And That Happened: Sunday’s scores and highlights

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Mariners 4, Tigers 0: Not a ton of people outside of Seattle knew what a Roenis Elias was before this game, but now they have a positive ID. He’s the beast that tossed a three-hitter while striking out eight Tigers. The game story says he’s the first Mariners rookie to record a shutout since Freddy Garcia on Aug. 24, 1999. But I’m calling b.s. on that. Freddy Garcia could not have been a rookie in 1999. He’s at least 67-years-old and I’m pretty sure he pitched some middle relief for the Pilots in ’69.

Brewers 9, Cubs 0: Kyle Lohse pitched a Roenis Elias. Which is what I’m going to start calling three-hit shutouts. Think it’ll stick? For once Jeff Samardzija got no run support in a game he unequivocally deserved to lose. The Brewers touched this season’s premiere rent-a-starter-to-be for eight runs in three innings.

White Sox 4, Padres 1: Chris Sale pitched a Roenis Elias Lite. That’s a complete game in which you allow only two hits, but you just miss the shutout because you give up a 420 foot+ homer to a dude back in the fifth. Hmm, starting to think this system is going to break down.

Indians 6, Rockies 4: A three-game sweep of the Rockies capped off with Michael Bourn hitting a walkoff homer. After the game Bourn actually said “In that situation you just look for a pitch to hit.” As opposed to those other situations when you look for a pitch with which to discuss world affairs. Perhaps over a cup of coffee.

Braves 4, Marlins 2: At times this season it has seemed as if no team really feels all that invested in winning the NL East. For one weekend at least someone at least sorta acted like it. The Braves sweep the Marlins with help from Evan Gattis’ two-run bomb in the ninth. His homer actually hit the home run sculpture thingie. You’d think that even though he’s a visiting player that they’d crank the thing up for him, but no. How petty.

Twins 7, Yankees 2: Phil Hughes tossing eight solid innings and not allowing a single dinger in Yankee Stadium is about as good as it gets these days for those of you who like to partake in Yankeefreude.

Editor’s Note: Hardball Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $35,000 Fantasy Baseball league for Monday night’s MLB games. It’s $25 to join and first prize is $6,000. Starts at 7:05pm ET on MondayHere’s the FanDuel link.

Rangers 2, Nationals 0: Yu Darvish: eight shutout innings and 12 Ks. Nationals bats: nine shutout innings and 14 Ks. Darvish is pretty hard to beat on nine-days’ rest.

Blue Jays 4, Royals 0: Mark Buehrle won again. Edwin Encarnacion homered again. So far June is looking a lot like May for Toronto. The Royals got shut out, so I suppose the same can be said about them.

Mets 4, Phillies 3: Lucas Duda’s two-run homer in the 11th gives the Mets the game and series win. They’ve won 5 of 6, by the way. But because they’re the Mets I presume this morning’s papers are full of all kinds of stories about their dysfunction. That’s just how these things go down.

Red Sox 4, Rays 0: A week ago at this time we were all writing our “what’s wrong with the Red Sox?” posts as they skidded to ten straight losses. Since then they’ve won seven straight. Call me crazy, but I’m getting the feeling this team is streaky. Jon Lester is one of about a gabillion pitchers yesterday who pitched [pretty impressive number of] shutout innings. Brock Holt — BROCK HOLT! — had four doubles.

Giants 8, Cardinals 0: That’s five of six for the Giants in the win column, four of five for the Cardinals in the loss. Tim Hudson with seven shutout innings. I’m tellin’ ya: bald dudes born on July 14th are the new inefficiency.

Orioles 9, Astros 4: Manny Machado hit his first career grand slam as part of a six-run sixth. Nelson Cruz was hit on the hand and left the game but it’s just a bruise so he’s day-today.

Reds 4, Diamondbacks 3: Four runs on solo shots from Chris Heisey, Zack Cozart, Todd Frazier and Ryan Ludwick. All off Wade Miley. After the game manager Kirk Gibson said this about Miley’s outing: “He pitched well except for the four pitches.” And apart from all of that, Mrs. Lincoln quite enjoyed the play,

Athletics 6, Angels 3: The Angels were charging and surging and stuff and then they got to Oakland and dropped three straight. Jed Lowrie homered and drove in two and Josh Donaldson drove in two more. Time for the Angels to roll that boulder back up the hill.

Pirates 5, Dodgers 3: Andrew McCutchen had a homer and a pair of doubles, Pedro Alvarez drove in three and the Pirates won a series at Dodger Stadium for the first time in seven years.

