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And That Happened: Tuesday’s scores and highlights

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Phillies 4, Braves 0Cubs 7, Brewers 1Cardinals 6, Pirates 4Mets 8, Marlins 6: “Hi, we’re the four teams at least plausibly fighting for the second NL Wild Card right now. We all lost last night. We all lost the game we played before, too! Milwaukee, here [step forward, Milwaukee] has lost seven in a row! Atlanta [now you] has only lost two in a row, but they have only scored one run in the past four games. It seems like they haven’t scored a run since Dale Murphy played center field! This may all seem rather dreary, but look on the bright side! We’re freeing up a night in early October for you so you don’t have to watch the NL wild card game. Or, worse, so that you watch it and one of us actually wins it and becomes a bona fide playoff team despite us being really, really horrible.”

Dodgers 4, Nationals 1: At least Clayton Kershaw is a palate-cleanser. And if he keeps this up, he’s the NL MVP. I mean, I still think the favorite is either Andrew McCutchen (if the Pirates win the wild card) or Giancarlo Stanton (if the Marlins stay close until the end) but given how uninspiring their teams are of late, Kershaw may be building up an MVP resume to go with that lock for the Cy Young (8 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 8K).

Giants 12, Rockies 7: San Francisco was going to get lumped in with the “NL Wild Card contenders stunk last night” crew, but they rallied after being down 7-1 through five innings. Buster Posey was a wrecking crew from the sixth inning on, hitting a solo homer and smacking two RBI doubles to finish with four driven in on the night. The Giants have won seven of eight. Imagine where this team would be if they hadn’t punted so much of June and July.

Orioles 5, Reds 4: Bud Norris pitched six shutout inning while navigating around two rain delays. The second one was a lengthy one — one hour and forty-six minutes — which would normally ice a pitcher for the night, but not Norris. Since the rain didn’t come until after the top of the first, Reds starter Mat Latos ended up not throwing his first pitch until after both delays. That did mess with him, apparently, as he allowed four runs in the first and five overall. The O’s have won seven of nine and now have a nine and half game lead in the East.

Tigers 4, Indians 2: J.D. Martinez had a three-run homer in the top of the ninth off closer Cody Allen to put the Tigers ahead for good. A nice redemption for the Tigers who had stranded runners all night before that. The Indians are seeing their claim to contention evaporate almost as soon as it materialized a few days ago. They’re now five and a half out in the Central. The Tigers are a half game behind leaders Kansas City.

Royals 2, Rangers 1: That’s because the Royals kept pace, with Sal Perez driving in the go-ahead run in the eighth. Alex Gordon has been a trendy stealth MVP pick in the American League, but it seems like Perez has big hits every other night. Must be the perfume.

Red Sox 9, Yankees 4: So much of the disappointment for the Red Sox this year came because they were depending on young players who didn’t deliver. Among them, Xander Bogaerts. He delivered last night, knocking four hits including a homer and driving in two. Another youngster — Mookie Betts — had three hits and hit a homer of his own. Daniel Nava hit a three-run homer and Yoenis Cespedes tripled, doubled and singled. Sleep on this Red Sox team in 2015 at your peril.

Editor’s Note: Hardball Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $40,000 Fantasy Baseball league for Wednesday night’s MLB games. It’s just $25 to join and first prize is $5,500. Starts at 7:05pm ET on WednesdayHere’s the FanDuel link.

Blue Jays 8, Rays 2: R.A. Dickey allowed two runs over seven innings, striking out six.The Jays bombed Jeremy Hellickson.

White Sox 6, Twins 3: Two home runs for Tyler Flowers. And then Dayan Viciedo broke a tie in the 10th with a solo shot. Chicago is now three up on Minnesota in the race for cellar avoidance.

Padres 2, Diamondbacks 1: Cory Spangenberg is making his presence felt in a hurry. He had the night off until he punch hit in the bottom of the ninth and then all he did was hit a walkoff homer on the first pitch he saw. Here’s Bud Black on the decision to pinch hit with Spangenberg:

Black said hitting coach Phil Plantier “felt good about the at-bat with Spangy. Cam didn’t have great numbers against Ziegler. Phil through Ziegler’s type of pitching was pretty good for Spangy. Spangy’s sort of a slasher, likes the ball a little bit out, a little bit down and it worked out.”

