And That Happened: Wednesday’s scores and highlights

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Yankees 8, Royals 3: Alex Rodriguez would like the New York sporting press to write more career obituaries for him. It seems to suit him nicely (2 for 4, 2 HR, 3 RBI).

Reds 2, Braves 1: Todd Frazier hit a walkoff homer. It came off  Cristhian Martinez because, as everyone knows, Fredi Gonzalez would be drummed out of the managers’ guild if he had actually used his best reliever in a tie game in the ninth inning. The Reds are surging, winners of five straight.

Rays 5, Blue Jays 4: Another walkoff, this one a double from B.J. Upton (a.k.a. “Flash”)  in the 11th.

Mets 3, Pirates 1: Jon Niese allowed one run in 7 and two-thirds, bouncing back from some craptastic starts.

Red Sox 6, Orioles 5: Daniel Nava and Kelly Shoppach hit sixth-inning homers, breaking what had been a 2-2 tie. The Sox are back to .500 and they took two of three from the first place O’s.  Now, if form holds, they’ll cruise into first place for the bulk of the summer and then everyone can write some “will they collapse again?” stories in late August.  Nice to have the summer planned out like that, yes?

Phillies 4, Nationals 1: Cole Hamels was on-point, taking a no-hitter into the sixth, shutting out the Nats for eight innings and ending the Phillies losing skid. And no, no one threw at anyone or otherwise acted like a jackwagon.

Cardinals 6, Padres 3: On a night when I watched the Cardinals double-A team beat the Padres double-A team, the Cardinals major league team beat the Padres, well, sure, I suppose we can call them a major league team. They had a 3-0 lead in the first inning, but that was all they’d get. Carlos Beltran hit his 14th home.

Diamondbacks 11, Dodgers 4: If you have to end your winning streak, end it big. The Dbacks had 14 hits. Willie Bloomquist of all people had three. Joe Saunders struck out seven.

White Sox 6, Twins 0: Chris Sale shut ’em out for seven. Paul Konerko hit a homer. Apparently Konerko played for the San Antonio Missions once too back when they were a Dodgers affiliate. I like that the Missions honor their old players who were there when there was a different affiliation. Not ever minor league club does that. The Missions seem to say “MLB teams come and go in these parts; we’ll always be here.”

Astros 5, Cubs 1: That’s nine straight losses for Chicago. This is starting to look like a historic season for the Cubbies.

Rockies 8, Marlins 4: Troy Tulowitzki homered and drove in four. After the game he said this was “a big win for us.” I suppose all wins are big, but I’ll get more excited when the Rockies are less than 13 and a half back.

Indians 4, Tigers 2: After seeing that they loaded the bases with no one out in the eighth and didn’t freaking score, I’m searching for something good to say about the Tigers right now. How about: “well, their streak of not being shutout is still intact.”  Cleveland, on the other hand has lots going for them. Like Jason Kipnis, who had three hits and then bloodied his arm up really good when he slid into home in the eighth inning with the go-ahead run.

Mariners 5, Rangers 3: In what I’m going to take as a sign that no team is going to be a total juggernaut this year, Seattle took two of three from the Rangers. From the game story: “Alex Liddi hit the first major league grand slam by an Italian-born player in a half-century.” OK, then.

Angels 3, Athletics 1: Alberto Callaspo hit a go-ahead two-run double in the 11th. Ernesto Frieri continues his good work.

Brewers 8, Giants 5: Remember a few weeks ago when people were starting up that “Hey, Barry Zito may have finally figured it out!” stuff?  Yeah, let’s just shelve that until he has two or three good starts again next year. The Brewers unloaded on him for eight runs — only four earned — in three innings.

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.