Kevin Gausman to start Opening Day for the Orioles

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The Orioles have tabbed Kevin Gausman to start on Opening Day, April 3 against the Blue Jays at Camden Yards, MASN’s Roch Kubatko reports. Chris Tillman started the previous three Opening Days for the O’s. This will be Gausman’s first Opening Day nod.

Gausman, 26, finished the 2016 season with a 3.61 ERA and a 174/47 K/BB ratio in 179 2/3 innings. The Orioles selected him in the first round (fourth overall) of the 2012 draft and moved him through their minor league system quickly. Gausman debuted in the majors in May 2013.

2017 Preview: Detroit Tigers

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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 2017 season. Next up: The Detroit Tigers.

I feel like every year, for the past several years, our Tigers preview has been some variation of “do the Tigers still have a run left in them with the Cabrera-Verlander core?”

If you’re tired of reading that one I have some bad news for you: it’s the same dang story this year as it has been every year. A great pitcher and a great hitter, a very solid supporting cast, a handful of holes that could be critical weaknesses and enough to make them look strong enough to contend but not enough to contend strongly, if that makes any sense.

Let’s start with the pitching. Justin Verlander returned to Cy Young-caliber form in 2016, thanks mostly to health and a big, big leap in his strikeout rate, suggesting that it was health and not an overall decline which harmed him in 2014 and 2015. He’ll lead the way again, followed by Rookie of the Year Michael Fulmer, who was a wonderful surprise last season. The back end of the rotation is problematic, however, with Jordan Zimmermann and Anibal Sanchez stinking up the joint for most of last year and young Daniel Norris suffering through injuries. For the Tigers to contend, they’ll need at least one of those veterans to return to their old form — or someone like Matt Boyd or Mike Pelfrey to, well, not be Matt Boyd and Mike Pelfrey– and for Norris to be healthy.

Fine, let’s say Verlander and Fulmer repeat their 2016 success and say that Norris is a strong, healthy and effective number three. Who then does Brad Ausmus turn the ball over to in the late innings? If you think the overall take on the Tigers is rehashed from year to year, well, the same goes for the pen. It, as always, is a liability in Detroit. And it’s not going to be terribly different than it was last year. Francisco Rodriguez will close. A couple of Wilsons in Alex and Justin. Shane Greene. Maybe one of the veteran starters who doesn’t make the rotation. The always interesting Bruce Rondon. It’s not terrible but it’s not the strongest bunch in the world and it’s being handled by a guy in Ausmus who has yet to show that he can get the most out of a less-than-steller relief corps. You can Google the phrase “Tigers bullpen woes” and find results from every season for most of the past decade. You’ll probably be able to do it again this year.

The offense, of course, is fantastic, at least at the top end. Miguel Cabrera is still an MVP-caliber player and even when his decline begins he’ll be better than almost any hitter in the game. Ian Kinsler is still low-key excellent. Nick Castellanos took a big leap forward last year. J.D. Martinez is going to miss the first month or so of the season with a sprained ligament in his foot, but he’s in his walk year and will likely be fine once he returns. Justin Upton has always been super uneven and has always failed to meet the insane expectations he set early in his career, but as he showed late last season, he’s capable of carrying a team for a stretch. I’ve been saying it for a pushing a decade, but one of these years he’s going to put it all together.

The big question is going to be the bottom third of the lineup where catcher James McCann, shortstop Jose Iglesias and center fielder Tyler Collins all look to be offensive liabilities at the moment. A bigger than usual year from any of them could help matters greatly.

Of course all of this — the strong lineup with critical holes, the rotation that starts well but has question marks and the spotty bullpen — has been the Tigers story for years. It’s a story that could end happily with 85-90 wins, a playoff spot and a bunch of seasoned veterans getting hot at the right time and riding it to glory. It could just as easily get sprinkled with a slow start or a few injuries and result in a 75-80 win season like they had back in 2015.

In the past, that would lead to yet another “wait until next year.” This year, however, you get the strong sense that there is no next year if this year is disappointing. There was talk that the Tigers could sell off veteran parts this past winter, but they didn’t. Then longtime owner Mike Ilitch, who was seen as a man who pushed to win now despite the costs, passed away in February. It’s not hard to imagine his son giving different instructions to GM Al Avila if the Tigers don’t get off to a fast start this year. It’s not hard to imagine the great unwinding of the core that has kept this Tigers team in contention for so long if 2017 is a disappointment.

I’m still optimistic, though. The Indians are the class of the division but the Royals are likely taking a step back and the Twins and White Sox are not yet a threat. I won’t predict October glory for them, but I think, barring major injuries to key players, the Tigers will be playing meaningful baseball in September.

Prediction: Second place, American League Central