And That Happened: Thursday’s scores and highlights

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Athletics 5, Astros 0: Sonny Gray only has a couple of major league starts under his belt, but this one was a spiffy one: eight shutout innings, nine strikeouts. Of course a lot of guys have had spiffy starts against the Astros lately. Rule 5 pick Nate Freiman had himself a nice day too, going 4 for 4 with a homer and four driven in. Saw this guy play in San Antonio last year. He was a beast in Double-A. Obviously the bigs have humbled him a bit, but he is capable of stuff like this from time to time.

Giants 4, Nationals 3: Well that’s not what’s supposed to happen when you lead 3-1 in the ninth, have two outs, a ham and egger like Hector Sanchez up at the plate and your high priced closer on the mound. Sanchez took Rafael Soriano deep with two men on as the Giants shocked the Nats, snapping their winning streak.

Rays 7, Mariners 1: Good game for Alex Cobb and Wil Myers and blah blah blah. I’m more interested in the fact that Joe Maddon had a giant python in the clubhouse before the game and that, on Twitter, he said “A snake is a risk taker and a wellspring of ideas. They fit into the Rays Way.” I wonder if Maddon’s inspirational/new-agey mumbo jumbo is pre-planned or if he comes up with it post-hoc to give everything that happens a sheen of meaning and importance. Like, if next year he goes crazy using replay challenges, will he later say “I challenged Angel Hernandez’s call, not because I thought it was wrong, but because challenges are what show us who we are as a person and I wanted him to grow.” I think I’d like Maddon even more if he was sorta making this up as he went along as opposed to being some Phil Jackson-style guru.

Tigers 4, Royals 1: Prince Fielder hit a homer and the Tigers take the first of a five-game series which could either give those frisky Royals even more friskiness about them or else put an end to the playoff chatter in Kansas City. As for Fielder, the news that came out yesterday that he’s going through a divorce gave everyone license, apparently, to play armchair psychologist in an effort to explain his poor season. As someone who went through a divorce with kids himself not too long ago, allow me to say that people who play that game are full of crap. It affects a person, no doubt, but it probably affects every person differently and you can’t just point to their work and say “ah-ha.” If anything, I look back to what I was writing in the second half of 2011 and it was pretty darn good. Maybe even better than usual. I was probably concentrating more on work than anything then because everything else sucked. Weird thing: I don’t remember writing most of it even when I read it now and baseball happenings are kind of a blur compared to other times. Brains are complex things, folks. Let’s not pretend we know how even ours work, let alone some ballplayer you’ve never met or talked to.

Twins 4, White Sox 3: Big day for backup catchers. Chris Herrmann with a pinch hit RBI single to win it. He copped to not being ready to pinch hit just before Ron Gardenhire called on him. Didn’t have his batting gloves ready, his helmet, none of that. As Todd Snider once said, unprepared people around the world need role models. It’s nice to see them come through now and again.

Reds 2, Brewers 1: Tony Cingrani struck out nine in six and a third and allowed only one run. My HBT Daily partner Kay Adams said the other day that, in fantasy baseball, she is starting whoever pitches against the Brewers, basically every day possible. Seems like a good rule to live by.

Blue Jays 2, Red Sox 1: Mark Buehrle allows ten hits but only one run. In other news, in light of this farkakte challenge system idea the owners have devised for instant replay, I believe signing fast workers like Buehrle will be the new inefficiency going forward. Having him on the mound to start pitching before challenge flags can be thrown will be like having your quarterback run up to the line to quickly start a play before anyone can review that last no-fumble call or whatever.

Angels 8, Yankees 4: Alfonso Soriano kept up his hot streak, getting four hits and another RBI, but that wasn’t enough on a day when Chris Nelson hit two homers and drove in five and the Yankees bullpen decided to give up five runs. Meanwhile, C.J. Wilson pitched in some fantastic luck, allowing 11 hits in six innings but someone only allowing one run to cross the plate.

Cardinals 6, Pirates 5: Matt Holliday is banged up but he hit a walkoff RBI single in the 12th and Matt Carpenter had four hits. The Cards take two of three from the division-leading Buccos and cut their lead to two games.

Mets 4, Padres 1: Zack Wheeler struck out 12 while allowing only one run on seven hits and a walk over six innings. No win, though, because the Mets couldn’t provide a winning margin until late.

Bud Norris exits outing with right knee soreness

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Angels’ right-handed reliever Bud Norris made his 23rd appearance of the season on Friday, and after just three pitches, he was done for the night. He worked a 2-1 count to Marlins’ Dee Gordon in the eighth inning, then promptly exited the field after experiencing some tightness in his right knee. Neither Norris nor manager Mike Scioscia believe the injury is cause for major concern, and the 32-year-old right-hander admitted that it may have had something to do with his lack of stretching before he took the mound. For now, he’s day-to-day with right knee soreness, with the hope that the issue doesn’t escalate over the next few days.

While the Angels are lucky to have avoided serious injury, they’ll need Norris to pitch at 100% if they want to stay competitive within the AL West. They currently sit a full nine games behind the league-leading Astros, and haven’t been helping their cause after taking five losses in their last eight games. Friday’s 8-5 finale marked their third consecutive loss of the week.

 

When healthy, Norris has been one of the better arms in the Angels’ bullpen. Through 23 2/3 innings, he’s pitched to a 2.66 ERA, 3.4 BB/9 and an outstanding 11.8 SO/9 in 23 outings. The righty hasn’t allowed a single run in four straight appearances, recording three saves and helping the club clinch four wins in that span. This is his second setback of the year after sustaining a partial fingernail tear on his pitching hand during spring training.

Video: Max Scherzer sets record with 13-strikeout outing

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Max Scherzer is a force to be reckoned with. The Nationals’ right-hander delivered a season-high 13 strikeouts against the Padres on Friday, locking down his fifth win and his fourth double-digit strikeout performance of the year.

More remarkably, it was also the 53rd double-digit strikeout performance of Scherzer’s career, tying Clayton Kershaw for the most 10+ strikeout appearances by an active major league pitcher. Chris Sale is a distant third, with 43 to his name, though he’s been making considerable strides to catch up so far this spring.

Scherzer took the Padres to task on Friday night, whiffing 13 of 31 batters during his 108-pitch outing. He started strong, catching Allen Cordoba swinging on a 1-2 count to start the game and keeping the game scoreless until Ryan Schimpf unleashed a home run in the fourth inning. That was the first and final run the Padres managed off of Scherzer, who retired 14 consecutive batters following the blast and came one out shy of a complete game in the ninth inning. (Fittingly, Koda Glover polished off the win with a final strikeout, bringing the total to 14 on the night.)

It’ll take more than one stellar start to advance Scherzer and Kershaw on the all-time list, however. Their 53-game record ranks 13th, about 159 games behind second-place Hall of Fame hurler Randy Johnson and a full 162 games shy of the inimitable Nolan Ryan.