And That Happened: Sunday’s scores and highlights

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Braves 5, Cardinals 2: That was somewhat unexpected. A less-than-dominant Braves team sweeps the best team in the National League. The key was Kris Medlen allowing two runs on eight hits. The key all series was good starting pitching from the Braves. So of course the big talking point everyone has is how Jason Heyward hit leadoff, as if that made all the difference.

Dodgers 1, Reds 0:  I was gonna say “1968 called and wants its game back,” but in 1968 this would have ended with a bunt single, a passed ball, a steal of third and then a sac fly. As it was we had eleven innings of shutout ball for Dodgers pitchers. Ten innings of shutout ball for Reds pitchers and 20 strikeouts too. Then Yasiel Puig ended it with a walkoff homer. A lot of people would call this game a drag. This is something close to ideal for me.

Tigers 12, Phillies 4: Eight run difference, eight unearned runs allowed by the Phillies. All in one inning. Eight losses in a row. At the moment the Phillies are dog poop in a paper bag placed on a doorstep and lit on fire. Someone is stepping on it and its a big mess because it’s dog poop in a bag that’s on fire, see, and that’s what you do and oh my good what a stinky fiery mess these Phillies are.

Marlins 3, Pirates 2: Jose Ferenandez struck out 13. Seventy-four of his 97 pitches were for strikes. Man this kid is good.

Indians 6, Rangers 0: The second straight shutout for the Indians over the Rangers. Ubaldo Jimenez did the heavy lifting here, allowing only two hits over eight innings. The sweep for Cleveland and four straight overall. The Indians were supposed to have a lot of questions marks in the pitching department this year — and they are just below league average in runs allowed per game — but they lead all of baseball with 14 shutouts.

Nationals 14, Mets 1: The first game of that doubleheader on Friday was a disaster, but the next three were pretty spiffy. They held the Mets to three runs in those three games and yesterday saw this offensive explosion. Wilson Ramos with a grand slam.

Yankees 6, Rays 5: Welcome back Derek Jeter. The Captain homered in his first at bat following his time off for the quad injury and five innings of scoreless bullpen work saved Phil Hughes’ bacon.

Cubs 2, Giants 1: Travis Wood did it all. One unearned run over seven and a 2 for 3 day at the plate with a run driven in. The Cubbies sweep the Giants, who are now in last place, ten games back. If it makes anyone feel better they have the second best record of any last place team in baseball. Hmm, that doesn’t make anyone feel better? Welp.

Blue Jays 2, Astros 1: it was a rough day until the ninth inning for Colby Rasmus, but then he drove in Emilio Bonifacio with a game-winning single. Not a bad year for Rasmus. Pretty good one in fact, after it looked like he had hit a developmental dead end these past couple of seasons.

Rockies 6, Brewers 5: Troy Tulowitzki homered and doubled, helping the Rockies come from behind after the bullpen Rockied all over itself. Michael Cuddyer, Dexter Fowler and Corey Dickerson also homered.

Red Sox 5, Orioles 0: David Ortiz went 4 for 4 and managed not to destroy any inanimate objects this time. Jon Lester looked like April-vintage Lester and the Sox win the series and regain first place. It was their first series win over Baltimore in two years.

Padres 1, Diamondbacks 0: One run in the first was all Patrick Corbin allowed, but that was one more than Tyson Ross and Huston Street did. Ross tossed eight shutout innings, allowing only three hits.

Royals 4, White Sox 2: A two-run homer for Alex Gordon in the 12th proved to be the game-winner. That’s six straight for Kansas City, which pulls them up to .500. They are seven games back in the central and five back in the wild card. I don’t personally think they have the mojo to move up more than this, but if they do it would be a humdinger, wouldn’t it?

Athletics 10, Angels 6: Yoenis Cespedes drives in four, shaking off the rust and pain from the All-Star break and the Home Run Derby. Oakland now has a six game lead in the west. That’s their biggest margin of the year. And in years, in fact.

Mariners 6, Twins 4: Nick Franklin with two homers, giving him ten on the year to go along with his line of .277/.340/.492. Not too shabby for a guy who didn’t make his debut until late May.

A.J. Hinch: “We’ll use every pitcher in Game 7 if we have to”

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It’s not entirely clear why the Astros threw Ken Giles into the ninth inning of Game 6 of the ALCS. With a six-run advantage and the bottom half of the Yankees’ lineup due up, pushing the series to its seven-game capacity looked like a sure bet. Giles may be one of Houston’s better bullpen arms, but he’s not their only option, and it would have made more sense to keep him fresh for a do-or-die Game 7 on Saturday night.

Of course, there’s no such thing as a sure bet when it comes to postseason baseball. That’s more or less what Astros’ manager A.J. Hinch had to say after the game, telling reporters that he had envisioned a quick three outs from his closer as they tried to pull back from the brink of elimination. “We didn’t have the luxury of limping into that inning,” Hinch said. “We’ve seen how these guys can explode in these innings.”

It’s not difficult to recall the Yankees’ explosive drive in the eighth inning of Game 4, when they exploited the holes in Houston’s ‘pen and evened the series with Gary Sanchez‘s go-ahead double off of Giles. Back home in Minute Maid Park, however, there was a slightly different feel to the eighth and ninth innings of Game 6. Jose Altuve led off the eighth with a solo home run, followed by Alex Bregman‘s two-run double and Evan Gattis‘ sac fly. In the ninth, Giles labored through a 23-pitch outing to lock down the win, handing out a base hit and a seven-pitch walk before eventually whiffing Chase Headley on three straight pitches for the last out.

So, while Hinch’s decision to lean on Giles in Game 6 may have felt wasteful, his concerns were not entirely unfounded. He’s prepared to roll with the same strategy during Saturday’s series finale, too, leaving nothing on the table as the Astros battle for their first World Series showdown since 2005. According to Dallas Keuchel, that means all hands on deck — except for Justin Verlander, whose four wins, 24 strikeouts and 1.46 postseason ERA have gotten the Astros as far as he could possibly be expected to take them. “No pitcher is going to be in the dugout,” said Keuchel. “They’re all going to be in the bullpen, myself included. Any way we can help out, we’re trying to get to the World Series, the same way the Yankees are, and that’s a nice feeling to have.”

Does that mean Giles will be available for a Game 7 appearance? Stranger things have happened. Joe Sheehan notes that the right-hander has pitched in back-to-back days 13 times this year, though he’s never thrown as many as 23 pitches on Day 1. Granted, he likely doesn’t have enough left in the tank for another 20+ pitch run on Saturday, but with the World Series on the line, any help he can offer will be invaluable.