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And That Happened: Monday’s scores and highlights

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Angels 5, Dodgers 0: You don’t hear about this much nationally or anything, but I’ve done some radio in Los Angeles lately and they’ve been asking me about a possible Freeway Series. Like, Freeway World Series, not just this interleague matchup in midseason. It’s probably a fair question to ask. The Angels have gotten less ink than just about any legit contender this year. But they keep winning and stand one game back of Oakland for the division lead and the best record in baseball. And here they are taking it to their would-be Freeway Series foes. Garrett Richards tossed a five-hit shutout, striking out nine and flashing a 98 m.p.h. heater. Trout and Pujols both had RBI doubles in a four-run first. Watch out for Anaheim, dudes.

Indians 7, Reds 1: The Battle of Ohio. The loser of which has to stay in Ohio, I assume. Corey Kluber follows up his dominant outing from last week with another dominant outing, allowing one run while pitching into the eighth inning. Lonnie Chisenhall drove in three and Michael Brantley two.

Orioles 7, Nationals 3: The Battle of the Baltimore-D.C. Area. The loser of which has to, I dunno, keeps their team owner. This wasn’t really a battle anyway. It was a makeup game from a July 8 rainout. Why it was played at night when the Orioles have a game today in another city is the kind of question I’d be asking if I was the Orioles’ shop steward, by the way, but no one listens to me. Anyway, Baltimore rallied in the seventh and added a couple of insurance runs in the eighth. Caleb Joseph homered and drove in three runs while J.J. Hardy had four hits.

Giants 4, Mets 3: Last game of a wraparound series, but at least people had the sense to schedule it for the afternoon. Pablo Sandoval drove in three runs on three hits, capped by the go-ahead double with two outs in the ninth inning. Sandoval is on fire, having gone 32 for 93 over his past 23 games and hitting .500 in with runners in scoring position over his last 25 at bats in that situation.

Yankees 2, Tigers 1: Brandon McCarthy continues his roll in New York, allowing only an unearned run into the sixth inning. Four Yankees relievers took it the rest of the way home. Great timing for McCarthy’s surge, by the way. Not only has it been a lifeline to a Yankees team in the wild card race, but it may be making McCarthy a boatload of cash. He’s a free agent after this season and this is serving as a nice audition for a Yankees team with rotation uncertainty. Or, for that matter, any other number of teams which often ask of free agent pitchers “can they handle the AL East?”

Editor’s Note: Hardball Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $100,000 Fantasy Baseball league for Tuesday night’s MLB games. It’s $25 to join and first prize is $10,000. Starts at 7:05pm ET on TuesdayHere’s the FanDuel link.

Athletics 3, Rays 2: Derek Norris with the walkoff single in the 10th with the bases juiced against Grant Balfour. Who may have been agitated from a previous ball called against Josh Donaldson that led to a Joe Maddon argument and ejection. Balfour said after the game that he felt like he had to get “five outs.” Welp, maybe. But go get them then. In other news, a possum wandered out on to the field during the 10th inning. Which, OK, squirrels and bunnies and the occasional cat is cute. But possums are gross and disgusting. No word on whether the A’s call him “bitey.”

White Sox 5, Rangers 3: Tyler Flowers homered and tripled. The triple was almost a homer, bouncing off the top of the wall. He should probably cherish that more. He may hit two homers in a game again at some point, but triples for a catcher are rare things. That was only his second in his career. This one was shortened by rain. Anything to reduce the amount of Rangers baseball this year is welcome, however.

Tony Clark is not happy so many players remain unsigned

ADVANCE FOR WEEKEND EDITIONS, JAN. 18-19 - This Jan. 15, 2014 photo showing new baseball union head Tony Clark during an interview at the organization's headquarters, in New York. Clark has big shoes to fill _ and not just as Michael Weiner's replacement as head of the baseball players' union. Moving from Arizona to New Jersey, the former big league All-Star also needed to find size 15 snowshoes.  (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
AP Photo/Richard Drew
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We’re almost halfway through February. Pitchers and catchers report to spring training soon. And yet, there are more than a handful of solid free agents that remain unsigned. Among them: Yovani Gallardo, Ian Desmond, and Dexter Fowler. All three have draft pick compensation tied to them, as each rejected a one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer from his respective former team. That, undoubtedly, is a reason why they haven’t inked a contract yet.

MLBPA Executive Director Tony Clark is unhappy about this reality and expects to discuss potential changes when the next collective bargaining agreement is negotiated. The current CBA expires after the 2016 season. Per the Associated Press, Clark said last week, “I think it’s disappointing when there are as many talented players still without a home. I don’t think it’s in anyone’s best interest to be in a world where very talented players are at home for whatever reason they are there. It will likely be a part of the conversation in bargaining.”

