Craig Calcaterra

Houston Astros' Carlos Correa, left, is forced out at second as Texas Rangers' Elvis Andrus watches his throw to first reach in time for a double play hit into by Colby Rasmus during the fifth inning of a baseball game Thursday, Sept. 17, 2015, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

And That Happened: Thursday’s scores and highlights

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Rangers 8, Astros 2: Welp, that was an unmitigated disaster for the Astros. After entering the series down one and a half to the Astros in the West, the Rangers now lead by two and a half. Colby Lewis allowed two runs over six innings. Shin-Soo Choo went 4-for-5 with two RBI and two runs scored. Half of this team’s second half surge has been on the back of players who have more or less been resurrected. They should call them the Texas Walking Dead.

Cubs 9, Pirates 6: The six-run fifth inning did the Pirates in in this game, but the injury to Jung Ho Kang in the first inning could do them far more damage in the long run. I’ll have a much more substantial post on that later this morning. In the meantime, the Cubs are only two back of the Pirates for the top wild card slot. I hate that these two are on a one-and-done collision course, but if they have to be, I love the fact that there’s still a race for where that one game will take place. Pittsburgh was absolutely nuts in that last wild card game. Chicago, with all of the pent up excitement, will no doubt be nuts if the game is played in Wrigley. Either way, I cannot wait for that game.

Marlins 6, Nationals 4: The Nats had won four straight coming in, but Justin Bour and Martin Prado each hit homers and got to Tanner Roark for six runs on eight hits over five innings. The FanGraphs playoff probability thing has Washington, who sits eight games back with 16 left to play, at a 0.1% chance of making the postseason. That’s stuff that would even have Lloyd Christmas shaking his head and saying “Let it go, man. Let. It. Go.”

Orioles 4, Rays 3: Baltimore has that same 0.1% chance of making the playoffs. And they say things like what Adam Jones said here after winning games:

“It’s not about all the other games anymore. If we lose, we’re not going to get there. If we win, that’s all we can do.”

Admirable I suppose. And given how sports culture works, saying clear-eyed, realistic things in their situation would be met with scorn while the Lloyd Christmas act is both expected and praised. But I really would love to be a fly on the wall of a clubhouse for a team in Baltimore or Washington’s position once the press leaves to see how they talk about their plight. I’m guessing there’s a range of sentiment, from anger and despair to true-believer-rah-rah to some guys just counting the days until they can go home. It’s in those instances, I’m guessing, that the real stuff of clubhouse chemistry happens. When guys get reputations as leaders or . . . something else. Not when the camera is rolling and the scribes have their digital recorders pointed at someone.

Athletics 4, White Sox 2Billy Butler hit a go-ahead three-run homer in the top of the ninth inning. Given how that homer found its way to the ground behind the wall, Avisail probably spent last night looking at new gloves at Rawlings.com:

Royals 8, Indians 4: Omar Infante went 3-for-4 with seven driven in. And we all mocked his All-Star candidacy.

Blue Jays 5, Braves 0: Marco Estrada combined with Roberto Osuna on a three-hitter. Once you adjust for the quality of the Braves’ roster, however, it translates to allowing four runs on eight hits in six and two-thirds.

Cardinals 6, Brewers 3: A Cardinals win that was overshadowed by Brewers pitcher Jimmy Nelson getting nailed in the head by a comebacker off the bat of Tommy Pham. Thankfully he was diagnosed with just a bruise rather than anything more serious. John Lackey pitched seven shutout innings as the Cards sweep the Brew Crew. If you want to see the comebacker you can watch it here, but ugh, once is enough.

Angels 11, Twins 8: Mike Trout hit a grand slam and had a solo shot, giving him his 37th and 38th homers on the year. The Angels now sit two and a half back of Houston for the second wild card, with Minnesota in between. That’s hard but doable. And, if Trout stays hot and the Angels DO make it, it’ll make for an interesting MVP debate that has, by and large, been decided in Josh Donaldson‘s favor before now in the minds of most.

