And That Happened: Sunday’s scores and highlights

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Rockies 4, Marlins 3: The Rockies won this game but the Marlins took the 1993 Expansion Cup for this season, closing out the year with a 4-3 record against Colorado. What — you don’t keep track of the 1993 Expansion Cup? There’s a great ceremony at the end of the series each year in which either David Neid or Nigel Wilson hand the other a teal-and-purple loving cup while “Rump Shaker” by Wreckx-N-Effect in plays over the loudspeaker. It’s one of the most majestic events in sports each year. And you weren’t aware of it? For shame.

Giants 4, Pirates 0: What this season could have been if Ryan Vogelsong had pitched like he did last year. Of course last year was kind of a shocker, so I guess it was too much to ask. He was oh so good yesterday afternoon, however, throwing eight innings of shutout ball against the Pirates to earn the series split.

Blue Jays 2, Astros 1: Shut out for eight innings, the Jays rallied for both of their two runs in the ninth. That spoiled a nice day for Dallas Keuchel, who tossed seven shutout innings. It was a nice pick-me-up for Mark Buehrle, however, who allowed one run over eight and otherwise would have had a pretty damn tough luck loss.

Braves 5, Cardinals 2: The Bravos salvage one against the Cardinals, avoiding a four-game sweep behind a nice outing from Mike Minor. Finally a decent game for Jordan Schafer, who hit a double, a triple and drove in a run. In the three previous games filling in the leadoff spot for Jason Heyward Schafer had gone 0 for 12 with five strikeouts.

Royals 6, Nationals 4: The Royals finally pull out of the seven-game losing skid that basically cost them any hope at the playoffs. A key play in this game: Billy Butler chugging down the line to first base while Adam LaRoche chased a ball he had knocked down but which had eluded him. I reckon we haven’t seen two slower guys in a race on the same play since the 1950s.

Phillies 9, Diamondbacks 5: Not a bad day for Roy Halladay considering he has only had a couple of minor league rehab starts — neither of which were spectacular — and given that he was basically rushed into service after Ryne Sandberg had to empty his bullpen and then some during Saturday night’s marathon game. Halladay threw six innings of two-run ball. He struck only two and his fastball is a shadow of its former self. But as we said back in the spring: the rest of Halladay’s career appears to be contingent upon him learning to be a crafty, old, occasionally junkballing vet. If he can do that, we may have several years left of him. If not, we’re nearing the end.

White Sox 5, Rangers 2: Sox’ bench coach Mark Parent was ejected from the games while exchanging lineup cards which, OK, that had to be some conversation. I’m going to pretend he did it to rally the Pale Hose. If so, it worked,with  John Danks tossing six solid innings and the bats tuning up Matt Garza for five runs over seven.

Yankees 3, Rays 2: The Yankees always seem to have trouble down in St. Pete and this series was no exception. They salvaged one here, however, thanks to Curtis Granderson driving in Alfonso Soriano with a sacrifice fly in the 11th inning

Tigers 11, Mets 3: The sweep. Miguel Cabrera went 3 for 4 with a homer and a walk and finished the series 7 for 13 with two homers and five RBIs. He’s hitting .360 now and he’s not even remotely healthy. Just amazing.

Orioles 10, Athletics 3: A good weekend for Baltimore.  J.J. HardyNick Markakis and Nate McLouth homered and the O’s took two of three from Oakland. That moves them to within two games of the Athletics for the second wild card.

Brewers 3, Reds 1: Marco Estrada had his changeup working and he allowed one hit and no runs over seven innings. Caleb Gindl with a two-run homer for the winning margin.

Indians 3, Twins 1: Four errors for the Tribe and a load of base running mistakes but the Twins couldn’t really capitalize. Then Drew Stubbs hit a tiebreaking, two-out homer in the eighth.

Angels 7, Mariners 1: The M’s scored two runs in the entire three-game series. Not too damn inspiring for the folks in Seattle. Jered Weaver stymied them here yesterday, allowing one run on three hits in eight innings while striking out eight.

Padres 3, Cubs 2 : It was 0-0 until the 13th when both teams scored two and then the Pads finally won it on with an RBI single in the 15th. Those two runs a piece in the 13th were the product of some odd plays — wild pitches and baserunners being plunked on the head with thrown balls — all of which added up to five hours and thirteen minutes of weird baseball.

Red Sox 8, Dodgers 1: Jake Peavy was fantastic, tossing a complete game on three hits. Mike Napoli drove in three. The Dodgers dropped their first series since mid-June.

The Giants are winning but they’re still gonna sell

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The state of baseball in general, the state of the National League in particular and the state of the San Francisco Giants as a competitor are conspiring to create what seems like at least a mildly absurd situation.

The Giants, a veteran-laden team that, as recently as this past offseason but definitely within the past couple of years, were at least talking about being on a win-now footing, just swept a four-game series, have won five straight games and have won 12 of 14 to pull themselves to within two and a half games of a playoff spot.

Yet, that’s all for temporary show, because they’re about to sell off. At least according to Jeff Passan at ESPN. Giants president Farhan Zaidi tried to push back on that in a radio interview yesterday, denying that the club has foreclosed the possibility of a postseason push, but I’m not really buying that and I don’t think most people are.

On one level it makes sense to ignore the recent surge and forge on with a rebuild. Sure, the Giants are winning but they’re not exactly good. They’re two and a half out of the Wild Card, but there are many teams ahead of them. There’s a lot of reason to think that they’re playing in good fortune right now and that that, rather than finding some extra gear of sustainable better play, is what’s to credit. Hot streaks can happen at any time but the trade deadline only comes once a year. When you have the best starter available in Madison Bumgarner and the best reliever available in Will Smith, you gotta make those deals. That’s what I’d probably do if I ran the Giants and I think that that’s, wisely, what Zaidi will do.

Still, it’s an odd look, less for the Giants specifically than for baseball as a whole. We may in an era of cheap front offices who don’t like to contend if it means spending money, but it’s unfair to paint the Giants with that brush. They’ve spent money and acquired talent and have done whatever they can to extend their 2010-2014 mini-dynasty a few more years and in doing so they’ve made a lot of fans happy. That team has pretty much reached the end and, even in an earlier, more competitive era, they’d not be properly criticized for starting in on a rebuild. Heck, they’d be excused if they had done it a year or two earlier, frankly.

But, because so many teams have punted on improving themselves, these aging Giants are at least superficially competitive. As such, when they do sell off in the coming days, it’ll look to some like they’re waving a white flag or something when they’re not really doing that. I mean, the Rockies and the Pirates, among other teams, should be much better than they are but didn’t seem all that interested in improving, thereby helping the Giants look better, right? It’s less a knock on the Giants for rebuilding when they’re within striking distance of the playoffs than it is on the rest of the league for allowing a team like the Giants to be within striking distance of a playoff spot.

But that’s where we are right now. An insanely competitive Wild Card race from teams that, on the whole, are rather unconcerned with being competitive. What a time to be a baseball fan.