And That Happened: Sunday’s scores and highlights

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Royals 8, Orioles 6: Alex Gordon smacked two three-run homers and went 4 for 4 overall. Ubaldo Jimenez had had three solid starts this month but ran into a buzz saw in this one. Still, he felt good:

“Even though I was making good pitches, they found a way to hit the ball hard. I felt really good and I made a lot of good pitches”

Forget it, Ubaldo. I’ve tried to make the “sometimes good decisions lead to bad results and not all good results are a product of good decisions argument for years and no one ever buys it. That’s America for ya. All that matters is the bottom line.

Astros 8, White Sox 2: Matt Dominguez homered twice and drove in four. Meanwhile, I wore my Astros cap out to the grocery story yesterday and some dude was like “hey, Astros, huh?” So there’s that.

Rockies 8, Padres 6: Justin Morneau walks ’em off in the 10th. The Rockies also turned a triple play. It wasn’t the cleanest triple play ever given that the third out was called as a result of runner’s interference — Seth Smith made no real effort to slide into second as he tried to break up the turn — but it was a pretty sweet day in the highlights department for Colorado all the same.

Mariners 6, Twins 2: A four-game skid for the M’s is stopped by King Felix. It’s almost like he’s their stopper or something. Four hits for Robinson Cano. The Twins still won the series and have won six of nine overall. And the M’s are over .500. Not sure a lot of people saw either of those things coming.

Phillies 8, Reds 3: The Philly offense had been snoozing but it woke up on Saturday and jumped the heck out of bed on Sunday, hitting four homers overall. Cody Asche, Marlon Byrd, Jimmy Rollins and Will Nieves did the damage here. Cliff Lee had entered the game 0-3 in four home starts despite a 1.55 ERA this year. He pitched well here and got run support for once.

Yankees 4, Pirates 3; Pirates 5, Yankees 3: A split double header is sorta like reading the Timeline of the Far Future Wikipedia page. You wonder what the point of anything is. Nothing, ultimately, is accomplished. Or at least all that is accomplished is negated. Indeed, this ought to be the recap:

 

Nationals 6, Mets 3: I was going to make a joke about Wilson Ramos being the Nats’ cleanup hitter but then he done and went and drove in four, so there goes my joke.

Athletics 13, Indians 3: The A’s are pretty scary. Or the Indians are not that good. Or both. These things aren’t mutually exclusive, you know. The A’s outscored the Tribe 30-6 in a three-game sweep. Yoenis Cespedes drove in five and Brandon Moss drove in three. At this point the scary Cleveland Indians of 2013 are an utter mirage and we’re on year three of people selling Oakland short.

Cubs 4, Brewers 2: Travis Wood was tough stuff — he allowed two runs on only two hits over seven — but the best thing about this day was how good the Cubs looked in those throwback jerseys:

source:

 

Braves 6, Cardinals 5: A two-run rally for the Braves in the ninth with the tying run scoring on a bases-loaded walk from Trevor Rosenthal and the go-ahead run scoring on a wild pitch by Carlos Martinez. The clown shoes ninth inning obscured the fact that Jaime Garcia saw his first action in over a year and tossed seven innings. Not seven great innings or anything, but he didn’t break apart either. Three driven in for Freddie Freeman.

Angels 6, Rays 2: Two homers for Albert Pujols. Off David Price, no less. The second one was number 504, which ties him with Eddie Murray for 25th of all time. The average and on-base percentage aren’t what they used to be, but El Hombre can still bop. Matt Shoemaker took a shutout into the seventh.

Editor’s Note: Hardball Talk‘s partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $35,000 Fantasy Baseball league for Monday night’s MLB games. It’s $25 to join and first prize is $6,000. Starts at 7:05pm ET on MondayHere’s the FanDuel link.

Rangers 6, Blue Jays 2: The Rangers avoid a sweep thanks to Mitch Moreland and Alex Rios. Until Rios’ double in the fourth Texas had gone 23 innings without an extra base hit. Even with the win they are seven back of Oakland and are suddenly looking an awful lot like those Angels teams of the past few years which had such promise only to fizzle once the horses left the gate.

Diamondbacks 5, Dodgers 3:  Eric Chavez broke a tie with a homer in the fifth as the Dbacks take the series from Los Angels. The Dodgers have lost three of four. Yasiel Puig’s hitting streak ends at 16. After such a godawful start the Dbacks are at least within shouting distance of the Padres and within local calling distance of the Dodgers. It’s a long season. That’s something which is easy to forget in April.

Giants 4, Marlins 1: Seven shutout innings for Ryan Volgelsong and a homer and a couple of runs scored for Pablo Sandoval. It was Sandoval’s first homer in over a month. The Marlins end an 11-game road trip and head home to Marlins Park, where they’re 17-5.

