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.

Nationals’ sell-off a vindication for Dusty Baker

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The Nationals threw in the towel on Tuesday, trading second baseman Daniel Murphy to the Cubs and 1B/OF Matt Adams to the Cardinals. The club also placed outfielder and soon-to-be free agent Bryce Harper on revocable waivers but took him back. The Nats’ sell-off is a vindication for former manager Dusty Baker, let go after the Nationals failed to advance past the NLDS for a second straight year.

Baker had roughly the same team current manager Dave Martinez did. It was arguably worse, considering he never wrote Juan Soto‘s name on the lineup card. The 2018 squad, sans Baker, has been marked by mutiny and underachievement. While failing to reach the NLCS in Baker’s two years was disappointing, he took them to Game 5 in the NLDS both years as well as 95 and 97 regular season wins. Right now, Martinez’s squad has a winning percentage more than 100 points lower than Baker’s last year. They’re on pace to go 80-82, which would be their first sub-.500 season since 2011.

Baker has always had an undeserved bad rap. He was, correctly, blamed for the Cubs’ demise, due somewhat to Kerry Wood and Mark Prior falling apart, ostensibly from overuse. However, after his stint in Chicago, Baker took the lowly Reds from the bottom of the NL Central to the top in two years between 2008-10. Then he took the Nationals, which had won a meager 83 games in 2015 and had made the playoffs just twice since moving from Montreal, to two consecutive NLDS Game 5’s.

Not much changed from 2017 to ’18. Martinez inherited Ryan Zimmerman, Trea Turner, Anthony Rendon, Michael Taylor, Bryce Harper, Adam Eaton, Daniel Murphy, Matt Wieters, Max Scherzer, Tanner Roark, Gio Gonzalez, Stephen Strasburg, Sean Doolittle, Ryan Madson, Brandon Kintzler, Shawn Kelley, and Koda Glover, among others. But for one reason or another — injuries, admittedly, make up one reason — almost all of these players are having worse years under Martinez than under Baker. Describing the 2018 team to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, Baker said, “They’re together, but they’re separate.”

Is it strictly Baker that would make the difference? No, of course not. But the Nationals organization seems unwilling or unable to address issues that may extend into the front office. The Nats seem happy to go through a new manager every couple of years and hope that fixes all that ails them. Since Frank Robinson’s five years at the helm from 2002-06, Manny Acta managed two and a half years, Jim Riggleman one and a half, Davey Johnson two, Matt Williams two, Baker two. Maybe the problem was never the manager. Perhaps the problem is the Lerner family and Mike Rizzo.