Seth Smith

Getty Images

And That Happened: Tuesday’s Scores and Highlights

5 Comments

Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Cubs 5, Braves 1: The Cubs get a four-run third inning thanks to homers from Javier Baez and Willson Contreras while John Lackey and four relievers tie up Atlanta’s bats. Chicago wins its fifth in a row, pulling to within 2.5 games of Milwaukee, because . . .

Pirates 4, Brewers 3: . . . Milwaukee dropped its third in a row to the surging Pirates. This despite taking a 3-0 lead in the third on a Travis Shaw three-run homer. It didn’t hold up, though, thanks to Francisco Cervelli and Josh Harrison going deep in the sixth which tied it, followed by a go-ahead RBI single by David Freese. Three of those six inning runs came with two outs. The inning was extended by a Starling Marte walk. Marte also singled and made a nifty diving catch in left. Welcome back, Mr. Marte.

Cardinals 5, Mets 0: The Cardinals likewise gain ground on the Brewers as Michael Wacha twirled a three-hit, complete game shutout, striking out eight. He also had a hit and knocked in a run on a fielder’s choice. Matt Carpenter went 4-for-5. The best play in the game for the home team came via New Jersey governor Chris Christie but he got booed like crazy for it.

Yankees 6, Twins 3: Bartolo Colon’s debut with the Twins looked a lot like his time with the Braves. The big man was eminently hittable, giving up four runs on eight hits in four innings of work. The Yankees knocked him out of the game in the fifth after he gave up two hits to start the inning. Both of those runners and three more scored. That included Aaron Judge who singled in a run and then was knocked in on a Didi Gregorius homer. Judge went 2-for-4 and drew a walk, so can we maybe stop acting like the Home Run Derby took away all of his mojo? In other news, the Yankees got some new players.

Dodgers 1, White Sox 0: Cody Bellinger singled in a run in the first inning and Clayton Kershaw tossed seven shutout innings, scattering seven hits, making that one run stand up. That’s ten straight wins for the Dodgers, who now lead the west by 10.5 games and have a +173 run differential. They have won 30 of their last 34. They are the first team to do that in 40 years.

Orioles 12, Rangers 1: Baltimore jumped all over Tyson Ross, scoring six in the first before making an out and adding four more in the fourth. The bloodbath featured two homers from Chris Davis — one of which was a grand slam — and bombs from Trey Mancini and Seth Smith. Davis knocked in six runs in all. It wasn’t just the Davis show, though, as Baltimore rattled off 16 hits in all.

Diamondbacks 11, Reds 2: The Dbacks also had a six-run inning — the fifth — as the Reds pitching continues to be an absolute horror show post-All-Star break. Nine players had extra base hits. On the mound: Ray beat Romano. Everybody loves run support. In other news, the Dbacks will have a new outfielder report for duty today.

Phillies 5, Marlins 2: It was a 2-2 game until the eighth when Maikel Franco hit a solo homer. Philly added two more in the final frame with a two-run homer from Nick Williams. Williams has played 15 games since his callup. He’s hitting .302/.333/.547 with three homers and ten driven in.

Red Sox 5, Blue Jays 4: Boston had a long weekend in which they played a marathon game followed by a Sunday day-night doubleheader. They lost on Monday and looked like they were dragging, so the last thing they needed was to go 15 innings last night. I guess 15 innings as more tolerable when you win in the end, however, and that they did as Hanley Ramirez hit a walkoff homer. Dustin Pedroia helped get them to extras, as he homered and hit an RBI double in the sixth and seventh, respectively, to tie things up after Toronto took a 3-1 lead in the fifth.

Astros 6, Mariners 2: Houston got bad news yesterday when they learned they’d be without shortstop Carlos Correa for eight weeks, but they didn’t let it faze them on the field. Evan Gattis homered twice and Brad Peacock allowed one run on three hits and struck out nine in seven innings.

Tigers 9, Royals 3: Trading away J.D. Martinez is probably a good place to mark the beginning of a new, rebuilding (or at least reshuffling) era for the Tigers, but they started that era off well enough, as Nick Castellanos homered twice, singled, tripled and drove in five, Victor Martinez drove in two and the Tigers notched 16 hits in all. Castellanos after the game:

“We’re playing with a chip on our shoulder now.”

Maybe if you did that from April through Monday they wouldn’t have traded away Martinez?

Rockies 9, Padres 7: Gerardo Parra went 3-for-3 with two walks, scoring three times, Mark Reynolds hit a three-run homer and Carlos Gonzalez knocked in three. Colorado has won three in a row, scoring 31 runs in those games.

Rays 4, Athletics 3: Tampa Bay was down by one in the ninth and rallied for two. Both runs scored with two out as Adeiny Hechavarria and Shane Peterson hit consecutive RBI singles. The Rays remain two back of the Sox.

Nationals 4, Angels 3: Bryce Harper homered over Mike Trout‘s head in the first inning and Trout homered to center in the second. That would be Trout’s only hit, however, while Harper ended up going 4-for-4 and scoring twice. Edwin Jackson made his debut for the Nats and he was good, allowing two runs on three hits in seven innings of work. Edwin Jackson has to have the weirdest career in living memory. He’s going to disappear in a few months and then show up with yet another team in, like, three years and pitch well again. Then he’s just gonna roam the Earth like Caine from “Kung-Fu,” getting into adventures and making spot starts and stuff.

