And That Happened: Sunday’s scores and highlights

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Mets 1, Marlins 0: There were 12 pitchers in this game. Eleven of them didn’t allow any runs, including both starters, Dillon Gee and Tom Koehler. Travis d’Arnaud singled off Zach Phillips in the 12th for the game’s only run. All of those zeroes made me think of one of my favorite movies of all time. Quite possibly my very favorite movie of the 90s. I won’t tell you what it is, but I can give you a hint in figuring it out by offering a few words on looking for things: Remember that when you go looking for something specific, your chances of finding it are very bad. Because of all the things in the world, you’re only looking for one of them. When you go looking for anything at all, your chances of finding it are very good. Because of all the things in the world, you’re sure to find some of them.

And no, it’s not “Miller’s Crossing.” Which, now that I think of it may be my favorite movie of the 90s. The one I’m thinking of is, like, 1A, though. And should have been a series of movies or TV movies or maybe a TV series because, man, it was so good and if you haven’t seen it quit denying yourself, man.

Padres 4, Braves 0: Burch Smith —  who sounds more like a character from a romance novel than a pitcher — struck out ten and got his first win. I didn’t see the game but I’m imagining Burch Smith looks like this.

Athletics 5, Rangers 1: What a late surge for the A’s. What a late swoon for the Rangers. The A’s sweep, giving them a six and a half game lead in the division, which effectively gives them the division title. Meanwhile the Rangers are now tied with the Rays in the wild card slot meaning that they’re vulnerable of falling out of the playoff picture entirely.

Tigers 3, Royals 2: I was stuck in a hospital emergency room for over five hours yesterday. Don’t ask. Everyone’s OK now and 99% of the time there was just waiting around. The point, though, was that rather than watch any game I wanted, I was forced to watch about five innings of this one on TBS. I rarely watch the TBS broadcast, partially because of my aversion to three-man booths. And with nothing else to focus on, all I could do is pay attention to just how inane 95% of the stuff that John Smoltz and Cal Ripken say really is. This isn’t necessarily their fault. Indeed, I think Smoltz is actually pretty good in the booth when he’s actually analyzing something. The problem is that a three-man booth almost demands “talking to hear ourselves talk” conversation and bigger picture stories rather than actually focusing on the game at hand. There’s rebop about the grass on the field and pressure on guys approaching milestones and overarching narrative about what kind of team each team is (The Royals are like an NL team! The Tigers have a good lineup!) and very little game action is actually described, let alone analyzed. For each time one color analyst says something about the action, the other analyst feels the need to follow on, and frankly, there aren’t two good points to be made about most plays thus we get into blah blah blah land. Funny how the one guy left who works alone — Scully — is the best and the three-man booths are the worst. I think Scully is great, but I don’t think it’s impossible for someone else to be close to his level. Maybe if we let some broadcasters handle booths solo we’d have better broadcasts, hmm?

Anyway, the Tigers won this one. Sorry for the digression.

Nationals 11, Phillies 2: That last recap was long, so we’ll throw this one to Domonic Brown for analysis. Dom: “Excuse my French, but we got our ass whooped.” Yes, he actually said that.

Orioles 3, Blue Jays 1: The Orioles haven’t been firing on all cylinders lately, but they keep pace in the wild card race with a series win. They’re 2.5 back, with Texas, Tampa Bay and Cleveland ahead of them.

Indians 7, White Sox 1: The Tribe is one half game out. Not to toot my own horn, because I got a lot of predictions wrong this year, but one I got right was the Indians challenging for the wild card. And in recent weeks whenever anyone asks me who I like for the wild card, I’ve noted the Indians cupcake late schedule and said I think they still look like one of the wild card teams to me. So, toot toot.

