And That Happened: Wednesday's Scores and Highlights

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Braves 5, Marlins 1: Sometimes there’s a man. I won’t say a hero, ’cause, what’s a hero?
But sometimes, there’s a man. And I’m talkin’ about Brooks Conrad here.
Sometimes, there’s a man, well, he’s the man for his time and place. He
fits right in there. And that’s Brooks Conrad, in Atlanta (1 for 4, HR, 3 RBI).

Padres 3, Cubs 0: San Diego snaps out of it and stays alive. A four-hitter led by Chris Young for five innings and finished by the pen. If the Padres do make it into the playoffs, Young will be huge for them. Partially because he’s 6’10” — that’s huge! — but also because he has an ERA of 0.90 in four starts this year.

Giants 3, Diamondbacks 1: But thanks to the Braves and Giants winning, the Padres don’t gain on anyone.  Eleven Ks in seven innings for Lincecum and a three-run home run for Pat Burrell. Burrell’s homer really shouldn’t count though, what with him being a guy who the Giants just went out and got and slapped “San Francisco” across his chest.

Rangers 6, Mariners 5: A walkoff strikeout. In which the winning team struck out. Classic. You gotta see it to believe it. The beautiful thing about this was that Nelson Cruz had to swing at a wild pitch for it work. If I ran the Rangers’ kangaroo court I’d probably fine him for that even if it did constitute the winning, um, strikeout.

Indians 4, Tigers 0; Indians 4, Tigers 3: Here’s something I’m having trouble processing: Johnny Damon’s start in the first game made him only the fifth player in history to play in 140 games in 15 consecutive seasons.
The others: Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Brooks Robinson
and Pete Rose. I never would have been able to come up with that list. I probably would have put Ripken on it and been wrong (thanks 1994 strike!). I never would have put Damon on it. Indians sweep the doubleheader, by the way.

Brewers 8, Mets 7; Brewers 3, Mets 1: In the first game, Milwaukee had a six run lead, blew it, and then came back to win it on a Prince Fielder RBI single in the eighth. According to the game story, only “several hundred fans” were in the crowd. In the second, Trevor Hoffman got the save. He wouldn’t have been closing if John Axford hadn’t closed the first game, but now he has 601 instead of 600. I can’t tell you how dissatisfying it is that he’s not finishing with a round number. It’s like one blade of grass sticking up out of the middle of an otherwise manicured lawn.

Angels 2, Athletics 1: The first sentence of the AP game story: “Torii Hunter’s two-out single had barely hit the outfield grass when pink fireworks shot up from the fake rock pile at Angel Stadium.” That sounds less like a game story than the opening lines of a novel written by a sophomore creative writing student. It’s about suburban ennui and the lack of authenticity in 21st century America. He wrote it in his parents’ basement in a upper middle class enclave — maybe Lake Forest, Illinois — right after an argument with his father about the scratch he put in door of the Volvo on the way back from Hot Topic, where he was buying a Che Guevara shirt.

Dodgers 7, Rockies 6: Matt Kemp — who hit a two-run homer on Tuesday night — smacked a grand slam yesterday. It’s been a long season, but he’s ending it strong: “End strong and give ’em a little preview of what is to come next year,” he said after the game. If the Dodgers sweep the Dbacks this weekend, they end at an even .500.

Cardinals 4, Pirates 1: With the exception of Colby Rasmus, the Cardinals basically put out the pu pu platter lineup. Really, it was one of the few times all year when the Pirates could be said to have had decidedly better hitters going than the opposition did. Didn’t matter, though, as the Bucs just couldn’t figure out P.J. Walters (7 IP, 3 H, 0 ER).

Astros 2, Reds 0: I’m kind of busy so I don’t have time to check the game story here, but based on the lineup that the Reds were running out for this one, I assume it was called in favor of the Astros when it got dark and the Reds batters had to go home. I mean, they have school this morning, and they get cranky if they don’t get in their jammies and into bed before 9.
 
Orioles 2, Rays 0: A capacity crowd of 36,973 was on hand! Which means that, once you take away the 20,000 free ones the team handed out, actual paid attendance was lower last night than it was on Tuesday. Eh, whatever. They’ll sell out their playoff games, people will ring those damn cowbells and wear the big blue mohawk wigs again, and we’ll all be wishing they stayed home. In other news: Kevin Millwood is still alive (7 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 7K).

Phillies 7, Nationals 1: The Phillies rested the starters they didn’t rest on Tuesday night and threw out Blanton instead of Oswalt. This time they cruise instead of lose. They should just play split squad games against themselves until the playoffs start. I’d watch that. Wouldn’t you watch that?  Adam Dunn got the golden sombrero (0 for 4, 4Ks) in what could have been his last home game as a Nat.

Blue Jays 8, Yankees 4: Know what’s gonna be hilarious? When Javier Vazquez signs with some big-park NL team next season and goes 15-8 with a 2.85 ERA. He and Carl Pavano can do commercials together. Yankees fans heads will explode. For now though, well, yuck (4.2 IP, 10 H, 7 ER). A-Rod hit a bomb to give him 30 on the year to go with his 100+ RBI. He has strung a bunch of those together.

