Curtis Granderson

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And That Happened: Sunday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Tigers 6, Blue Jays 5: Miguel Cabrera wins it with a walkoff walk in the 11th. Or I suppose you could say Lucas Harrell lost it by issuing that bases loaded walk. Except, he actually didn’t get the loss because Jeff Beliveau issued the walk to the runner who was forced in on the walk and was thus responsible for the losing run. Really, though, when the bases get loaded due to a couple of walks and a fielding error and then the game-ending run is walked in, everyone can take a piece of the credit for it. Lost in all of this was that the Tigers bullpen tossed five shutout innings allowing only one hit. That’s a pretty nice collective effort too.

Royals 4, Rangers 3: If you think the walkoff walk was somewhat dubious way for a team to win a game, how about a walkoff two-run single that should’ve been a routine fly ball that would’ve sent the game into the 10th inning except for the fact that the right fielder lost the ball in the sun? Check out Shin-Soo Choo‘s follies in the bottom of the ninth:

Sun happens.

Pirates 4, Cardinals 3: How about a more conventional walkoff? Pittsburgh was down 3-2 in the bottom of the ninth and rallied for the win with a Jordy Mercer RBI double and Adam Frazier‘s walkoff RBI single, both of which came off of Brett Cecil. On Friday Josh Bell hit a walkoff three-run homer off of Seung-Hwan Oh, so I guess it didn’t matter who the Cardinals ran out there.

Yankees 3, Red Sox 0; Red Sox 3, Yankees 0: After playing for 16 innings and nearly 6 hours on Saturday I’m sure the Red Sox and Yankees loved to have a double header yesterday. Especially a day-night affair. Even better: the split here meant that, standings-wise, everything cancelled out. But they’re ballplayers and that’s what they do. In the first game CC Sabathia and three relievers combined to shut Boston out on four hits with a Didi Gregorius homer highlighting the win. In the nightcap Mookie Betts hit a two-run homer and Dustin Pedroia singled in a run as David Price tossed eight shutout innings.

Price had some help. Watch Jackie Bradley Jr. save the shutout with a home-run-robbing snag:

 

Nationals 14, Reds 4: A five-run fifth inning from Washington broke things open in this laugher as the Nats rung up Homer Bailey for eight runs on eight hits. Washington hit five homers with Daniel Murphy slugging two — three-run and a two-run jacks — and Anthony Rendon, Adam Lind and Jose Lobaton all going deep as well.

Rockies 13, Mets 4: Colorado had a 9-0 lead after three and a half innings, highlighted by a Nolan Arenado three-run blast. Seven of those nine runs came off of Steven Matz who couldn’t even retire a batter in the second inning. Late in the game Charlie Blackmon hit an inside-the-park homer. Sorta. That’s what it looked like in practice as the ball hit the wall and bounced onto the field and Blackmon motored around the bases. But the ball actually cleared the fence and Curtis Granderson — who knew that a replay review would’ve confirmed a home run — just casually retrieved it. Since either result of a replay review would’ve resulted in a home run, there was no review and it remained an inside-the-park homer since that was the initial ruling on the field.

Dodgers 3, Marlins 2: Los Angeles remains hot, winning its ninth game in a row and sweeping the Marlins. Rich Hill allowed one run over five innings and Justin Turner went 2-for-3 with a homer and a sac fly. It would’ve been a larger margin of victory but Marcell Ozuna robbed Kiké Hernandez of a homer with a great catch.

Cubs 8, Orioles 0: Jose Quintana was fantastic in his debut with the Cubs, tossing seven shutout innings and striking out 12. For years he struggled with run support on the South Side, but it was not an issue for his first game with the Northsiders as Chicago built a 4-0 lead after two innings and then got two runs homers from both Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo later.

Braves 7, Diamondbacks 1: The Braves probably want to trade Jaime Garcia. Him allowing only one run and striking out seven over seven innings helps that some. Matts Kemp and Adams hit homers for Atlanta, the former’s a three-run blast, the latter’s a solo shot.

