And That Happened: Wednesday’s scores and highlights

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Dodgers 2, Giants 1: Kershaw: Complete game, one earned run, 15 strikeouts. He also got a hit. That’s 251 Ks on the year for Kershaw and he still has five or even possibly six starts left, barring him being skipped a time or two to get ready for the postseason. And given that the Dodgers just swept the Giants and opened up a six and a half game lead in the West, I’d say the postseason looks pretty certain.

Nationals 4, Cardinals 3: Ryan Zimmermann homered twice and the Nationals managed to hold a slim lead in the late innings for once. Max Scherzer struck out 11 but gave up 11 hits while clinging to a 3-2 lead, forcing him out after six innings. Matt Williams decided that, rather than letting a bad reliever blow the save, he’d just let everyone in a Nats uniform pitch. Matt Grace, the third pitcher of the seventh inning, did the save-blowing honors here. allowing an inherited runner to score to tie things up. Williams used four pitchers in the seventh in all. Zimmermann thankfully tied things up with an eighth inning double and in the eighth and ninth Williams went with Drew Storen and Jonathan Papelbon who did their usual jobs. I shudder to think what Williams might’ve done if he DIDN’T have a lead in the ninth on the road. Maybe have Zimmerman pitch? Could be cool?

Marlins 7, Braves 3: Marlins sweep the Braves, who just lost the last eight games of a nine-game homestand. That’s the longest home losing streak for Atlanta since 1988. Which is wonderful, because the 1988 Braves were the best Braves team ever.

Reds 7, Cubs 4: The Cubs were down by two in the eighth inning when Kris Bryant hit a game-trying home run. Yay! Then, in the ninth, with the score tied, Bryant let a Jay Bruce grounder go through the wickets on what would’ve and should’ve been out number three. That extended the inning and allowed Joey Votto to come to the plate and he promptly hit a three-run homer. Oops! Votto on the season: .316/.457/.567 and 27 homers. He could easily make the list my friends Mike and Bill at the Platoon Advantage did several years ago of The Greatest Individual Seasons on Terrible Teams.

Angels 9, Athletics 4: Albert Pujols had an RBI singe and a two-run homer. The homer was his 35th, giving him 10 35-home run seasons in his first 15 years. Only four guys have done that before. The only other ones: Willie Mays, Mike Schmidt and Alex Rodriguez.

Yankees 13, Red Sox 8: The Yankees scored eight times in the second inning, with homers from Greg Bird, John Ryan Murphy and Carlos Beltran in that inning and added dingers from Stephen Drew and Didi Gregorius later in the game. Bird’s homer came off Henry Owens, a lefty, so maybe all that talk about the need to platoon Bird at first base is overstated. Twenty-one runs in this game and it still lasted “only” three and a half hours. Which is something for a Yankees-Red Sox game. Back in the day a 2-1 game with complete games from both starters would push four hours. Viva La Innings Clock.

Mariners 8, Astros 3: Shawn O’Malley had three hits, including a tiebreaking RBI single in a two-run eighth inning. Not bad for his Mariners debut. A Seattle kid, O’Malley said after the game that “my grandpa and father were huge Mariners fans.” Given that I remember when people still invariably referred to the Mariners as “an expansion team,” I find it hard to get my brain around the idea of anyone’s grandfather being a Mariners fan. Of course I’m an old fart, so whatever.

Rangers 4, Padres 3: Mitch doubled in the go-ahead run in the 10th inning, cutting first-place Houston’s lead in the AL West to two games. Which, holy moly, it’s crazy enough that Houston is the team they’re chasing, but the Rangers getting close is just as amazing given what everyone was thinking back in the spring.

Orioles 7, Rays 6: Two homers from Chris Davis including the walkoff bomb in extras. Watch that second one as it enters the stands.

It’s very nice of Davis to wake up that man sleeping in the center field bleachers, no?

Blue Jays 5, Indians 1: R.A. Dickey went the distance, allowing only one run on four hits. In case you were looking for even more data points about how the Blue Jays have surged, how about R.A. Dickey being  7-0 with a 2.78 ERA in the second half?

Mets 9, Phillies 4: Ruben Tejada hit an inside-the-park home run on a ball when outfielder Domonic Brown flipped over the wall down the right field line trying to field it:

 

Oops. Yoenis Cespedes and rookie Michael Conforto had homers that didn’t make Phillies fielders look silly.

Royals 12, Tigers 1: Yordano Ventura struck out 11 in seven innings and Royals batters formed conga lines around the bases against Tigers pitching. Not long until the Wolverines, Wings and Lions get started, Michigan people. Yes, even the Lions are worth looking forward to this year.

Brewers 9, Pirates 4: The Brewers have been owning the Pirates lately, notching their fifth straight win against them. Jonathan Lucroy drove in three runs. Lucroy has a ten game hitting streak in which he’s 18 for 40 (.450) with three homers and 14 RBI.

Twins 3, White Sox 0: Tommy Milone tossed seven shutout innings and Miguel Sano hit a long homer. As Aaron drooled yesterday, Sano  is hitting .295/.403/.608 with 14 homers, 13 doubles, 33 walks, 41 RBI and 32 runs through 50 games. Extrapolated to 162 games that works out to 45 homers, 42 doubles, 107 walks, and 133 RBIs. And, as we noted the other day, he’s only 22 friggin years old.

 

Rockies 9, Diamondbacks 4: Two homers for Carlos Gonzalez, including a grand slam and seven driven in. Nolan Arenado also hit a homer. The two of them are tied for the team lead with 33. They’re also the only two reasons to really watch Rockies games.

Why Ryan Zimmerman skipped spring training

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All spring training there was at least some mild confusion about Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman. He played in almost no regular big league spring training games, instead, staying on the back fields, playing in simulated and minor league contests. When that usually happens, it’s because a player is rehabbing or even hiding an injury, but the Nats insisted that was not the case with Zimmerman. Not everyone believed it. I, for one, was skeptical.

The skepticism was unwarranted, as Zimmerman answered the bell for Opening Day and has played all season. As Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal writes today, it was all by design. He skipped spring training because he doesn’t like it and because he thinks it’ll help him avoid late-season injuries and slowdowns, the likes of which he has suffered over the years.

It’s hard to really judge this now, of course. On the one hand Zimmerman has started really slow this season. What’s more, he has started to show signs of warming up only in the past week, after getting almost as many big league, full-speed plate appearances under his belt as a normal spring training would’ve given him. On the other hand, April is his worst month across his entire 14-year career, so one slow April doesn’t really prove anything and, again, Zimmerman and the Nats will consider this a success if he’s healthy and productive in August and September.

It is sort of a missed opportunity, though. Players hate spring training. They really do. if Zimmerman had made a big deal out of skipping it and came out raking this month, I bet a lot more teams would be amenable to letting a veteran or three take it much more easy next spring. Good ideas can be good ideas even if they don’t produce immediately obvious results, but baseball tends to encourage a copycat culture only when someone can point to a stat line or to standings as justification.

Way to ruin it for everyone, Ryan. 😉