Tigers 6, Red Sox 2: Six wins in a row and 15 wins in eighteen games for Detroit. Ian Kinsler had four hits and Victor Martinez and Torii Hunter each homered. The Tigers are absolutely cruising right now.

2019 Preview: National League West

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2019 Preview: National League West

The Padres won the offseason, signing infielder Manny Machado to a 10-year, $300 million contract. Despite the huge addition, they are still expected to be about a .500 team. The Dodgers are the prohibitive favorites in the NL West, followed by the Rockies and Diamondbacks with the Padres and Giants bringing up the rear.

Let’s talk about the teams.

Los Angeles Dodgers

For the first time since 2010, Clayton Kershaw will not be starting on Opening Day. Kershaw has an ailing left shoulder but is expected to return before the end of April. The Dodgers have not yet named their Opening Day starter. Walker Buehler could get the nod. That 2010 Opening Day starter, by the way? Vicente Padilla. It’s been a while.

The Dodgers added center fielder A.J. Pollock, inking the former D-Back to a four-year, $55 million contract in late January. They also signed reliever Joe Kelly to a three-year, $25 million contract. Other than that, they had a quiet offseason and will enter 2019 with largely the same roster they had at the start of last season, which isn’t a bad thing.

The Dodgers should have one of the better, more well-rounded offenses in the National League. Pollock and Cody Bellinger will steal the occasional base. Bellinger, Max Muncy, Joc Pederson, and Justin Turner will supply the power. Turner, Muncy, and Bellinger will get on base at decent clips. Shortstop Corey Seager returns after missing most of the 2018 season. If he can return to form, he can very easily contend for the NL MVP Award.

The starting rotation is a shaky foundation but with very high potential. Kershaw, Kenta Maeda, Rich Hill, and Hyun-Jin Ryu are anything but reliable when it comes to staying healthy, but we have seen in the past what they are each capable of doing when they take the bump. Buehler may end up being the anchor of the rotation, as the 24-year-old posted an impressive 2.62 ERA in 23 starts and one relief appearance last season.

Kenley Jansen will hold the fort down in the bullpen. He’s been dealing with a heart issue, but he remains one of baseball’s most dominant closers. Last year’s 3.01 ERA was actually a career-high, but he still racked up 38 saves with 82 strikeouts in 71 2/3 innings. Kelly and Pedro Báez will bear much of the responsibility bridging the gap to Jansen in the later innings.

Colorado Rockies

The Rockies added only one free agent during the offseason: second baseman Daniel Murphy on a two-year, $24 million deal. Winners of 91 games last year, the Rockies elected to have very little roster turnover. The most notable thing the club did was sign third baseman Nolan Arenado to an eight-year, $260 million extension in late February.

Arenado is the heart and soul of the Rockies. A perennial MVP candidate, Arenado hit .297/.374/.561 with 38 home runs and 110 RBI across 156 games last year while playing his usual outstanding defense. He has won a Gold Glove in each of his six seasons in the majors. Arenado will be backed up by shortstop Trevor Story, who broke out with a .914 OPS, 37 homers, and 108 RBI last year. Murphy, David Dahl, and Charlie Blackmon turn an otherwise good offense into a great offense. The Rockies’ offense last year ranked second in the NL in runs scored and very easily could be No. 1 in that department this year.

The pitching staff leaves a bit to be desired, though it’s a tough ask pitching half their games in Coors Field. Kyle Freeland broke out last year, going 17-7 with a 2.85 ERA across 202 1/3 innings, but a repeat performance may be unrealistic. Freeland struck out only 173 against 70 walks, which isn’t predictive of a sub-3.00 ERA. German Márquez is a solid No. 2, registering a 3.77 ERA with 230 strikeouts and 57 walks in 196 innings last year. One could argue he has the higher upside between him and Freeland. The rotation will be rounded out by Tyler Anderson, Jon Gray, and Chad Bettis.

In the bullpen, Wade Davis will reprise his role as closer. He led the league with 43 saves, but also put up a disappointing 4.13 ERA. We have seen in the past what he is capable of doing, but the right-hander is 33 years old and has seen his average fastball decline every year since 2015. The arms behind Davis in the bullpen don’t pop out at you, but it’s quite a solid mix of arms, including Seung-Hwan Oh, Scott Oberg, and Jake McGee.

Arizona Diamondbacks

The Diamondbacks bid adieu to some outstanding talent during the offseason, trading All-Star first baseman Paul Goldschmidt to the Cardinals in December while watching Patrick Corbin and A.J. Pollock leave for free agency. The club was also expected to pursue trading Zack Greinke and Robbie Ray, among others, but they’re here for now.

