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And That Happened: Friday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the rest of Friday’s scores and highlights:

Cubs 9, Orioles 8: It took the Cubs three innings to construct an eight-run lead and another five innings to dismantle it, handing the Orioles eight unanswered runs to tie the game 8-8 in the eighth. According to ESPN Stats and Info, that’s fairly unheard of, at least during the 2017 season:

No thanks to the bullpen, the Cubs managed to rally in the ninth inning with their fifth home run of the night: a game-winning solo shot from Addison Russell.

Pirates 5, Cardinals 2: The Pirates’ winning streak survived the All-Star break, improving to three consecutive games after rookie Josh Bell clobbered his first walk-off home run against the Cardinals. Unlike Jedd Gyorko’s home run in the first inning, this one wasn’t hurled into the Allegheny River:

Mets 14, Rockies 2: The Mets opened a nine-game homestand with another gem from Jacob deGrom, who earned his 10th win of the season after dealing eight innings of two-run, 11-strikeout ball. He impressed at the plate, too, recording his fourth multi-hit game of the season with two base hits and an RBI to help pad the team’s 12-run lead. The same could not be said for opposing starter Jon Gray, however, who delivered eight runs in two innings for a season-worst performance and pushed the club to a 10.5-game deficit in the NL West.

Red Sox 5, Yankees 4: Aaron Judge furthered his on-base streak on Friday, reaching just once on a six-pitch walk. Excepting a rare pinch-hit at-bat, he’s successfully reached base in 40 of his past 41 games (via MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch). Even combined with Gary Sanchez‘s mammoth home run, that wasn’t enough to propel the Yankees past the Red Sox, and they dropped to third place after Andrew Benintendi drew a game-winning, bases-loaded walk in the ninth. Worse than the loss? A report that the Yankees may have seen the last of right-hander Michael Pineda, who has been battling a torn UCL and is currently considering alternatives to season-ending Tommy John surgery.

Dodgers 6, Marlins 4: Yasiel Puig was the indisputable hero of the Dodgers’ series opener, fueling the club’s division-best 62nd win with a solo home run in the fifth inning and a go-ahead, three-run homer in the ninth. The most unconventional of the Dodgers’ six runs, though, came on a caught stealing error in the first inning, which allowed Joc Pederson to swipe home plate as the Marlins chased the ball around the infield:

Nationals 5, Reds 0: The Reds haven’t turned out a home run title in 39 years, and if Friday’s shutout was any indication, it looks like they’ll have to keep waiting. They failed to generate a lead against the Nationals, who rested on two home runs from Bryce Harper and a pair of RBI base hits to secure their first win of the second half. Joey Votto, who may be in line for the NL home run title this year, went 0-for-3 with a walk and has not smashed one out of the park since July 8.

Blue Jays 7, Tigers 2: After taking a tough 19-1 loss to the Astros prior to the All-Star break, the Blue Jays came out swinging against the Tigers during their first road trip of the second half. Steve Pearce put the Blue Jays on the board in the fifth inning with a solo home run, his seventh of the season, and Josh Donaldson‘s two-run single sealed the deal for the club in the seventh.

Braves 4, Diamondbacks 3: R.A. Dickey‘s resurgence continued with another masterful performance on Friday, executing six innings of one-run ball as the D-backs struggled to hold a lead. Dickey didn’t get the run support he needed to pull off his seventh win of the year, but improved to a 1.09 ERA over his last five starts, holding opposing batters to just four runs and eight walks and striking out 27 batters in 33 innings.

Astros 10, Twins 5: Any concern about the Astros facing a second-half slump was obliterated on Friday night. Charlie Morton spun 10 strikeouts in five innings, while the offense hammered Jose Berrios with an eight-run second inning. In fact, the worst thing to happen to the Astros was Jose Altuve‘s “underwhelming” performance: he went 2-for-4 with a single, double and walk, coming one game shy of shattering the all-time record for most consecutive three-hit games.

Brewers 9, Phillies 6: Nick Pivetta laid down four strikeouts to kick off the Phillies’ series opener, a promising start for a rookie who carried a 4.73 ERA into the second half. His outing was quickly compromised in the second inning, however, when the Brewers responded with eight runs and Ryan Braun‘s sixth career grand slam:

Braun’s 400-foot home run set a new franchise record for career grand slams, breaking a four-way tie among Cecil Cooper, Jeromy Burnitz and John Jaha.

