s over the next week.  The Angels did their part at least, and remain two back in the wild card. Torii Hunter tied it with an RBI single in the seventh and won it with a walkoff RBI single in the ninth.

Jose Canseco to join NBC Sports California as an A’s analyst

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Hey, I have a new coworker: Jose Canseco has been hired by NBC Sports California as an Athletics pregame analyst.

OK, maybe he’s not technically a coworker, as the folks at NBC Sports California — formerly CSN Bay Area — and I do not hang out at the water cooler, have potlucks in the conference room or exchange secret Santa gifts at Christmas time, but dang it, I’m gonna TELL people I work with Jose Canseco. The only downside will be people assuming that, because he and I are on the same team, my performance is something less than authentic. Or, perhaps, Canseco may write another book and tell all of my secrets.

Anyway, Canseco will be part of NBC Sports California’s A’s Pregame Live and A’s Postgame Live shows. Live TV can be hard. I’ve done a bit of it, and there is certainly more to that gig than meets the eye. You can’t always prepare for what happens on the fly. I’m sure Canseco will do well, however, as he’s great with coming up with the best stuff off the top of his head.

2017 Preview: Cleveland Indians

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Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2017 season. Next up: The Cleveland Indians.

The Cleveland Indians almost won the World Series without their best hitter for the whole season and two of their starting pitchers for the playoffs. This year that hitter — Michael Brantley — is back and the starters — Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar — are healthy. Oh, and they added arguably the best free agent bat available in Edwin Encarnacion.

Baseball teams love to downplay their expectations, but given where the Indians are at the moment, anything less than another American League Pennant will have to feel like a disappointment, right? Fortunately for the Indians, they stand as the favorites to do just that.

They didn’t lose much in the offseason. Yes, World Series hero Rajai Davis is gone, but the Indians outfield will be fine if Brantley remains healthy. Mike Napoli‘s loss will be felt but it will be made up for with Encarnacion’s bat and probably then some. Coco Crisp left too, but he was not a key part of the equation.

The biggest losses are guys from last year who will start the year on the disabled list, most notably Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall. Kipnis is just starting to work out following time off to rest his sore shoulder. Chisenhall ran into a wall the other day and is being evaluated. There is no sense that either will miss extended time, however.

Otherwise, the lineup should score a lot of runs, with on-base machines Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor setting the table for Encarnacion, Brantley and Carlos Santana, who is entering his walk year. The Indians trailed only the Red Sox in runs scored in the American League last year and they should score a lot of runs this year as well.

The strength of the club, however, remains its pitching. Corey Kluber looked like his old Cy Young self last year, particularly in the playoffs. Danny Salazar built on his excellent 2015 season in the first half before falling prey to injury. Carlos Carrasco posted an ERA+ of 141 before breaking his hand and Josh Tomlin and Trevor Bauer both stood out for fourth and fifth starters.

The bullpen is excellent too, as relief ace Andrew Miller is joined by Cody Allen, Bryan Shaw and newcomer Boone Logan make up one of the relief corps in baseball.

Pitcher health is probably the biggest uncertainty for any contender, but the Indians have the best pitching in the AL if everyone stays healthy. And maybe even if one or two guys don’t.

It’s hard to find much fault with the 2017 Cleveland Indians. They are the class of their division and, while the slog of the regular season turns a lot of surefire contenders into hash before it’s all said and done, there is no reason to look at the Indians right now and think of them as anything other than the best team in the American League.

Prediction: First place, American League Central.