Greinke is in the fourth year of his six-year, $206.5 million deal, which hasn’t yielded dividends for the D-Backs. Over the last three years, Greinke has a solid but not great 3.53 ERA, but at least he has been mostly healthy, making 91 starts. Ray finished seventh in NL Cy Young Award balloting in 2017, but had a less successful 2018 campaign, making only 24 starts with a 3.93 ERA. If he returns to form and stays healthy, he and Grienke are a pretty good 1-2 punch. Behind those two are Zack Godley, Luke Weaver, and Merrill Kelly. Taijuan Walker could rejoin the team this summer as he continues his recovery from Tommy John surgery.

The offense will likely be the Diamondbacks’ biggest weakness. PECOTA, from Baseball Prospectus, projects Jake Lamb to be the only player crossing the 20-homer plateau. It also projects Lamb to lead the team with 71 RBI. There’s not much speed on the team, either, as Steven Souza, Jr. is projected to lead the team in steals with 11. And as far as on-base skills, Wilmer Flores is projected to be the best in that department among regulars at .332. Quite a motley crew.

Archie Bradley will handle closing duties for the first time. The 26-year-old right-hander was dominant in 2017, posting a 1.73 ERA. He followed it up with a solid 2018, finishing with a 3.64 ERA. Bradley has the potential to emerge as one of the league’s more dominant closers. Greg Holland and Yoshihisa Hirano will be tasked with handing Bradley the ball with a lead in the seventh and eighth innings.

San Diego Padres

The addition of Machado could help the Padres arrive sooner than expected. The organization is replete with tremendous upside. In MLB Pipeline’s top 100 prospect list, they have shortstop Fernando Tatis, Jr. at No. 2, pitcher Mackenzie Gore at No. 15, infielder Luis Urías at No. 23, catcher Francisco Mejia at No. 26, pitcher Chris Paddack at No. 34, pitchers Luis Patino and Adrian Morejon at Nos. 48 and 49, pitcher Michel Baez at No. 72, pitcher Logan Allen at No. 74, and pitcher Ryan Weathers at No. 92.

The current iteration of the 25-man roster isn’t quite there yet, which is why the Padres are still projected to hover around .500. Machado will do Machado things, which is to say he’ll hit like an All-Star and play Gold Glove-caliber defense. If Wil Myers can stay healthy, he should be good for 20 homers and 20 steals. Eric Hosmer will hopefully be able to pick up his production after inking an eight-year, $144 million deal in February 2018. Beyond those three, however, it’s hard to project greatness from the rest of the offense.

Joey Lucchesi will lead the rotation following a solid rookie campaign last year. He posted a 4.08 ERA with 145 punch-outs and 43 walks in 130 innings. It wouldn’t be surprise him to see him finish with an ERA closer to 3.50 this time around. Lucchesi will be followed on the rotation by Eric Lauer, Robbie Erlin, Matt Strahm, and Chris Paddack.

Kirby Yates will serve as the club’s full-time closer. He impressed last year with 12 saves, a 2.14 ERA, and a 90/17 K/BB ratio in 63 innings. He can certainly put up a repeat performance. Craig Stammen and Adam Warren will help bridge the gap to him in an otherwise modest group of relievers.

San Francisco Giants

The Giants were rumored to have been involved in the pursuit of mega free agents Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, and particularly Harper until the very end. Ultimately, the team didn’t do anything during the offseason. Because of that, they’re expected to be the worst team in the NL West.

Madison Bumgarner will lead the rotation, but he could be wearing another uniform by the end of July. Bumgarner can become a free agent after the season, so the Giants could choose to turn him into a couple of prospects. Though he has battled injuries in recent seasons, Bumgarner is still among the better starters in the league and absolutely a guy a contending team would want to start for them in the postseason. In 21 starts last year, Bumgarner managed a 3.26 ERA with 109 strikeouts and 43 walks in 129 2/3 innings.

Dereck Rodríguez deserves a mention as well. The lefty did not get any love in NL Rookie of the Year balloting last year despite posting a 2.81 ERA across 19 starts and two relief appearances. His 89 strikeouts and 36 walks don’t inspire confidence in a repeat performance, but he also pitches in the spacious confines of Oracle Park. The rotation will be rounded out by Jeff Samardzija, Derek Holland, and Andrew Suarez.

The offense will be a severe weakness. FanGraphs projects them to be the second-worst team in baseball at scoring runs, beating only the Marlins in that department. The bullpen isn’t terribly great either, featuring Will Smith, Tony Watson, and Mark Melancon in the late innings.

The upshot: The NL West is the Dodgers’ division to lose once again. It is really difficult seeing any other team winning the title, but stranger things have happened. The Rockies can be a solid Wild Card team. The rest of the division is fairly weak, but as mentioned, the Padres could arrive a year earlier than expected, not unlike the Braves last year.