And That Happened: Thursday’s scores and highlights

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Dodgers 2, Padres 1: Clayton Kershaw’s scoreless innings streak was snapped after 41 2/3 innings when he gave up a homer to Chase Headley in the sixth inning, but other than that he was fantastic, striking out 11 while tossing a three-hitter and notching a complete game. The ERA is now down to 1.78.

Cubs 6, Reds 4: The Cubs avoid the rare five-game sweep thanks to Arismendy Alcantara, who had four hits and scored what proved to be the winning run in the 12th. It was part of a two-run triple hit by Luis Valbuena which he tried to stretch into an inside-the-park home run. Nice try, but it proved to be unnecessary.

Red Sox 4, White Sox 3: Sox win. Mike Carp walked ’em off with a pinch-hit RBI single in the 10th. Jon Lester gave up only one run on seven hits with 12 strikeouts and no walks. In his last six starts, he’s 3-0 with a 1.01 ERA, 39 strikeouts and six walks in 44 2/3 innings. He hasn’t given up a homer in 45 innings.

Phillies 9, Brewers 1: Matt Garza had took a no-hitter into the seventh. That ended there, and the shuotout ended in the eighth when Philly put up a seven-spot. The Phillies sweep the Brewers in four. And the Brewers’ freefall continues: they’ve lost nine of ten.

Orioles 4, Nationals 3: Steve Pearce homered and scored twice as Batlimore takes two of three (the rain took one) from Washington. The Orioles have won eight of ten.

Athletics 6, Giants 1: Josh Donaldson hit a two-run homer and Stephen Vogt drove in three to back up Scott Kazmir, who struck out nine in seven scoreless innings. Oakland has won seven of eight.

Indians 9, Yankees 3: The Indians presented Derek Jeter with an electric guitar which was painted white with Yankees pinstripes before the game, inscribed with Jeter’s No. 2 and the words, “The Captain.” That was the only good thing that happened to the Yankees yesterday. In the game they blew a 3-0 lead and didn’t score again after that. Roberto Perez homered as part of a five-run eighth inning. The Indians catcher was two for three with a walk in his debut.

Editor’s Note: Hardball Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $35,000 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.
 Braves 3, Mets 1:

Angels 15, Rangers 6: It was 13-2 after three innings so, yeah. Mike Trout had a three-run homer and four hits and four RBI overall. The Angels won for the seventh time in eight games. Texas has lost five straight and 19 of 22.

Pirates 9, Cardinals 1: Edinson Volquez tossed a six-hit complete game allowing only one. Two RBI a piece for Neil Walker, Josh Harrison, Russell Martin and Andrew McCutchen.

Tigers 16, Royals 4: Another laugher, as the Tigers explain to the Royals that they are in first place and you, Kansas City, are firmly in second. Every Tigers hitter got a hit and scored a run. The Tigers have won four straight in Kauffman Stadium, outscoring the Royals 42-12.

Twins 4, Mariners 2: Kendrys Morales had a two-run double to back up Yohan Pino, who got his first big league victory by allowing one run over five. Then he was sent down to the minors because politics, man.

The 2017 Yankees are, somehow, plucky underdogs

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There’s a lot that has happened in the past year that I never, ever would’ve thought would or even could happen in America. Many of them are serious, some are not, some make me kinda happy and some make me terribly sad. I’m sure a lot of people have felt that way in this oddest of years.

There’s one thing in baseball, however, that still has me searching my feelings in a desperate effort to know what to feel: The New York Yankees are the postseason’s plucky underdogs.

This is not about them being lovable or likable — we touched on that last week — it’s more about the role they play in the grand postseason drama. A postseason they weren’t even supposed to be in.

None of the three writers of this website thought the Yankees would win the AL East or a Wild Card. ESPN had 35 “experts” make predictions back in March, and only one of them — Steve Wulf — thought the Yankees would make the postseason (he thought they’d win the division). I’m sure if you go over the plethora of professional prognosticator’s predictions a few would have the Yankees squeaking in to the postseason on the Wild Card, but that was nothing approaching a consensus view. Their 2017 regular season was a surprise to almost everyone, with the expectation of a solid, if unspectacular rebuilding year being greatly exceeded. To use a sports cliche, nobody believed in them.

Then came the playoffs. Most people figured the Yankees would beat the Twins in the Wild Card game and they did, but most figured they’d be cannon fodder for the Indians. And yep, they fell down early, losing the first two games of the series and shooting themselves in the foot in spectacular fashion in the process. Yet they came back, beating arguably the best team in baseball and certainly the best team in the American League in three straight games despite the fact that . . . nobody believed in them.

Now we’re in the ALCS. The Astros — the other choice for best team in the American League if you didn’t think the Indians were — jumped out to a 2-0 lead, quieting the Yankees’ powerful bats. While a lot of teams have come back from 0-2 holes in seven game series, the feel of this thing as late as Monday morning was that, even if the Yankees take a game at home, Houston was going to cruise into the World Series. Once again . . . nobody believed in them.

Yet, here we are on this late Wednesday morning, with the Yankees having tied things up 2-2. As I wrote this morning, you still have to like the Astros’ chances given that their aces, Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander, are set to go in Games 5 and 6. I’m sure a lot of people feel still like the Astros’ chances for that reason. So that leads us to this . . .

It’s one thing for no one to have, objectively, believed in the Yankees chances. It’s another thing, though, for the New York Yankees — the 27-time World Champions, the 40-time American League pennant winners, the richest team in the game, the house-at-the-casino, U.S. Steel and the Evil Empire all wrapped into one — to officially play the “nobody believed in us” card on their own account. That’s the stuff of underdogs. Of Davids facing Goliaths. Of The Little Guy, demanding respect that no one ever considered affording them. If you’re not one of those underdogs and you’re playing that card, you’re almost always doing it out of some weird self-motivational technique and no one else will ever take you seriously. And now you’re telling me the NEW YORK FRIGGIN’ YANKEES are playing that card?

Thing is: they’re right. They’ve totally earned the right to play it because, really, no one believed in them. Even tied 2-2, I presume most people still don’t, actually.

I don’t know how to process this. Nothing in my 40 years of baseball fandom has prepared me for the Yankees to be the David to someone else’s Goliath and to claim righteous entitlement to the whole “nobody believed in us” thing.

Which, as I said at the beginning, is nothing new in the year 2017. I just never thought it’d happen in baseball.