And That Happened: Sunday’s scores and highlights

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Rays 8, Red Sox 5: Tim Wakefield got a lot of love for his 200th win last week. But it didn’t change the fact that Tim Wakefield doesn’t have a whole hell of a lot left. Now only two games separate these two in the wild card race. And the Rays-love has gotten so crazy that I almost feel like going full-bore contrarian here and may start rooting for the Red Sox. Ah, maybe not. But the desire of the non-Boston people to see the Rays pull this off has gotten near-comical.

Blue Jays 3, Yankees 0: Adam Lind homered twice and Brandon Morrow shut the Yankees the hell down, allowing four hits in eight shutout innings, striking out eight.  To be fair, the Yankees sent out a lineup that you couldn’t pick out of a lineup. Maybe they knew the Red Sox would lose and that it didn’t matter?

Mets 7, Braves 5: Four driven in for Ruben Tejada as the Mets take two of three from the Braves. Johnny Venters walked three and gave up two hits, including a homer, in one inning of work. For those who care, the Braves had exactly two things going for them in their march to the playoffs: strong starting pitching and a shutdown pen. The first one went by the wayside with injures several weeks ago. Now the second one has questions too. R.I.P. Braves season. Whether it ends with the wild card or not, this is a dead team walking.

Giants 12, Rockies 5: And don’t look now, but the Giants are on a freaking roll.  Eight straight wins, this on the back of two Pablo Sandoval homers. Too little too late? I suspect so. And in some ways I hope so. Not because what’s good for them is bad for my team, but because I’m pretty sure there won’t be anything more insufferable on the planet than Giants fans playing the “no one believed in us” card if they make the playoffs. And they’ll be right. And they themselves were included in that as recently as a week ago, though I suppose that part will be conveniently forgotten.

Cardinals 5, Phillies 0: Two homers for Allen Craig and a homer for Albert Pujols. One freakin’ time all year I root for the Phillies and they drop two of the first three. Gee, thanks guys.

Nationals 4, Marlins 3: I think Jack McKeon and Davey Johnson arranged the Hand vs. Wang matchup just to see how many baseball writers would go crazy with the headlines. But not me. I’m above that. At least I am after Wang won the game.  If, however, Hand had handled Wang, I couldn’t have been held responsible for the sheer amount of juvenilia that would have emanated from my keyboard. Oh, and Hand has lost successive games to Wang and Dickey. Just so you know.

White Sox 10, Royals 5: A.J. Pierzynski hit two homers. I’m sure he did it in the nastinest way possible.

Indians 6, Twins 5: The Tribe scored six in the seventh, thanks in part to two fabulous things: a Shelley Duncan homer and a Jim Thome infield single. Jason Repko was beaned by a Justin Masterson sinker that didn’t sink and had to be taken to the hospital, so that sort of took the fun out of it all.

Brewers 8, Reds 1: Milwaukee sweeps the Reds behind homers from Prince Fielder, Carlos Gomez and Corey Hart and a nice outing from Zack Greinke. Cincinnati had only two hits for the second day in a row. Smells like they’re mailing in the last two weeks. Milwaukee will probably be the next team to clinch a playoff spot.

Diamondbacks 5, Padres 1:  Or maybe the Dbacks will be. For, yes, San Francisco is charging, but Arizona’s magic number is five, and that’s a pretty sure bet. Joe Saunders pitched splendidly. Paul Goldschmidt drove in three.

Angels 11, Orioles 2: Baltimore has been a pesky little spolier in the past week or so, but not yesterday. Erik Aybar went 4 for 4 with two homers and a walk and scored five times. The five runs ties a 13-year-old team record held by Tim Salmon. Jered Weaver pitched well on three-days’ rest, winning his 18th.

Rangers 3, Mariners 0: But no ground was gained by the Angels because the Rangers beat King Felix. Four Rangers pitchers combine to blank the M’s.

Dodgers 15, Pirates 1: Half a dozen NFL teams didn’t score 15 yesterday so, hey, nice goin’ L.A. Four a piece driven in by Jerry Sands and Juan Rivera.

