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.

Bryce Harper will participate in the Home Run Derby if he makes the All-Star team

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Bryce Harper has, in recent years, declined participation in the Home Run Derby, with his last go at it coming in 2013, losing to Yoenis Cespedes in the final round. With the All-Star Game taking place at Nationals Park in Washington, however, he has changed his mind, saying today that he will compete if he is selected for the All-Star team.

Harper is currently second in voting among National League outfielders, so he stands a pretty good chance of making it. Even if he falls off in the voting, you have to assume that the powers that be will nudge NL manager A.J. Hinch to select Harper as a reserve, partially because of his actual power — he does have 19 homers so far this year — but mostly for his star power.

Simply put, you know dang well that both Major League Baseball and the Nationals want a home town guy with big time star power in the Derby, even if he’s not having as good a year as he’s capable of. As such, figure to see Harper hitting long balls in D.C. on July 16.