And That Happened: Sunday’s Scores and Highlights

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Marlins 1, Tigers 0: It’s not often a 100-loss team ends the year with a beer shower celebration. But it’s not often a guy on a 100-loss team — or any team for that matter — tosses a no-hitter on the final day while winning via a walkoff wild pitch. Congratulations Henderson Alvarez. Sorry about having to get that hug from Jeff Loria afterward. Oh, also weird: the Tigers shut the Marlins out until the eighth using three starting pitchers: Justin Verlander, Doug Fister and Rick Porcello. So no, not your typical game-162.

Rays 7, Blue Jays 6: The Rays almost woofed away a playoff spot completely. No, thanks to the stumble at the end, they are still stuck with a game-163 and two one-and-done games rather than just one. Oh well, that’s what baseball wants, that’s what baseball gets.

Rangers 6, Angels 2: Way to finish strong against a team that hasn’t been playing bad baseball of late. Texas has seven straight wins. But if they don’t win an eighth and then a ninth in a row, it’s all over.

Pirates 4, Reds 2: And they’ll meet again on Tuesday, this time up the river in Pittsburgh. A three-game sweep for the Pirates. Now we get to see if momentum means anything. Hint: it doesn’t, historically speaking. But if the Pirates win people will still say it’s a thing.

Indians 5, Twins 1: The Indians finish hot. And now hope that Texas and Tampa Bay go 19 innings and use every single pitcher tonight.

Braves 12, Phillies 5: Big offense for the Braves and no one fought with anyone, which is nice. Although really, between yelling at the opposition over home run trots and coaches fighting with players, the Braves are giving me a 1970s A’s-Yankees vibe. Maybe they’ll dysfunction themselves all the way to the World Series title. As for the Phillies: thank god this year is over.

Orioles 7, Red Sox 6: A loss, yes, even though they were up early, but the Sox finish at 97-65, tied for the best record in baseball. This was basically a spring training for Boston. For the Orioles: a good season. And an abject lesson in the difference between the ball bouncing one way in one year and the other way the next.

Royals 4, White Sox 1: An eighty-six win year makes it the best since 1989 for the Royals. They finished the month 17-10, making it their best month of the year. Gonna be a trendy pick next season. For the White Sox? Well, the didn’t lose 100. I guess that’s something.

Mets 3, Brewers 2: The Mets rallied with two in the eight. Eric Young Jr. took the stolen base crown. Otherwise: a pretty forgettable season for both clubs this year. At least the Mets, unlike the Brewers, had some things to grow on in the form of young pitching. Fans of both clubs are probably both happy for winter.

Yankees 5, Astros 1: Fourteen inning game, fifteenth straight loss for the Astros. But it may be the Yankees who have the more uncertain future. Nowhere to go but up for Houston. The Yankees could be on the verge of a rebuild, a reload, a rebound year or a total cratering. Gonna be an interesting offseason for Brian Cashman.

Cardinals 4, Cubs 0: The Cards finish with a tie for the best record in baseball, home field advantage in the NL playoffs and a date with the wild card winner rather than a series with the Dodgers. Not a bad way to roll into the playoffs.

Diamondbacks 3, Nationals 2: Farewell Davey Johnson, who ends his managerial career his career with a record of 1,372-1,071. Farewell Nationals, most experts’ pick to win the NL East this year. For the Dbacks: grit wasn’t good enough.

Athletics 9, Mariners 0: Bang meets whimper.Six pitchers combine for the shutout and now the A’s look forward to a playoff rematch with the Tigers. Some starters sat, others left the game early, either way it didn’t matter. The M’s will now look for a new manager. It should totally be Ozzie Guillen, right?

Giants 7, Padres 6: Two runs in the ninth for the come-from-behind win. It was Hunter Pence, the Giants’ new $90 million man who did the honors. Three RBI overall.

Rockies 2, Dodgers 1: Todd Helton’s career comes to an end. With a strikeout, alas, but he’ll remember the better stuff. Nice ovation from the Dodgers fans for Helton at the end. L.A. now heads to Atlanta. God, I hope Brian McCann doesn’t kill Yasiel Puig for not playing the game the right way at some point, but it could very well happen.

And with that, And That Happen bids you adieu for the year.  Yes, we have a game 163 to go, but ATH is a creature of the regular season.

