And That Happened: Tuesday’s scores and highlights

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Don’t you love the word “penultimate?” Me too!

Yankees 4, Red Sox 3: It took twelve innings, but Raul Ibanez’s heroics won the day. He homered off Boston closer/arsonist Andrew Bailey to bring the Yankees back from a 3-1 deficit in the ninth and then he singled in the improbably-in-the-game Frankie Cervelli to walk it off.

Orioles 1, Rays 0: Both the Orioles and the Rays seasons in a nutshell. The Rays got a fantastic performance from James Shields (CG, 2 H, 1 R, 15K), but no offense to speak of. The Orioles got a fantastic group effort from the pitchers and prevailed in a one-run game.  The O’s have to win again today and hope for a Yankees loss to force a one-game playoff for the AL East title tomorrow.

Athletics 3, Rangers 1: People took me to task on Twitter yesterday when I said that the Rangers had “collapsed.” I think they were right. It is the case that the Athletics have played out of their minds and that, overall, the Rangers have basically been the Rangers for the past month and change.  But it is true that they had a five game lead a little over a week ago. They’ve dropped four of five head-to-head to Oakland and are one more loss away from being in a wild card game in which they never figured on playing. Not a collapse, I’ll grant you, but definitely a butt-kicking.

Reds 3, Cardinals 1; Giants 4, Dodgers 3: Bye-bye Dodgers. It was a nice run, much of it made when they had nowhere close to the talent level your typical contender possesses, but it wasn’t meant to be. However, if all of those guys they acquired over the summer play at their established norms or even, shock, have a slightly better-than-normal year in the next couple, L.A. will be a force.

Royals 4, Tigers 2: Over the years there have a been a few guys I figured had a run at a triple crown in them. Don Mattingly, maybe, at least for a couple of years in the mid 80s. Gary Sheffield. Manny. Some freak of nature the Colorado Rockies signed and CoorsHabilitated.  Miguel Cabrera has had that look ever since he first joined the Marlins. A rare bird. A perfect hitter with a perfect blend of greatness and consistency. He went 2 for 3 with two RBI. Barring a Josh Hamilton explosion today, dude is actually gonna win the triple crown.

Pirates 5, Braves 1: In honor of the Braves losing out on the NL East, Fredi Gonzalez apparently went to the Home Depot parking lot and found several guys to play in last night’s game. I mean, I know “Jeff Baker” is a real major leaguer, but it could just as easily be the name of a drifter who found himself stuck in Pittsburgh while he tries to scrape a bit together to get him up to Buffalo, where he heard there might be some work. Not much, but honest pay and a chance to maybe make something out of this life and forget about the past, where everything went wrong no matter what he tried to do. But now, he supposes, he’ll play a little right field, a little second base. Play the man’s game until he can make it to a world where he isn’t always gettin’ played. [long, thoughtful drag on a cigarette  lonesome harmonica music].

Marlins 4, Mets 3: Adam Greenberg has seen four major league pitches in his life. A 92 mile per hour fastball to the head and three R.A. Dickey knuckleballs with which he could do absolutely nothing. Probably a good time to hop on the motivational speaking circuit, dude.  Seriously, though: how Marlins is it to give him his one shot only to make him do it against the nastiest starter in the NL this year?  What, they couldn’t work him in against Craig Kimbrel last week?

Nationals 4, Phillies 2: Adam LaRoche was the only everyday player to stay in for more than five innings. While he did so, he hit a homer and topped 100 RBI for the year. Some fans even chanted “MVP” for him. They probably believed it too. Nationals fans are just so damn cute. Two homers for Darin Ruf.

Blue Jays 4, Twins 3: I always wondered if it’s hard to concentrate on baseball while you’re busy making plans for hunting trips and beach weekends with your girlfriend during a game. Blue Jays managed it OK.

Indians 4, White Sox 3: Adam Dunn has no fear. With the season over for Chicago, he could have sat out these last two games and not challenged the single season strikeout record. Nope: he faced it. And whiffed twice, tying Mark Reynolds for the record at 223. Play tomorrow, Dunner. Take what is rightfully yours.

Astros 3, Cubs 0: Getting shut out by the same 3-0 score to the worst team in baseball at home has to be one of the more ignominious ends to a season in baseball history. Maybe some team in 1919 had half the roster die from Spanish Flu or something. That would be worse. I guess.

Brewers 4, Padres 3: Martin Maldonado hit a grand slam. If the Braves played a lineup of drifters, the Brewers played a lineup of orphans. Indeed, they used ten rookies in this game.

Diamondbacks 5, Rockies 3: Aaron Hill with the walkoff three-run homer. Arizona’s season isn’t ending in the most satisfying manner, but at least it’s ending with some excitement.

Mariners 6, Angels 1: Mike Trout’s 1 for 5 dropped him to .324, so that’s that as far as the batting title goes. In other news, Kyle Sager hit a home run. Every Mariner pitcher is desperately using that as evidence that, no, they don’t need to move the fences in at Safeco next year. “Please, dear God, don’t do this to us,” they’re saying.

Columnist bashes Bryce Harper’s fundamentals, “write it,” says Nats player

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Tom Boswell of the Washington Post wrote a column over the weekend about how the 2019 Nats are looking really, really good. And for the most part it’s a column that makes a lot of sense. The Nats added some key pieces this offseason and, because so much of their underachieving 2018 season was based on health, particularly in the bullpen, there is reason to be optimistic this coming year.

There is one weird passage in the middle of the column, though: a swipe at Bryce Harper, his fundamentals and his attitude. The upshot: Boswell is arguing that losing Harper to free agency is addition by subtraction:

Though few mention it, subtracting Harper, while it will cost 34 homers, a .899 career OPS and some amazing hair flips, would help any team improve its attention to fundamentals. When the most famous player on the team can’t go 10 days without failing to run out a groundball or overthrowing a cutoff man by 15 feet or throwing to the wrong base or being caught unprepared in the outfield or on the bases, it’s hard to demand total alertness from the other 24.

“Write it,” one prominent Nats vet said.

The “Write it” is what has me most fascinated.

It could possibly be read in two different ways. One way would be for that to be the non-committal reaction of a player when Boswell bounced his Harper-is-a-slacker theory. Saying, in effect, “you write that if that’s your take.” It seems far more likely to me though, that Boswell is echoing the off-the-record sentiments of Harper’s former Nats teammates and the “write it” is an encouraging plea to give public voice to that which the player has chosen not to.

If it is the latter, this would only be the latest of many anonymously-sourced disgruntled sentiments from the Nats clubhouse over the years. Former manager Matt Williams had a full-scare revolt on his hands that made it into the media. Last year Dave Martinez’s clubhouse had someone saying negative things to the press as well, and it was so bad that GM Mike Rizzo sent off a useful reliever — at a time when the Nats really, really needed a useful reliever — because he was the suspected source. If Boswell is giving voice to some anti-Harper sentiment in Nats camp, it’s just more soap opera from a bunch that, historically, can’t seem to handle their issues in-house.

As for the substance: I don’t watch Harper as much as Nats fans do — and I can’t say that I’ve ever heard anyone describe him as some sort of lazy slacker — but sure, there are players who are more fundamentally sound than him. It’s also the case, though, that Harper has always been judged more harshly for his deportment than a lot of players in the league, so I’m not prepared to totally defer to word of mouth — especially anonymous word-of-mouth — to someone slamming him on that stuff.

It’s still pretty interesting, though, that in an offseason in which the average fan’s take is that Manny Machado is the no-hustle slacker who should be avoided, that Machado’s former teammates have had no complaints about him, while Harper’s former teammates seem to have the knives out for him.