And That Happened: Sunday’s scores and highlights

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Orioles 9, Athletics 5: Baltimore salvages one. Which is important for two reasons. Reason 1:  It’s their 82nd win of the year, which means they will finish above .500 for the first time in forever.  More importantly: they really just need to avoid the disaster west coast trip here. If they take care of business against the Mariners this week they can call the trip a success. Or at least a non-calamity. They hold a two and a half game lead over the Angels and trail New York by one. Thirteen pitchers used in this game, by the way.

Cardinals 5, Dodgers 2: It was the ninth pitcher — out of ten total — that let it get away for the Dodgers. John Ely came in for the top of the 12th inning and walked a dude, but then got two outs. Then: Jon Jay doubled in a run, Carlos Beltran was walked intentionally, Matt Holliday was hit by a pitch, Allen Craig singled in a run and Yadier Molina walked to force in another. That was it for Mr. Ely and the Dodgers, who fall out of a tie for the second wild card slot.

Indians 7, Tigers 6: Oh brother. Not only do the Tigers blow this one in the ninth to the Tribe, but Alex Avila got hurt too. Lonnie Chisenhall singled in the winning run off Jose Valverde, who blew a two-run lead, ending the Tigers four-game winning streak.

White Sox 9, Twins 2: The sweep. And a rare instance of one of the two Central contenders taking care of business against inferior division foes lately.

Astros 7, Phillies 6: Philly’s surge came to a crashing halt in Houston, where they dropped three of four to the woeful Astros. It’s a familiar story, though one that hasn’t been a chronic problem in the second half: pathetic middle relief, with Phillip Aumont and Antonio Bastardo blowing Roy Halladay’s lead. Philly is four games back in the wild card now, with four teams ahead of them.

Cubs 13, Pirates 9: Wild card contenders losing to cupcakes is all the rage, apparently. Here the Pirates blew a 6-1 lead. Anthony Rizzo and Pedro Alvarez each had two homers. The Pirates have lost 12 of 15, including two of three to the Cubs.

Brewers 3, Mets 0: Wily Peralta tossed eight, two-hit shutout innings. Oh, and remember everyone who said that Ryan Braun was gonna fall off bigtime this year due to him being caught up in that testosterone business last year? Yeah, as if. Two more homers today. Braun is now hitting .312/.387/.602 with 40 homers and 103 RBI.  He should be a top MVP candidate again. Let’s see if he gets any love.

Braves 5, Nationals 1: The sweep. Still, I won’t be able to read this kind of thing without extreme anxiety until after the season is over:

Atlanta’s sweep solidified its return to the playoffs after a historic collapse in the final month last season. The Braves maintained a seven-game lead over the second wild-card spot, held by St. Louis, and are eight games up on the next club in the race, the Los Angeles Dodgers. It would take a more epic meltdown than even 2011 to squander that lead with only 15 games to go.

And that could never happen!  I’m …I’m almost certain of it.

Diamondbacks 10, Giants 2: Patrick Corbin wins the Helped His Own Cause Award, driving in four runs while tossing eight innings of two-run ball.

Angels 4, Royals 3: Dan Haren gave up three runs while pitching into the sixth and then a parade of relievers — Nick Maronde,Garrett Richards, Scott Downs, Jordan Walden and Kevin Jespen — shut the Royals down for the final three and a third. Mark Trumbo with a three-run homer. They remain two and a half back of the O’s in the wild card.

Reds 5, Marlins 4: Ryan Ludwick hit a go-ahead single in the 11th, capping a day in which the Reds got 17 hits but left a ton of men on base. Cincy avoids the sweep.

Blue Jays 5, Red Sox 0: The Jays avoid a sweep as well. Omar Vizquel had two hits. He’s about to pass Babe Ruth on the all-time hits list, by the way. I shall look no further than that stat and declare him Babe Ruth’s equal.

Yankees 6, Rays 4: Some people say the Yankees are too home-run dependent. Others say that small ball is no way to go. The Yankees compromised, doing both yesterday. Russell Martin hit a three-run homer. During that same inning the Yankees stole bases and Nick Swisher of all people had a sac bunt.

Rangers 2, Mariners 1: Texas is probably not too happy hearing all of that “The A’s are gunning for the division title, not just the wild card” talk. Their win and the A’s loss helps put that off a bit. Adrian Beltre hit a homer. Matt Harrison gave up one run over eight and two-thirds.

Padres 12, Rockies 11: Twenty-three runs on 27 hits is not unusual when Colorado is involved. It is unusual, however, when the game is played in San Diego.  Of course there is a BIG difference between day games at Petco and night games. Yonder Alonso wins it with a walkoff single.

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.