Houston Astros v Oakland Athletics

And That Happened: Thursday’s scores and highlights

54 Comments

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.

Video: Nelson Cruz hits second-longest home run of 2016

ANAHEIM, CA - SEPTEMBER 14:  Nelson Cruz #23 of the Seattle Mariners celebrates his solo homerun with Daniel Vogelbach #20 of the Seattle Mariners to take a 2-1 lead over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim during the seventh inning at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on September 14, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Getty Images
1 Comment

There’s certainly never a bad time to hit a home run, but when you get the opportunity to crush a triple-deck, 493-foot shot off of Tyler Duffey, you should take it. With the Mariners down 2-0 to the Twins in the fourth inning, Cruz hammered a fastball to deep left field for his 39th long ball of the season — and the second-longest home run hit in 2016, to boot.

It doesn’t hurt that the Mariners are 1.5 games back of a playoff spot, although they’ll have to oust the Blue Jays, Orioles, or Tigers to get a wild card. They’ve gone 3-3 in the last week, dropping two consecutive series to the Astros and Blue Jays and taking their series opener against Minnesota 10-1 on Friday night.

Cruz, for his part, entered Saturday’s game with a .299/.337/.610 batting line and six home runs in September. According to ESPN.com’s Home Run Tracker, Cruz sits behind Edwin Encarnacion and Mike Napoli with 13 “no-doubt” home runs in 2016, third-most among major league sluggers. It’s safe to say he can add Saturday’s moonshot to that list.

Marlins’ outfielder and undisputed home run king Giancarlo Stanton remains untouched at the top of the Statcast leaderboard with a 504-ft. home run, and it’s difficult to envision any slugger reaching beyond that before the end of the season. Even so, Cruz won’t need to clear 500 feet to extend an impressive hitting record. One more home run will put the 36-year-old at 40 on the year, making 2016 his third consecutive season with at least 40 homers, and his second such season doing so in Seattle.

Report: John Farrell won’t rule out a postseason return for Pablo Sandoval

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - APRIL 11:  Pablo Sandoval #48 of the Boston Red Sox looks on from the dugout before the Red Sox home opener against the Baltimore Orioles at Fenway Park on April 11, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Orioles defeat the Red Sox 9-7.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Getty Images
7 Comments

It’s been a strange season for Red Sox’ third baseman Pablo Sandoval, who lost his starting role in spring training, went 0-for-6 in three regular season appearances, and underwent season-ending surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder in May. That was the last the Red Sox were supposed to hear about Sandoval until spring 2017, when he was expected to rejoin the team after a lengthy rehab stint in Florida.

On Saturday, manager John Farrell was telling a different story. Per MLB.com’s Sam Blum, Farrell hinted that Sandoval could return to the team as soon as October, albeit in a very limited capacity.

At the time of the surgery, it was all looking at the start of next Spring Training,” Farrell said. “We’re not getting too far ahead of ourselves here, but at the same time, we compliment him for the work he’s put in, the way he’s responded to the rehab, the way he’s worked himself into better condition. We’re staying open-minded.

If the 30-year-old does return in 2016, don’t expect him to look like the three-home run hitter of the 2012 World Series. Should the Red Sox lose another player to injury, Sandoval might be called on as a backup option, but he’s unlikely to see substantial playing time under any other circumstances. Despite making two appearances at DH in the instructional league, Sandoval has not started at third base since undergoing surgery, though Farrell noted that a return to third base would be the next logical step in his recovery process.

Sandoval has yet to hit his stride within the Red Sox’ organization after hitting career-worst numbers in 2015. According to FanGraphs, his Offensive Runs Above Average (Off) plummeted to -20.2, contributing approximately two wins fewer than the average offensive player in 2015. (The Diamondbacks’ Chris Owings held the lowest Off mark in 2015, with -26.3 runs below average.) Sandoval has not appeared in a postseason race since the Giants’ championship run in 2014.

Heading into Saturday evening, the Red Sox could clinch their spot in the postseason with a win over the Rays and an Orioles’ loss.