And That Happened: Monday’s scores and highlights

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Nationals 5, Braves 4: I suppose you can yell at Dan Uggla for messing up the play with the infield in and a runner on third in the 13th inning which allowed the winning run to score. But perhaps it’s also worth noting that the Braves played perhaps their most important game to date, in a series that, if they don’t win, the division title is basically out of reach, with their best relief pitcher sitting on his butt. But hey, at least Fredi Gonzalez saved Craig Kimbrel for a save situation that never came. Not having him then would have been terrible. Far better to leave everything up to Cristhian Martinez in a situation when a strikeout is absolutely critical, not the guy who strikes out 15.8 batters per nine innings.

Giants 2, Dodgers 1: In another division battle — with a marquee starting pitching matchup — Madison Bumgarner Dominated the Dodgers, striking out ten in eight shutout innings. Clayton Kershaw struck out ten in eight innings too, but Pablo Sandoval got to him twice, with a sacrifice and an RBI single.

Rangers 5, Orioles 1: The Rangers finally get a Ryan Dempster outing that looked like the Cubs version of Ryan Dempster (8 IP, 4 H, 1 ER). All nine Rangers starters got a hit. You don’t win anything for that, but if you do it nine times in one season, everyone in the lineup gets a free t-shirt. Assuming they all got their little cards punched each time.

Rockies 3, Mets 1: R.A. Dickey was solid but for a home run to Tyler Colvin, and then the Rockies scored a run on a passed ball by Kelly Shoppach. Shoppach was so livid about it not being called a wild pitch that he texted the official scorer with Ike Davis’ phone in order to voice his displeasure.

Brewers 9, Cubs 5: Jonathan Lucroy hit two homers and drove in four. Pretty fantastic year for him. He’s hitting .328/.379/.554 with 8 homers in 62 games.

Phillies 12, Reds 5: Not a great outing for Roy Halladay — five runs on ten hits in seven innings — but when the offense goes crazy like this, you don’t need to be great. Homers from Ryan Howard, Erik Kratz and John Mayberry, but really everybody got into the act.

Rays 5, Royals 1: The amazing pitching — and the winning — continue for Tampa Bay. Jeremy Hellickson threw seven innings, allowing one run on six hits. You know how you make up for a “meh” first half? You have your rotation turn into the 1998 Braves in the second half. That’s Tampa Bay this year.

White Sox 9, Yankees 6: New York blew a 3-0 lead, hopped back on top at 6-5 and then blew it again. And their lead over the Rays is now down to four games. DeWayne Wise, Gordon Beckham, Alexi Ramirez and Adam Dunn all went yard against a tater-happy Yankees pen.

Marlins 12, Diamondbacks 3: It was all over when the Fish put a nine-spot on Joe Saunders in the fourth innings. Giancarlo Stanton hit two big homers and drove in four and Jose Reyes and John Buck each had four hits in the Marlins 20-hit attack.

Padres 3, Pirates 1: Edinson Volquez — who has been horrifyingly bad lately — struck out ten in six and two-thirds and Will Venable drove in two.

Mariners 5, Indians 3: Michael Saunders continues his recent hot streak, smacking two homers. He’s eight for his last 16 with three homers. Cleveland has no dropped six in a row.

Twins 7, Athletics 2: The A’s lose their first in five games, the Twins with their first in six. How did it happen, Ron Gardenhire?

“Right from the get-go. We got some runs in there early, had a little bit of a lead and kept getting some base hits and quality at-bats,” Gardenhire said. “And Duens did his thing. It was a nice night. We got to run around the bases a little bit. Some guys had some good nights.”

“Duens?” That’s Brian Duensing’s nickname? Creative, there.

Red Sox look to punch their ticket to the World Series tonight

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Thanks to some amazing defense, some big hits and — to continue to beat this horse, a bad call by Joe West — the Red Sox have a 3-1 lead in the ALCS and look to clinch the AL Pennant tonight down in Houston.

If you believe in momentum, you’d have to say it’s on Boston’s side. If you believe that momentum is the next day’s starting pitcher, however, you’d have to say things favor Houston more than the standing of the series would suggest. All of which makes me wish Game 5 was starting right now, because it figures to be a tense and exciting affair.

ALCS Game 5

Red Sox vs. Astros
Ballpark: Minute Maid Park
Time: 8:09 PM Eastern
TV: TBS
Pitchers: David Price vs. Justin Verlander
Breakdown:

If someone told you that you had to win one baseball game against the Martians to save the human race, you could do far worse than calling on Justin Verlander to be your starting pitcher. Among the pitchers still in the postseason, he’d almost certainly be your choice right now.

Does Verlander himself appreciate the situation? This is what he said about that yesterday:

“I mean, these are all must-win games at this point. Every time you take the mound I don’t think there’s any difference whether it’s 2-2 or 3-1.”

Look, we’re asking him to beat the Martians here, not win the National Math Bee, so let’s let that go. The point is that after all of these years he’s still one of the most dominant pitchers in the game and after the exhausting, see-saw battle of Game 4, he stands the best chance of giving Houston what it needs: a quick, quiet and drama-free win.

Not that the Red Sox are likely to roll over for that. They didn’t the first time they faced Verlander in this series. They Astros won, yes, and Verlander limited them to two runs on two hits. But he also issued four walks and wasn’t his sharpest overall. Boston didn’t capitalize on his mistakes as best they could, but he’s not invincible.

For Boston it’s David Price. He allowed four runs on five hits and four walks over four and two-thirds innings in Game 2, not factoring in the decision. That’s not great, but given the talk leading up to that game being all about how Price is a postseason flop, the fact that the Sox won it in the end had to bouy him at least a little. As does the fact that, here, tonight, it’s not 100% on his shoulders. Sure, the Sox want to close this out, but with a 3-1 lead there is less pressure on Price than on his former teammate Verlander. Worth noting, though: Price is on short rest and warmed up in the bullpen last night in case he was needed to bail out Craig Kimbrel. He may not go deep into this game.