And That Happened: Monday’s scores and highlights

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Maybe the most boring ATH of the year. Really, every game was “pitcher pitches OK but not dominant and he got enough offense but no one truly went hog wild.” I’d say it made my choice to watch TV instead of baseball last night a good one, but the TV I decided to watch was, finally, the season finale of “True Detective” and that was a total disaster. So what I’m saying is that Monday night was super lame. Anyway:

Yankees 8, Twins 7: The Yankees loaded the bases in the tenth with no one out, so the Twins went to a pulled-in, five-man infield. Chase Headley grounded sharply to Eduardo Nunez. Should’ve been at least an out at home, maybe a double play even. Nope: Nunez bobbled it and it turned into a walkoff groundout. Brian McCann had a big game: he homered, drove in five and hit a tenth inning double which put two men on and inspired Paul Molitor to load the bases for Headley. The play of the game everyone wanted to talk about, though, was the comebacker to Bryan Mitchell’s face. It was scary, but he ended up with “only” a broken nose and was back in the dugout by the end of the game.

Cardinals 2, Giants 1: Michael Wacha was dominant and Stephen Piscotty tripled and scored in the eighth. After the game reporters asked Wacha if this was some sort of atonement for giving up the walkoff homer to the Giants in Game 5 of last year’s NLCS. Wacha: “Everyone tries to amp it up and make a story out of it, but I was just trying to approach it just like another game.” Irresistible force: reporters trying to fashion narratives. Immovable object: players taking it one day at a time. It’s the eternal struggle.

Orioles 4, Athletics 2: The O’s complete the sweep in a series that wrapped around until Monday which is, basically, against the laws of both God and Man. Steve Clevenger hit a three-run homer. In Sunday’s rout he had four hits. Not bad for a dude who just got called up on Friday. The A’s seven-game road trip comes to an end. They went 0-7 on it. Tonight they’re back west but they have to face Clayton Kershaw, so that’s great for them.

Diamondbacks 4, Pirates 1: Jeremy Hellickson beats Gerrit Cole by pitching one-run ball into the sixth and with the help of his own RBI single and a Jake Lamb homer. Five relievers followed Hellickson because that’s 21st century baseball.

Indians 8, Red Sox 2: Danny Salazar had his fourth straight start in which he’s given up one run or less and Lonnie Chisenhall had a solo homer and three RBI. A five-run fourth inning off of Matt Barnes.

Rangers 4, Mariners 3: The Fernando Rodney Experience was in action in the ninth as the Mariners closer gave up two bunt singles, hit a dude and then walked in the winning run. Kudos to Lloyd McClendon for using his closer on the road in a tie game, which goes against The Book. Unfortunately his closer is Fernando Rodney. UPDATE: Forgot that Rodney got demoted. Never mind then. It was a poop-show all around. The Rangers are now only a half game behind the Angles for second place in the AL West and one game out of the second wild card spot.

Marlins 6, Brewers 2: The Marlins win for the fifth time in seven games. Justin Nicolino pitched into the seventh and Derek Dietrich hit a two-run home. Dee Gordon had two hits, two RBI, scored a run and stole a base.

Rays 9, Astros 2: Tim Beckham hit a three-run homer and Asdrubal Cabrera drove in three. Fun fact: the Rays have a better record than the Washington Nationals.

Angels 2, White Sox 1: C.J. Cron and Albert Pujols each homered and Andrew Heaney allowed one run over six. Carlos Rondon tossed a complete game loss. That’s at least the second time one of those has happened in a week or so.

Padres 5, Braves 3: Colin Rea won his first big league start last week and wins his second big league start here. Only 509 to catch Cy Young. The Padres scored three runs on four hits off Braves pitcher William Perez in the second inning so he had some breathing room.

 

Astros advance to the World Series with 4-0 finale against Yankees

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The Astros punched their ticket to the World Series on Saturday, shutting out the Yankees 4-0 to take their first Game 7 victory at home. Charlie Morton was nearly untouchable on the mound, holding the Yankees to two hits, a walk and five strikeouts en route to his first career postseason win.

Morton and Sabathia carried their duel through three solid innings. Morton struck out three batters and allowed just one baserunner. Sabathia worked in and out of jams in the second and third innings, supplying and stranding two runners in scoring position.

Evan Gattis was the first to strike. In the fourth inning, he punched a 2-2 slider from Sabathia into the left field wall, where it registered a projected 405 feet and broke a homer-less streak of 115 at-bats by designated hitters in the 2017 postseason. The home run signaled the beginning of the end for the Yankees’ starter. He induced a groundout from Marwin Gonzalez, then walked Brian McCann on six pitches and allowed Josh Reddick his first base hit of the playoffs. That was enough for Joe Girardi, who pulled Sabathia for righty Tommy Kahnle and an inning-ending double play to close out the fourth.

Even with Sabathia gone, there was still some hope that the middle of the order could bail the Yankees out. Greg Bird led off the fifth with a first pitch double and Aaron Hicks took a four-pitch walk. A wild pitch from Morton allowed Bird to reach third base, but Alex Bregman and Brian McCann weren’t about to let the Yankees spoil their starter’s shutout. Todd Frazier bounced a ball toward third base, where Bregman grabbed and fired it to home plate, catching Bird just as McCann put his glove down.

The bottom of the inning wasn’t any easier for Sabathia’s successors. Jose Altuve went oppo-taco on a 1-1 changeup from Kahnle, postmarking it 364 feet into the right field stands. Kahnle labored through the next four at-bats, handing out a pair of singles to Carlos Correa and Yuli Gurriel before sending Gattis down swinging. The next at-bat was even more troublesome. McCann roped a two-out, two-RBI double to the warning track in right field, clearing the bases and boosting the Astros’ to a cushy 4-0 lead.

The excitement fizzled a little over the next few innings. Brett Gardner muscled a leadoff single off of Lance McCullers, but was later caught at second on a force play to end the sixth. McCullers didn’t let go of the ball again. He was lights-out through the end of the game, scattering a walk and six strikeouts over four innings and clinching the pennant with a 1-2-3 performance in the ninth.

Whatever confidence the Astros had coming off of their three-game sweep in the Division Series was tested and tested again in their pennant run. They battled through three tough losses in Games 3 through 5, staved off elimination with a gem from Justin Verlander in Game 6, and finally emerged victorious tonight. Three days from now, when they enter Dodger Stadium for Game 1 of the World Series, they’ll have the chance to do it all again.