Rangers 5, Royals 3: Speaking of historical knocks, Adrian Beltre moved up another rung on the all-time home run list, drilling a 2-2 slider from Jason Hammel to center field for his 453rd career home run.

He now sits at No. 38 on the all-time list, just four home runs shy of Miguel Cabrera‘s 457 career blasts.

Mariners 4, White Sox 2: All-Star MVP Robinson Cano hogged the spotlight again on Friday, propelling the Mariners to their 44th win with a three-run homer in the third inning. The club now sits just three games back of an AL wild card berth, but will need to duke it out with the Twins, Royals, Rangers and Angels to earn a spot in the postseason this fall.

Athletics 5, Indians 0: Sonny Gray has already incurred considerable interest as the trade deadline approaches, and his performance on Friday night only boosted his appeal. The 27-year-old ace turned in six pristine innings, limiting the Indians to two hits and striking out five of 22 batters as he worked up to his fifth win of the season.

Rays 2, Angels 1 (10 innings): To the delight of fans everywhere (and the chagrin of non-Angels pitchers), Mike Trout finally made his triumphant return to Major League Baseball. The slugger punctuated his performance with a single and a stolen base, doing his part to allay any immediate concerns about his ability to return to form after a lengthy spell on the disabled list. Things didn’t go so smoothly for the rest of the Angels, whose bats went cold after Albert Pujols‘ solo home run in the second inning. With the win, the Rays now sit 3.5 games back of the division lead.

Giants 5, Padres 4: Johnny Cueto was felled by blisters on his pitching hand on Friday, exiting after just four innings and 82 pitches. According to the San Francisco Chronicle’s John Shea, the baseballs may have something to do with Cueto’s discomfort, who doesn’t remember getting blisters on his pitching hand at any point during his 10-year career. The Giants, meanwhile, rallied to take the lead in the sixth and capped their win with a Buster Posey home run in the seventh.

James Paxton will “nerd out big-time” to stay healthy next year

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To the surprise of, well, very few, the Mariners didn’t make the cut for the postseason this year. While they threw their hats in the ring for a wild card berth, their pitching staff just couldn’t stay healthy, from the handful of pitchers who contracted season-ending injuries in spring training to Felix Hernandez‘s shoulder bursitis to structural damage in Hisashi Iwakuma‘s right shoulder. Left-hander James Paxton missed 79 days with a lingering head cold, strained left forearm and pectoral strain. Heading into the 2018 season, the lefty told MLB.com’s Greg Johns that he plans to “nerd out big-time” in order to prepare for a healthy, consistent run with the club.

So far, Johns reports, that entails a new diet and workout program, hot yoga sessions and blood testing. “I just think there’s more I can do,” Paxton said. “I haven’t done the blood testing before. Finding out if there’s something I don’t know about myself. It’s just about learning and trying to find what works for me.”

When healthy, the 28-year-old southpaw was lights-out for the Mariners. He helped stabilize the front end of the rotation with a 12-5 record in 24 starts and supplemented his efforts with a 2.98 ERA, 2.4 BB/9 and 10.3 SO/9 through 136 innings. Despite taking multiple trips to the disabled list, he built up 4.6 fWAR — the most wins above replacement he’s compiled in any season of his career to date. Had he not been felled by a pectoral injury in mid-August — one that came with a five-week trip to the disabled list — the club might have been been able to make a bigger push for the playoffs.

Of course, even if Paxton manages to stay healthy next season, the Mariners still have the rest of the rotation to worry about. They cycled through 17 starters in 2017 and tied the 2014 Rangers with 40 total pitchers over the course of the season. Per GM Jerry Dipoto, their top four starters (Paxton, Hernandez, Iwakuma, and Tommy John candidate Drew Smyly) only contributed 17% of total innings pitched, just a tad below the 40% average. Finding adequate big league arms and compensating for injured aces (both current and former) will be tough. Still, getting a healthy, dominant Paxton back on the mound for 30+ starts would be a huge get for the team — whether or not the postseason is in their future next year.