And That Happened: Thursday’s scores and highlights

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Reds 4, Dodgers 1: Like I said yesterday, I took the kids to this one. And we dressed up in Dodgers gear because why the heck not. And because we were pretending to be big Dodgers fans for the day — maybe the kids were more than pretending; hard to say — we rooted for Yasiel Puig. Then that one inning came in which he hit into a fielder’s choice causing one out and then got caught stealing (by a mile) in a strike-em-out-throw-em-out double play, requiring me to explain to my children how sometimes even the best players around can do dumbass stuff like cause, directly or indirectly, all three outs in an inning and, boy, isn’t baseball tough sometimes? It was all good, though, because their shallow rooting for the Dodgers easily allowed for them to be excited and thrilled by Aroldis Chapman pumping 102 m.p.h. fastballs in the ninth inning. So all in all a good day at the old ballpark. Except for the Dodgers, who looked pretty listless and seemed to have an eye on the clock and their minds on the plane out of Cincinnati.

Giants 7, Nationals 1: The Giants avoid the sweep thanks to Tim Hudson continuing to be awesome. Seven innings and only one unearned run allowed, which lowered Hudson’s ERA to 1.81 on the year. Between his time with the Braves and the Giants, Hudson has beat the Nationals 17 times in 30 starts. No one has beat the Nats that many times.

Rockies 10, Braves 3: My real rooting interest fared worse than my temporary/fake rooting interest. Jhoulys Chacin pitched seven scoreless innings and the Rockies had an 8-3 lead when things got chippy because, for some reason, David Carpenter of the Braves apparently thought that Corey Dickerson hit Braves catcher Gerald Laird with his bat on the backswing on purpose. He said he didn’t, but he plunked the next batter with a pitch, which caused Carpenter to get ejected and which caused Walt Weiss to come out and argue and get ejected himself. And which then caused a Rockies pitcher to plunk a Braves batter later, causing him and the Rockies acting manager tossed too. I think Walt Weiss said it best:

“If you think a guy can foul a ball off and then at the same time hit the catcher on the backswing on purpose, you got no clue,” Weiss said. “They made their decision. They made a bad choice.”

Not the first time the Braves overreacted to something and then put on their police hats.

 

Phillies 7, Padres 3: Pinch-hitter Reid Brignac hit a tiebreaking, two-run double in the sixth and spot-starting John Mayberry Jr. hit a three-run homer. And the Phillies swept. Let’s hear it for the fill-ins of the world.

Red Sox 5, Indians 2:  Jon Lester pitched 7+ decent innings and David Ortiz hit a two-run homer. The Red Sox won for the third time in ten games. Which I suppose is better than losing for the eighth time in ten.

Orioles 4, Blue Jays 2:  Kevin Gausman gave up one run over six innings and Delmon Young homered. In other news, Delmon Young is still alive and playing major league baseball. In other news, I guess Mark Buehrle is not going to win 29 games this year or whatever.

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

Tigers 4, White Sox 0: With Justin Verlander faltering, Max Scherzer doing things like stopping the bleeding with a three-hit shutout is gonna go a long way towards making that decision to not take the $140 million contract he was offered last spring look smart.

Brewers 5, Mets 1: Your standard four-run rally in the 13th inning. The Mets stranded seven runners between the ninth through the 11th including a bases-loaded situation. It was New York’s ninth loss in 11 games.

Yankees 6, Mariners 3: Jeter comes alive. Three hits, two RBI and two runs scored. Jacoby Ellsbury had a two-run homer. The Yankees sweep.

Pirates 4, Cubs 0: Andrew McCutchen had two doubles and two RBI. He’s 18 of 42 this month (.428), with 15 of his hits going for extra bases. Which is sort of insane.

Astros 5, Diamondbacks 4: Miguel Montero tied it at four in the top of the ninth with a homer but Chris Carter hit a walkoff homer to lead off the 10th to give it to the Astros. He homered twice on Wednesday, so that’s a good couple of days.

Report: Rangers agree to six-year extension with Rougned Odor

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The Rangers have reportedly agreed to a six-year, $49.5 million extension for second baseman Rougned Odor, according to Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports and Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. The extension comes with a club option for a seventh year, Heyman adds.

It’s close to the six-year, $52.5 million extension Jason Kipnis netted with the Indians in 2014, a sum Odor was rumored to be seeking during contract negotiations over the last two years. Granted, the circumstances are a little different this time around. Both players signed extensions on the cusp of their fourth year in the major leagues, but at 27 years old, Kipnis was coming off of an All-Star campaign and a career-high 4.5 fWAR performance. Odor, meanwhile, saw mixed results in 2016, batting 33 home runs and putting up 2.0 fWAR while struggling to stay consistent at the plate and exhibiting poor defense.

According to MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan, Odor previously agreed to a $563,180 salary for 2017. Depending on when the extension kicks in, it should cover all three of Odor’s arbitration-eligible seasons and two seasons of potential free agency. The team has yet to confirm the extension.