Pirates 3, Cubs 2: Note: when I went to the hospital yesterday I just grabbed the first shirt I could find on the floor in my bedroom, and it happened to be my Pirates shit. Also, because it was sunny and bald men are always aware of the danger of sunburned bald heads, I grabbed for a cap as I left the house and it was my Pirates cap. So I had quite a little Buccos uniform on at the ER. The security guard decided to strike up baseball conversation with me thusly: “you guys have been pretty good, but we’re gonna win it.” He eventually let on he was a Cardinals fan. I thought about telling him that I wasn’t really a Pirates fan, “I just like gear from various teams and I bought this for a Pirates game last month and really I’m a Braves fan you see, and blah, blah, blah” but I figured that’s be too lame and complicated, so I just said “well, I like our chances,” and left it at that. Later I stopped by CVS to get a prescription and a guy in line ahead of me told me that, when he left the house, the Pirates were up 2-0 in this one. Pirates fans crawling out of the woodwork lately.

Twins 6, Rays 4: The Rays blow a chance to bypass the Rangers and give themselves the luxury of having another wild card team blow it before they do. Oh well. Funny how if the season ended today Texas would play Tampa Bay in the on-off, but they are the two teams people probably want to see the least. And are certainly not playing good baseball.

Brewers 6, Reds 5: The Reds had a three-run lead heading into the bottom of the eighth and then, blammo, they lost in a Sean Halton walkoff homer. Strong assist from Carlos Gomez who robbed Jay Bruce of a homer in the ninth. That guy is just a crazy nuts good outfielder. In other news, as the game was slipping away in the late innings Dusty Baker didn’t go to Aroldis Chapman because The Book says you don’t use your closer in non-save situations on the road. So I guess that means this game could never have been saved.

Angels 2, Astros 1: Five of six for the Angels who continue to play great on the road and great late and oh what it could have been if they had played anything other than sucky for most of the season. Meanwhile, the Astros lose their 98th game. Obviously not a great season, but they have 13 games left. If they go 5-8 or better they will improve upon last year’s record. If they go 6-7 or better they will have their best record in three years. Considering they were supposed to crater worse than anything this year I suppose that’d be a victory of sorts, even if three-straight 100-loss season is pretty rare and awful.

Cardinals 12, Mariners 2: Four hits for Yadier Molina who is maybe getting a bit tired of the MVP conversation subtly shifting to Andrew McCutchen. Molina had a homer and three singles and the Cardinals remain tied with Pittsburgh, much to the pleasure of the security guy at the Ohio State University Medical Center Emergency Department.

Giants 4, Dodgers 3: Hunter Pence continues his amazing tear. After driving in seven on Saturday night he hit two homers yesterday as the Giants take three of four from the Dodgers, thereby delaying the latter’s clinchy gratification. Pence, by the way, has homers in four straight games and five of his last six. He’s gonna get a great-for-him long term deal from the Giants this winter, I presume. Less optimistic it’ll be a great-for-the-Giants deal, but it’s not my money.

Diamondbacks 8, Rockies 2: Your future third-place NL MVP guy, Paul Goldschmidt, drives in five. Which isn’t a slight to him. It’s just, sorry dude, you’re not a catcher nor a center fielder. Goldschmidt homered and went 4 for 4.

Red Sox 9 Yankees 2: TMC showed “Vertigo,” “Rear Window” and “To Catch a Thief” back-to-back-to-back, AMC had “Breaking Bad” which was just insane and then there was NFL stuff on NBC, so I imagine this was the least-watched Red Sox-Yankees game in some time. Or, I dunno, maybe there aren’t enough people with the good taste out there to watch some Hitchcock on a Sunday night. Either way: the Red Sox are laying waste to the American League and the Yankees, as valiant as their effort has been down the stretch, just couldn’t overcome all of their injuries and could no longer play above their talent level like they did in the early part of the season and, in many ways, since the trading deadline. Props to them, but they are just out-gunned.

