And That Happened: Wednesday’s scores and highlights

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Nationals 3, Diamondbacks 2: Yet another win for the Nationals. Their ninth in a row. Yet another walkoff. Fourth in five games, I think. Anthony Rendon hit the single that scored Bryce Harper in the ninth. Afterwards Harper described the Nats current run: “It’s absolutely epic. That’s the best word I can put out there.” Isn’t that two words? Ah, forget it, he’s rolling.

Tigers 6, Rays 0: A good way to test to see how close attention someone is paying to the Tigers is to ask them who their best pitcher and best hitter have been this season. If they don’t say Rick Porcello and Victor Martinez, they haven’t been paying attention. Porcello tosses a three-hit shutout for his 14th victory and Martinez drove in five.

Rangers 5, Marlins 4: Nick Martinez allowed two runs over six innings and got the win in front of what, for him anyway, was a hometown crowd. After the game he said that it was a big deal winning in Miami because he “grew up watching” the Marlins. I realize the math works out and that I’m an old fart and everything, but it’s hard for me to get my head around anyone growing up watching a team that, to me anyway, feels like it just showed up yesterday. I suppose people in their 50s feel the same way when I talk about growing up watching the Blue Jays come play the Tigers and stuff. Time marches on, though.

Blue Jays 9, Brewers 5: Milwaukee had a five game winning streak of its own snapped. Jose Bautista had a three-run homer in a five-run sixth inning. Here is Brewers manager Ron Roenicke describing the Jays scoring those six and Carlos Gomez hitting a two-run homer to pull Milwaukee closer:

“So tough inning, you know we come back and Gomey gets the two points and we get a little closer, and we give up another homer.

I’m not sure if I’m more disturbed by the “two points” or the “Gomey,” really.

Indians 5, Twins 0: Five Indians pitchers, led by T.J. House, combined to shut out Minnesota on six hits. For whatever reason I get all the Indians transaction news sent directly to me from their front office — I guess I got on the right mailing list a couple of years back — so I see every little option and purchased contract they do, even if it’s not at all newsworthy to most people. Four of the five pitchers in this one — House, C.C. Lee, Nick Hagadone and Bryan Shaw — are regularly featured in those, to the point where I actually spend a lot of time worrying about them. Wondering if they get bored or lonely driving up and down I-71 all the time. Wondering where they live when they’re going back and forth like that all the time. Good to see them go all Voltron like this for a night.

Pirates 3, Braves 2: Atlanta’s five game winning streak comes to an end and Pittsburgh’s seven game losing streak halts at the same time. The winning run came around in part to Justin Upton dropping a routine fly ball. The Upton giveth on Tuesday, taketh away on Wednesday.

Phillies 4, Mariners 3: Cole Hamels has lost a lot when he’s pitched well. Yesterday he won when he didn’t have his best stuff. He probably deserves that more than anyone.

Editor’s Note: Hardball Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $25,000 Fantasy Baseball league for Thursday night’s MLB games. It’s $25 to join and first prize is $5,000. Starts at 7:10pm ET on ThursdayHere’s the FanDuel link.

Mets 8, Athletics 5: Lucas Duda hit a three-run homer. He has hit a LOT of homers in the past couple of months. The Mets and A’s split two. Remember a few years back when there were two-game series all the damn time? God, I hated that. Sometimes it’s good to remember that not everything baseball does is aggravating. Sometimes they fix the aggravating things they did before. In baseball, that’s vision.

Padres 4, Dodgers 1: Eric Stults won and said that he “executed pitches better” than he had. After the Mariners-Phillies game, James Paxton said “I probably could’ve executed pitches a little bit better.” I wish I had the technology to keep a running count for terms like that after games. I think they come and go in cycles. We’re in a big “executing pitches” era these days. It has surpassed “make pitches” by quite a margin, I think.

Rockies 5, Royals 2: The Royals lead in the Central drops to one thanks in part to a Matt McBride grand slam. Not bad for a guy who just got called up a couple of days ago. McBride doesn’t even get a chance to bat that inning if it wasn’t for a Christian Colon error at third that should’ve been out number three.

Giants 8, Cubs 3: First they win the protest over Tuesday night’s washout then they win the game. Not a bad day for San Francisco. Of course, commenters told me all day yesterday that the Cubs grounds crew made no mistake worth noting, so how they won the protest is beyond me. Oh, wait:

Available video of the incident, and conversations with representatives of the Cubs, demonstrate that the Cubs’ inability to deploy the tarp appropriately was caused by the failure to properly wrap and spool the tarp after its last use.  As a result, the groundskeeping crew was unable to properly deploy the tarp after the rain worsened.

Nope, no one screwed up there.

Cardinals 7, Reds 3: The Cards got to Johnny Cueto for five runs in five and Lance Lynn was solid. The Cards have won eight of nine and are almost singlehandedly bringing respectability to the NL Wild Card race. Someone’s gotta.

