And That Happened: Sunday's Scores and Highlights

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Braves 8, Phillies 7; Giants 3, Padres 0: You gotta feel bad for San Diego. They played above their heads all year. You also gotta feel bad for the people who were wishing for the awesome three-way tie that would have occurred had the Padres won yesterday. Braves and Giants fans are pretty darn pleased, though. 

For their part, the Braves made it way more interesting than it needed to be, frittering away an 8-2 lead in the seventh and making it into an 8-7 nail-biter in which Billy Wagner needed to throw 37 pitches — his highest total of the season — to secure the four-out save. After the game, the Braves let fans stay in the ballpark to (a) watch REO Speedwagon in concert; and (b) watch the Padres-Giants game on the big screen. It was a rough last few days for Atlanta, but they rode the storm out and now it’s time for them to fly. To San Francisco.

The Padres had all kinds of trouble scoring runs as the season wound down, and it continued until their final game. Jonathan Sanchez shut them out for five innings and five relievers pitched in to finish the job. One of them was Brian Wilson who, with that Just For Men beard, that lame haircut, his unbuttoned jersey and his orange shoes is easily the schmuckiest looking pitcher in baseball these days. I will enjoy despising him during the NLDS. Even though his home run likely sealed his Rookie of the Year award, thereby preventing Jason Heyward from winning it, I can’t hate Buster Posey. That guy is awesome, and I look forward to seeing the guy the Giants didn’t think was ready for the majors back in April lead them into the playoffs in October.

At about this time someone, somewhere, is thinking that the wild card made this a pretty interesting weekend. Query: wouldn’t it have been more interesting if four teams in three games — the Padres, Giants, Yankees and Rays — were all playing for their playoff lives yesterday instead of three teams in two games?  Just sayin!

Rays 3, Royals 2: Thanks to the Yankees’ loss it was official before this game was over, but the Rays are your AL East champs for 2010. That’s two division titles in three years, by they way. I remind you in case you’re the type that will yell (again) about how baseball needs a salary cap and realignment and all that jazz when the Yankees sign some 30+ year-old player this winter.

Red Sox 8, Yankees 4: It’s not often you see the Yankees fade late, but a 29-30 record since August 1st constitutes a fade. Still, I’m not too worried about them. Muscle memory has to come into play when it comes to the postseason with these guys, right? They go on to play Minnesota in the first round.

Blue Jays 2, Twins 1: And as you can see, the Twins aren’t exactly finishing the season on a high note themselves. The Jays hit two more dingers in this one, upping their season total to 257. That’s tied for the third most in MLB history.

Astros 4, Cubs 0: And on the last day of the season the Astros edge out the Cubs for fourth place. I’m guessing this will lead to a lot of people overrating Houston heading into next season.

Cardinals 6, Rockies 1: At various times this season both the Cardinals (April-May) and the Rockies (early-to-mid September) seemed like two of the stronger teams in baseball, destined for playoff glory. Fitting they end the season playing one-another. Jeff Suppan with six shutout innings. Where the hell did that come from? The Rockies finished 1-13. Where the hell did that come? It’s going to be a long winter in Denver and St. Louis.

Marlins 5, Pirates 2: And with this loss the Pirates tie the 1963 Mets for the worst road record in baseball history. Sweet. John Russell is probably going to get fired. Which is sweet for him too, but only in the way that a mercy killing can be sweet under the right circumstances.

White Sox 6, Indians 5: I once saw the Indians play the White Sox to close out the season on October 3rd. It was in 1993. In that game Ozzie Guillen went 0 for 1 with a walk and a sacrifice.  A young Albert Belle sealed the AL RBI title. Bob Hope sang “Thanks for the Memories” while standing on home plate of Municipal Stadium. I keyed a car in the parking lot because it parked with its bumper touching that of my midnight blue 1987 Chevy Cavalier RS, which was something You Just Did Not Do, because that car was awesome. In other words, not much has changed in 17 years.

Reds 3, Brewers 2: Jay Bruce enters the playoffs hot, smacking his fourth homer in a week. This was probably Ken Macha’s last game at the helm of the Brew Crew.
 
Tigers 4, Orioles 2: A .500 season for the Tigers. It seems like a million years ago, but they were in first place and ten games over .500 for a brief spell back in July. Baseball seasons are long and there’s absolutely nowhere to hide.

Nationals 2, Mets 1: It’s hard to think of two teams who needed their seasons to end more than the Nats and Mets did, so of course they played fourteen innings. And it’s hard to think of a more fitting way for the Mets season to end than having Oliver Perez walk in the losing run.

Angels 6, Rangers 2: Peter Bourjous hit a homer. He strikes me as the guy who’s going to get a whole bunch of feature stories written about him next spring but who won’t live up to the hype. That homer notwithstanding, I just don’t have faith in the bat. Josh Hamilton finishes at .359 after a one for four. Texas goes on to St. Pete to play the Rays.

