And That Happened: Wednesday’s scores and highlights

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Braves 1, Phillies 0: Cliff Lee’s last start of 2013 came against the Braves. He pitched eight innings, allowed one solo homer but otherwise struck out 13 and looked invincible. And he lost. Last night: nine innings, one solo homer, but otherwise struck out 13 and looked invincible. And he lost. He totally dominates the Braves but runs into the worst luck run support-wise. Of course this time it had less to do with bad luck and more to do with Julio Teheran keeping Phillies hitters off balance all night. His first complete game and, by definition, his first shutout. Lee got the strikeouts, but Teheran walked one guy and allowed three singles and that was it.

More generally: some people may feel differently, but this is The Perfect Baseball Game. Not because the Braves won — that’s just a happy coincidence — but because of how freakin’ tight and perfectly pitched and tense it got as the game went on. Give me two guys working fast, throwing strikes, throwing confidently and throwing up zeroes like this all night. Give me the complete lack of calls to the bullpen. Give me tight defense and a ninth inning where one ball dropping in here or there or one swing of the bat could totally change things. A game where, until the 27th out is recorded, you couldn’t breathe. If this kind of game doesn’t grab you — or kill you, depending on which side your team falls — you and I don’t have a ton to talk about. Baseball doesn’t get better than this.

Yankees 3, Cubs 0; Yankees 2, Cubs 0: Shutout on both ends of the doubleheader. After watching this Ernie Banks probably said “Forget it! Playing two just ain’t worth it! I’m going out to get something to eat instead of watching any more of this atrocity. God, I should’ve just gone to the Whitney and checked out the Bellows exhibit rather than sit through two dispiriting shutouts.” So good going, 2014 Cubs, you went and made the most optimistic, most doubleheader-happy man in the history of baseball wish you had only played one game. At most. Well-played.

Reds 4, Pirates 0: Johnny Cueto was on point, setting his career high for strikeouts and tossing his third career shutout. Put me in mind of that April 2008 debut of his, which I surreptitiously watched with my friend Mark, who is a big Reds fan, while at my law office one fine afternoon. We watched that and thought Cueto was Bob Gibson all over again. He’s not, but when he’s on he’s really good.

Orioles 3, Rays 0: Yet another shutout. Specifically, Miguel Gonzalez and two relievers combined on a six-hitter. For years we’ve been saying “if the O’s get pitching, look out!” The’ve been getting pitching. As Boston stumbles and Tampa Bay and New York is smacked around by injuries. Hmmmm.

Indians 3, Tigers 2: Last year the Indians finished a game behind the Tigers. If they had dropped, say, only 13 of 19 to the Tigers instead of the 15 of 19 they did lose it obviously would’ve gone differently. They’re starting 2014 off on better footing, beating the Tigers on a night when Anibal Sanchez didn’t seem to have it together early and when Zach McAllilster did. Yan Gomes hot a two-run triple.

Nationals 6, Marlins 3: Down 3-0 in the top of the sixth, Jayson Werth hit a three-run homer which was subject to a review. Watch it here. It looks sorta like fan interference but it also looks like maybe it would hit above the wall even if the dorks didn’t reach out to grab it. I dunno, it’s the Nats and Marlins. When they’re fighting for second place, several games back of the Braves all year, we can revisit its significance, right? Regardless, if Jarrod Saltalamacchia doesn’t commit two — not one, but two — errors that inning, it’s all academic anyway. Jose Fernandez (7 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 10K, 0 BB) deserved better.

Mets 5, Diamondbacks 2: The Mets sweep. Dillon Gee allowed three hits in seven scoreless innings. That’s six straight losses for the Dbacks. Not sure what they do now. They’ve traded away all their non-gritty players, fired pitching coach Charles Nagy last year and it’s doubtful that throwing balls at guys is a sound strategy. They’re the worst team in baseball at the moment.

Brewers 5, Cardinals 1: Wily Peralta allowed one run in six and a third as the Brew Crew avoids the sweep. Ron Roenicke after the game:

“What’s really important — most important — is we lost two games to begin the series and we got that game back. It’s important against our division, but we have to win more games than they do. It’s not head to head. We have to win more games this season then they do. That’s what we’re playing for.”

