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.

Battle of the Aces: Max Scherzer takes on Clayton Kershaw tonight

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I hope you don’t have any plans tonight at around 10PM Eastern time, because that’s when we get a pitching matchup for the ages as Max Scherzer will take on Clayton Kershaw at Dodger Stadium. When they meet tonight it will be the first time two pitchers with three or more Cy Young Awards have matched up since 2006. That year, and in 2005 and 2000, Roger Clemens faced Greg Maddux. In 2001 Clemens faced Pedro Martinez.

Kershaw won his hardware in 2011, 2013 and 2014, with an MVP award in 2014 to boot. Scherzer collected trophies in 2013, 2016 and 2017. Each has started the 2018 season in Cy Young form. Kershaw is 1-2, but that record is due to poor run support. He has a 1.73 ERA and has struck out 31 batters and has walked only three in 26 innings. Scherzer is 3-1 with a 1.33 ERA and a whopping 38 strikeouts to only 4 walks in 27 innings.

This will be the third time that Kershaw and Scherzer faced each other if you include the playoffs. The first meeting was a decade ago when both were rookies. They most recently faced off in Game 1 of the 2016 NLDS, way back when Scherzer only had one Cy Young Award to his credit. Kershaw beat Scherzer in that playoff game and the Dodgers beat Scherzer’s teams in the two regular season matchups, with neither guy setting the world on fire. As so often happens in baseball, the hype hasn’t been matched by reality.

Still, there’s always a chance it will. And even if, in the end, this turns into a slugfest, the first couple of innings should at least give us some hope of something good. I’ll be watching.