“Spangy.” Maybe let’s give the guy more than two days in the big leagues before just defaulting to the lame “-y” nickname. Because it’s almost as if he’s the kind of guy who might develop a cool one himself soon.

Astros 8, Angels 3: Jose Altuve has eight hits in the past two nights. He’s hitting .340. Barring an extreme September slump, of which there is no evidence whatsoever, Altuve is going to win the batting title. He’ll be the first Astro to ever do it, too. He had a homer among his four hits last night. Guy is just a player. Tom Lawless is now undefeated as a major league manager. He should think about retiring on top.

Mariners 6, Athletics 5: Seattle made sure the Angels didn’t lost ground to the A’s, though. James Paxton took a shutout into the eighth. And while he and the bullpen bent at that point, they did not break. Oakland has lost 5 of 6.

Royals pay tribute to late Yordano Ventura during spring training opener

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - AUGUST 12: Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers a pitch against the Minnesota Twins during the first inning of the game on August 12, 2016 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
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The Royals honored former pitcher Yordano Ventura prior to their first Cactus League game against the Rangers on Saturday. Ventura was killed in a car accident in his native Dominican Republic in late January.

Rangers’ third baseman Adrian Beltre and center fielder Carlos Gomez paid their respects to the pitcher with a floral arrangement that was laid on the mound. Both teams stood along the foul lines during a pregame video tribute that highlighted Ventura’s tenure with Kansas City. Following the game, Gomez spoke to the media about his relationship with Ventura, describing their frequent conversations during the season and commending the pitcher for having “the same passion that I had early in my career” (via WFAA.com’s Levi Weaver).

A plaque dedicated to the 25-year-old was also presented to club manager Ned Yost as a more permanent commemoration of Ventura’s contributions to the sport. Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star reports that the plaque will be mounted in the club’s spring training facilities alongside tributes to members of the Royals’ 2014 and 2015 playoff teams.

The full text of the plaque is below, via MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan:

A brother and a teammate, Yordano Ventura, passed away on the morning of January 22 in his native Dominican Republic, at the age of 25. He signed with the Royals as a 17-year-old, eventually making the big league team in 2013 as a 22-year-old. On most days, he could be found laughing and joking with his baseball family in the clubhouse. However, on days when he pitched, that smile was replaced by a quiet confidence and an intense fire, which he brought to the mound for every start. He had many highlights in his abbreviated career, not the least of which was throwing eight shutout innings in Game #6 of the 2014 World Series to force a Game #7 vs. San Francisco.

Gerrit Cole named Pirates’ Opening Day starter

BRADENTON, FL - FEBRUARY 19: Gerrit Cole #45 of the Pittsburgh Pirates poses for a photograph during MLB spring training photo day on February 19, 2017 at Pirate City in Bradenton, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
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Right-hander Gerrit Cole is set to take the mound for the Pirates on Opening Day, according to a team announcement on Saturday. It’s a spot that was most recently occupied by former Pirate Francisco Liriano, who made three consecutive Opening Day starts for the club before getting dealt to the Blue Jays last August.

The 26-year-old produced career-worst numbers during his fourth run with the Pirates in 2016, due in large part to bouts of inflammation in his right elbow. He finished the year with a 3.88 ERA, 2.8 BB/9 and 7.6 SO/9 over 116 innings before getting shut down in September to avoid further injury to his elbow. When healthy, however, Cole has been lights-out for the Pirates. Prior to his injury-laden campaign last year, he touted a career 3.07 ERA, 2.2 BB/9, 8.5 SO/9 and cumulative 10.2 fWAR from 2013 through 2015.

Cole will go toe-to-toe with the Red Sox during Boston’s home opener on Monday, April 3. Right-hander Jameson Taillon is scheduled to make the second start of the year, while fellow righty Ivan Nova will cover the Pirates’ home opener against the Braves on April 7. The Pirates’ third and fifth starters have yet to be announced.