And That Happened: Monday’s scores and highlights

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Tigers 6, Royals 3: Before the season began I said something to the effect of “if I had to bet the lives of my children on the outcome of any division, it would be the Tigers winning the AL Central.” I repeated that line on the radio a bunch of times.  I was sweating it until game 160, but Mookie and Carlo: you’re safe now. Daddy won’t have to give you to the evil gamblers.

White Sox 11, Indians 0: I imagine the beating that Chicago administered to Cleveland felt good for a while, but the Tigers win over the Royals sealed their fate. Hector Santiago shut out the tribe for seven and Dayan Viciedo drove in five, but it’s all over now, baby blue.

Pirates 2, Braves 1; Phillies 2, Nationals 0: That’s about as happy as you’ll ever see a team after they get shut out. The Nats don’t care, they still won the division. And they partied like rock stars too. In some way this is the best reasonable outcome for Atlanta too. Their chance at winning the East was tiny, and by losing on Monday instead of, say, Wednesday, they can be sure to rest the pen and whoever else needs it for the wild card game on Friday.

Athletics 4, Rangers 3: The A’s clinch a playoff spot and with that eliminate the Rays and Angels. Oh, and they move to within one game of the Rangers for the AL West. Because they’re already going to the playoffs no one seems to be talking about Texas woofing the division away. They’ve been in first place since April 9, and had a lead in the division as big as six games as late as August 23.

Yankees 10, Red Sox 2; Rays 5, Orioles 3: Baltimore falls a game back after they get beat by the surging yet, unfortunately for them, now-dead Rays. Meanwhile, the Yankees beat the walking dead Red Sox who possibly had two major leaguers in that lineup last night. In other news, Fernando Rodney was a bit shaky, but he got out of trouble to get his 47th save in 49 chances and lowered his ERA to 0.61. Which is nutzoid.

Cardinals 4, Reds 2: Dodgers 3, Giants 2: The Cardinals clinch at least a tie for the second wild card. They’re winners of 11 of their last 14. Meanwhile, the Dodgers do what they can to stay alive, winning their sixth straight. They need to make it eight, however, and hope for two straight Cardinals losses in order to force a tie for the wild card. Elian Herrera hit a walkoff single with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth.

Angels 8, Mariners 4: The A’s win eliminates the Angels, so Mike Trout’s 4 for 5, double, triple and three RBI apparently means nothing now. At least that’s what people tell me.

Marlins 3, Mets 2: The Mets went up 2-0, but Giancarlo Stanton started the comeback with a homer and his mates completed it. Easy to forget in the hot mess that is the end of the Marlins season, but a 22 year-old just hit his 37th homer.

Blue Jays 6, Twins 5: In May, extra innings between teams like this is referred to as “free baseball.” On October 1, it’s referred to as “excessive.” Anthony Gose singled home the winning run in the 10th inning in front of the smallest Rogers Centre crowd of the season.

Astros 3, Cubs 0: Welcome to the 100-loss club for the first time since 1966, Chicago!

Brewers 5, Padres 3: Ryan Braun doubled and went 2 for 4. A couple of big games and I think it’s still possible for him to finish with an OPS over 1.000. Which would be handy for those who want to argue about how boned get was in the MVP voting this year.

Rockies 7, Diamondbacks 5: Even more free baseball. This one went to the 13th tied at three. Colorado scored four in the top of the 13th, Arizona scored two and that was that. The Rockies win ensures that they won’t lose 100. Which is something I guess.

UPDATE: Donald Trump declines Nats offer to throw out the first pitch

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UPDATE: Welp, we wont’ get to see that:

Sad!

8:53 AM: It’s just gossip now, but Politico is hearing that Donald Trump is in talks to throw out the first pitch at Nationals Park on Opening Day. The Nats are not commenting. Neither are the Palm Beach Cardinals of the Florida State League, who no doubt feel slighted given that the president effectively is a local.

With the caveat that, on Opening Day, tickets are likely to be more expensive and thus you’re likely to have a lot more rich people and friends-of-the-owners in attendance, thereby ensuring a more conservative crowd, I’m struggling to imagine a situation in which Trump strolls on to a baseball field in a large American city and isn’t booed like crazy. He’s polling as low as 36% in some places. He’s not exactly Mr. Popular.

Oh well. I look forward to him three-bouncing one to Matt Wieters and then grabbing his phone and tweeting about how it was the best, most tremendous first pitch in baseball history. Or blaming Hillary Clinton for it in the event he admits that it was a bad pitch.

2017 Preview: Texas Rangers

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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 Texas Rangers.

The Rangers somehow won the AL West last year despite not being super great at any one aspect of the game. There are stars here — Adrian Beltre, Cole Hamels, Yu Darvish and Rougned Odor are all spiffy players — but the Rangers won the division by being greater than the sum of their parts. They scored a decent number of runs despite some bad collective peripheral numbers and they allowed more runs than anyone in the AL except the Twins and Athletics. Yet they had a great record in one-run games and outperformed their pythagorean record by a WHOLE lot. Luck shined brightly on the 2016 Rangers.

It’s hard to expect luck to hold in any instance, but that’s especially the case when there have been some pretty significant changes. Changes like the loss of Carlos Beltran, Ian Desmond and Mitch Moreland. In their place: A full season, the Rangers hope, from Shin-Soo Choo, a converted-to-outfield Jurickson Profar and Mike Napoli. That may wash out OK, especially if Choo is healthy, but it wouldn’t be shocking to see some regression in two of those offensive slots.

Starting pitching is also a big question mark. Cole Hamels at the top is not a problem, obviously, and if Yu Darvish is healthy and durable the Rangers have an outstanding 1-2 punch. Martin Perez in the third spot presents promise, but he’s been exactly average so far in five major league seasons. The back end of the rotation has some real problems. Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross are hurt at the moment and even if healthy, Cashner seems to be a shell of his once-promising self. A.J. Griffin is looking to pitch in his first full season since 2013. If the Rangers are strong contenders all year it’s gonna be on the “Spahn and Sain and two days of rain” model, but I have no idea what rhymes with “Darvish” and that’s sort of a problem.

The bullpen is going to look a lot like it did last year. Sam Dyson will close, but manager Jeff Banister has shown in the past that he’s not a slave to keeping guys in any one role down there. Jeremy Jeffress will likely set up but he’s closed before. Some think Matt Bush or Keone Kela could close. We’ll see Tanner Scheppers and lefty Alex Claudio. Banister has a Manager of the Year Award on his mantle and while that often doesn’t mean anything, it usually suggests that a guy knows how to deal with his pen. Banister will do OK with what he has.

Really, though, the rotation is a concern, as is hoping that a 35-year-old Mike Napoli and a soon-to-be 38-year-old Adrian Beltre can continue to be the types of players who can form the offensive core of a playoff team. There’s talent and a track record here, but there’s a lot of uncertainty. For that reason, I suspect the Rangers will fall back a smidge this year, even if they’re a playoff contender.

Prediction: Second Place, American League West.