And That Happened: Monday’s scores and highlights


Royals 3, Athletics 2Pirates 11, Tigers 6: Put those two scores together and you have the Kansas City Royals in first place in the American League Central. It’s a half game, but at the rate the Royals are going they’re never going to lose a baseball game again. They’ve won eight in a row. They were eight games back three weeks ago. This is simply amazing. And with their bullpen and yet another injury to a Tigers starter, you have to give serious consideration to the fact that, yup, it’s sustainable.

Mets 5, Phillies 3: Anthony Recker hit a tiebreaking, three-run homer in the seventh to break and 0 for 18 slump. Jon Niese gave up two runs on five hits in seven to break a pretty lousy stretch of play of his own. A Phillies’ fan sitting in the outfield seats tried to make this one 5-4 by snagging a ball hit by Chase Utley with his cap, causing the drive to originally be called a two-run homer, but on review it was changed to a ground rule double, scoring only the one run. Probably didn’t matter as Ben Revere flew out to end the game right after that, but good effort, dude.

Orioles 11, Yankees 3: The Orioles won. That’s good! But Manny Machado went out with a sprained knee. That’s bad. But Chris Davis came off the bench to play third and managed to go 2 for 3 with a two-run homer. That’s good! But the home run contained potassium benzoate . . . [blank stare] . . . that’s bad.

Dodgers 6, Braves 2: Speaking of bad, that’s what the Braves are anymore. They have now dropped 10 of 12 and are four games behind Washington in the increasingly non-competitive NL East. This after new Dodger Kevin Correia allowed just one run over six innings. L.A., meanwhile, is five games up in the West.

Rays 7, Rangers 0: Drew Smyly picks up his first win as a Ray, tossing seven and two-thirds shutout innings while striking out nine. Less than two weeks ago he was the expendable guy in the David Price trade. Depending on how Justin Verlander and Anibal Sanchez go health-wise in the next couple of weeks, he’s going to be sorely missed in Detroit. Colby Lewis walked a lot of dudes. The Rangers threw the ball around and allowed three earned runs. It’s just ugly baseball in Texas these days.

Marlins 6, Cardinals 5: Giancarlo Stanton hit two homers. He also had a nice diving catch on the warning track in the fifth inning. Lazy dude didn’t pitch a shuout, though, so what good is he?

Twins 4, Astros 2: Joe Mauer had two hits, including an RBI single in the ninth to break a 2-2 tie. After the game Ron Gardenhire said Mauer could “get out of bed” and hit. Or, in this case, come off a 34-day stint on the disabled list.

Brewers 3, Cubs 1: Yovani Gallardo allowed one run over seven and struck out six. Asked after the game what was the difference here vs. his last not-so-good start: “Just command, to be honest.” I’m glad he’s being honest now. We’ve lived with your lies far too long, Yovani. It has to feel better to finally come clean about this. You weren’t fooling anyone. *hugs*

Mariners 11, Blue Jays 1: Felix Hernandez: seven innings, one run, three hits, 8Ks. Dude is clockwork. Plus he had 11 runs of support which is something he probably had to have someone explain to him for he is so unfamiliar with the concept.

Padres 4, Rockies 3: Yangervis Solarte hit a go-ahead, two-run home run in the seventh. The Padres bullpen struck out the last seven Rockies hitters of the game and nine of the final 12. Either the Rockies were seriously overmatched or else they all wanted to get back to their hotel to watch Shark Week.

Royals will bring back Yordano Ventura to start Game 4

Yordano Ventura
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Thursday night’s rain delay cut Yordano Ventura‘s start short after just two innings, as the Royals opted to turn to reliever Chris Young instead of bringing the 24-year-old right-hander back out to the mound following the delay.

One benefit to that is what manager Ned Yost has decided to do now, which is use Ventura to start Game 4 on Monday. Had he thrown, say, 102 pitches instead of 42 pitches Ventura likely would have started Game 5, forcing the Royals to go four starters deep in their ALDS rotation.

Ventura struggled before the delay Monday, allowing three runs in two innings. However, he finished the regular season by going 7-1 with a 2.38 ERA and 81 strikeouts in 68 innings over his final 11 starts, which was enough to convince Yost he was the right pitcher to start Game 1 rather than trade deadline pickup Johnny Cueto.

Playoff Reset: Four games in one day!

Cole Hamels

Oh baby.

There’s baseball from noon to midnight today, with a pair of Game 2s in the American League and a pair of Game 1s in the National League.

Tons of great starting pitchers–including the best in the world and a trio of big-name trade deadline acquisitions–and we’ll find out if a home team can actually win a game after starting the playoffs 0-4.

