And That Happened: Wednesday’s scores and highlights


Tigers 1, Twins 0: The Tigers finally clinch the AL Central. It was a nail-biter, though, as they scored their lone run in the first inning and then held off the Twins all night long. Best part of their celebration? For the second year in a row Max Scherzer rocked the goggles with two different color lenses.

Indians 7, White Sox 2: The Indians keep their foot on the gas, continuing their season-long abuse of the White Sox. They’ve beat the pale hose 14 straight times. Danny Salazar struck out eight dudes in five and a third innings.

Rays 8, Yankees 3: I’ve often said that you can’t count out the Yankees until they are officially dead. Well, now they are officially dead. Phil Hughes failed to get past the fifth inning once again. That makes 14 times for him this year, which ties the single season record since 1969. He’s gone after this year. He needs to retreat to some home for shell-shocked pitchers on the west coast. Like maybe Seattle or San Diego.

Rangers 7, Astros 3: The Rangers are still alive, still one back of Cleveland. The competition now gets considerably tougher, however, as they go from hosting the hapless Astros to the far more hapful Angels.

Brewers 4, Braves 0: I held forth on Twitter about this last night. My view: Carlo Gomez’s home run trot was pretty punky and low rent, but Brian McCann literally blocking the basepaths and preventing Gomez from crossing the plate was just dumb. This is the second or third time this year the Braves and McCann have taken it upon themselves to be the baseball decorum police, and it’s La Russian in its silliness. You know how you deal with a dumb showboat? Ignore him. Point and laugh. Have the scoreboard operator put up the NL standings with the Brewers’ place in them bolded. Spare me the macho You Have To Play The Game The Right Way business and lead by example. For what it’s worth, Gomez apologized after the game. Perhaps I missed it, but I didn’t see McCann apologize for instigating a benches-clearing situation which could have gotten someone hurt.

Cubs 4, Pirates 2: The Pirates are now three behind St. Louis with three games to go, so this is pretty much all about the wild card now.

Cardinals 4, Nationals 1: The sweep. Youth served the Cardinals, as youngsters Shelby Miller, Seth Maness, Kevin Siegrist, Carlos Martinez and Trevor Rosenthal combined for the one-run performance.

Mets 1, Reds 0: Daisuke Matsuzaka made ’em look pretty weak, and the Reds dropped two of three to the Mets and now have to sweep Pittsburgh this weekend to host the wild card game at Great American Ballpark.

Angels 3, Athletics 1: Jered Weaver pitched seven innings of five-hit ball and Josh Hamilton drove in two. If only this sort of combo happened far more between April and August. Alas. The Angels have taken four of six from the A’s in the past week or two and now face the Rangers whose season they can spoil. Probably worth keeping an eye on these guys next year. Just too much talent to continue to suck like they have.

Red Sox 15, Rockies 5: Todd Helton got a horse, a homer and a double in his final home game for the Rockies, but he also got a pretty darn decisive loss. Will Middlebrooks had two homers — a grand slam and a three-run shut — to give him seven RBI.

Marlins 3, Phillies 2: Adeiny Hechavarria drove in three runs, including the go-ahead run in the eighth.

Orioles 9, Blue Jays 5: Four homers for the O’s as they continue to play out the string with Adam Jones, Brian Roberts and Matt Wieters on the bench. This win finally assured them of a .500+ record.

Padres 12, Diamondbacks 2 : Twelve runs for the Padres? Wow. After the game Jedd Gyorko said “It’s been awhile since we had a game like that.” Heck, there are stretches of five or six games combined where they haven’t had a performance like that.

Mariners 6, Royals 0: The Royals bow out of the playoff race. On the one hand, if you told me before the season that Kansas City would be in it until just before the last weekend of the year I’d say that they had an amazing, expectation-exceeding season. On the other hand, having watched them more closely this year than we normally have watched them, it’s hard to escape the feeling that what ultimately did them in was too many stretches on not playing up to potential. Obviously this was still a successful season. But such a weird team. One that can look so good in some stretches and look so bad in others.

