And That Happened: Sunday’s scores and highlights

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There were only 14 games yesterday. On a Sunday. Because the A’s and Mariners didn’t play thanks to the Japan Series. Look, I don’t care if you want to start the season in Japan, but there should be a federal law against anything less than a full slate of games on a Sunday.  Anyway:

Tigers 13, Red Sox 12: How about the back end of that Red Sox bullpen? Alfredo Aceves blew a 10-7 lead in the ninth thanks to a Miguel Cabrera three-run homer and Mark Melancon blew a two-run lead in the eleventh thanks to a walkoff job by Alex Avila. Anyone want to see Vicente Padilla closing? He threw 50 m.p.h. heat to Prince Fielder and lived to tell the tale. Anyway, so far Miguel Cabrera has begun the season 5 for his first 11 with three homers and eight RBI. Both Fielder and Avila are 5 for 12 with two bombs. Mercy.

Pirates 5, Phillies 4: That’s two walkoff wins in a row for Pittsburgh, this one courtesy of Andrew McCutchen. Phillies starters gave up only two runs in twenty innings this series, yet they dropped two of the three games.

Rays 3, Yankees 0: Jeremy Hellickson allowed three hits while shutting out the Yankees for eight and two-thirds. He just couldn’t get the shutout, however, as he walked Nick Swisher, pushing his pitch count up to 118. Four Fernando Rodney pitches later and it was over. The Rays sweep the Yankees. This never would have happened if The Boss were still alive!  Oh, wait, it very well might have.

Orioles 3, Twins 1: Jason Hammel took a no-hitter into the eighth inning and the Twins mustered just two hits in the whole ballgame.  The Twins scored just five runs in the entire series. Against Baltimore. The Baltimore Orioles.

Mets 7, Braves 5: Jon Niese took a no-hitter into the seventh inning in a game that was nowhere near as close as the final score suggests (the Mets had a 7-0 lead until that seventh inning). The Braves scored seven runs on fourteen hits in three games.

Indians 4, Blues Jays 3: Carlos Santana hit two home runs. It was also his birthday so, hey, free dessert at Applebee’s too. According to the AP recap, Santana is 10 for 17 with five homers and 13 RBIs on his last four birthdays.

Cubs 4, Nationals 3: Man, I’ve gone several years now without having any compelling reason to learn how to spell Jeff Samardzija’s name, but now it looks like I gotta. Samardzija nearly went the distance — and had what should have been the last out except Starlin Castro committed an error — before giving up a homer to Adam LaRoche.  Still, eight and two-thirds innings, allowing only one earned run on four hits while striking out eight is not bad. Not bad at all.

Cardinals 9, Brewers 3: Lance Lynn wasn’t even supposed to be here today, man. Indeed, but for the Chris Carpenter injury, Lynn would be working from the pen. But he did just swell starting, giving up one run in six and two-thirds while punching out eight. The Cards take two of three from the Brew Crew. Corey Hart went yard for the third time in two days. Which is kind of nuts considering the dude had surgery and was on crutches about a month ago.

Padres 8, Dodgers 4: Clayton Richard gave up two runs on two hits but neither of the runs were earned. Chase Heddy — wait, that’s Headley — had a grand slam.

Diamondbacks 7, Giants 6: San Francisco had a 6-0 lead after they finished batting in the fourth, but Matt Cain and Jeremy Affeldt couldn’t hold the Dbacks down.

Royals 7, Angels 3: Eric Hosmer and Billy Butler homered and drove in three runs apiece as the Royals take two of three from Anaheim. Albert Pujols went two for three with a double and his first RBI as a Halo.

Astros 3, Rockies 2:  Juan Nicasio put forth a fine effort (7 IP, 5 H, 1 ER) in his first regular season action since taking that nasty comebacker last year. It didn’t hold up, however, as the Rockies’ defense failed on a ball back to the mound in the eighth, allowing Houston to score the tying run while extending the inning for the go-ahead single by Brian Bogusevic. Pfun Pfact: This is the first time the Astros have been over .500 since July 29, 2009. They shouldn’t get used to it, but good for them.