Orioles 4, White Sox 3: Nelson Cruz took the MLB lead in homers with his 33rd as the O’s sweep the Chisox. The O’s hit three homers in all off Hector Noesi. They lead all of baseball in bombs.

Astros 5, Yankees 2: I probably follow a disproportionate number of Yankees fans on Twitter for whatever reason. And Yankees fans — or these Yankees fans, not sure which — probably gave the Astros disproportionate criticism for all that “2017 World Series champs!” and front office hype that they were getting a little while back. As such, watching them come to grips with the Astros beating the Yankees all the damn time recently has been somewhat amusing. Four of five on the season for Houston. Now: let us see whether the talk about the Yankees still being in the playoff hunt abates any. Because dudes, if Houston is eating your lunch, you’re not a playoff team.

Angels 8, Red Sox 3: A win, yes, but losing Garrett Richards, almost certainly for the season, is a huge, huge blow for the Angels. Josh Hamilton had three RBI. Right now it’d be better if he could throw 98 miles per hour, because the Angels are going to need that way more in the season’s final month and change.

 

Astros vs. Dodgers is a match made in heaven

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A lot of people who work at the league office or who take paychecks from the Fox network probably wanted to see the Yankees and the Cubs in the World Series. They won’t admit it, of course, but I suspect that many did, as the ratings for a Cubs-Yankees Series might’ve broken modern records. If they are at all disappointed by the Astros and Dodgers winning the pennant, however, they should let that go because they’ve been gifted by a wonderful matchup from a purely baseball perspective. Indeed, it’s one of the best on-paper matchups we’ve had in the Fall Classic in many years.

Before the Dodgers went on their late-August, early-September swoon, this was the potential World Series pairing most folks who know a thing or two wanted to see. At least I did, and I don’t think I was alone. It was certainly the matchup which represented the teams with the two best regular season records and storylines at the time. While Cleveland ended up winning more games than Houston did, for the first time since 1970 we have a World Series pitting two 100-win teams against each other.

Like that Orioles-Reds series in 1970, which featured Johnny Bench, Pete Rose, Tony Perez, Jim Palmer, Brooks Robinson and a host of other All-Stars, the Dodgers-Astros provide us with an embarrassment of big names and future Hall of Famers. Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw and Astros DH/OF Carlos Beltran are destined for induction already. Astros ace Justin Verlander may very well join them, especially if his late 2017 surge is evidence of a second career peak. Houston second baseman Jose Altuve‘s first seven years and Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen‘s first eight are the stuff upon which Cooperstown resumes are made as well. People will be arguing Dodgers second baseman Chase Utley‘s Hall of Fame case for years once he retires.

Youth is served as well in this matchup, with each club featuring a handful of the game’s best young players to accompany their big name veteran stars.

The Dodgers will bat their no-doubt N.L. Rookie of the Year first baseman Cody Bellinger second or third in the lineup every game. 2016 Rookie of the Year Corey Seager, who sat out the NLCS with a bad back, is expected to be activated for the Series where he’ll be the Dodgers shortstop. The Astros are actually an old team on paper — Verlander, catcher Brian McCann, starter Charlie Morton, first baseman Yuli Gurriel, outfielder Josh Reddick and DH Evan Gattis are all over 30 while Beltran is 40 — but young players are essential to their attack as well. Shortstop Carlos Correa just turned 23 and he’s one of the game’s brightest stars. Third baseman Alex Bregman, also 23, made the play that may very well have broken the Yankees’ back during Saturday night’s pennant clincher. Age aside, the Astros are the product of a major, multi-year rebuild and many of their players are making their first national splash this postseason.

Beyond just the names and resumes, though, the Dodgers and Astros represent a fantastic strategic matchup. The Dodgers attack this postseason has featured admirable plate discipline, with third baseman Justin Turner, right fielder Yasiel Puig and center fielder Chris Taylor all letting balls out of the zone pass them by while abusing pitches left out over the plate. Astros pitchers not named Justin Verlander, however, have lived by getting the opposition to chase bad balls. Game one starter Dallas Keuchel did this by relying on his very fast sinker. Lance McCullers pitched well starting Game 4 of the ALCS and pitched spectacularly closing out the final four innings of Game 7 mostly by virtue of his curveball, which Yankees pitchers could simply not lay off. Indeed, his final 24 pitches of Game 7 were all curves, many of them low and away. Who will give in first in this series?

On the side of things, Dodgers relievers have made a living by pumping in strikes. Particularly strikes high in the zone from Jansen and Brandon Morrow. There may be no better fastball hitter in all of baseball than Jose Altuve, however, and the team as a whole was one of the best in the bigs in dealing with gas in the zone. This was a big reason why the Astros struck out less than any team in baseball this year while simultaneously boasting the best offense in the game. The Dodgers throw strikes. The Astros make you pay when you throw them strikes. Again, something’s gotta give.

Maybe the suits in New York wanted the Yankees and Cubs. But everyone else is getting exactly what we want: a matchup of the two best teams in the game. A matchup of strength against strength. What is, from a purely baseball perspective, the best World Series we could’ve possibly hoped for.