Mariners 7, White Sox 6: Chicago had a 5-0 lead thanks to a two Avisail Garcia homers, but that didn’t hold up as the Mariners came back and Nelson Cruz hit a homer in the top of the 10th to put Seattle up for good. It was the second straight game in which he hit a go-ahead home run. Seattle has won four in a row while the White Sox have now lost fourt straight.

Phillies 5, Brewers 2: Nick Williams hit a grand slam to account for four of the Phillies’ five runs. The slam came off of Tyler Webb. The last time Williams faced Webb was in a Triple-A game last month. He homered off of Webb then too. It’s nice to be a big leaguer for only a few weeks and already have the number of another big leaguer.

Astros 5, Twins 3Mike Fiers struck out a season-high 11 over seven and Nori Aoki had two hits and drove in two. Houston took two of three from the Twins. Can we just fast-forward to the Astros-Dodgers World Series now?

 

Angels 4, Rays 3: Tied 2-2 in the eighth when C.J. Cron a tiebreaking, two-run homer in the eighth. The Rays threatened in the ninth and did pick up one run, but the Angels escaped with the sweep-avoiding win.

Athletics 7, Indians 3: Trevor Bauer allowed four runs on three hits and walked three while working only two-thirds of an inning, losing this one before it even really began. His counterpart, Sean Manaea, allowed only two over seven innings and struck out eight. Matt Joyce, Ryon Healy and Jaycob Brugman each drove in two runs. Oakland sweeps the Indians in three, reducing Cleveland’s division lead to one and a half games.

Padres 7, Giants 1: Corey Spangenberg and Hector Sanchez each hit three-run homers before the third inning was over as San Diego wins in a laugher. Sanchez hit a two-run walk-off homer on Saturday night. That’s about as good a weekend as a backup catcher can have.

MLB second half preview: Contenders and pretenders

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The All-Star break officially ends at 7:05PM Eastern this evening when the Cubs take on the Orioles and the Pirates take on the Cardinals. Five minutes later five more games will get underway and by the time we go to bed tonight all 30 teams will either have played or will be in action and the season’s second half will have commenced.

Let’s take a look at some of the burning questions for that second half:

Q: Who are the real contenders and who are the mere pretenders? 

The division races are pretty bad this year, my friends. The closest division is the AL Central, with the Indians holding a 2.5 game lead over the Twins and three games over the Royals. Next is the AL East, with the Red Sox holding a 3.5 game lead over the Yankees and Rays. Three divisions feature utter blowouts, with the Astros leading the AL West by 16.5 games, the Nationals leading the NL East by 9.5 games and the Dodgers leading the NL West by 7.5 games. The Brewers hold a 5.5 game lead over the Cubs and Cardinals.

Of the closer races, Boston’s lead seems safe for now, but the AL East has defied predictions in recent seasons. The Indians struggled early but I suspect they’ll hit a higher gear in the second half and pull away. If anything, I suspect the Royals to give them a tougher race than the Twins. I have not counted out the Cubs, especially given their pickup of Jose Quintana yesterday, but the Brewers have been surprisingly resilient so far. The Cardinals don’t scare me nearly as much as the Cubs do, but we could have a really interesting race in the NL Central.

As for the Wild Card: in the American League It’s probably easier to say who isn’t a contender there than who is. If I’m drawing the line I say you can realistically draw it where the Rangers sit, three games out, with the Orioles, Mariners and Blue Jays as marginal and the Tigers, A’s and White Sox out of it. In the NL it’s a bit easier: the Diamondbacks, Rockies and whoever doesn’t win the NL Central are the only realistic contenders.

All of that aside, we have two classes of teams this year: the class containing the Astros, Nationals and Dodgers on the one hand and everyone else on the other. It’ll be up to the GMs of the mass of teams huddling within 3-5 games of the Wild Card in the American League and the couple of teams on the margins in the National League to make deals to distinguish themselves.