Rangers 5, White Sox 0: Matt Harrison and three relievers combine for the shutout. Homers from Murphy, Beltre and Hamilton. And yeah, I watched “Mad Men” instead of the last few innings of this game. I’m still in spring training form I guess. Anyway: WTF with Don’s fever dream? Crazy!

Reds 6, Marlins 5: Heath Bell couldn’t hold a one-run lead, giving up a homer to Jay Bruce and then a hot-shot infield single by Scott Rolen.  Ozzie Guillen has now gone two whole days without expressing his admiration and affection for brutal socialist dictators.

Dusty Baker hired to manage the Astros

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Note: This was first posted yesterday morning. Now that it has been confirmed by multiple outlets, we are updating it.

The Astros and Dusty Baker have an agreement to make Baker the new manager of the Houston Astros. Baker’s hiring was first reported by Bob Nightengale of USA Today yesterday. Today his hiring was confirmed by Marl Feinsand of MLB.com, citing multiple sources.

Baker recently interviewed with Astros owner Jim Crane who, as you know, was in the position of having to find a new manager on the quick given the suspension and subsequent firing of A.J. Hinch in the wake of the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal. Crane also interviewed Brad Ausmus in recent days.

In Baker the Astros are getting a manager who needs no training and needs no introduction. He has won basically everywhere he has managed, taking the Giants to the World Series in three postseason appearances, taking the Cubs to the postseason once, taking the Reds to the postseason three times and taking the Nationals to the postseason in both years at the helm. In 22 years as a skipper he has a record of 1,863-1,636. His worst single-team winning percentage is .497 with the Cubs. He was a .593 manager in Washington, a .540 manager in San Francisco, and a .524 manager in Cincinnati.

Baker has a track record of taking over poor-to-decent clubs and, almost immediately, making them winners. He did it in Washington, he did it in Cincinnati, he did it in San Francisco and, though it was only in his first season before running into some bad years, he even did it in Chicago. No one has the market cornered on assessing manager skill and quality, but the fact that Baker has won everywhere he’s gone probably means that, if they do eventually figure out what the special sauce is, Baker will be found to have possessed a vat of it.

He certainly has an interesting challenge in Houston. Unlike his past gigs, he’s taking over a monster of a team, winners of 107 games and the AL pennant last year and, of course, winning the 2017 World Series. With the exception of Gerrit Cole, who departed via free agency, basically all of the players who took the Nationals to Game 7 of the 2019 World Series will be back in 2020.

Which makes figuring out the expectations we should have for Baker an interesting thing. On the one hand, when a team loses Game 7 of the World Series like the Astros did, all but one outcome is a step back. Given that winning a World Series is no guarantee, ever, there’s a chance that even if Baker does an amazing job in Houston he ends his tenure being cast, again, as some sort of disappointment. A guy who couldn’t get it done in the postseason.

On the other hand the Astros have just been busted in a massive cheating scandal and — if you believe they were still cheating in 2019, which some do believe — they will have lost an advantage they once had. Between that, the departure of Cole and the overall fallout of the sign-stealing scandal and the scrutiny under which the team will be in 2020, it would not be at all shocking if they take a step back regardless of who was hired to manage. Which means that if Baker does win it all with Houston, man, it’d be a hell of an accomplishment. Or he could fall short of a World Series win and still be considered a massive success by virtue of keeping a team with every reason to be distracted to stay focused and play good baseball.

No matter how this plays out on the field, however, the fact of the matter is that, in addition to winning everyplace he’s ever been, Baker has long been praised for his management of the clubhouse. For motivating players and keeping them on an even keel. For bringing calm to places where one might expect storms. Win or lose, that’s exactly what this team needs right now. It’s exactly why, in our view, Baker is the perfect hire for the Houston Astros.