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And That Happened: Monday’s scores and highlights


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.

Champagne after a loss? Why not?

Astros Wild Card
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There was some hockey person last week arguing about how it was silly or untoward for baseball teams to celebrate clinching wild cards or other, less-than-championship-level accomplishments. Calling it bush league or lacking in act-like-you’ve-been-thereness or what have you. I can only imagine what he’d say about the Astros celebrating with champagne following (a) winning a wild card; and (b) losing the game which immediately preceded the celebration.

But screw him. Seriously.

I used to think that way. Indeed, if you search the HBT archives I’m sure there’s a post or two in which I disapprove of teams engaging in multiple champagne celebrations. But I was wrong about that and I’ve changed my mind on the matter over the past year or too. And on some other matters as well, all for the same reason: athletes are people just like us, not some avatars for our machismo and our fantasies. They’re people who have spent their entire lives devoted to their calling and do it under a lot of pressure and in the face of a lot of criticism and expectations from others. Why on Earth would anyone deny them their happiness upon the realization of an accomplishment?

This is even more true if you’re one of those misguided souls who erroneously believe that sports actually is separate from real life and believe them to be supremely and impossibly important. Even if you’re right — and you’re not — wouldn’t that give the athletes an even greater incentive to celebrate accomplishment? Funny how those people who who act as if sports is life and death would deny athletes their joy for defying death, as it were.

My view on the matter now is that if a guy hits a homer he should be able to celebrate it. If a pitcher strikes a guy out, he should be able to celebrate it. If a team makes the playoffs, no matter how low their seed and no matter the manner in which the accomplishment is achieved short of their competitors going down in a plane crash, they should be able to celebrate if they so choose.

So enjoy your hangovers this morning, Houston Astros.

And That Happened: Sunday’s scores and highlights


Diamondbacks 5, Astros 3: The Astros lost but, in the course of the loss, they learned the Rangers won and that was all Houston needed to clinch the wild card. No better way to evade beat writers’ questions about what went wrong out there than to be in the process of getting roaring drunk and thinking about playoff baseball, right? And come back in a bit, as I’m going to have a post up later in which I explain why it’s totally cool for a team to have a champagne celebration after clinching a mere wild card. Which some people think is lame.

Rangers 9, Angels 2: Cole Hamels was supposed to be a pickup for 2016 but, in his final start of 2015, he pitched the Rangers to the division title with a complete game. Adrian Beltre‘s homer and three RBI and the Angels’ craptastic bullpen, which uncorked a six-run seventh inning, didn’t help.

Orioles 9, Yankees 4: Joe Girardi whined a bit about having to start this game at 3pm, saying that an all-important game 162 shouldn’t be decided in long shadows. Hey Joe: if you had won either Game 160 or 161 on Saturday this game wouldn’t have mattered to you. Or if you had used your roster in a manner that suggested some manner of urgency, which you didn’t do in any of the games in this series against Baltimore, it wouldn’t have mattered either. And, of course, it ultimately didn’t matter thanks to the Astros’ loss. Wild Card game in the Bronx tomorrow. Viva long shadows.

Dodgers 6, Padres 3: Clayton Kershaw faced 13 batters in his final tuneup before the playoffs. He struck out seven of them. Yeah, gonna say he’s tuned up nicely. That gave him 301 strikeouts for the year. Before yesterday baseball had not had a 300-strikeout pitcher since 2002, when both Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling did it.

Braves 6, Cardinals 0; Braves 2, Cardinals 0: After a span of 24 winless starts stretching back to May 17, Shelby Miller finally gets a win. This is exactly the sort of thing which should set him on the right track and really help him in his next few starts.

Oh. Wait. Damn.

Phillies 7, Marlins 2: The game didn’t matter a bit in the standings but it mattered for Dee Gordon, who went 3-for-4 with a homer and a double and ended the season with a .333 average and the batting title thanks to Bryce Harper‘s 1-for-4 in the Mets-Nats game. Gordon bomes the first NL player to lead the league in batting average and stolen bases (.333/58) in the same season since Jackie Robinson did it in 1949. Which, wow.

Pirates 4, Reds 0: 98 wins and the Pirates are still playing a one-and-done game on Wednesday and needed this win just to clinch home field for that game. Man, the NL Central was rough this year.

Rockies 7, Giants 3: Down 3-0 in the ninth, the Rockies rallied for seven. Pretty sure the entire 2015 Rockies highlight reel will just be a quickly-burned DVD of that inning.

Tigers 6, White Sox 0: It was a year to forget for Detroit, but at least it ended with a young pitcher acquired in a mid-season white flag trade pitching a nice game. The pitcher was Daniel Norris who allowed one-hit over five innings. The outing allowed the Tigers to think a bit about the future.

Indians 3, Red Sox 1: And on the last day of the season the Indians move above .500. What a weird year for them. Such a talented team which had so many issues putting it together in the first half and, later, when it mattered most.

Cubs 3, Brewers 1: Chicago ended the regular season with a three-game sweep in Milwaukee and forced the Pirates to win one for home field advantage in the wild card. Regular season momentum doesn’t really mean much in the playoffs, but if it makes the Cubs feel better between now and Wednesday to say they have it, all the better for them.

Royals 6, Twins 1: Like I said: momentum doesn’t much matter, but on the off chance it actually does, Johnny Cueto has to feel OK, having allowed one run over five innings. We’ll forget for a second that it came against a deflated, recently-eliminated, spit squad Twins lineup.

Mariners 3, Athletics 2: After the game Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon tossed his cap into the crowd. Which is fine as it’s highly unlikely that he’ll be needed it next year. Not that I can act all smug given that I was one of those loonies who though the Mariners would make the World Series.

Mets 1, Nationals 0: Like Clayton Kershaw, Jacob deGrom was merely tuning up for the NLDS. He’s running just fine too, having tossed four shutout innings with seven strikeouts. They were no-hit innings too, actually, but it’s not like Terry Collins was going to leave him out there for that sort of thing with the playoffs looming. Curtis Granderson‘s eighth inning solo shot was the only scoring. The Nationals, finally, have been put out of their misery and can go home and wonder about what in the hell happened to them this season.

Rays 12, Blue Jays 3: Mark Buehrle was supposed to come in and pitch two innings to get his 200 for the year and then retire. Which would’ve been a neat thing for him given that he’d tossed 200+ innings for 14 straight years before that. He couldn’t escape the first inning, though, as first the Jays’ defense and then his ability to get dudes out disappeared. Oh well. One crap inning doesn’t negate a first-ballot Hall of Very Good career.

And with that another regular season is in the books. Another season of 8, 12, or (usually) 15-game days. Of flipping TV channels or radio stations or clicking between websites and between games. Games which, compared to the other 2,400 or so that happen during a season, mean nothing. But mean everything. Games which can be enjoyed and savored for a bit if your team won and enjoyed and easily forgotten if your team lost. The easy listening soundtrack of the past six months now fades away and in its place comes a 30-day burst of hardcore intensity.

And it’ll be a lot of fun. The playoffs are the point of it all, right? Assuming, that is, baseball has to have a point. Maybe it does, but it’s an assumption that, the older I get, is less and less necessary for me to hold in order for me to enjoy it.

Thanks for another good season, everyone.