Q: Whose schedule presents the easiest path forward? Whose is the toughest?

Let’s keep in mind that baseball is not college football, so strength of schedule is not exactly the be-all, end-all. Anyone can beat anyone at any time and there is enough parity in this game to where the differences between a tough schedule and an easy one are pretty small.

That said, FanGraphs rates such things and, according to them, the Indians, Astros, Royals, Rangers, Tigers and Twins have the easiest second half schedules in the AL with the White Sox, Orioles, Yankees, Red Sox and Rays having the toughest go. That’s suggests the schedules largely cancelling each other out given who has to beat who going forward.

In the National League the Dodgers have the easiest schedule in the second half and the Diamondbacks have the absolute toughest which may put the NL West “race” into perspective. The Cubs have the third easiest schedule, the Cardinals the fifth and the Brewers have the sixth hardest, which should make the Central race interesting.

Q: Who are the buyers at the trade deadline and what are they buying?

Just about every contender has some need. Even the Astros and Dodgers. As usual, it’s mostly pitching. People always need pitching. That being said, here’s what I see as each contender — or marginal contender’s — biggest need.

  • Nationals: A closer. This is the most glaring need among any contender. They cannot enter the playoffs with their bullpen as currently constructed.
  • Brewers: Bullpen help
  • Cubs: They filled their biggest need yesterday with the Jose Quintana acquisition. They could use a backup catcher. They could also use their existing bats to heat up.
  • Cardinals: A bat, bullpen help
  • Dodgers: They could use back-end rotation help. There’s a rumor that they could target Zach Britton or some other back-end bullpen help to give them a devastating 1-2 punch with Kenley Jansen. If you shorten the game you can make up for some weakness at the back end of the rotation.
  • Diamondbacks: Bullpen help. An infielder.
  • Rockies: Bullpen help
  • Red Sox: A third baseman now, as always. Bullpen help.
  • Yankees: They acquired a first baseman by trading for Brewers minor leaguer Garrett Cooper yesterday, but it remains to be seen if that hole is truly filled. They need a reliever not named Tyler Cippard. They need existing players like Matt Holliday and Aaron Hicks to come back (UPDATE: Holliday is coming back tonight). They need Dellin Betances to find the strike zone.
  • Rays: Middle relief, but I doubt they make any big moves. They may be more likely to sell than to buy.
  • Orioles: Starting pitching but, really, true contention seems like a pipe dream
  • Indians: Starting pitching. Or 2-3 of their existing starters to get healthy and/or stop sucking.
  • Twins: Rotation help (Bartolo Colon is not, contrary to popular belief, anyone’s savior), bullpen help. Don’t expect major moves, though.
  • Royals: Starting pitching
  • AstrosDallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers to be healthy. If that can’t be guaranteed — and it never can be — another starting pitcher would be nice.
  • Rangers: Bullpen help
  • Mariners: Pitching, pitching, pitching.
  • Angels: Starting pitching, though they could get several arms back from injury. Still, it’s unlikely that they’ll do much. They are marginal contenders at best and don’t have any prospects to deal. They do get a fella named Mike Trout back tonight. He could possibly help out. Hard to say.

Q: What players are available?

Theoretically: anyone. As far as the guys people are talking about, it breaks down thusly, in no particular order of ranking. Obviously these names can change as teams fall in and out of contention or decide to be buyers or sellers.

So that’s where we stand on July 14th as the regular season, thankfully, resumes.

Off-day Twitter Q&A

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There are zero games scheduled today and tomorrow, so to help pass the time, I’ve decided to take some questions on Twitter.

Justin Turner, Anthony Rendon, and Nolan Arenado are all having better seasons than Kris Bryant this year, but I still think it’s Bryant, assuming we’re taking a long-term view. Arenado is somewhat a product of Coors Field, as his career home OPS is .941 and his career road OPS is .775. That includes a 122-point gap in slugging percentage. And while Arenado is probably the best defensive third baseman in the National League, I don’t think he’s so much better than Bryant that it’d make up for the loss of offense when he’s not at Coors Field.