Tigers 3, Athletics 0: Justin Verlander wins his 24th. Which seems like an MVP-type number in ways that 23 isn’t. No, I’m not changing my mind. I still don’t think Verlander should be the MVP. But I bet a lot of voters who were on the fence will be pushed there because of his 24th win. All of that said: Verlander’s wins seem a hell of a lot more solid than most guy’s gaudy win totals in recent history. This was a three-hitter over eight shutout innings. The vast majority of his wins have come with authority this season.

Astros 3, Cubs 2: A Carlos Pena would-be homer was called a double on replay — pretty correctly, I’ll add — but that didn’t stop Mike Quade from arguing it and getting himself ejected. Anyone else think that the Mike Quade administration is just about over?  Yeah, me too.

Red Sox survive back-and-forth affair with Astros, win 8-6 to take 3-1 lead in ALCS

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Game 4 of the ALCS on Wednesday night between the Red Sox and Astros was a thrilling back-and-forth affair with seven lead changes. Ultimately, the Red Sox emerged victorious with a hard-fought 7-5 victory.

The Red Sox wasted no time getting on the board, plating two runs in the top of the first inning against Charlie Morton thanks to a walk, hit-by-pitch, wild pitch, and a Rafael Devers single. In the bottom half, José Altuve hit what appeared to be a game-tying two-run home run to right field off of Rick Porcello. Mookie Betts leaped and was interfered with by fans in the stands, so Altuve was called out instead. The ruling was upheld after review.

In the bottom of the second, the Astros officially scored their first run when Carlos Correa knocked home a run with a single. The Red Sox immediately got it back when Xander Bogaerts doubled in a run in the top of the third, running the score to 3-1. In what would become a trend, the Astros also responded as George Springer drilled a solo homer and Josh Reddick hit an RBI single of his own to tie the game at 3-3. Tony Kemp added a solo homer down the right field line in the fourth to put the Astros on top for the first time. Bogaerts hit another RBI single in the top of the fifth to re-tie the game at 4-4. Correa followed suit in the bottom half, hitting his second RBI single of the game to give the Astros back the lead.

Jackie Bradley, Jr., who hit a soul-crushing grand slam off of Roberto Osuna in Game 3, hit another homer in Game 4, a two-run shot in the sixth off of Josh James. In the seventh, the Red Sox loaded the bases with two outs and Lance McCullers, Jr. entered to try to put out the fire. He did not, briefly, walking Brock Holt to force in a run and make the score 7-5. McCullers did end up getting out of the inning without any further damage. Just for good measure, though, J.D. Martinez tacked on a run in the eighth with an RBI single to make it 8-5.

Ryan Brasier got five outs and Matt Barnes one in the sixth and seventh. Manager Alex Cora decided to call on Craig Kimbrel for a six-out save when the bottom of the eighth rolled around. The 2018 postseason hasn’t been kind to Kimbrel as he had given up runs in all three of his appearances. Kimbrel gave up hits to the first three batters he faced. Kemp led off with a single but he tried to stretch it into a double and was thrown out at second base by Betts. Kimbrel then hit Alex Bregman with a pitch and surrendered a double to George Springer, putting runners at second and third with one out. Altuve knocked in a run with a ground out to make it 8-6, but Kimbrel saw his way out of the inning by striking out Marwin González.

In the ninth, Cora decided to keep Kimbrel in the ballgame despite his continued struggles. Kimbrel got Yuli Gurriel to pop up to start the inning, but then issued back-to-back walks to Reddick and Correa. Kimbrel got out number two by getting Brian McCann to fly out to right field, then walked Tony Kemp to load the bases. Cora decided to stay with Kimbrel as Bregman came to the plate. Kimbrel threw a first-pitch, 97 MPH fastball that Bregman laced into shallow left field. Andrew Benintendi charged in and dived, catching the ball just in time to save the game, ending it for an 8-6 victory. Of the 18 half-innings, the two sides failed to score in only seven of them.

The Red Sox, now up three games to one in the ALCS, will try to close it out on Thursday night in Houston. If the Red Sox win, they will return to the World Series for the first time since 2013.