Giants 2, Indians 1: Eduardo Nunez scored the tying run in the sixth when Buster Posey knocked him in and he hit a walkoff RBI single in the 10th. The win was set up by Conor Gillaspie hitting a pinch-hit double to start the rally. It was also his 30th birthday, so nice day for him. Ty Blach got a no-decision but allowed only one run on seven hits over seven innings of work.

And That Happened: Monday’s Scores and Highlights

Getty Images
29 Comments

Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Twins 4, Yankees 2Eddie Rosario had two RBI doubles and Eduardo Escobar hit a go-ahead, pinch-hit single in the eighth as the Twins took advantage of Caleb Smith. The game stories all go heavy on Aaron Judge being 1-for-21 since the All-Star break. People want to blame the Home Run Derby for it rather than simply chalk it up to a slump and the fact that most players do not maintain the sort of torrid pace Judge maintained in the first half over the course of a whole season. There’s copious evidence such regression happens in baseball. There’s almost nothing to support jinxes or curses or whatever whammy people think the Derby puts on hitters. So of course people believe in the whammy. Humanity deserves whatever it has coming to it, even if it, quite predictably, refuses to rely on data to see what it has coming to it.

Rays 3, Athletics 2: Jake Odorizzi allowed only one run on one hit in seven innings. Kevin Cash after the game: “Good to see Odo perform that way. The stuff looked good. Everything looked much crisper today, and I’m just happy for him because we’re going to need him.”

?

Cubs 4, Braves 3: Chicago wins its fourth straight out of the break thanks to one run over seven innings of work from Jon Lester. Lester doubled, walked and stole a base too. He didn’t even draw a throw, either when he was on base or when he took off. It’s amazing how easy it is to steal when pitchers can’t or don’t hold you, eh Jonny?

Nationals 6, Reds 1: Ryan Zimmerman set the all-time homer mark for Washington Nationals/Montreal Expos players, Bryce Harper hit a three-run shot and Stephen Strasburg fanned 11 batters in seven innings. The Nats jumped out to a 5-0 lead before this one even got going and Brian Goodwin added a solo homer later.

Blue Jays 4, Red Sox 3: Steve Pearce homered in the second to help the Jays out to a three-run lead but Boston came back and tied it with a three-run seventh inning made possible by Marcus Stroman tiring and by Stroman committing an inning-perpetuating error. Pearce singled home the go-ahead run in the eighth, however. Jose Bautista had an 0-for-5, four-strikeout evening. That’s special.

Orioles 3, Rangers 1Seth Smith hit a tiebreaking homer in the seventh inning and Chris Tillman and three relievers allowed only one run on three hits. Baltimore needed that kind of outing from its staff after getting beaten like a bowl of eggs in three games against the Cubs.

Pirates 4, Brewers 2: Gregory Polanco notched four hits, doubling twice, driving in two runs. He also threw out a potential go-ahead run at the plate in the form of Manny Pina to end the sixth inning. Brewers catcher Stephen Vogt left the game in the fifth inning after catching an elbow to the head and injuring his knee in a collision with Pirates pitcher Chad Kuhl at the plate. Vogt held on to the ball and tagged out Kuhl, but after the game his leg was in a brace. The Brewers will know more about his condition today.

Cardinals 6, Mets 3Adam Wainwright allowed three runs — two earned — while pitching into the sixth. He also hit an RBI double to help his own cause. Paul DeJong and Tommy Pham went deep, with Pham’s plating three runs.

Marlins 6, Phillies 5: Dee Gordon knocked a walkoff RBI single in the 10th. Giancarlo Stanton homered twice, once in the first and once in the fifth. Justin Bour homered in the fifth as well.

Mariners 9, Astros 7: George Springer tied things up with a sac fly in the eighth, forcing extras. Actually, the Astros had a chance to end things in the ninth thanks to a double and a couple of walks but Jean Segura put on a defensive clinic, throwing one runner out at the plate and making a couple of nifty backhand grabs. Kyle Seager and Danny Valencia homered in the top of the 10th to give Seattle the win. Four M’s batters homered in all, with Nelson Cruz and Mike Zunino going deep.

Tigers 10, Royals 2: Jason Vargas was a pleasant surprise in the first half  but he received a rude awakening to begin the second, getting hammered for six runs on seven hits and giving up four walks in less than three innings of work. The first run of the game came on a first inning bases loaded walk to Victor Martinez. If that’s how your night starts it’s gonna be a long, short night for a pitcher. Nick Castellanos and Mike Mahtook homered. Ian Kinsler hit a pair of triples. To add injury to insult, Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar left the game after being hit on the wrist by a pitch. He luckily escaped with only a bruise.

Rockies 9, Padres 6: A five-run third for the Rockies put them up 7-2, basically setting this one in stone. Charlie Blackmon homered and Trevor Story hit a two-run double. Rockies starter German Marquez struck out nine in six and two-thirds innings of work. Jabari Blash of the Padres hit a 477-foot homer. More like Jabari BASH, amirite?

 

Indians 5, Giants 3Josh Tomlin struck out five and allowed three runs while pitching into the eighth as Yan Gomes homered and Francisco Lindor knocked in a couple. The Indians played their first three games after the All-Star break in Oakland and now they’re playing a series in San Francisco, which gives them an extended trip to the Bay Area. That’s pretty sweet from a logistical perspective. Beats the heck out of back-to-back series like, Tampa and Dallas, for example.

MLB second half preview: Contenders and pretenders

7 Comments

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.