And That Happened: Thursday’s scores and highlights

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Angels 6, Rays 5: Mike Trout’s walkoff caps a four-run ninth inning rally. The homer came off  Brad Boxberger, but even if he lit the match, Grant Balfour spread the kerosene by walking two batters and giving up an RBI single just before Trout’s three-run bomb.

Twins 4, Red Sox 3: Another walkoff. This time the hit was delivered by Aaron Hicks. A day after his own team ripped him in the media. I guess in between Wednesday and Thursday Hick, to paraphrase Ron Gardenhire, studied the game a little more, studied the pitchers a little bit more, did drills and everything, threw his talent out on the field and said, “I can do this.”

Brewers 4, Pirates 3: Oh, another walkoff. Here it was Khris Davis, who delivered a two-run single off  Mark Melancon. when the Brewers were down 3-2. The Brewers have won four of five and still have a five-game lead in the Central. I keep saying to myself “the Cardinals will close that gap in time” — and I still believe that — but it would help their cause of the Brewers started to lose. A pity for St. Louis that Milwaukee doesn’t seem to want to cooperate with all that.

Reds 5, Padres 0; Padres 6, Reds 1: Johnny Cueto is gonna petition the league office to have all of his starts move to the afternoon because he’s lights-out during day games. Well, he’s pretty amazing during all games, but his day game performances has been pretty incredible over the years. Even before yesterday’s gem he had a 2.53 ERA in daytime starts compared to 3.94 at night. On the 2014 season he’s now down to a 1.25 ERA and has three complete games. He had only six in his whole career before this season.

Blue Jays 4, Indians 2: Two homers for Edwin Encarnacion. At this point I’d insert that “Nacho Libre” video but the short version with just the chorus of that song and no preroll ads seems to have been taken off YouTube. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to call NBC to have them buy me that movie. A craftsman has to have tools at his disposal.

Cardinals 5, Cubs 3: Well, the Cardinals are at least trying to do their part. Playing the Cubs helps as they’ve lost nine of eleven. Here Michael Wacha pitched seven solid innings and [altogether now] helped his own cause by driving in two runs.

Editor’s Note: Hardball Talk‘s partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $45,000 Fantasy Baseball league for Friday night’s MLB games. It’s $25 to join and first prize is $7,000. Starts at 7:05pm ET on FridayHere’s the FanDuel link.

Orioles 2, Royals 1: Nelson Cruz hit a two-run homer in the fourth for all of the runs Baltimore needed. He’s on pace for 50 homers and 145 RBI. Someone alert Buster Olney that he needs to write a column telling everyone it’s OK to think Cruz is juiced.

Yankees 1, Mets 0: Alfonso Soriano had an RBI double for the only scoring in this one. The real show here: rookie reliever Dellin Betances coming into the game for the Yankees in the middle of the game and striking out six Mets in a row. He picked up the win too, and I now predict the New York media will anoint him the Yankees’ savior.

Giants 6, Marlins 4: A Buster Posey RBI double came in a three-run fifth inning that put the Giants ahead for good and helped Matt Cain get his first win of the year. Cain wasn’t fantastic — he gave up a couple of homers early — but he did give San Francisco eight innings.

This Day in Transaction History: Phillies acquire John Kruk from Padres

John Kruk
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John Kruk is one of the more underrated hitters in baseball history. Kruk, who is currently a broadcaster for the Phillies, had a 10-year career during which he hit exactly 100 homers, batted exactly .300, and posted an excellent .397 on-base percentage. In baseball history, there are only 32 members of the admittedly arbitrary 100/.300/.395+ club. Kruk is one of only 10 members of the club that played after 1963. The others: Mike Trout, Joey Votto, Todd Helton, Chipper Jones, Manny Ramírez, Frank Thomas, Larry Walker, Edgar Martinez, and Wade Boggs. Of them, five are Hall of Famers. Trout and Votto will be, and Helton and Ramírez should be.

On this day in 1989, the Phillies made a franchise-altering trade, acquiring Kruk along with infielder Randy Ready from the Padres in exchange for outfielder Chris James. The Padres had just swept the Phillies at home and were hoping to jump into the playoff race. They immediately went into a losing skid, but caught fire at the end of the season, finishing 89-73. However, that wasn’t good enough as the Giants won the NL West with a 92-70 record. James was solid for the Padres, posting a .743 OPS with 11 homers and 46 RBI in 87 games.

Kruk had an interesting but brief major league career with the Padres. His roommate, Roy Plummer, was an armed robber. Kruk was completely unaware of this. In spring training of 1988, the FBI informed Kruk of his roommates’ activities. Kruk feared retribution from Plummer and said that the anxiety affected his baseball performance. In 1988, Kruk batted what was for him a poor .241/.369/.362 with nine homers and 44 RBI over 466 plate appearances.

The Phillies didn’t enjoy immediate success upon Kruk’s arrival in 1989. The club finished the season with a losing record and would do the same in the ensuing three seasons. None of it was Kruk’s fault, though: in aggregate, from 1990-92, he hit .303/.393/.459, earning two All-Star nominations. In this span of time, the only other first basemen to hit above .300 were Frank Thomas, Paul Molitor, Hal Morris, and Rafael Palmeiro. The Padres had used Kruk both in the corner outfield and at first base, but the Phillies made him a full-time first baseman, which turned out to be a good move.

In 1993, everything came together for the Phillies and Kruk had what was arguably the greatest season of his career. He hit .316, which was actually seven points below his average the previous year, but he drew 111 walks to push his on-base percentage up to .430. Kruk hit third in the lineup, creating plenty of RBI opportunities for Dave Hollins in the clean-up spot, Darren Daulton at No. 5, and the trio of Jim Eisenreich, Pete Incaviglia, and Wes Chamberlain in the No. 6 spot. The Phillies shocked the world in ’93, winning the NL East by three games over the Expos with a 97-65 record. They then dispatched the Braves in six games in the NLCS to advance to the World Series against the Blue Jays.

Kruk was productive in the NLCS, contributing six hits including a pair of doubles, a triple, a home run, four walks, five RBI, and four runs scored. But he turned things up a notch in the World Series, registering multi-hit performances in the first three games. He would finish the World Series with eight hits in 23 at-bats along with seven walks, four RBI, and four runs scored. The World Series was winnable for the Phillies as they lost a barnburner Game 4 15-14, and of course, dropped the deciding Game 6 on a World Series-clinching walk-off three-run home run by Joe Carter off of Mitch Williams.

1994 was tough on Kruk in many ways. He was diagnosed with testicular cancer in spring training. Knee issues continued to bother him, and then Major League Baseball had a work stoppage. In an abbreviated season, Kruk hit a still-productive .823 OPS. He became a free agent and, when baseball came back, he signed with the White Sox. In the first inning of a July 30 game against the Orioles in ’95, Kruk singled to left field off of Scott Erickson. He reached first base, bowed to the fans, and walked off the field into retirement. Kruk told the media, “The desire to compete at this level is gone. When that happens, it’s time to go.”

Kruk has spent his post-playing days working in sports media as both a broadcaster (Phillies, ESPN nationally) and as a commentator (The Best Damn Sports Show Period, Baseball Tonight). The Phillies inducted him into their Wall of Fame in August 2011. One wonders if Kruk hadn’t been bit by the injury bug, and if there hadn’t been a work stoppage, if he might have been able to accrue some more numbers to have a borderline Hall of Fame case. Regardless, he’ll go down as one of the games’ quietly great hitters.