And That Happened: Thursday's Scores and Highlights

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Rangers 3, Angels 2: The Rangers get Cliff Lee and unleash him on their division rivals! Not to be outdone, the Angels acquire Alberto Callaspo!  Wait, that’s totally being out-done. It’s been a nice run, Anaheim, but you just ain’t got the horses this year.

We now begin a stretch of five straight games in which the losers were shut out:

Phillies 2, Cardinals 0: Cole Hamels and Adam Wainwright respectfully disagree with the notion that the Phillies and Cardinals should be fighting over who lands the big pitcher at the trade deadline. Each would prefer some run support, thank you. Eight innings of one-hit ball for Hamels, six innings of shutout ball for Wainwright, neither in on the decision. Placido Polanco and Jayson Werth come through in the 11th for the Phillies.

Dodgers 2, Mets 0: If it’s Thursday it must mean that the Mets are getting shut out in California. Hiroki Kuroda this time, who combined with Hong-Chih Kuo to blank New York. All of the scoring came via the bat of Matt Kemp who hit a homer and had an RBI double.  In other news, this is the kind of nightmare road trip that gets managers fired.

Braves 8, Padres 0: Tim Hudson shuts down the Padres as Alex Gonzalez, Jason Heyward and Chipper Jones lead the way on offense. After the game Chipper said this team reminded him of the 1995 Braves. I guess he’d know best. My view: needs more Lemke.

Giants 3, Diamondbacks 0: Matt Cain and Brian Wilson spin a three-hit
shutout of the Dbacks. Buster Posey extends his hitting streak to
sixteen games.

Twins 5, Orioles 0: A five-hit shutout for Carl Pavano, replete with all kinds of ejecty-goodness for a very frustrated Orioles team. Aaron Gleeman with the fact of the day: “Carl Pavano has now started 32 games for the Twins: 17-10 with 3.72 ERA, 140/35 K/BB ratio in 217.1 IP.” Yankees fans, you may now bang your head against a table.

Nationals 7, Reds 1: Watching pitchers fresh off Tommy John surgery is like watching Ash in “Evil Dead II.”  Sometimes they kick ass, sometimes they have absolutely no control over their own hand. The ball was going all over the place for Edinson Volquez, and Adam Dunn used his boomstick to hit a two-run home run off him.  Hail to the king, baby.

Red Sox 8, Mariners 6: John Lackey had a no-hitter into the eighth inning, and the Bosox had a 6-1 lead entering the ninth when the pen — and to be fair, the defense — imploded, allowing Seattle to tie it. Eric Patterson saved everyone’s bacon with a two-run double in the top of the 13th, but really, this was a near disaster for Boston.  Oh, and check out this sick catch by Ichiro to rob Big Papi of a homer.

Yankees 10, Royals 4: Inside the park homer for Jeter (and some pfun pfacts about it!). Home run number 599 for A-Rod.  All hail the Royals’ AL-high team batting average: fourteen hits a piece for the Royals and the Yankees, a six-run difference on the scoreboard. There’s a lesson in there somewhere.

Brewers 3, Pirates 2:  The top of the eighth inning ended with Prince Fielder (ginormous) barreling into Pirates’ catcher Erik Kratz (humongous) on a play at the plate.  The reverberations were felt all the way back home in Milwaukee, ripping the ground wide open and causing this Cadillac Escalade to be swallowed by the Earth.  True story.

Marlins 3, Rockies 2: A walkoff RBI single for Ronny Paulino gives the Feesh their third win in four games against the Rockies, who certainly haven’t started out the second half of the season the way they wanted to.

Tigers 5, Blue Jays 2: The Jays had opportunities to extend an early two-run lead, but stranded runners and failed to get a timely hit or two. After that Verlander bore down and Toronto just didn’t have a chance.  The Jays ran themselves out of an inning when Yunel Escobar got thrown out trying to stretch a double into a triple with two-outs in the seventh. Cito Gaston: “I’m sure our coaches will talk to him about that play. You can’t go for third in that situation unless you know you are going
to make it standing up. You can score just as easily from second with
two out as you can from third.” Somewhere Bobby Cox chortled good luck wishes to the Blue Jays coaches.

Red Sox look to punch their ticket to the World Series tonight

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Thanks to some amazing defense, some big hits and — to continue to beat this horse, a bad call by Joe West — the Red Sox have a 3-1 lead in the ALCS and look to clinch the AL Pennant tonight down in Houston.

If you believe in momentum, you’d have to say it’s on Boston’s side. If you believe that momentum is the next day’s starting pitcher, however, you’d have to say things favor Houston more than the standing of the series would suggest. All of which makes me wish Game 5 was starting right now, because it figures to be a tense and exciting affair.

ALCS Game 5

Red Sox vs. Astros
Ballpark: Minute Maid Park
Time: 8:09 PM Eastern
TV: TBS
Pitchers: David Price vs. Justin Verlander
Breakdown:

If someone told you that you had to win one baseball game against the Martians to save the human race, you could do far worse than calling on Justin Verlander to be your starting pitcher. Among the pitchers still in the postseason, he’d almost certainly be your choice right now.

Does Verlander himself appreciate the situation? This is what he said about that yesterday:

“I mean, these are all must-win games at this point. Every time you take the mound I don’t think there’s any difference whether it’s 2-2 or 3-1.”

Look, we’re asking him to beat the Martians here, not win the National Math Bee, so let’s let that go. The point is that after all of these years he’s still one of the most dominant pitchers in the game and after the exhausting, see-saw battle of Game 4, he stands the best chance of giving Houston what it needs: a quick, quiet and drama-free win.

Not that the Red Sox are likely to roll over for that. They didn’t the first time they faced Verlander in this series. They Astros won, yes, and Verlander limited them to two runs on two hits. But he also issued four walks and wasn’t his sharpest overall. Boston didn’t capitalize on his mistakes as best they could, but he’s not invincible.

For Boston it’s David Price. He allowed four runs on five hits and four walks over four and two-thirds innings in Game 2, not factoring in the decision. That’s not great, but given the talk leading up to that game being all about how Price is a postseason flop, the fact that the Sox won it in the end had to bouy him at least a little. As does the fact that, here, tonight, it’s not 100% on his shoulders. Sure, the Sox want to close this out, but with a 3-1 lead there is less pressure on Price than on his former teammate Verlander. Worth noting, though: Price is on short rest and warmed up in the bullpen last night in case he was needed to bail out Craig Kimbrel. He may not go deep into this game.