The Game: Texas Rangers vs. Toronto Blue Jays
The Time: 12:45 PM Eastern
The Place: Rogers Centre, Toronto
The Channel: MLB Network
The Starters: Cole Hamels vs. Marcus Stroman
The Upshot: Stroman coming back from what was deemed a season-ending knee injury in spring training to start Game 2 of the ALDS is a helluva story and the Blue Jays need him to come up big after David Price failed to do his part in Game 1. Yovani Gallardo somehow wriggled out of trouble against Toronto’s scary lineup, but as a left-hander Hamels has an even tougher assignment versus the never-ending right-handed power. Assuming it’s all in the lineup, of course. There are big health question marks for both sides, as Adrian Beltre, Josh Donaldson, and Jose Bautista all exited Game 1 with injuries and their respective statuses could swing the balance of power in the series.

The Game: Houston Astros vs. Kansas City Royals
The Time: 3:45 PM Eastern
The Place: Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City
The Channel: FOX Sports 1
The Starters: Scott Kazmir vs. Johnny Cueto
The Upshot: Two headline-grabbing trade deadline pickups with a lot to prove, as Kazmir and Cueto both struggled for their new teams. Cueto was bumped back to Game 2 after being acquired to front the Royals’ rotation and there was some speculation that Kazmir might not even have a spot in the ALDS rotation. Kansas City losing Game 1 last night and Houston having Dallas Keuchel waiting in the wings for Game 3 puts a ton of pressure on Cueto’s shoulders. Generally one of the toughest pitchers to homer against, he allowed 10 homers in 13 starts for the Royals and the Astros’ power-packed lineup will put him to the test all afternoon. Can the defending AL champs get off the mat quickly or will they head to Houston in need of a win to keep the season alive?

The Game: Chicago Cubs vs. St. Louis Cardinals
The Time: 6:45 PM Eastern
The Place: Busch Stadium, St. Louis
The Channel: TBS
The Starters: Jon Lester vs. John Lackey
The Upshot: Former Red Sox teammates Lester and Lackey square off in Game 1 of the first ever playoff series between two of the biggest rivals in baseball, with the Cubs fresh off their Wild Card game triumph over the Pirates and the Cardinals coming off an MLB-high 100 wins. Yadier Molina‘s ability to play through a thumb injury will be key for the Cardinals and it’ll also be interesting to see how much faith manager Mike Matheny has in Adam Wainwright to get late-inning outs as a reliever after returning from a torn Achilles’ tendon.

The Game: New York Mets vs. Los Angeles Dodgers
The Time: 9:45 PM Eastern
The Place: Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles
The Channel: TBS
The Starters: Jacob deGrom vs. Clayton Kershaw
The Upshot: Quite a way to finish an entire day of baseball, as the Mets go looking for their first playoff win since 2006 and Kershaw tries to cement his legacy as an all-time great by dominating in the playoffs like he does in the regular season. And don’t overlook deGrom, because last year’s Rookie of the Year winner has a 2.61 ERA and 349 strikeouts in 331 innings since debuting last May. Among all starters with at least 300 innings during the past two seasons Kershaw ranks first in ERA and deGrom ranks fourth, with Jake Arrieta and Zack Greinke in the 2-3 slots. This is a speculator pitching matchup.

Maybe Alcides Escobar shouldn’t bat leadoff

Alcides Escobar

Alcides Escobar finished with a .292 OBP this year. He came in at .246 in 117 at-bats in August and .257 in 109 at-bats between September and October, so he wasn’t exactly flying high entering the postseason. Still, that didn’t stop Ned Yost from putting him into the leadoff spot for Thursday’s Game 1 against the Astros.

Yost finally did reconsider hitting Escobar first in September. It took Alex Gordon‘s return to health, plus the previous addition of Ben Zobrist to the lineup, in order to make that happen. However, it didn’t stick. Escobar hit ninth in each of his starts from Sept. 7-26, batting .236 with a .276 OBP during that span. With five games left to go, he was suddenly returned to the leadoff spot. The Royals went on to win all five games. Yost saw it as a sign, even though Escobar went 5-for-22 with no walks in those games.

Escobar went 0-for-4 in Thursday’s loss to the Astros. He did not swing at the first pitch of the game, which probably explains the defeat.

It’s been difficult to argue with Yost since last year’s World Series run and this year’s incredible run out of the game. The blind spot with Escobar, though, gets rather infuriating. One can defend hitting him leadoff against the Astros’ lefties. His career OBP against southpaws is .319 (.316 this year). Against righties, he’s the most obvious No. 9 hitter alive, with a career .258/.290/.342 line (.252/.284/.314 this year). He’s not a pace-setter. He’s not a spark plug. He’s a liability.