Athletics 4, Mariners 3: The A’s finish at .500. As I’ve been saying it for a while now, but they probably have the biggest offseason ahead of them out of everyone. If they load up with some bats, they’re the favorites in the AL West next year. If they don’t, forget it.

Dodgers 3, Diamondbacks 1: Joe Torre wins what will, in all likelihood, be his last major league game as a manager. It’s been a pretty uninspiring year for Torre and the Dodgers, but that will all wash away soon and we’ll remember that Bobby Cox wasn’t the only managerial titan leaving the stage in 2010.

And with that, the regular season ends.

Yes, we have a month’s worth of playoffs ahead of us and that’s wonderful, but the last normal day of the season is always bittersweet to me. Why? Because I enjoy dog day baseball way more than postseason baseball. I get
antsy when games start to truly matter, even if my team isn’t involved. I prefer games after which you can
turn off the TV and not think much about them because, hey, there will be another one tomorrow night.

To me, baseball is about hot nights. Baseball is about low leverage. Baseball is wonderful because it’s there every day.  Don’t get me wrong — the postseason is great — but it’s different, and in some important ways it lacks the stuff I love the most about the game.

And That Happened was launched in order to try and capture the “none of this really matters in and of itself, but taken together it means everything” nature of the regular season. So, even if I continue to recap last night’s games during the postseason, what I enjoy most about the feature is over until April. I mean, you guys are all going to watch all the games now, so me coming up with some factoid or bit of snark like I do about a near-meaningless Marlins-Nationals matchup in August that none of us watched won’t make much sense.  But that’s OK, I guess.

For those of you whose teams are marching on: good luck. For those of you whose teams are done for the year, I offer you the most beautiful thing a Commissioner of Baseball ever said:

It’s designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything is new again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains comes, it stops, and leaves you to face the fall alone.

Thank all of you for showing up each morning to read my little riffs. Let us now put on our jackets and plunge into the playoffs and beyond.

And That Happened: Sunday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Cardinals 6, Reds 4Matt Carpenter and Dexter Fowler homered and Tommy Pham broke out of a 0-for-20 slump with a two-run, go-ahead single. The Cardinals are now 1-0 after firing Mike Matheny. They should consider firing him before every game (note: here’s my article from yesterday morning explaining why they fired Matheny). The clubhouse was also happy for the first time in a dog’s age, with a big postgame celebration afterward. Here’s interim manager Mike Shildt describing it:

“They got me in a laundry basket and they spin you around and then they go at you with a bunch of cold water to the point where I was hyperventilating”

That sounds like the celebration they had for Flat Top’s 1000th landing in the Season One “Act of Contrition” episode of “Battlestar Galactica.” Unlike there, however, a loose missile did not fall off of a cart due to a poor coupling, thereby killing thirteen members of the Cardinals and injuring seven more. Or, if it did, it did not make the game stories I read. You figure something like that would be noted, of course. We’ll know for sure if, in the first game back after the All-Star break, the Cards roster consists of a bunch of untested nuggets, one of whom bears a strong resemblance to the manager, even if no one ever acknowledges it.

Rockies 4, Mariners 3: Trevor Story led off the ninth inning with a walkoff homer. From the gamer:

It was the first career game-ending hit for Story, who tossed his helmet to the ground after rounding third and was showered with ice water and popcorn by his teammates as he stepped on home plate.

I think that happened in the Season 2 finale of “Battlestar Galactica,” entitled “Lay Down Your Burdens,” but I’m too tired to check right now.

Orioles 6, Rangers 5: Manny Machado homered in the first and was removed from the game in the fifth inning because it was wet after a half hour rain delay. Which, after the game, Buck Showalter acknowledged was solely based on the fact that Machado is being aggressively shopped to other teams. I know that has happened in the past, but it’s weird to hear managers admit it. Though I suppose it’s better than all of the kayfabe managers normally engage in regarding a team trying its hardest to win all of the time when it’s often the case that they are not. That aside, the O’s did win here, thaks in part to that homer and to a three-run Adam Jones double in the O’s five-run third inning, which completed Baltimore’s climb out of a 4-0 first inning hole. The four runs came on a grand slam from rookie Ronald Guzman, by the way. Shin-Soo Choo walked and homered, extending his on-base streak to 51 games.

Red Sox 5, Blue Jays 2: Xander Bogaerts hit a walk-off grand slam to end Saturday night’s game and he hit a homer in his first at bat in this one, driving in two on the day. Brock Holt drove in a couple too as the Red Sox enter the All-Star break winners of 12 of 13 games and stand four and a half games ahead of the Yankees. The Jays enter the break skidding and playing awful. They’re super cranky too. Well, at least Marcus Stroman is.