Giants 6, Dodgers 4: Likely Barry Zito’s last win for the Giants. Seven years in Oakland, seven years in San Francisco. Nice bookends I suppose, with a lot of overpaid performance in the middle, but such is life. He left the game between innings so he didn’t get a standing ovation. One wonders what the San Francisco fans would have done if he had been pulled mid-inning. What is the proper response to someone who was around for so much success but, really, didn’t contribute too terribly much to it?

2018 Preview: Oakland Athletics

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Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2018 season. Next up: The Oakland Athletics.

The A’s have finished last in the AL West for three straight years. If you believe the folks at Fangraphs and Baseball Prospectus and anyone else who makes projections, they’ll either finish in last again or come within a game or two of it. There’s not a lot of suspense to my prediction here — I’ll end up picking them to finish fifth — but the prediction is not really what a preview is about. It’s about the shape of the team and what we can expect in broad brushes.

While I can’t foretell greatness for the 2018 Oakland Athletics, I can’t say the broad brushes are bad. At least if you grade on a curve. It won’t be a good team, but they’ll be worth watching because they have a lot of good, fun and interesting players who are likely to be on that next good Oakland A’s team in the way Stephen Vogt and Brett Lawrie were not.

Their lineup is pretty spiffy for a second division team. Khris Davis, Matt Joyce and new acquisition Jonathan Lucroy are known commodities both inside and outside A’s fandom, but people who don’t pay much attention to the goings on in Oakland may not be fully aware of just how good and promising Matt Olson and Matt Chapman are. Olson hit 24 homers in 59 games last year. That’s not a sustainable pace — the league will figure him out to — but even regression from that will be fantastic. Chapman hit 14 in half a season and played superior defense at third base. He also struck out 92 times in half a season but who’s counting? [editor: everyone counts everything in baseball]. Hey, look, dingers! Yonder Alonso and Ryon Healey are gone from last year’s crew and Stephen Piscotty is new in town. Marcus Semien is a decent bat for a shortstop. All-in-all that’s a lineup that will play, and play very, very well if Chapman and Olson are what they’ve shown themselves to be thus far.

At the risk of criminal understatement, allow me to observe that the starting pitching is not as promising. Sean Manaea and Kendall Graveman are at the top of the rotation. On good teams they’d be in the middle or the back. The rest of their rotation options — Daniel Mengden, Andrew Triggs, Paul Blackburn, who will miss the start of the regular season with a sore forearm — are less-than-impressive. They just signed Trevor Cahill and Brett Anderson from the scrap heap hoping, I guess, to recreate some of that, uh, 2010 magic? 2010 was a long time ago!

Jharel Cotton would’ve been in the mix but he’s now out for the year for Tommy John surgery. A.J. Puk, the A’s top prospect would be a nice midseason upgrade, but he’s hurt. Not seriously, but the A’s will probably be more careful with him now than they would’ve been, which still would’ve been careful. All-in-all, there was a lack of quality arms to begin with, but with the injuries mounting, starting pitching could be a trash fire for the A’s.

The bullpen has a new look with newcomers Ryan Buchter, Yusmeiro Petit and Emilio Pagan joining 2017 in-season additions Blake Treinen and Chris Hatcher. That’s a pretty good and pretty interesting group which was going to see a lot of innings as it was in our new bullpenning era, but now that the rotation looks shaky as hell, they’ll see even more. If you’re curious about the limits of leaning on a bullpen, postseason-style are, Oakland will be running a pretty fun experiment to that end in 2018.

I look at this club’s bats — especially the young guys upon whom its so very easy to project so much promise and optimism, because I’m a sucker for hitting prospects — and think that they can outperform those statsy projections and be better than the Rangers and Mariners. Then I think about how the upside — UPSIDE! — for the rotation is 380 innings from Trevor Cahill and Brett Anderson and I sorta wanna cry.

If the A’s get some breaks and some unexpectedly good (or average) pitching performances, they could certainly finish above the cellar. Perhaps well above the cellar. For now, though, I’m guessing that they’ll be in 80-win territory at best and finish last in a division that does not have any teams totally punting, making for a competitive and, subsequently, tough year.

Prediction: Fifth place, AL West