Jon Lester

And That Happened: Tuesday’s scores and highlights

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It’s cool and crisp here in America’s Heartland and there were some games last night that felt like the playoffs. Can we please just skip September and move straight on into October? Would anyone object to this?

Red Sox 2, Tigers 1: An ALCS preview? Jon Lester outduels Max Scherzer in a tight game with a decided October feel to it. Especially the moment in the fifth inning when Miguel Cabrera came up with the bases loaded and got ahead of Lester 2-0 before grounding out.  How about we just skip September and fast-forward to the playoffs now? I’d be down for that. Anyone else?

Reds 1, Cardinals 0: Another playoff preview, perhaps. The wild card game, actually, if it happened today. Homer Bailey wouldn’t be the worst choice for the Reds in such a game. He tossed seven shutout innings. Billy Hamilton made his MLB debut as a pinch runner in the seventh, stole second off Yadier Molina and then was doubled in by Todd Frazier for the only run of the game.

Braves 3, Mets 1Dodgers 7, Rockies 4: In Atlanta, Kris Medlen allowed one run over seven and Andrelton Simmons and Evan Gattis each went deep. In Colorado, Ricky Nolasco was solid again and the Dodgers sprung out to a 4-0 lead before it got close and before they once again pulled away. Ho-hum. More wins for Atlanta and L.A. I’d like to fast-forward both the Braves and Dodgers to October too to see them challenged a bit.

Pirates 4, Brewers 3: Travis Snider hit a pinch hit homer in the ninth and with that the Pirates end the streak of losing seasons at 20. They also increase their lead over the Cardinals to two games which, at the moment, is a bit more important right now.

Nationals 9, Phillies 6: Wilson Ramos hit a three-run homer and the Nats won despite a sloppy effort. After the game Davey Johnson said “That was an ugly game, one of the ugliest I’ve seen. That’s not the way to win a pennant, I’ll tell you that.” Don’t worry, Davey. You aren’t winning the pennant.

Indians 4, Orioles 3: What have the Indians done with the real Ubaldo Jimenez and who was the man pitching six shutout innings for them last night? Terry Francona put Chris Perez in the game in the ninth and coughed up three runs but managed to finally set the O’s down. In his defense, Perez’s ERA on days he pleads guilty to criminal drug charges has always been high.

Yankees 6, White Sox 4: Chris Sale outpitched Hiroki Kuroda but the White Sox bullpen was awful, allowing two runners inherited from Sale and three runs of their own doing to score in the eighth. Then Mariano Rivera came in and notched his 40th save. It’s the ninth time he has reached 40 saves in his career. He’s pretty good if you didn’t realize that.

Royals 4, Mariners 3: Sal Perez homered in the fourth and hit the go-ahead single in the eighth. Bruce Chen allowed two runs in six innings. His ERA is 2.81 somehow.

Marlins 6, Cubs 2: The Marlins and Cubs probably would like to fast-forward to October too. Lots of good fishing and hunting and stuff to be done that accomplishes more than these meaningless games. Here the Marlins bullpen tossed four and two-thirds hitless innings.

Twins 9, Astros 6: More meaningless than Marlins-Cubs? I feel like it might be. The go-ahead run scored on a wild pitch in the 12th and then Minnesota added a couple of insurance runs.

Rays 7, Angels 1: Matt Moore returns to the Rays for the first time in over a month and looked OK, tossing five and a third innings. Walked four guys, which isn’t great, but not having him around was kind of a drag for Tampa Bay.

Blue Jays 10, Diamondbacks 4: Homers for Rajai Davis, Edwin Encarnacion, Adam Lind and Moises Sierra. Who I am going to choose to believe is the love child of Moises Alou and Ruben Sierra because the idea of that makes me giggle.

Rangers 5, Athletics 1: Martin Perez allowed one run in seven innings for his sixth straight win and the Rangers take the lead back in the division. Bartolo Colon allowed only one earned run but the unearned ones came via his own error so there’s that.

Padres 3, Giants 2: All kinds of runners stranded for the Giants helping waste a good Madison Bumgarner start. I realize all of those also-ran teams may want the season over but I can’t imagine anyone who wants it over more than the Giants. It’s just been depressing this year.