Pirates 7, Brewers 6: Pittsburgh trailed 5-3 in the ninth but tied it up and forced extras with two runs, the tying one coming on a David Freese RBI triple. Brett Phillips put the Brewers ahead in the tenth with an RBI single but the Buccos had one more rally in them — a game-ending one, in the driving rain — in the bottom half with two singles and then a Josh Bell RBI double plating the tying and go-ahead runs. Here’s a video recap of the 9th and 10th inning rallies. Come to see Bell’s hit in the downpour, stay to hear the Pirates broadcaster acting as if it was the seventh game of the World Series:

Thanks to a doubleheader on Saturday, this was a five-game series. The Pirates won all five of them, for the first five-game series sweep in the majors since 2006.

White Sox 10, Royals 1Daniel Palka and Yoan Moncada homered, and Lucas Giolito tossed two-hit ball into the seventh inning and Greg Luzinski was transported forward 35 years and reduced by about 100 pounds to appear in this game:

He’s using the code name “Yolmer Sanchez,” but we all know it’s Future Shrunken Bull Luzinski. Don’t even act like it isn’t.

Indians 5, Yankees 2: Michael Brantley broke a 2-2 tie with a solo homer off of Chad Green in the eighth and then a sac fly and a wild pitch later we had our final score. Trevor Bauer got a no-decision despite seven solid innings of work and Carlos Carrasco — who is not normally a reliever — picked up the W after pitching the eighth. He was available as a reliever given that he only went five innings in his last start and now has the All-Star break off. Not as many Indians have the All-Star break as players on most teams do. Six Indians are in D.C. for the festivities this week.

Nationals 6, Mets 1: Jeremy Hellickson allowed one run over six and the Nats put up five-runs in the seventh to break a 1-1 tie thanks to a pair of two-run RBI singles from Daniel Murphy and Trea Turner and Adam Eaton getting smacked by a pitch with the bases loaded. The Nationals split the series and reach the All-Star break with a 48-48 record, in third place, five and a half behind the Phillies.

Marlins 10, Phillies 5: The Marlins scored eight runs on eight hits in the fifth inning, with Brian Anderson‘s three-run homer being the biggest blow. Cameron Maybin homered and singled that inning two and Justin Bour drove in a couple. The Marlins have actually been playing pretty respectable baseball for the past month and change. The Phillies lose the series but remain a half game ahead of the Braves in the east.

Braves 5, Diamondbacks 1: Lots of teams scored their runs in bunches yesterday. Here the Braves scored four of their five runs in the third, with four different players each driving in a single run, none via a homer. Preston Tucker did hit a homer for Atlanta — a punch hit number — in the seventh. Julio Teheran tossed shutout ball into the seventh inning.

Twins 11, Rays 7: This was a wild one, with lead changes, back and forth momentum and a couple of benches-clearing incidents thanks to some trash talk that, thankfully, did not result in any punches or shoving. It also featured fifteen pitchers — nine by the Rays alone — and three separate blown saves in a ten-inning game that lasted four hours and thirty-eight minutes. Woof. Brian Dozier put an end to it all, however, with a walkoff grand slam in the bottom of the 10th. It was a fun final frame, too, with Jake Cave doubling to start it off, eventually being sacrificed to third base. Given that he was the only run that mattered, Rays manager Kevin Cash ordered two intentional walks to load the bases to get to Dozier, playing a five-man infield in the hopes of something being hit on the ground. “It didn’t work, obviously,” Cash said after the game. You don’t say. The Twins won nine of eleven on their home stand heading into the break.

Tigers 6, Astros 3: Justin Verlander struck out 12 of his former mates — or, at the very least, 12 guys wearing the uniform of his former mates — but he also gave up six runs in six innings thanks to his serving up four gopher balls. John Hicks hit a two-run blast and Jeimer Candelario, Niko Goodrum and Jim Adduci had solo shots. Between the Ks and the long balls, Verlander called it one of the weirdest starts of his career.

Dodgers 5, Angels 3Yasmani Grandal and Enrique Hernandez each homered and even Clayton Kershaw drove in a run. He pitched pretty well too as the Dodgers earn a split of the Freeway Series overall, 3-3. Given that we’re talking about L.A. freeways here, it’s pretty appropriate that it’s all locked up like that.

Athletics 6, Giants 2Stephen Piscotty homered as the A’s take two of three from their cross-bay rivals and win their ninth game in their last 12. The A’s have been absolutely torrid for the past month, winning 21 of 27 and cutting the Mariners’ lead for the second Wild Card down to 3.5 games. They were 11 games back of Seattle a month ago.

Cubs 7, Padres 4: Chicago had a 5-0 lead after the first couple of innings and cruised from there. Jon Lester won for the eighth time in nine starts and Jason Heyward drove in a couple of runs. The Cubs enter the All-Star break with the best record in the National League.