And it’s been a good season. But we now shift into a different gear — the playoff gear — which is wonderful for its own purposes but which is just … something else. For me baseball is about the day-in-day-out of the regular season and its lack of pitched drama is what makes it a true pastime. I like the playoffs fine, but there’s nothing like April-September baseball. And every year at this time I feel a bit sad about its passing, even if the next month will be exciting and memorable.

Oh well. Thanks for reading every morning. This feature will see you again next year.

Astros hitting coach receives 20-game suspension; A’s Laureano six

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
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OAKLAND, Calif. — Houston Astros hitting coach Alex Cintron received a 20-game suspension and a fine Tuesday for his role in a benches-clearing brawl at Oakland, while Athletics outfielder Ramon Laureano was given a six-game suspension and a fine.

Cintron’s suspension is the longest for an on-field transgression in 15 years, since Texas pitcher Kenny Rogers received 20 games for his altercation with two cameramen in 2005.

“I accept MLB’s suspension and will learn from this,” Cintron said in a statement. “Although I never referenced Ramon’s mother, my actions were inappropriate. I apologize for my part in Sunday’s unfortunate incident. As coaches, we are held to a higher standard and should be an example to the players. Hopefully, other coaches will learn from my mistake so that this never happens again in the future.”

Laureano appealed, so his discipline didn’t begin Tuesday night in Oakland’s game against the Angels. He was in the lineup batting second and playing center field at Angel Stadium.

Laureano was hit by a pitch from Humberto Castellanos with one out in the seventh inning of Oakland’s 7-2 victory Sunday. He began exchanging words with a gesturing Cintron then left first base, threw down his batting helmet and began sprinting toward the 41-year-old Cintron.

Astros catcher Dustin Garneau tackled Laureano before the A’s outfielder got to the hitting coach. Laureano is a former Astros player and the rival clubs have been the top two in the AL West the past two years. A’s pitcher Mike Fiers, another former Houston player, revealed the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal in November to The Athletic.

Laureano was hit for the third time in the weekend series swept by Oakland – the fifth time the A’s were hit in all while the Astros didn’t get plunked once – and he pointed at Castellanos.

Players rushed out of both dugouts. Laureano was ejected by plate umpire Ted Barrett, and the umpiring crew could easily be heard yelling at the players to “get back to the dugout!” through a ballpark with no fans.

“I just thought that, whew, boy they threw the book at us big time. But what can you do?” said Astros manager Dusty Baker, who had already been ejected by the time the brawl occurred and didn’t see it on TV. “The ruling is the ruling. I talked to the powers that be in the commissioner’s office this afternoon and we had a good conversation. So … we have to deal with it and hopefully this brings our guys even closer together. He was a big part of our team.”

The A’s lost the AL wild-card game each of the past two seasons after winning 97 games both years to place second in the AL West behind three-time reigning division champion Houston, which won a World Series in 2017 and an AL pennant last season.

Laureano began Tuesday batting .259 with three homers and 10 RBIs as the A’s regular center fielder and No. 2 hitter.

“It’s just something we have to deal with,” Oakland manager Bob Melvin said of the suspension. “I don’t make those decisions, and whatever I think about them doesn’t really matter anyway, so I think the best thing to do is try to get it behind us as quickly as we can.”

Melvin wasn’t sure how he would potentially structure his outfield and lineup without Laureano for several games.

“You can’t replace him,” Melvin said. “You just have to play short.”

The Dodgers and Astros had their own dustup when Los Angeles visited Houston last month. LA lost the ’17 World Series to the Astros when the sign-stealing scam was happening.

In announcing the punishments, MLB said Cintron’s discipline was “for his role in inciting and escalating the conflict between the two clubs.” Given the coronavirus pandemic, baseball has established strict guidelines about avoiding brawls.

“The explanation was that he’s a coach and especially with the COVID situation out here … in essence they’re not going to stand for it,” Baker said. “Basically, somebody had to be the example. Especially in these times that we’re going through.”

A former infielder from Puerto Rico, Cintron played parts of nine major league seasons with Arizona, the Chicago White Sox, Baltimore and Washington. He won’t be eligible to coach again until Sept. 2, when the Astros are scheduled to host Texas.

“Cintron said what he did was wrong, and he apologized for it,” Baker said. “It still doesn’t take the fact away that it happened.”