And That Happened: Sunday’s scores and highlights

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Marlins 6, Padres 2: An improbable walkoff grand slam from Jeff Mathis caps an improbable winning month from the Miami Marlins. 15-10 in June for the worst team in baseball. Not bad. Oh, and Mathis’ homer was the 3,000th in team history.

Pirates 2, Brewers 1: A 14th inning walkoff win for the hottest and — at least by record — best team in baseball. Nine in a row for the pirates who, at the season’s halfway point, are 51-30. Six Pirates relievers combined for 11 scoreless innings, including five from Vin Mazzaro. The Pirates bullpen calls itself “the Shark Tank,” by the way. Which in addition to violating the rules of nicknames — thou shalt not five thyself a nickname — is going to be really insufferable if and when Tim McCarver is talking about it in October. He’s gonna draw out his pronunciation of “Shaaark Tank,” an then hit the meaning of that moniker — dropping teeth and fin and “Jaws” and “smells blood in the water” references — like a boot stamping on a human face forever.

Indians 4, White Sox 0: Justin Masterson? More like Justin Masterful, amirite? Eh, sorry. (CG SHO 1 BB, 8K). The Indians sweep the Chisox and are now tied for first place in the AL Central because …

Rays 3, Tigers 1: … Jeremy Hellickson shuts down the Tigers for his fifth win in the month of June. Rick Porcello hit Ben Zobrist early, likely in retaliation for the inside pitch from Fernando Rodney to Miguel Cabrera the day before which the Tigers seemed unreasonably bent-out-of-shape about. After that, though, no fisticuffsmanship or anything like that.

Nationals 13, Mets 2: The Nationals were less than impressed with Zack Wheeler. Ian Desmond and Kurt Suzuki each drove in three while Gio Gonzalez tossed seven shutout innings.

Red Sox 5, Blue Jays 4: Josh Thole playing first base in the ninth inning of a tie game is what can be referred to as a sub-optimal situation. He muffed Shane Victorino’s grounder which allowed the winning run to score. They took three of four from Toronto, whose momentum from that winning streak which ended last week seems to have evaporated.

Braves 6, Diamondbacks 2: Atlanta sweeps Arizona, completing the season series between them and taking five of six from the GrittyBacks. Freddie Freeman, Dan Uggla and Brian McCann each homered.

Royals 9, Twins 8: David Lough homered and hit three doubles. The Royals have a losing record on the season, but are .500 after DFAing Jeff Francoeur. Coincidence?

Dodgers 6, Phillies 1: Yasiel Puig’s Ridiculousness Tour continues. He went 4 for 5, scored twice and is now hitting .436/.467/.713 in 101 at bats. Seven shutout innings for Stephen Fife. The Dodgers may be in last place but they’re only four back in an otherwise weak division following a 15-13 month of June.

Angels 3, Astros 1: The other presumably dead L.A. team is showing itself to only have been mostly dead as well. The Angels win their sixth straight behind a strong outing from C.J. Wilson. Josh Hamilton doubled in a run and scored on an error on the same play. Kind of like a little league home run, that, as he reached third on the throw home and then scored on a throwing error. The Angels are still nine back because their division is tougher than the Dodgers, but you can’t count them out yet.

Rangers 3, Reds 2: Yu Darvish struck out eight in six and two-thirds scoreless innings. The rare two-run squeeze bunt for the Rangers in this one.

Giants 5, Rockies 2: Michael Cuddyer extends his hitting streak to 27 games, but it wasn’t enough as Madison Bumgarner allowed just one run in seven innings. Homers from Buster Posey and Hunter Pence.

Athletics 7, Cardinals 5: Josh Donaldson homered and reached base four times. The A’s third baseman is hitting .316/.384/.525 on the year with 13 homers and 53 RBI and bet most fans couldn’t pick him out of a lineup.

Cubs 7, Mariners 6: The Cubs went up 7-1 by the fourth inning and then held on. After the game starting pitcher Edwin Jackson said “An ugly win is better than a pretty loss any day.” Given his style of pitching over the years he’d definitely be the expert there. Jeremy Bonderman’s little renaissance was interrupted with a six-run, three and a third inning outing.

Orioles 4, Yankees 2: Chris Davis homered — his 3rd of the series and 31st on the year — and Manny Machado added a dinger of his own as the O’s sweep the reeling Yankees. It was Baltimore’s first sweep of the Yankees in a three-game series in eight years.

Nats’ success shouldn’t be about Bryce Harper

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Bryce Harper turns 27 years old today. As an early birthday present, he got to watch his former team reach the World Series for the first time in franchise history. His new team finished exactly at .500 in fourth place, missing the playoffs. These were facts that did not go unnoticed as the Nationals completed an NLCS sweep of the Cardinals at home last night.

Harper spent seven seasons with the Nationals before hitting free agency and ultimately signing with the Phillies on a 13-million, $330 million contract. The Nationals offered Harper a 10-year, $300 million contract at the end of the 2018 regular season, but about $100 million of that was deferred until he was 65 which lowered the present-day value of the offer. The Nats’ offer wasn’t even in the same ballpark, really.

Nevertheless, Nationals fans were upset that their prodigy jilted them to go to the Phillies. He was mercilessly booed whenever the Phillies played in D.C. Nats fans’ Harper jerseys were destroyed, or at least taped over.

Harper, of course, was phenomenal with the Nationals. He won the NL Rookie of the Year Award in 2012, then won the NL MVP Award several years later with an historically outstanding 1.109 OPS while leading the league with 42 homers and 118 runs scored. Overall, as a National, he had a .900 OPS. Pretty good. He was also productive in the postseason, posting an .801 OPS across 19 games, mostly against playoff teams’ best starters and best relievers. Furthermore, if the Nats had Harper this year, he would have been in right field in lieu of Adam Eaton. Harper out OPS’d Eaton by 90 points and posted 2.5 more WAR in a similar amount of playing time. The Nationals would have been even better if they had Harper this year.

The Nationals lost all four Division Series they appeared in during the Harper era. 3-2 to the Cardinals in 2012, 3-1 to the Giants in ’14, 3-2 to the Dodgers in ’16, and 3-2 to the Cubs in ’17. They finally get over the hump the first year they’re without Harper, that’s the difference, right? I saw the phrase “addition by subtraction” repeatedly last night, referring to Harper and the Nats’ subsequent success without him.

Harper, though, didn’t fork over four runs to the Cardinals in the top of the ninth inning in Game 5 in 2012. He didn’t allow the Dodgers to rally for four runs in the seventh inning of Game 5 in ’16 before ultimately losing 4-3. He didn’t use a gassed Max Scherzer in relief in 2017’s Game 5, when he allowed five of the seven Cubs he faced to reach base, leading to three runs which loomed large in a 9-8 loss. If certain rolls of the dice in those years had gone the Nationals’ way, they would have appeared in the NLCS. They might’ve even been able to win a World Series.

The Nationals saw how that looks this year. It was the opposing manager this time, Dave Roberts, who mismanaged his bullpen. Howie Kendrick then hit a tie-breaking grand slam in the 10th inning off of Joe Kelly to win the NLDS for the Nats. The playoffs are random. Sometimes a ball bounces your way, sometimes an umpire’s call goes your way, and sometimes the opposing manager makes several unforced errors to throw Game 5 in your lap.

Reaching the World Series, then thumbing your nose while sticking out your tongue at Harper feels like a guy tagging his ex-girlfriend on his new wedding photos. It’s time to move on.