And That Happened: Tuesday’s scores and highlights


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.

2018 Preview: Texas Rangers

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Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2018 season. Next up: The Texas Rangers.

The Texas Rangers had been, more or less, the class of the AL West for several years, but that came to an end last year. Injuries, a bad bullpen and underachievement doomed them early and before all the leaves were on the trees the Astros had all but locked up the division. There were some bright spots — Adrian Beltre notched his 3,000th hit and Joey Gallo emerged as the 40-homer threat many have long thought he might be — but otherwise it was a bad year for the Rangers.

Will it be another bad year? Hard to say no, though there is a lot more upside with this club than with a lot of other sub-80 win teams from 2017. For that upside to pay off, however, the Rangers are going to have to win a lot of bets.

The outfield is a good place to begin looking for that upside. Nomar Mazara has not yet put it together over the course of a whole season, but he has shown some promise and could be poised for a breakout. Delino DeShields may not be what many thought he might be a few years back, but he’s got wheels and can get on base. Left field is being kept warm for top prospect Willie Calhoun who came over in the Yu Darvish trade and is having his service time manipulated, but he’ll be up soon. He’s expected to rake. Whether he can hold the position or, rather, will have to take at-bats away from Shin-Soo Choo at DH is an open question.

The infield needs a couple of fairly attainable things to happen for the lineup to really be a plus. First, it needs Adrian Beltre to be healthy and to show that he has at least some gas left in the tank. I have learned over the past 20 years to not bet against Adrian Beltre, ever, so Father Time will have to prove me wrong. It also needs Rougned Odor to snap back into shape after a lost-in-the-woods 2017. I hate the phrase “he’s better than that,” but he really is better than that. Elvis Andrus is Elvis Andrus and that’s fine. If Gallo can cut down on the K’s even a little bit and mix in a couple of more base hits to go with all of that power he could be an MVP candidate. In order of likelihood, I put it (1) Beltre being Beltre; (b) Odor bouncing back; and (c) Gallo cutting down on strikeouts, but if just two of those things happen the Rangers lineup will be in good shape.

There are a lot of question marks with the starting pitching and a couple of lottery tickets. Yu Darvish is long gone, but Cole Hamels remains at the top of the rotation. The problem is that Hamels had his worst full season in several years last year and it may be that all of the miles on his odometer are catching up with him. The biggest offseason pickup for Texas was Mike Minor, who had a monster comeback season with the Royals after multiple years lost due to arm injuries. That monster year came out of the bullpen, though, so it remains to be seen if he can move back to the rotation and remain both impressive and durable. He’s one of the lottery tickets, although one with much better odds than, say, the Powerball. He’s like a scratch-off with some risk but a decent shot at some winnings.

A longer shot is Matt “Mega Millions” Moore. The one time top prospect of the Tampa Bay Rays is still somehow just 28, but he’s coming off a lousy year in San Francisco, in which he led the NL in both losses and earned runs while plying his trade in a pitcher’s park. I guess you can be a silver-lining guy and say he’s durable again or you could do that thing where people look at a one-time phenom and imagine that he has at least one full-promise year in him, but it’s not super likely either. Martin Perez and Doug Fister round things out. You basically know what you’re getting out of those two at this point: competence, but not necessarily any shot at greatness. Bartolo Colon is knocking around and he’ll likely get some starts at some point. He always gets starts.

The bullpen was a mess last year. It’s not clear that it’ll be better this year, but it’ll certainly be more interesting, as Jon Daniels went out and signed Tim Lincecum and gave him a big league deal from which to launch his comeback. He may challenge for the closer role, though Alex Claudio has it for now. Matt Bush will look to recapture 2016 form as a setup guy. Jake Diekman should be back to full strength after a mostly lost 2017 due to colon surgery. Not a great group, truth be told, even if they will be fun to watch at times.

Overall, I think the Rangers are better than bad but the pitching is a big problem and they need too many things to go their way to count on being good. If everyone stays healthy and more than half of the guys who struggled last year return to form or fulfill potential, hey, it’s a pretty interesting group of players. A group which, while not good enough to challenge Houston, could be in the mix with the Angels and the Mariners to be a Wild Card representative.

If most of those bets don’t pay off, though, it’s gonna be a long year. I’m a risk averse gambler, so I’m going to hope to be pleasantly surprised, but I predict that the upside will remain out of reach.

Prediction: Fourth Place, AL West