Astros vs. Dodgers is a match made in heaven

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A lot of people who work at the league office or who take paychecks from the Fox network probably wanted to see the Yankees and the Cubs in the World Series. They won’t admit it, of course, but I suspect that many did, as the ratings for a Cubs-Yankees Series might’ve broken modern records. If they are at all disappointed by the Astros and Dodgers winning the pennant, however, they should let that go because they’ve been gifted by a wonderful matchup from a purely baseball perspective. Indeed, it’s one of the best on-paper matchups we’ve had in the Fall Classic in many years.

Before the Dodgers went on their late-August, early-September swoon, this was the potential World Series pairing most folks who know a thing or two wanted to see. At least I did, and I don’t think I was alone. It was certainly the matchup which represented the teams with the two best regular season records and storylines at the time. While Cleveland ended up winning more games than Houston did, for the first time since 1970 we have a World Series pitting two 100-win teams against each other.

Like that Orioles-Reds series in 1970, which featured Johnny Bench, Pete Rose, Tony Perez, Jim Palmer, Brooks Robinson and a host of other All-Stars, the Dodgers-Astros provide us with an embarrassment of big names and future Hall of Famers. Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw and Astros DH/OF Carlos Beltran are destined for induction already. Astros ace Justin Verlander may very well join them, especially if his late 2017 surge is evidence of a second career peak. Houston second baseman Jose Altuve‘s first seven years and Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen‘s first eight are the stuff upon which Cooperstown resumes are made as well. People will be arguing Dodgers second baseman Chase Utley‘s Hall of Fame case for years once he retires.

Youth is served as well in this matchup, with each club featuring a handful of the game’s best young players to accompany their big name veteran stars.

The Dodgers will bat their no-doubt N.L. Rookie of the Year first baseman Cody Bellinger second or third in the lineup every game. 2016 Rookie of the Year Corey Seager, who sat out the NLCS with a bad back, is expected to be activated for the Series where he’ll be the Dodgers shortstop. The Astros are actually an old team on paper — Verlander, catcher Brian McCann, starter Charlie Morton, first baseman Yuli Gurriel, outfielder Josh Reddick and DH Evan Gattis are all over 30 while Beltran is 40 — but young players are essential to their attack as well. Shortstop Carlos Correa just turned 23 and he’s one of the game’s brightest stars. Third baseman Alex Bregman, also 23, made the play that may very well have broken the Yankees’ back during Saturday night’s pennant clincher. Age aside, the Astros are the product of a major, multi-year rebuild and many of their players are making their first national splash this postseason.

Beyond just the names and resumes, though, the Dodgers and Astros represent a fantastic strategic matchup. The Dodgers attack this postseason has featured admirable plate discipline, with third baseman Justin Turner, right fielder Yasiel Puig and center fielder Chris Taylor all letting balls out of the zone pass them by while abusing pitches left out over the plate. Astros pitchers not named Justin Verlander, however, have lived by getting the opposition to chase bad balls. Game one starter Dallas Keuchel did this by relying on his very fast sinker. Lance McCullers pitched well starting Game 4 of the ALCS and pitched spectacularly closing out the final four innings of Game 7 mostly by virtue of his curveball, which Yankees pitchers could simply not lay off. Indeed, his final 24 pitches of Game 7 were all curves, many of them low and away. Who will give in first in this series?

On the side of things, Dodgers relievers have made a living by pumping in strikes. Particularly strikes high in the zone from Jansen and Brandon Morrow. There may be no better fastball hitter in all of baseball than Jose Altuve, however, and the team as a whole was one of the best in the bigs in dealing with gas in the zone. This was a big reason why the Astros struck out less than any team in baseball this year while simultaneously boasting the best offense in the game. The Dodgers throw strikes. The Astros make you pay when you throw them strikes. Again, something’s gotta give.

Maybe the suits in New York wanted the Yankees and Cubs. But everyone else is getting exactly what we want: a matchup of the two best teams in the game. A matchup of strength against strength. What is, from a purely baseball perspective, the best World Series we could’ve possibly hoped for.