Clark also mentioned, among other things, the possibility of a draft lottery, which would take away the incentive for teams to “tank”, or lose on purpose. The Astros and Phillies have notably done this in recent years, finishing with baseball’s worst record and thus netting the #1 overall draft pick.

These are, however, simply two items of many that will be discussed during the upcoming offseason. It will be interesting to see what solutions are eventually put in place.

Michael Pineda hopes to reach 200-inning mark for first time

New York Yankees' Michael Pineda delivers a pitch during the third inning of a baseball game against the Chicago White Sox on Thursday, Sept. 24, 2015, in New York. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)
AP Photo/Adam Hunger
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It was reported on Friday that Yankees right-hander Masahiro Tanaka isn’t sure if he’ll be ready for Opening Day as he makes his way back from arthroscopic surgery to remove a bone spur from his right elbow. His health will be crucial to the Yankees’ chances this season, but the same goes for rotation-mate Michael Pineda, who hopes that this is the year he’ll be able to take on the workload of a frontline starter.

Pineda was on pace for a career-high in innings last season, but he landed on the disabled list in late July with a right flexor forearm muscle strain and missed a month. He struggled upon his return and ended up with 160 2/3 innings, so he fell short of his career-high of 171 innings as a rookie with the Mariners way back in 2011. Now going into his age-27 season, Pineda told Bryan Hoch of MLB.com that his goal for 2016 is to reach 200 innings for the first time in his career.

“For me, this year, I’m coming here early to be strong and working hard to pitch 200 innings this year,” Pineda said at the club’s Minor League complex. “I want to throw 200 innings this year. This is my goal, and help my team.”

Pineda had a mediocre 4.37 ERA (90 ERA+) last season despite impressive peripherals with 8.7 K/9 and 1.2 BB/9. Among pitchers with at least 160 innings pitched, only Bartolo Colon of the Mets had a lower walk percentage. Pineda managed to increase his ground ball rate to 48.2 percent and also saw an uptick in velocity from 2014, so there’s reason to believe in improvement if he can stay healthy.

Brewers GM: Acquiring Jacob Nottingham doesn’t change Jonathan Lucroy’s status

Jonathan Lucroy
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin
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The Brewers acquired prospects Jake Nottingham and Bubba Derby from the Athletics on Friday in exchange for slugging outfielder Khris Davis. The hope is that Nottingham will develop into the Brewers’ catcher of the future, so you could say that the club is planning for life after Jonathan Lucroy. However, Brewers general manager David Stearns said today that the trade doesn’t change Lucroy’s immediate status.

The Brewers are in rebuild-mode and Lucroy is an excellent trade chip if healthy, as his contract includes a $5.25 million club option for 2017. It’s likely just a matter of time before he’s shipped elsewhere, but yesterday’s trade shouldn’t change the timeline for a potential deal. Nottingham doesn’t turn 21 until April and has yet to play in Double-A, so he’s still a ways off from the majors. The Brewers can afford to wait on the right offer for Lucroy, whether it’s in spring training or at the trade deadline or perhaps later.

Checking in at 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds, Nottingham batted .316/.372/.505 with 17 home runs over 109 games last season between Class A and High-A. He was traded from the Astros to the Athletics as part of the Scott Kazmir deal last July. It’s worth noting that Stearns was the assistant GM for Houston when Nottingham was drafted in the sixth round back in 2013, so he’s clearly a fan.

Joe Panik says he’s “100 percent” recovered from back injury

San Francisco Giants second baseman Joe Panik follows through on a single off Colorado Rockies relief pitcher Scott Oberg in the eighth inning of Game 1 of a baseball doubleheader Saturday, May 23, 2015, in Denver. The Giants won 10-8. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
AP Photo/David Zalubowski
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Giants second baseman Joe Panik missed nearly all of August and September last season due to a nagging back injury, but he told Alex Pavlovic of CSNBayArea.com on Friday that he’s feeling “100 percent.”

Panik, who earned his first All-Star selection last season, originally landed on the disabled list in early August due to what was described as lower back inflammation. He made his return in September, but appeared in just three games before being shut down. The good news is that he was cleared by doctors in mid-December and considers himself “back to normal.”

“It was right around the time of all the signings,” he said, smiling. “I was able to fly under the radar. I got tested and everything had healed up. I got cleared and was able to have my full offseason workouts. I’m good to go. I’m happy to be feeling good and going back out on the field to show that I’m healthy. My swing feels strong.”

Panik altered his offseason workout routine and plans to spend less time in his spikes in the early part of spring training. The hope is that these changes will prevent future issues.

After a strong showing as a rookie in 2014, the 25-year-old Panik proved to be one of the best second baseman in the majors last season by batting .312/.378/.455 with eight home runs and 37 RBI over 100 games while playing solid defense.