This is only Rendon’s second big season with the other having come in 2014. He’s only 27, so this can be par for the course for the next half-a-decade, but Bryant has shown far more consistency in his first three years to make his elite production seem sustainable. Turner is 32 years old and he only has maybe two or three more years of hitting the way he has before age catches up with him. His rate numbers are so much better than his peers right now, but he’s only played in 65 games and taken 274 trips to the plate. Most teams headed into the break having played around 90 games.

We haven’t even touched on Manny Machado or Jose Ramirez yet. Machado’s having a down year, which kinda drags his stock down, but he just turned 25 and already has three elite seasons under his belt. And despite having been made an All-Star starter, I still feel like we’re not respecting Jose Ramirez enough. He broke out last year, helping the Indians reach the World Series, and he’s followed it up by hitting .332/.388/.601 this season. Ramirez is 24 and could have plenty of years like this one ahead of him, but it’s hard to know if it’s sustainable since he’s only done it for a year and a half.

If I had to rank them right now, I’d go:

  1. Bryant
  2. Arenado
  3. Manny Machado
  4. Ramirez
  5. Turner
  6. Rendon

The remake of Final Fantasy VII. I’m completely blinded by nostalgia, but FF7 is my favorite video game of all time. I’m really excited to see what they do with the remake because, from what I understand, they’re changing the battle system. The game was released in 1997 and had turn-based combat, but the remake will be real-time action. I’m curious to see how that will work with the limit break system, which was one of the coolest parts of the original. People seem to either love or hate FF7, but I love it. I thought the storyline was brilliant and a player’s progression throughout the game felt rewarding without being too easy.

For those that aren’t complete nerds like me, EVO is short for Evolution Championship Series, which is a fighting games event held in Las Vegas every year. They have tournaments for a handful of games, including Injustice 2, Street Fighter V, Tekken 7, and Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3. Klay and I are huge fans of Super Smash Bros. Melee and Super Smash Bros for Wii U (aka Smash 4), hence the question. EVO will start on Friday and end on Sunday.

In Melee, I think it’s difficult to pick against Adam “Armada” Lindgren, a Swedish player. He’s the consensus No. 1 overall player and has taken first place in 10 of the last 12 tournaments in which he has entered. The two tournaments he lost: at Royal Flush to Joseph “Mango” Marquez, and Smash ‘n’ Splash 3 (third). As for who I’d like to see win, I’d like to see Jason “Mew2King” Zimmerman take first place.

For Smash 4, Gonzalo “Zero” Barrios is the odds-on favorite. He’s the Armada of Smash 4. He’s taken first place in nine of his last 11 tournaments and has overall 14 first-place finishes this year alone.

While I understand other people’s need to assign meaning to life, I personally don’t believe there is any meaning beyond passing on our genes. We’re a bunch of chemical processes in a bag of meat and bones floating through outer space.

You should get up in the morning because what else will you do? May as well make something of your time while you’re here.

I can’t tell you if she’ll ever love you, but I hope you find love. 🙂

Depends on your definition of worthwhile. Do you mean fulfilling? That can take a lot of people their entire lives. Do you mean productive? You can slither into the capitalist machine, comrade.

I have never tried it but I have watched it during the Olympics and it seems fun!

Call me a homer for this — I’m from the Philly area — but I think Bryce Harper is playing for the Phillies in a couple years. They have so much money to spend and they’re going to need an impact player to complement the cavalcade of average to slightly-above-average prospects they have already. Aside from Scott Kingery, right now there are no players I’d feel comfortable projecting as future stars.

