And That Happened: Thursday’s scores and highlights

64 Comments

Yankees 5, Red Sox 4: A walkoff solo shot for Chase Headley. This after Mark Teixeira hit a tying homer earlier in the inning. The Yankees late rally negated a two-home run night for David Ortiz. Well, it didn’t negate it — the homers still technically count — but it did render them blasts in a losing effort.

Cardinals 3, Brewers 2:Making his first start since June 17, Michael Wacha allowed one run over three innings at which point it turned into a bullpen game for the Cards. And the pen did just fine. That’s five straight wins for St. Louis, which opens up a four–game lead in the division. That’s nine straight losses for the Brewers, who fall into a tie with the Braves for the second wild card.

Orioles 9, Reds 7: The Orioles sweep the Reds. It wasn’t as easy as it should’ve been given that the Orioles leapt out to a 6-0 lead in the first inning, only to see the Reds catch up later, but a W is a W. The Reds, despite gamely tying it, are playing out the string of course. Their starting lineup contained five September call-ups.

Diamondbacks 5, Padres 1: Randall Delgado and four relievers combined for a four-hitter. I didn’t check the box score, but I can only assume so many relievers were needed because Delgado was notified during the game that he’s finally been served with his suspension for intentionally hitting Andrew McCutchen last month. I mean, that discipline has to come eventually, right?

Tigers 11, Indians 4: The Tigers blew a 4-0 lead but blew it wide open in the 11th with a seven-run inning. Eugenio Suarez hit a two-run single and Victor Martinez hit a three-run homer as 11 men went to the plate in the 11th. Detroit took three of four from a Cleveland team that had a chance to make some noise if they did well in this series. Now the Tribe finds itself five games back in the wild card, behind even New York and Toronto.

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

Blue Jays 1, Rays 0: Colby Rasmus, a day after complaining about his lack of playing time, hits a pinch-hit homer in the tenth to break the 0-0 tie as the Jays sweep. Mark Buehrle got the no-decision but tossed eight shutout innings. That’s five straight wins for the Jays overall, who are still in the playoff conversation.

Mariners 10, Rangers 2: Robinson Cano knocked in four as the M’s keep pace with the Tigers. The Rangers have now been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. The Mariners are a half game out of the second wild card.

Angels 5, Twins 4: David Freese had two doubles and an RBI and Chris Iannetta had a pinch-hit sac fly in the ninth to put the Angels up for good. Josh Hamilton had to leave the game with a sore shoulder and will probably sit out tonight.

Astros vs. Dodgers is a match made in heaven

Getty Images
2 Comments

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.