If you’re a WAR person, they’re tied at 8.2. If you’re an “all-around” guy without specific reference to numbers, you could say that Trout’s offensive advantage and Donaldson’s defense serve as counterbalances. If you’re a storyline guy you could go with Donaldson-pushing-the-Jays-out-of-mediocrity-to-greatness angle or you could go with the Trout-pulling-his-medicore-team-into-the-playoffs angle. I don’t know how I’d vote if I had a vote, and I still think the voters, if they cast ballots today, would give it to Donaldson by a pretty safe margin, but Trout has a couple of weeks to make it interesting.

Obama names Fernando Valenzuela “Presidential Ambassador for Citizenship and Naturalization”

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Leave it to Obama to give an eyeball-breathing, screwball-loving LEFTY a job! Liberal bias, man. Liberal bias! He must be overcome by some insidious, euphoria-inducing disease like . . . Fernandomania!

President Obama launched the “Stand Stronger” Citizenship Awareness Campaign and appointed the Dodger broadcaster and legendary lefty a Presidential Ambassador for Citizenship and Naturalization. In this role, Valenzuela will work with the White House and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in promoting the rights, responsibilities and opportunities of citizenship among eligible lawful permanent residents and help the “Stand Stronger” Campaign break down the barriers for eligible immigrants and refugees to become U.S. citizens.

Valenzuela just became a U.S. citizen himself, by the way. He signed with the Dodgers in July of 1979 and has lived in the United States ever since, spending the past 36 years as a ballplayer and a Dodgers broadcaster.

And if you’re a guy of a certain age — say, 42 — he was one of the first big time pitchers who you thought of as being one of YOUR guys. Tom Seaver and Jim Palmer and all of those huge names of the 60s and 70 were all big deals to us, of course, but they all started pitching before we were born. They were our dad’s or older brothers’ pitchers. For me, Fernando was the first big all-star type starter who seemed 100% modern to me when he made his splash, probably because I vividly remember him making his splash. Everything before him belonged to people older than me. Everything after him was mine.

Congrats, Fernando.

Long time Astros announcer Milo Hamilton passes away at 88

Milo Hamilton
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Sad news for long time Astros fans: broadcaster Milo Hamilton has passed away at age 88.

Hamilton, the Ford Frick Award winner in 1992, got his start in the majors in 1953, calling St. Louis Browns games. He didn’t go to Baltimore in 1954, but stayed in St. Louis. He had short stints calling games for the Cardinals, the Cubs and then the White Sox.

He then moved on to Atlanta, where he lasted a decade. He called Hank Aaron’s 715th homer, but was fired a year later after criticizing the team’s poor attendance. The man didn’t lie, but then as now, teams don’t much like honesty about such things from their announcers. Which is a shame, but that’s the business. He’d move on to the Pirates and then back to the Cubs for a spell. 

His longest and most successful tenure in the business came in Houston, where he called games from 1984 through 2012. A generation of fans who came of age with those nice mid-80s Astros and on through the Biggio-Bagwell years came to think of Hamilton as the voice of the Astros in ways he was never truly the top guy with his previous employers. He spent 59 seasons behind the microphone at Major League games, 28 of those with the Astros.

Every team has “their guy” in the broadcast booth. Hamilton was the Astros’ guy. Good travels, Milo, wherever it is you go from here.

UPDATE: Rob Manfred just released a statement regarding the death of Milo Hamilton:

“During his 60 years covering our game, Milo became one of the National Pastime’s most distinguished announcers, serving seven different Major League Clubs.  He chronicled some of our game’s most historic moments during the era of Hank Aaron, Stan Musial and Ernie Banks.  As ‘The Voice of the Astros’ since 1985, he ushered into the homes of fans Houston’s first World Series appearance, the Hall of Fame careers of Nolan Ryan and Craig Biggio, and countless other memories. 

“I enjoyed spending time with Milo during my trip to Houston earlier in this resurgent season for the Astros, and it was a pleasure to correspond with him in recent months.  On behalf of Major League Baseball, I extend my deepest condolences to Milo’s family, friends, admirers throughout the game and to all Astros fans.”