2017 Preview: Minnesota Twins

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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 Minnesota Twins.

Which iteration of the Twins will we get in 2017? The second-place contenders of 2015, blazing their way through the standings with 83 wins and a handful of hot prospects? The burnouts of 2016, flopping to the bottom of the division with 103 losses and a lineup held in place by Brian Dozier and, well, Brian Dozier? Or something in between?

Finishing dead last has its perks, namely a first-round draft pick and the feeling that things can’t be quite as bad as they were the year before. Unfortunately for the Twins, the only major preparation they made for the 2017 season came in the form of a front office shakeup. Derek Falvey assumed control of the club in October, bringing GM Thad Levine into the fold in November as the club assumed a more analytics-friendly approach toward the rebuilding movement.

When it came to roster revisions, however, there wasn’t much moving or shaking this winter. Third baseman Trevor Plouffe, catcher Kurt Suzuki and left-handers Tommy Milone and Pat Dean vacated their spots on the roster. Falvey avoided some of the bigger bats and bullpen arms in free agency and opted to sign backstop Jason Castro and journeyman reliever Ryan Vogelsong instead.

By and large, the core of the Twins’ roster remained the same. Center fielder Byron Buxton, infielder/outfielder Michael Sano and right-hander Jose Berrios still form the nucleus of the club’s top prospects. Middle infielder Brian Dozier will also return in 2017, though he appears to be on borrowed time with the Twins after putting up monster numbers in the second half of 2016. Ervin Santana will head the rotation again, accompanied by fellow veterans Hector Santiago, Kyle Gibson and Phil Hughes, while right-handed relievers Brandon Kintzler, Ryan Pressly and Matt Belisle and rehabbing lefty Glen Perkins attempt to prevent another bullpen collapse in 2017.

Without any major additions to the team (and, excepting the departure of Trevor Plouffe, any major subtractions), the Twins will look to their existing cadre of players for significant improvements in 2017. Miguel Sano is expected to take over third base in Plouffe’s absence, which will bring a welcome end to his short-lived and wholly unsuccessful experiment in right field. Brian Dozier, Jorge Polanco and Joe Mauer should round out the infield, with Byung Ho Park and Kennys Vargas currently vying for a spot as the team’s designated hitter.

The lineup is still four or five or six sluggers shy of formidable, but if Dozier can be counted on to repeat his 42-homer, 5.9 fWAR performance from 2016, there will be at least one Twin worth intentionally walking in 2017. Neither Miguel Sano nor Byron Buxton have quite found their footing against big league pitching yet, and another year spent struggling in the majors could mean another year of sub-optimal run production for the team as well. Jason Castro, who grades as an above-average defender behind the plate, is unlikely to provide any additional pop for the Twins at the plate after slashing just .210/.307/.377 through 376 PA with the Astros in 2016.

The pitching department also leaves a little to be desired in light of the league-worst 5.09 ERA they amassed last season. A veteran-heavy rotation could get a boost from the addition of fifth-starter candidate Jose Berrios, who is thought to be the favorite after fellow rotation candidate Trevor May underwent Tommy John surgery earlier this week. Right-hander Tyler Duffey and 23-year-old southpaw Adalberto Mejia are also waiting in the wings. Both have made convincing cases for their inclusion on the pitching staff this spring, but Duffey is coming off of a 6.43 ERA in 2016 and Mejia lacks some of the polish that Berrios offers. Still, stockpiling young pitching depth isn’t a bad thing, and could give the Twins a cushion in the event of injury or collapse down the stretch.

The bullpen outperformed the rotation in 2016, which is saying… something, though maybe not a lot. They still finished the year with a cumulative 4.63 ERA, good for last place among their American League rivals, and delivered just 2.1 fWAR while taking on the fourth-most innings in the league. The standout performer was 28-year-old righty Ryan Pressly, who worked a 3.70 ERA, 2.7 BB/9 and 8.0 SO/9 in 75 1/3 innings last year. In light of Ryan Vogelsong’s recent departure from the club, the Twins will round out their bullpen with left-hander Craig Breslow, who turned in a 4.50 ERA with the Marlins in 2016 and is looking for a bounce-back season of his own after reworking his delivery at age 36.

For now, it looks like Falvey and the Twins’ front office are taking a wait-and-see approach to the coming season, which bodes well for their long-term vision (assuming most of their young prospects pan out) and not so well for their chances of moving up in the division in the next year or so. That could change by the trade deadline if they can secure a worthwhile return for Dozier, though given the rumors of their understandably high asking price, it could take more than a few months to get a deal in place.

Even assuming that all the chips fall in the Twins’ favor in 2017 — prospects start hitting consistently, the rotation solidifies, and Falvey loosens the purse strings enough to net more established contenders — it’s difficult to imagine anything more than a fourth-place finish for the club as they continue to rebuild and regroup. Barring any major improvements on the inconsistent, if occasionally productive, lineup of 2016, another last-place finish feels imminent.

Prediction: Fifth place, AL Central.