And That Happened: Thursday’s scores and highlights

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Nationals 4, Dodgers 1: Congrats to the Nats for clinching the first postseason birth for a D.C. team since 1933. Pour one out for Joe Cronin, Moe Berg, Lefty Stewart and Heinie Manush.

Reds 5, Cubs 3: And congratulations to the Reds too, who clinched their spot hours before the Nats did.  The Reds are the best team in baseball that no one has paid a lick of attention to all year. It’ll be awesome if they win the World Series and the guys who make those season retrospective videos have to hire ten extra interns to go back and see what happened with this club all year.

Cardinals 5, Astros 4: The sweep. Allen Craig with a three-run homer and Carlos Beltran with a two-run pinch hit double. The Cards remain two and a half ahead of Milwaukee and three ahead of L.A.

Royals 4, White Sox 3: Blown chance by the Sox to put some distance between themselves and the Tigers. Eric Hosmer drove in the winning run. Before that, though, Robin Ventura thought it was smart to intentionally walk Jeff Francoeur with two outs. Why anyone intentionally walks Jeff Francoeur is beyond me.

Athletics 12, Tigers 4: Seth Smith homered, doubled and drove in four to help the A’s salvage one. The Road Trip of Death continues today, as Oakland heads into New York.

Rays 7, Red Sox 4: Walkoff for B.J. Upton of the three-run homer variety. The Rays rallied for six in the ninth. The homer came off Vicente Padilla, but Andrew Bailey poured the gas on the kindling before he came in.

Brewers 9, Pirates 7: For the first time since May 29 the Pirates are below .500.  For the 20th time since 1992 it appears as though they’ll finish the season that way. Just a crazy fall after being sixteen above even earlier this season.

Phillies 16, Mets 1: Eight in the first inning off Hefner:

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Yankees 10, Blue Jays 7: A grand slam for Nick Swisher in the seven-run fourth inning and the recently-rejuvenated Ichiro drove in three.

Giants 9, Rockies 2: Two homers for the Panda. Here’s the Rockies team picture, taken a week or two ago, but still representing them accurately.

Padres 6, Diamondbacks 5: Bud Black used five pitchers in the ninth innings. FIVE. I would just like those folks who are advocates of the whole “Games matter more in September!” school of thought to acknowledge that a lot of bullcrap happens in games in September.

Indians 4, Twins 3: A bases loaded single by Casey Kotchman in the 10th gives it to the Tribe. The race for fourth place in the AL Central is all tied up. The excitement is palpable. It can be palped.

Rangers 3, Angels 1: Adrian Beltre was sick before the game but he played hero in the ninth with a two-run homer. Before that: a tremendous pitching duel between Yu Darvish and Zack Greinke.

Orioles sign Alcides Escobar

Alcides Escobar
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The Orioles have inked shortstop Alcides Escobar to a minor league contract, MLB.com’s Joe Trezza reported Saturday. The deal comes with an invitation to spring training and will allow Escobar to earn $700,000 in the majors if he breaks camp with the team (via Jon Heyman of MLB Network). The team has yet to formally announce the agreement.

Escobar, 32, completed an eight-year run with the Royals in 2018. No longer the .280-average, 3.0-fWAR player of seasons past, he hit several career lows after batting .231/.279/.313 with four home runs, eight stolen bases (in 10 chances), and a .593 OPS through 531 plate appearances last year. His defensive ratings also took a hit, and FanGraphs pegged him as the fourth-worst shortstop in the majors after he accumulated -12 DRS over the course of the season, only slightly higher than the Orioles/Dodgers’ Manny Machado, Mets’ Amed Rosario, and Red Sox’ Xander Bogaerts.

Still, Heyman holds that Escobar is being considered for the starting gig this spring and could yet prove an upgrade over top prospects and infield candidates Richie Martin and Drew Jackson. At the very least, the veteran shortstop figures to stabilize the position given Martin and Jackson’s relative inexperience, as both infielders played to varying results in Double-A Tulsa last year and have yet to break into the majors. Should either player earn consideration for the position in camp, however, Escobar might still work his way onto the Opening Day roster in a utility role as he saw some time at third base, second base, and center field in 2018.