Great, now what is the equipment manager supposed to do with all of these swimsuits and pianos the Brewers were going to use in the later rounds of the pageant?

Editor’s Note: Hardball Talk‘s partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $40,000 Fantasy Baseball league for Thursday evening MLB games. It’s $25 to join and first prize is $6,000. Starts at 7:05pm ET on ThursdayHere’s the FanDuel link.

Rangers 3, Mariners 2: I spend all morning yesterday talking up Darvish vs. Hernandez and neither figures in the decision. Each pitched well — one run for Hernandez over seven, two over seven for Darvish — but the game turned on Fernando Rodney blowing up in the ninth, throwing a run-scoring wild pitch and allowing a walkoff single to Leonys Martin. Which, to be honest, may have been something I could’ve predicted when I was talking up Hernandez and Darvish yesterday morning.

Giants 2, Dodgers 1: Pablo Sandoval hit a junk pitch with an awkward swing into center field to score the go-ahead and ultimately winning run in the seventh. Baseball doesn’t have to always be pretty.

Angels 5, Athletics 4: Chris Iannetta with a walkoff homer in the 12th. You’ll be shocked to hear that, after the game, Iannetta said he “was just looking for a pitch to hit.” The A’s blew a bunch of chances to take the lead in extras but the Angels’ pen stranded their runners left and right.

Royals 6, Astros 4: Mike Moustakas, who has struggled mightily out of the gate, hit solo homer to give the Royals the lead in the 11th. George Springer had a hit and a walk in his big league debut.

Padres 4, Rockies 2: Andrew Cashner allowed one earned run while pitching into the eighth and striking out five. It was the 10th straight start in which he gave up two runs or fewer.

Red Sox 6, White Sox 4: The polar opposite of that Braves-Phillies game. Robin Ventura used four pitchers to get through the eighth inning and thus had to use infielder Leury Garcia to pitch the 14th inning of a tie game. Jackie Bradley Jr. hit a two-run double off him for what proved to be the winning runs. Matthew has an extended recap of this one, including some fun scoring decisions and box score oddities.

Blue Jays vs. Twins: POSTPONED: “I think it’s dark and it looks like rain,” you said, “and the wind is blowing like it’s the end of the
world,” you said “and it’s so cold it’s like the cold if you were dead,” and then you smiled for a second.

Corey Knebel sets modern record for consecutive appearances with a strikeout

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Brewers closer Corey Knebel set a modern major league record for relievers to start a season, as Thursday’s appearance marked his 38th consecutive appearance with a strikeout. He set down the side in order in the ninth inning, striking Josh Bell out to start the frame.

Aroldis Chapman held the record previously, recording a strikeout in his first 37 appearances of the season in 2014 with the Reds.

Knebel, 25, has flown under the radar despite having an incredibly good season. He moved into the closer’s role in mid-May when Neftali Feliz, now a free agent, struggled. After Thursday’s appearance, Knebel is 12-for-15 in save chances with a 0.96 ERA and a 65/17 K/BB ratio in 37 2/3 innings.

Joey Votto thinks he can win the Home Run Derby, but hasn’t been invited yet

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Despite having hit at least 20 home runs in eight of his 11 seasons in the majors, Reds first baseman Joey Votto has never participated in a Home Run Derby. Currently, he’s tied for the National League lead in home runs with 20, and he hasn’t been invited to this year’s festivities at Marlins Park.

In the event he is invited, Votto said he thinks he can win it, C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. Votto likened himself to Ichiro Suzuki, a player known more for his contact abilities and mastery of the strike zone than power. “Just think of me as the Canadian Ichiro — Japan has theirs and Canada has theirs,” Votto said. “I could pull homers into the seats at will.”

Along with the 20 homers, Votto is currently hitting .306/.419/.601 with 53 RBI, and 52 runs scored in 313 plate appearances.

Teammate Scott Schebler also has 20 home runs at the moment and Adam Duvall, who made it to the semifinals of the Derby last year, has 16. Neither of them have been approached about participating in the Derby, either. Per Rosecrans, in the event each was invited, Duvall said he would consider participating if he wasn’t an All-Star and Schebler would participate regardless. Votto said he would only participate if he made the All-Star team.