And That Happened: Sunday’s scores and highlights

79 Comments

Red Sox 7, Athletics 6: David Ortiz’s home run in the 10th wins it for Boston. More fun than a game-winning homer for Oritz (ho-hum) was the fact that Mike Napoli stole home in the third inning. OK, it was one of those “steal home when the opposition is paying way more attention to the guy at first base” plays, which should probably be scored some variation on a fielder’s choice or something, but still. Oh, and in the fifth, he homered. With that speed-power combination it’s like he’s like Rickey Henderson or something.

Pirates 2, Cubs 1: Brandon Cumpton pitched seven scoreless innings, allowing only two hits. Probably worth noting that we’ve basically reached Peak Brandon in Major League Baseball these days. I went to Baseball-Reference.com and counted 41 Brandons who have played major league baseball. Twenty-two of them are currently active and another 15 of them have been active no later than 2004.

Reds 4, Blues Jays 3: Johnny Cueto gave up three runs –only one earned — and lowered his NL-leading ERA to 1.86. He gave up seven hits and struck out eight in the process. Also in the process: Brett Lawrie broke his finger while being hit by a pitch and Jose Bautista left with tightness in his leg.

Tigers 10, Indians 4: The Tigers are back in first place after a series sweep in Cleveland. Miguel Cabrera homered and drove in three. They were up 10-1 in the ninth before rookie reliever Chad Smith allowed three runs. Even their mop-up bullpen work is shaky.

Mets 11, Marlins 5: Often-times eleven runs on 17 hits is a week’s worth of output for the Mets. With Jon Niese on the mound, no less, who normally gets boned in the run support department. Just to be safe, though, he laid down a suicide squeeze bunt at one point.

Rays 5, Astros 2: The Rays took three of four. But hey, it’s the Astros. The Rays are 8-18 over their past 26 games, but five of those wins have come against Houston in seven of those 26 games.

Nationals 4, Braves 1: The series split is a win for the Nats who (a) stayed in first place; and (b) have had a whale of a time against the Braves over the past year or so. Some actual wisdom from Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez, though, who commented on he face that Atlanta won the first two games of the series but dropped the last two:

“You know what, it’s funny, baseball is. If we would’ve lost the first two games and won the last two games you’d be feeling pretty good about yourselves. It didn’t happen that way, it happened the other way, so you’re not feeling real good about yourself.”

Narratives, baby.

Orioles 8, Yankees 0: The Orioles scored three off Masahiro Tanaka and beat him. That’s quite the accomplishment. I half expected to see Tony Burton come out of the dugout wearing his Duke costume from Rocky IV and yell “He’s worried! You cut him! You hurt him! You see? You see? He’s not a machine, he’s a man!” [Craig returns to his computer after refilling his coffee and sees Bill Simmons running away, cackling after typing that last comment].

Cardinals 5, Phillies 3: Carlos Martinez starts have been bullpen games, really, as he’s not fully stretched out. No fear, though, because the bullpen has been pretty darn good finishing his games out. Here Nick Greenwood, Sam Freeman, Pat Neshek and Trevor Rosenthal combined for four innings of scoreless relief. Mark Ellis drove in two runs, including the go-ahead run with a safety squeeze in the fourth.

Editor’s Note: Hardball Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $30,000 Fantasy Baseball league for Monday night’s MLB games. It’s $25 to join and first prize is $5,000. Starts at 7:05pm ET on MondayHere’s the FanDuel link.

Mariners 2, Royals 1: The Royals came home in first place then they went and done got swept. They’ve lost four in a row, actually. Close games, but still. Roenis Elias allowed one run in six and two-thirds. Mike Zunino homered.

Twins 6, White Sox 5: The four-game sweep for the Twins. Phil Hughes has been fantastic lately, though he wasn’t here. The offense picked him up, though, led by Joe Mauer who had two hits and two RBI.

Dodgers 2, Padres 1: The Dodgers are now winners of 10 of 14 after taking two of three games in San Diego. They haven’t lost a series in Petco since 2010. If you believe in crowd support actually helping teams it’s not hard to understand why. I went to a Padres-Dodgers game at Petco last September and the place is basically Dodger Stadium South.

Brewers 6, Rockies 5: Oh dear. Oh my. How — er, just. Oh my:

The guy after Dickerson homered, which — if Dickerson had either not stumbled or simply been at third base, would’ve tied the game. That’s the sixth loss in a row and the second straight series sweep for the Rockies. Who look as if they’re playing little league ball lately.

Giants 4, Diamondbacks 1: Madison Bumgarner allowed an unearned run and that’s it over eight. Brandon Crawford scored a run and drove on in. The Giants are the epicenter of Peak Brandon, by the way, with Crawford, Belt and Hicks. To bad Brandon Wood was a bust. Maybe he coulda found his way to San Francisco, allowing the Giants to field the first-ever All-Brandon infield.

Angels 5, Rangers 2: Matt Shoemaker won his fifth straight decision and C.J. Cron and Kole Calhoun homered in the fourth off Yu Darvish. By the way, we’re also at Peak C.J. these days. Five C.J.s have played major league baseball four of whom are active and two of which play for the Angels.

Kevin Gausman to start Opening Day for the Orioles

Patrick Smith/Getty Images
Leave a comment

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

Getty Images
8 Comments

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