Really depends on what the Red Sox do between now and July 31. If they get a third baseman like Martin Prado, then Devers stays down. If they can’t get a third baseman, they might have to call Rafael Devers up. If you ask me to bet, I’d say the Red Sox acquire a third baseman elsewhere, which makes Yoan Moncada more likely to get called up. Moncada had a brief cup of coffee with the Red Sox last year and struggled before being included in the offseason Chris Sale deal with the White Sox. He’s having a pretty good year at Triple-A Charlotte. The last-place White Sox aren’t going to the playoffs, so they may as well get Moncada some meaningful playing time in the big leagues.

Yep. Mike Trout has missed too much time and I’d wager at least two of Aaron Judge, Carlos Correa, Jose Altuve, Mookie Betts, George Springer, and Jose Ramirez will be able to finish out the year strong. Someone else could rise up in the final two and a half months as well. To be clear, there’s no playing time minimum for the MVP Award, but voters do factor in games played. If the Angels miss out on the playoffs — and at 45-47, that seems likely — that will only hurt Trout more because some voters still think an MVP needs to come from a playoff team.

I don’t think the pitching is crappier. I’d argue the pitching now is perhaps the best it has been since the Pedro/Schilling/Big Unit/Clemens era. Maybe even better on average. I think the evidence is indisputable at this time that the ball was altered and has contributed to the resurgence in power. But other factors include hitters focusing more on hitting fly balls and pitchers throwing harder than ever before.

Yeah, Amed Rosario will get called up. I understand fans’ insistence for his promotion since Asdrubal Cabrera got injured, but remember, this is Rosario’s first year at Triple-A and he isn’t a finished product yet. He’s only 21 years old. There are some things that teams are privy to that writers and fans are not, and there may be a very good reason the Mets haven’t promoted him yet. It could be their evaluation of his attitude. For instance, if he struggles, will he tilt or will he use it as motivation to improve? Additionally, Rosario isn’t likely to make such an impact on the Mets that he reverses the team’s course from eight games under .500 into playoff contender.

That being said, the Mets’ reluctance to go all-in on Conforto is puzzling. The dude has raked ever since getting called up in 2015. Prior to this season, he has struggled against lefties, but most left-handed hitters struggle against same-handed pitching. You only get better against them with exposure. He made the All-Star team this year, putting up a .945 OPS in 70 games. I’m not sure what more he has to do to earn a guaranteed starting spot in the outfield when everyone is healthy. He’s the kind of player for whom you trade Curtis Granderson or Jay Bruce to create room.

As for the medical staff, I could see the Mets cleaning slate in the offseason. It’s usually not something that teams do in the middle of a season. I think there’s definitely something going on and even SNY broadcaster Ron Darling has publicly criticized the medical staff. At the very least, cleaning house in that department shows a public commitment to improving in that area.

People were really uncreative in the 1800’s. To be fair, they’re not much more creative in modern time, as teams are just named after other animals (e.g. Rays, Diamondbacks).

I could see them going after another catcher, perhaps the Phillies’ Cameron Rupp or the Giants’ Nick Hundley. They’re pretty strong everywhere else and at their weaker positions, they have players who aren’t going anywhere (i.e. Jason Kipnis). Maybe they pick up a back-end starter and push Josh Tomlin or Trevor Bauer to the bullpen.

I think it’s up to the home plate umpire’s discretion. Sometimes the umpire will ask for a ball that was put in play to be switched out. And if it’s not, sometimes the pitcher will want it switched out anyway. They switch out balls in the dirt because if the pitcher doesn’t have the ability to get a good grip on the baseball, it could slip out of his hand and wind up hitting a player in the head. Or bouncing in the dirt and hitting the umpire in the cajones.

Yasiel Puig is the best heel in baseball. He knows his very existence pisses off some players and a certain segment of the baseball fan base, and he can deal with it. I wish he hadn’t toned down the enthusiasm with which he plays because he’s such a joy to watch, but he’s been talked to by teammates, coaches, front office personnel, and players on other teams.

Right now, Aaron Judge is the babyface of baseball. You saw how much positive press he was getting leading into the All-Star Game festivities and how much more he got after winning the Derby. If not for Judge, Francisco Lindor might have been my choice here.