And That Happened: Wednesday’s scores and highlights

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Athletics 12, Rangers 5: Oakland shocks the world. No one on the planet had them pegged as a playoff team and, as recently as a week ago, no one figured they had a chance in hell at the division crown. Well, that’s what you get for pegging and figuring. As for the Rangers … just, dude, the Rangers. Losers of seven of nine down the stretch. They looked positively shell-shocked in this game. I know there is no correlation between how a season ends and how a team does in the playoffs but, man, this was ugly city.

Yankees 14, Red Sox 2:  God job, Boston. Good effort. Unless, rather than just a totally listless and mailed-in performance, your rolling over like this was really a calculated thing in which you served up you revenge to Baltimore for beating you to close out 2011’s collapse.

Rays 4, Orioles 1: Evan Longoria loves game 162. Three homers here to follow up last year’s heroics. As for Baltimore, it was remarkable that they made it all the way to the last day of the season with a shot at the division. There is no shame in taking the wild card. Now, on to face a Rangers team that looks like it’s suffering from PTSD.

Tigers 1, Royals 0: Miguel Cabrera: .330, 44, 139. Triple Crown. And the Tigers: the best rested of all of the AL playoff teams despite the fact that they have the worst record of them all. Viva divisions.

Nationals 5, Phillies 1: The Nats clinch home field throughout the playoffs. Teddy wins. What a festive day. Even better? Pouty Phillies! Jimmy Rollins:

“With us healthy, they’re a second-place team”

And if ifs and buts were candy and nuts we’d all have a merry Christmas.

White Sox 9, Indians 0: Dan Johnson: all he does is hit home runs in game 162. Really, that’s all he’s done for two years now. Three bombs last night. His first three of the year.

Braves 4, Pirates 0: Let the record reflect that Chipper Jones ended his career (regular season version) with a pinch hit single to right. Let it also reflect that Ben Sheets ended his with a scoreless inning. Beyond that the Braves emptied the pen and won their 20th of 30 to close out the season.

Mariners 12, Angels 0: Casper Wells drives in five. Every Mariner batter in the starting lineup scored at least one run.

Cubs 5, Astros 4: Because of course the Astros had to lose their 107th and final game — and their final NL game — in a walkoff loss. I guess some folks may look to the fact that Houston started respectably and ended winning 15 of 30 to say “hey, it’s not so bad,” but c’mon guys, it’s bad. Here’s hoping Bo Porter and a move to the AL give everyone a new beginning down there.

Mets 4, Marlins 2: It’s all over now everyone. The pain will stop until next spring. Ike Davis hit his 32nd homer.

Cardinals 1, Reds 0: Homer Bailey, alas, was unable to pull off the old Johnny Vander Meer. Matt Carpenter singled in a run and Shelby Miller tossed six shutout innings against a mostly resting Reds roster.

Dodgers 5, Giants 1: Clayton Kershaw finishes with the ERA crown. That’s something. He also finished a lone strikeout behind R.A. Dickey for the second jewel of the pitcher’s Triple Crown. Maybe next year he’ll learn how to win, however, and regain his Cy Young form.

Blue Jays 2, Twins 1: Next year will be the fist season since 1988 without Omar Vizquel in the major leagues. That is all.

Rockies 2, Diamondbacks 1: An NL West crown is followed by a .500 season. And before the NL West crown season, they were just putrid. The Arizona Diamondbacks are like a box of chocolates.

Padres 7, Brewers 6: This was the last game to end last night. And with it the 2012 major league regular season.

And, as it always does, its end makes me sad. I love the playoffs, of course, but they’re not the regular season.  Baseball to me has always been best as a constant, low-leverage thing where no one game matters too terribly much and, if we don’t like it, another game will come along the next day. It’s beautiful background music as we go about our lives from April through September.  The playoffs are …  something else.

Thanks for stopping by every morning during the long slow walk.

Justin Verlander named ALCS MVP

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Following the Astros’ decisive 4-0 shutout over the Yankees on Saturday night, Justin Verlander was named the Most Valuable Player of the American League Championship Series. Hall of Fame outfielder and former MLB manager Frank Robinson handed the award to Verlander, who was beaming as he thanked his teammates and members of the Astros’ organization.

“I’ve got to say, it came down to the wire, and one thing kept going off in my head was Dallas,” Verlander told the crowd gathered at Minute Maid Park. “When he called me, he said that I won’t regret my decision to join the Houston Astros. And here we are right now, it’s the best feeling in the world. We’ve got four more wins to win a World Series, and I do not regret my decision to come here. This is the best feeling a player can have. So, thank you.”

Among a cast that boasted the likes of Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and Dallas Keuchel, among others, Verlander was spectacular. He locked down a complete game win in Game 2, holding the Yankees to one run on five hits and a walk and striking out a postseason-high 13 batters. In Game 6, he saved the Astros from elimination with seven scoreless innings, helping propel the club to their eventual 7-1 finish that set up their series-clinching finale on Saturday.

The 34-year-old righty also took his place among some postseason greats. Thanks to an eight-strikeout outing on Friday night, his collective 136 postseason strikeouts are good for sixth-most in MLB playoff history, just a smidgen shy of Tom Glavine (143), Mike Mussina (145), Roger Clemens (173), Andy Pettitte (183) and John Smoltz (199). He also joined Bob Gibson, Curt Schilling and Sandy Koufax as one of just four hurlers to strike out 20+ Yankees in a postseason series.