Twins 4, Royals 2: According to the game story, “Delmon Young became the fifth Minnesota Twin to hit 20 home runs, 40 doubles and drive in 100 runs in the same season.” The story said he “joined some elite company.”  Then the elite company was listed: Kirby Puckett, Justin Morneau, Torii Hunter and Michael Cuddyer. OK, I’ll grant you Puckett — Hall of Famer — and Morneau — former MVP — but Cuddyer and Hunter aren’t exactly “elite.” I mean, if I was running Club Awesome I’d probably allow my doorman to let them in eventually, but I’d probably have him make them cool their heels behind the velvet rope for a few minutes. And they would NOT get a nice table once inside.

White Sox 5, Red Sox 2: Josh Beckett finishes the season 6-6 with a 5.78 ERA. Thank GOD for that contract extension, or else the Sox wouldn’t have had this guy at $15.75 million a year through 2014. That’s a risk they could not have taken.

Texas Rangers ink free-agent ace Jacob deGrom to 5-year deal

Jacob deGrom
USA Today
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ARLINGTON, Texas — Jacob deGrom is headed to the free-spending Texas Rangers, who believe the health risk is worth the potential reward in trying to end a six-year run of losing.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner agreed to a $185 million, five-year contract Friday, leaving the New York Mets after nine seasons – the past two shortened substantially by injuries.

“We acknowledge the risk, but we also acknowledge that in order to get great players, there is a risk and a cost associated with that,” Rangers general manager Chris Young said. “And one we feel like is worth taking with a player of Jacob’s caliber.”

Texas announced the signing after the 34-year-old deGrom passed his physical. A person with direct knowledge of the deal disclosed the financial terms to The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the club did not announce those details.

The Rangers were also big spenders in free agency last offseason, signing shortstop Corey Seager ($325 million, 10 years) and second baseman Marcus Semien ($175 million, seven years).

The team said deGrom will be introduced in a news conference at Globe Life Field next week following the winter meetings in San Diego.

“It fits in so many ways in terms of what we need,” Young said. “He’s a tremendous person. I have a number of close friends and teammates who played with Jacob and love him. I think he’s going to be just a perfect fit for our clubhouse and our fans.”

Texas had modest expectations after adding Seager, Semien and starter Jon Gray ($56 million, four years) last offseason but still fell short of them.

The Rangers went 68-94, firing manager Chris Woodward during the season, and then hired Bruce Bochy, a three-time World Series champion with San Francisco. Texas’ six straight losing seasons are its worst skid since the franchise moved from Washington in 1972.

Rangers owner Ray Davis said the club wouldn’t hesitate to keep adding payroll. Including the $19.65 million qualifying offer accepted by Martin Perez, the team’s best pitcher last season, the Rangers have spent nearly $761 million in free agency over the past year.

“I hate losing, but I think there’s one person in our organization who hates losing worse than me, and I think it’s Ray Davis,” Young said. “He’s tired of losing. I’m tired of losing. Our organization is tired of losing.”

After making his first start in early August last season, deGrom went 5-4 with a 3.08 ERA in 11 outings. He helped the Mets reach the playoffs, then passed up a $30.5 million salary for 2023 and opted out of his contract to become a free agent for the first time.

That ended his deal with the Mets at $107 million over four years, and deGrom rejected their $19.65 million qualifying offer in November. New York will receive draft-pick compensation for losing him.

The fan favorite becomes the latest in a long line of ace pitchers to leave the Mets for one reason or another, including Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and David Cone.

The Rangers visit Citi Field from Aug. 28-30.

When healthy, deGrom is perhaps baseball’s most dominant pitcher. His 2.52 career ERA ranks third in the expansion era (since 1961) behind Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw (2.48) and Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax (2.19) among those with at least 200 starts.

The right-hander is 4-1 with a 2.90 ERA in five career postseason starts, including a win over San Diego in the wild-card round this year that extended the Mets’ season. New York was eliminated the next night.

A four-time All-Star and the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year, deGrom was a ninth-round draft pick by the Mets in 2010 out of Stetson, where he played shortstop before moving to the mound. He was slowed by Tommy John surgery early in his career and didn’t reach the majors until age 26.

Once he arrived, though, he blossomed. He helped the Mets reach the 2015 World Series and earn a 2016 playoff berth before winning consecutive NL Cy Young Awards in 2018 and 2019.

But injuries to his elbow, forearm and shoulder blade have limited him to 26 starts over the past two seasons. He compiled a career-low 1.08 ERA over 92 innings in 2021, but did not pitch after July 7 that year because of arm trouble.

DeGrom is 82-57 with 1,607 strikeouts in 1,326 innings over nine big league seasons. He gets $30 million next year, $40 million in 2024 and 2025, $38 million in 2026 and $37 million in 2027. The deal includes a conditional option for 2028 with no guaranteed money.

The addition of deGrom gives the Rangers three proven starters along with Gray and Perez, who went 12-8 with a career-best 2.89 ERA in his return to the team that signed him as a teenager out of Venezuela. Young didn’t rule out the addition of another starter.

With several holes on their starting staff, the Mets have shown interest in free agents Justin Verlander and Carlos Rodon to pair with 38-year-old Max Scherzer atop the rotation.

Now, with deGrom gone, signing one of those two could become a much bigger priority.