And That Happened: Thursday’s scores and highlights

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Nationals 9, Pirates 7: This could have been an awful, awful defeat, what with the Nats bullpen once again pooping all over itself. At least I’m assuming it would have been a defeat. The game was tied entering the bottom of the ninth. Thanks to Bryce Harper’s walkoff homer, however, we don’t know how extras would’ve gone had they been required. Though I’m guessing after the stretch the Nats have been on, Nats fans have a gut feeling.

Yankees 2, Rangers 0: Hiroki Kuroda does his part to blow some fresh air into the A-Rod-funkified Yankees Universe. Wait, the universe is mostly the vacuum of space, so there can be no air, clean or otherwise. Hurm. Anyway, Kuroda, Robertson and Rivera combine for a shutout.

Diamondbacks 3, Cubs 1: A homer and a double for Aaron Hill, who had been mired in a slump. He may still be mired in a slump, with this being but one brief shining moment amidst a long stretch of doom and despair. Wait: I think I just realized why baseball writers use selective end points so often. To not do so is rather depressing.

Mets 7, Braves 4: Zack Wheeler worked around trouble and John Buck drove in three for the series split. I did not realize this until I just read it: the Mets are 20-13 since they called up Wheeler.

White Sox 7, Tigers 4: Jake Peavy gutted out seven innings while Justin Verlander continued to look quite mortal, allowing 11 hits and striking out only four in six innings of work. This could’ve been Peavy’s last start with the White Sox as he is being heavily scouted and is subject to all kinds of trade rumors.

Padres 10, Brewers 8: Will Venable hit a couple of doubles and made a sweet catch in center. Yovani Gallardo didn’t do much to help the Brewers peddle him to a contender: six runs on eight hits while walking three in three and two thirds.

Blue Jays 4, Astros 0: Mark Buehrle with the two-hit shutout, snapping the Jays’ seven-game losing streak. He worked quickly, as usual, and was happy about that. Why? He said after the game that he had tickets to see Tim McGraw last night and really didn’t want to be late. Well then.

Marlins 5, Rockies 3: A four-run ninth for the Marlins. A three-run ninth for the Rockies. Advantage: Marlins because, well, that’s how math works.

Cardinals 3, Phillies 1: The Cardinals win their seventh of nine, thanks to Lance Lynn’s strong outing.

Royals 7, Orioles 1: This win closes out a 5-2 stretch against the Tigers and O’s. Not too shabby. They play their next 12 against sub-.500 clubs. They’re only seven back. I guess crazier things have happened. Can’t think of any at the moment, but still.

Angels 8, Athletics 3: Albert Pujols, Mike Trout and Mark Trumbo each drove in two runs. The Angels had 12 hits. Eleven of them were singles.

Reds 5, Dodgers 2: Mat Latos — owner of cat Cat Latos — ends the Dodgers winning streak.  Jay Bruce and Xavier Paul homered off Zack Greinke. The Reds won, but Shin-Soo Choo had two awful plays. He got deked by the shortstop on a hit-and-run and tried to retreat back to first only to get tagged out. He also fielded a single by Yasiel Puig, thought he’d try to peg him at first base when Puig made a big turn and threw the ball away for a two-base error. Well, oops.

Mariners 8, Twins 2: A six-run second inning for the M’s was pretty much all she wrote. Who’s “she,” anyway? She writes a lot. Maybe I should meet her. I’d like to know what makes her so prolific.

Rays vs. Red Sox: POSTPONED:  “And you’ll always love me won’t you? Yes. And the rain won’t make any difference? No.”

Astros advance to the World Series with 4-0 finale against Yankees

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The Astros punched their ticket to the World Series on Saturday, shutting out the Yankees 4-0 to take their first Game 7 victory at home. Charlie Morton was nearly untouchable on the mound, holding the Yankees to two hits, a walk and five strikeouts en route to his first career postseason win.

Morton and Sabathia carried their duel through three solid innings. Morton struck out three batters and allowed just one baserunner. Sabathia worked in and out of jams in the second and third innings, supplying and stranding two runners in scoring position.

Evan Gattis was the first to strike. In the fourth inning, he punched a 2-2 slider from Sabathia into the left field wall, where it registered a projected 405 feet and broke a homer-less streak of 115 at-bats by designated hitters in the 2017 postseason. The home run signaled the beginning of the end for the Yankees’ starter. He induced a groundout from Marwin Gonzalez, then walked Brian McCann on six pitches and allowed Josh Reddick his first base hit of the playoffs. That was enough for Joe Girardi, who pulled Sabathia for righty Tommy Kahnle and an inning-ending double play to close out the fourth.

Even with Sabathia gone, there was still some hope that the middle of the order could bail the Yankees out. Greg Bird led off the fifth with a first pitch double and Aaron Hicks took a four-pitch walk. A wild pitch from Morton allowed Bird to reach third base, but Alex Bregman and Brian McCann weren’t about to let the Yankees spoil their starter’s shutout. Todd Frazier bounced a ball toward third base, where Bregman grabbed and fired it to home plate, catching Bird just as McCann put his glove down.

The bottom of the inning wasn’t any easier for Sabathia’s successors. Jose Altuve went oppo-taco on a 1-1 changeup from Kahnle, postmarking it 364 feet into the right field stands. Kahnle labored through the next four at-bats, handing out a pair of singles to Carlos Correa and Yuli Gurriel before sending Gattis down swinging. The next at-bat was even more troublesome. McCann roped a two-out, two-RBI double to the warning track in right field, clearing the bases and boosting the Astros’ to a cushy 4-0 lead.

The excitement fizzled a little over the next few innings. Brett Gardner muscled a leadoff single off of Lance McCullers, but was later caught at second on a force play to end the sixth. McCullers didn’t let go of the ball again. He was lights-out through the end of the game, scattering a walk and six strikeouts over four innings and clinching the pennant with a 1-2-3 performance in the ninth.

Whatever confidence the Astros had coming off of their three-game sweep in the Division Series was tested and tested again in their pennant run. They battled through three tough losses in Games 3 through 5, staved off elimination with a gem from Justin Verlander in Game 6, and finally emerged victorious tonight. Three days from now, when they enter Dodger Stadium for Game 1 of the World Series, they’ll have the chance to do it all again.