And That Happened: Monday’s scores and highlights

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Astros 9, Royals 2: George Springer is figuring it out and the results are pretty damn impressive. The Astros’ rookie homered in his fourth straight game while going 4 for 4 with two doubles, three RBI, a walk, and five runs scored.

Orioles 7, Brewers 6: Jonathan Schoop hit two homers and Nick Hundley singled in the go-ahead run in the 10th. In other news, I totally missed that the Orioles had acquired Nick Hundley. In my defense I had a healthy amount of bourbon over Memorial Day weekend. If the trade happened before then it’s because I never read Gleeman’s posts. He knows what he did.

Marlins 3, Nationals 2: Giancarlo Stanton went 3 for 4 with a two-run homer and Nathan Eovaldi was solid. To the extent you subscribe to the idea that Memorial Day is the time when you no longer dismiss unexpected results with “it’s early, but  . . .” know that it’s the day after Memorial Day and the Marlins are two games out of first place and two games over .500.

Pirates 5, Mets 3: The Mets bullpen blows a three-run lead in the eighth and ninth by surrendering five runs, three of which came courtesy of Gaby Sanchez hits, four of which were given up by Jose Valverde. Who, immediately after the game, became a former Met. ‘E’s not pinin’, ‘E’s passed on! This Met is no more! He has ceased to be! ‘E’s been released and gone to meet ‘is agent! ‘E’s a stiff! Bereft of a job. ‘Is pitching processes are now ‘istory! ‘E’s off the twig! ‘E’s shuffled off ‘is active roster, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin’ bullpen invisible!! THIS IS AN EX-MET!!

Red Sox 8, Braves 6: Clay Buchholz walked eight dudes and gave up six runs in three innings. And man, walking Braves hitters is not easy. His teammates bailed him out, though, with a David Ortiz three-run blast capping a five-run rally to tie things up in the fifth and six innings of shutout work from the Sox’ pen. With that, the Red Sox finally snap their ugly losing streak. Even with the ugly seeping into the first three innings of this one.

Athletics 10, Tigers 0: A five-homer day for the A’s, including a Derek Norris grand slam. All of which is rich given that before the game Bob Melvin told his players to “grind” and not try to hit homers. The lesson here: screw that noise. Homers are awesome. They’re literally the best thing you can do while batting. That’s not my opinion. That’s an inescapable fact of baseball’s rules and scoring system. More homers. Hit ’em all the damn time!

Rangers 7, Twins 2: You write a team’s epitaph after it loses a couple of players for the year and then they go and win three straight and five of six. Remember: no one knows anything about anything in this friggin’ game. Even the fancy, self-proclaimed experts who write and talk about baseball for major media conglomerates. Especially the fancy, self-proclaimed experts who write and talk about baseball for major media conglomerates. We’re the worst.

Editor’s Note: Hardball Talk‘s partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $18,000 Fantasy Baseball league for Tuesday night’s MLB games. It’s just $2 to join and first prize is $2,000. Starts at 7:05pm ET on TuesdayHere’s the FanDuel link.

White Sox 6, Indians 2: Conor Gillaspie had four hits — three of them doubles — drove in one run and scored another. He’s also 24 for his last 59 over the past 16 games.

Cubs 8, Giants 4: Jeff Samardzija finally got his first win of the season following a ten-strikeout performance. This sorta bums me out. I mean, on the one hand it’s great that he finally got a modicum of run support after to many tough luck outings. On the other hand I was really looking forward to a zero-win pitcher starting the All-Star game.

Phillies 9, Rockies 0: Ryan Howard was 3 for 4 and drove in five. Here come the Philly fan readers who have gone silent for the past two years to argue about the guy’s contract not being so bad. They’ll retreat to the darkness again in a couple of days.

Diamondbacks 7, Padres 5: A.J. Pollock hit a two-out, two-run homer in the ninth for the walkoff win. And we finally have a definitive answer to who is being walked off when this sort of thing happens. Here’s Kirk Gibson after the game:

“We were standing there and we were saying `Let’s walk them off, let’s walk them off,” Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson said, “and he crushed the ball.”

Given that he hit perhaps the most definitive walkoff homer in history, I think Gibson gets to have the final word.

Mariners 5, Angels 1: Robinson Cano had three hits, drove in two and is hitting .332. Chris Young had a no hitter into the sixth and a shutout into the seventh.

Dodgers 4, Reds 3Hyun-Jin Ryu was perfect over the first seven innings before Todd Frazier led off the eighth with a double. So much for that. And so much for the shutout and stuff as the Reds scored three that innings. All three runs were charged to Ryu, but two of them scored thanks to Brian Wilson not being able to put out the fire all that effectively. But that’s all the Reds could do and the Dodgers held on for the win.

Blue Jays 10, Rays 5: That’s seven straight for the Jays thanks to another Edwin Encarnacion homer and a generalized offensive outburst. Dioner Navarro and Steve Tolleson had back to back homers and Melky Cabrera had three hits and three RBI too. Back to that Memorial Day comment: it ain’t too early anymore and the Jays are a couple of games ahead in the AL East.

Yankees 6, Cardinals 4: Brett Gardner had a leaping grab in the 11th to deprive Yadier Molina of either a homer or extra bases and then Brian Roberts came up big in the 12th with a bases-loaded single. I may be mangling this stat — I saw it on Twitter yesterday and can’t find it this morning — but I think this was only the 35th all-time game between the Yankees and the Cardinals, including World Series games. Which on the one hand is kind of understandable given that interleague hasn’t been around that long and for the bulk of it interleague was about divisional matchups, thus the two were not often pit against one another. On the other hand, the mental imagine I have of baseball history has the Yankees and Cardinals defining much of mid-century baseball history. Though I know better when I actually go year-by-year and think of who played in the World Series, I think of Yankees-Cardinals matchups as happening almost as much as Yankees-Dodgers matchups. Oh well.

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.