And That Happened: Sunday’s scores and highlights

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These were the last baseball games that count — despite the claim about the All-Star Game counting, which is certainly does not in any real sense — until Friday. That’s some b.s. right there. Why don’t they play the All-Star Game with only 25 guys on a team and let the rest of the league play regular games with each team a player or two shorthanded at most? Fine, you say that’s unfair? Well, so is deciding home field advantage in the World Series based on a dumb exhibition game, but we do that. Don’t tell me about fair.

Anyway, I’m in New York. I took in the Futures Game yesterday. More about that later, as well as some posts from on the scene at the All-Star Game. For now, though, here’s what went on in places where the games actually mattered:

Tigers 5, Rangers 0: A good reason not to hang around press boxes: when Justin Verlander had a no-hitter into the seventh yesterday, a bunch of baseball writers at the Futures Game openly hoped he wouldn’t get a no-hitter because that would require them to do more work or different work or something. That’s just kind of depressing, even if it’s understandable in a very narrow way.

Phillies 4, White Sox 3: John Mayberry hit the game-winning single in the tenth and with it the Phillies won their ninth in their past 13. Like half the teams that played yesterday, someone gave quotes about how maybe this one will give them momentum going into the second half. Assignment desk: someone look at the second half records of teams which won the final game before the All-Star break over the past, I dunno, decade. Let’s see if this momentum is real!

Nationals 5, Marlins 2: A three-run tenth wins it for the Nats, and with it ends a three-game losing streak and averts the sweep by the Marlins. Many teams are worse than the Nationals. Not many are more happy to see the first half end. Expectations are a hell of a thing.

Indians 6, Royals 4: Can’t kill this Cleveland thing. Detroit beat the tar out of them last weekend and then they come back and win two of three from the Jays and sweep the Royals. One and a half back somehow.

Reds 8, Braves 4: Jay Bruce with three hits including a two-run homer. Freddie Freeman sat out because of jammed thumb that will keep him out of the All-Star Game. Guess that Final Vote was a whole lot of wasted effort, eh? Just a total bloodbath series for the Braves. Freeman, Jason Heyward, Justin Upton and B.J. Upton were all injured during this series.

Twins 10, Yankees 4: Thus endeth the ugliest half season (and then some) of baseball in the Bronx in a long time. Errors and ineffectiveness gave the Twins their first win over CC Sabathia in six years.

Mets 4, Pirates 2: Dillon Gee allowed one unearned run in six and two-thirds. Three runs for the Mets in the first ended up being enough. They kept showing highlights of this on the jumbotron at Citi Field during the Futures Game. It got bigger cheers than a lot of what went on at the Futures Game.

Orioles 7, Blue Jays 4: Lots of people are parroting the fact that Chris Davis set a record by tying the AL mark for most homers prior to the All-Star break. Not many are pointing out that the Orioles have played 96 games before the All-Star Break which is an awful lot and which can in no technically accurate way be referred to as the first “half.” Still, he’s hit a lot of homers and that’s cool.

Rockies 3, Dodgers 1: Nothing to do with this game but on the media shuttle bus on the way back to the city yesterday I heard a lot of good stories about Vin Scully. Behind the scenes stories which would make you laugh given how Scully has sort of been made into a demi-god over the past several years. Nothing which undermines all that is good about him or which makes him a bad person in any way, shape or form, but stories which humanize the guy a bit and remind one that he is, after all, a human being with a sense of humor and some real world foibles and things. One in which he dropped an F-bomb, which is absolutely hilarious to me. Though I’m sure it was the most melodically-dropped F-bomb ever. Michael Cuddyer hit a homer here. Guess I get to live the lifelong dream of seeing Michael Cuddyer hit in the Home Run Derby tomorrow.

Rays 5, Astros 0: The Rays won for the 14th time in their last 16 behind Chris Archer’s five-hit shutout. The Rays are 2.5 back of the Red Sox and probably didn’t want the All-Star Break to arrive.

Padres 10, Giants 1: Get no-hit on Saturday, rap out 12 hits on Sunday in the course of scoring ten. Barry Zito only lasted two innings. Carlos Quentin drove in three.

Athletics 3, Red Sox 2: Brandon Workman took a no-hitter into the seventh inning of his first big league start. Ends up with a no decision as Josh Donaldson hit a two-run homer off him. Donaldson added the game-winning RBI single in the 11th. Dude is sitting at .310/.379/.522 with sixteen homers but isn’t an All-Star. Remember that the next time someone complains about life being unfair.

Brewers 5, Diamondbacks 1: Wily Peralta allowed only one run in seven and the Brewers snapped their four-game losing streak. They can now spend the break thinking about all the new losing streaks they’ll start in the second half.

Mariners 4, Angels 3: Seattle sweeps the Angels. Correction about the Nats and their expectations ruining their first half. The Angels have ’em beat by a mile in this regard.

Cardinals, 10, Cubs 6: A four-spot in the ninth by the Cardinals – including a three-run homer from Yadier Molina — officially ends the first half. Or two thirds. Or whatever we want to call it. For those of you keeping score at home, Allen Craig actually put them ahead with an RBI single before the homer. He did so even for those of you not keeping score at home.

The Astros gave the Yankees an opening. Keuchel and Verlander will try to close the door.

Associated Press
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If Game 4 of the ALCS had been even remotely conventional, it’d stand at 3-1 in favor of Houston right now. The Yankees’ starter pitched well but got no run support. A mighty Astros team with an ordinarily good closer in Ken Giles had a 4-0 lead in the late innings. As the Yankees set out to mount a comeback, a base runner fell down in between first and second and should’ve been dead to rights. This is playoff baseball, however, so stuff, as they say, happens. The runner was safe, the closer struggled, the Yankees rallied and now we’re tied 2-2.

But are we even at 2-2?

On paper, no, because the Astros now will send Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander out in Games 5 and 6, and that gives them a clear advantage. Keuchel dominated the Yankees in Game 1, tossing seven scoreless innings and striking out ten batters. Verlander struck out 13 batters in a 124-pitch complete game in which he allowed only a single run. Beyond the mere facts of the box scores, however, the Yankees have looked profoundly overmatched by both of the Astros’ aces, in this postseason and on other occasions on which they’ve faced off against them. Most notably in the 2015 wild-card game at Yankee Stadium when Keuchel pitched six scoreless innings in the 3-0 victory.

But remember: stuff happens.

Stuff like Aaron Judge‘s and Gary Sanchez‘s bats waking up. The two most important sluggers in the Bombers lineup combined to go 3-for-6 with two doubles, a homer, a walk and five RBI in last night’s victory. Each of them had been silent for the first three games of the series but if they’re heating up, the Yankees will be a lot harder to pitch to.

Stuff like Masahiro Tanaka showing that he can tame the Astros’ lineup. Which he did pretty well in Game 1, giving up only two runs on four hits in six innings. He was overshadowed by Keuchel in that game, but it was a good performance against a strong lineup in a hostile environment. Tanaka pitches much better at Yankee Stadium than he does on the road, so don’t for a second think that the Astros bats will have an easy time of it today.

Stuff like the Yankees bullpen still being the Yankees bullpen. Yes, the Astros got to David Robertson yesterday, but it’s still a strong, strong group that gives the Yankees a clear advantage if the game is close late or if they hold a lead.

All of which is to say that we have ourselves a series, friends. While, 48 hours ago, it seemed like we were on our way to an Astros coronation, the Yankees have shown up in a major way in Games 3 and 4. If you’re an Astros fan you should feel pretty confident with Keuchel and Verlander heading into action over the next two games, but we have learned that absolutely nothing is guaranteed in the postseason.