And That Happened: Thursday’s scores and highlights

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Braves 6, Padres 0: Chipper Jones with two mammo yicketties on Chipper Jones bobblehead night. One of his homers was his 2,700th career hit. Say what you want about the guy, but he has always had a flair for the dramatic and has always risen to the occasion. Even kinda lame occasions like bobblehead nights. Oh, and Kris Medlen threw a five hit shutout. Yawn.

Pirates 10, Dodgers 6: Big night for guys named Jones. Garrett hit two homers of his own — both three-run bombs. The bigger fallout of this game, though, is gonna come from umpire Angel Campos’ eject-a-thon. He tossed Matt Kemp while Kemp was in the dugout then tossed Don Mattingly when he came out to argue about the Kemp ejection. Kemp claims he was merely cheering on his teammate. Mattingly was livid after the game and chided Campos for running his star for no reason early in a game between two teams fighting for the playoffs.  Mattingly has a damn good point.

Red Sox 6, Orioles 3: Clay Buchholz won his eleventh, Adrian Gonzalez drove in two and then Bobby Valentine and six players got into a huge fight over gambling losses and the illegal alien smuggling/cockfighting they’re all running out of the clubhouse. Or so my anonymous source tells me.

Rangers 10, Yankees 6: A close one, albeit an ugly one, until the Yankees pen really got going, at which point the Rangers teed off for eight runs between the sixth and ninth innings. The Yankees still won three of four, though.

Mets 8, Reds 4: Matt Harvey had a nice outing (7.2 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 8K) and a two run double to [all together now] help his own cause. Homer Bailey: not so much. Homers for Ike Davis and Jason Bay. And I’m not sure what game Frank Frank was watching.

Athletics 3, Royals 0: Five pitchers combine to shut out Kansas City. Homers from Coco Crisp and Yoenis Cespedes.

Rockies 5, Marlins 3: Down 3-1 in the sixth, the Rockies roared back late. By the way, I like to think of the Marlins and the Rockies eternally in battle over which 1993 expansion team can claim the mantle of superiority. The Marlins obviously have two World Series titles, but the Rockies have won more games and haven’t had as many purely miserable seasons. I picture David Neid and Brett Barberie having a decades-long bet over all of this. I pretend that Joe Girardi — who played for the Rockies and managed the Marlins — holds big secret viewing parties if the Yankees aren’t playing when Miami and Colorado meet up.

Brewers 7, Phillies 4: Holy crappy bullpens, Batman! Cliff Lee wasn’t fantastic — he gave up three homers — but he struck out 12 in seven innings and left the game with a 4-3 lead in the eighth, with two out and a runner on second.  In comes J__ Lindblom. Ryan Braun is intentionally walked, Aramis Ramirez is unintentionally walked and then Corey Hart hit a grand slam. Really, folks: can you think of a matchup of two teams with crappier bullpens this year?

Rays 7, Angels 0: David Price continues his outstanding season. He wins his 16th, tossing his first shutout of the year. Meanwhile, Dan Haren continues to have a profoundly disappointing 2012.

Diamondbacks 2, Cardinals 1: Jason Motte came in to protect a 1-0 lead in the ninth and gave up back-to-back homers — on consecutive pitches no less — to Paul Goldschmidt and Chris Young. Fun Young quote:

“Goldie came through huge for us and kind of took the pressure off me,” Young said. “At that point, for me, it was just go out and try to win the ballgame.”

Yeah, that’s all.

White Sox 7, Blue Jays 2Nothing that happened on the field mattered much here.

Nats’ success shouldn’t be about Bryce Harper

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Bryce Harper turns 27 years old today. As an early birthday present, he got to watch his former team reach the World Series for the first time in franchise history. His new team finished exactly at .500 in fourth place, missing the playoffs. These were facts that did not go unnoticed as the Nationals completed an NLCS sweep of the Cardinals at home last night.

Harper spent seven seasons with the Nationals before hitting free agency and ultimately signing with the Phillies on a 13-million, $330 million contract. The Nationals offered Harper a 10-year, $300 million contract at the end of the 2018 regular season, but about $100 million of that was deferred until he was 65 which lowered the present-day value of the offer. The Nats’ offer wasn’t even in the same ballpark, really.

Nevertheless, Nationals fans were upset that their prodigy jilted them to go to the Phillies. He was mercilessly booed whenever the Phillies played in D.C. Nats fans’ Harper jerseys were destroyed, or at least taped over.

Harper, of course, was phenomenal with the Nationals. He won the NL Rookie of the Year Award in 2012, then won the NL MVP Award several years later with an historically outstanding 1.109 OPS while leading the league with 42 homers and 118 runs scored. Overall, as a National, he had a .900 OPS. Pretty good. He was also productive in the postseason, posting an .801 OPS across 19 games, mostly against playoff teams’ best starters and best relievers. Furthermore, if the Nats had Harper this year, he would have been in right field in lieu of Adam Eaton. Harper out OPS’d Eaton by 90 points and posted 2.5 more WAR in a similar amount of playing time. The Nationals would have been even better if they had Harper this year.

The Nationals lost all four Division Series they appeared in during the Harper era. 3-2 to the Cardinals in 2012, 3-1 to the Giants in ’14, 3-2 to the Dodgers in ’16, and 3-2 to the Cubs in ’17. They finally get over the hump the first year they’re without Harper, that’s the difference, right? I saw the phrase “addition by subtraction” repeatedly last night, referring to Harper and the Nats’ subsequent success without him.

Harper, though, didn’t fork over four runs to the Cardinals in the top of the ninth inning in Game 5 in 2012. He didn’t allow the Dodgers to rally for four runs in the seventh inning of Game 5 in ’16 before ultimately losing 4-3. He didn’t use a gassed Max Scherzer in relief in 2017’s Game 5, when he allowed five of the seven Cubs he faced to reach base, leading to three runs which loomed large in a 9-8 loss. If certain rolls of the dice in those years had gone the Nationals’ way, they would have appeared in the NLCS. They might’ve even been able to win a World Series.

The Nationals saw how that looks this year. It was the opposing manager this time, Dave Roberts, who mismanaged his bullpen. Howie Kendrick then hit a tie-breaking grand slam in the 10th inning off of Joe Kelly to win the NLDS for the Nats. The playoffs are random. Sometimes a ball bounces your way, sometimes an umpire’s call goes your way, and sometimes the opposing manager makes several unforced errors to throw Game 5 in your lap.

Reaching the World Series, then thumbing your nose while sticking out your tongue at Harper feels like a guy tagging his ex-girlfriend on his new wedding photos. It’s time to move on.