Yordano Ventura represented the best and worst of baseball’s culture

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 28:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers in the first inning during a game against the Boston Red Sox on August 28, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
Adam Glanzman/Getty Images
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It was reported this morning that Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura was killed in a car accident in the Dominican Republic. Former prospect Andy Marte was also killed in a separate car accident. Along with Jose Fernandez and Oscar Taveras, the baseball world has lost a lot of young, exciting talent in a very short amount of time.

Ventura was, like all of us, a complex human being. At his best, he was an exciting, talented, emotive pitcher who featured an electric fastball which sat in the mid-90’s and occasionally touched 100 MPH. At his worst, he was an immature, impressionable kid trying to fit in by exacting revenge against batters he felt had wronged him by slinging those electric fastballs at vulnerable areas of their bodies.

Baseball needed Ventura when he was at his best. It is players like him and Fernandez, not Mike Trout, that bring in new fans to the sport. To baseball die-hards, Angels outfielder Mike Trout is the pinnacle of entertainment because we know he’s an otherworldly talent. But to the average fan, Trout is just another player who hits a couple of homers and doesn’t do anything particularly interesting otherwise. Trout is milquetoast. Ventura was never an All-Star, but fans knew who he was because he made his presence felt every time he made a start. He was fun, if sometimes vengeful.

Ventura’s baseball rap sheet is rather lengthy for someone who only pitched parts of four seasons in the big leagues. Early in the 2015 season, Ventura found himself in a handful of benches-clearing incidents in quick succession. On April 12, he jawed with Trout, apparently misunderstanding the motivation behind Trout yelling, “Let’s go!” Though catcher Salvador Perez intervened, Trout’s teammate Albert Pujols ran in from second base and the benches cleared shortly thereafter. On the 18th, some drama between the Athletics and Royals continued. Ventura fired a 99 MPH fastball at Brett Lawrie, resulting in his immediate ejection from the game. More beanball wars ensued in the series finale the following day. Finally, on the 23rd, Ventura hit White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu with a 99 MPH fastball in the fourth inning. Ventura was not ejected… until after the completion of the seventh inning. Walking back to the dugout, Ventura barked at White Sox outfielder Adam Eaton and — you guessed it — the benches cleared. All told, Ventura was fined for his behavior with the Athletics and suspended seven games for the White Sox incident.

In August 2015, Ventura called Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista a “nobody” and accused him of stealing signs. He apologized shortly thereafter. Two months later, during his start in Game 6 of the ALCS against the Blue Jays, Ventura got into it with Jays first base coach Tim Leiper. Nothing happened beyond that, but apparently it was part of the Jays’ plan to try to put Ventura “on tilt.”

Most recently, in June this past season, Ventura hit Orioles third baseman Manny Machado with a pitch. Machado charged the mound and got in at least one punch before the players spilled out onto the field in a blob of royal blue and orange. Ventura was suspended for eight games.

Ventura was by no means a model of civility, but he was a product of baseball’s intransigent culture forcing players to assimilate or be ostracized. The old culture taught players to never show emotion. Hit a home run? Put your head down and circle the bases in a timely fashion or risk taking a fastball to the ribs. Players like Fernandez and Bautista — typically players from Latin countries — challenged those old cultural norms and are, as a result, the vanguard of the new culture. Ventura displayed aspects of each, the worst of the old culture and the best of the new. He was not a one-dimensional person; he was strikingly complex. At one moment willing to use a fastball as a weapon, the next stopping by some kids’ lemonade stand and giving out fist bumps. Baseball is made more entertaining and more interesting by its personalities and Ventura’s was a behemoth, for better or worse. His absence from the sport will be felt.

MLB remembers Yordano Ventura and Andy Marte

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 28:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers in the first inning during a game against the Boston Red Sox on August 28, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
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Following the tragic passing of 25-year-old Yordano Ventura and 33-year-old Andy Marte, both of whom were killed in separate car crashes on Sunday morning, players and executives from around Major League Baseball expressed an outpouring of grief and support for the players’ families and former teams.

Fans have gathered at Kauffman Stadium in memory of the former pitcher.