And That Happened: Monday’s scores and highlights

60 Comments

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.

World Series Preview: Two power teams face off in a marquee matchup

Associated Press
1 Comment

The suits at MLB headquarters and Fox Sports have to be happy to see the Dodgers and Red Sox facing off in the World Series. Both are marquee teams from major markets, giving the Fall Classic its biggest potential national exposure in many, many years. That’s money in the bank, folks.

But let’s not be cynical here: we should be happy about this matchup too because it really does pit the AL’s best and the NL’s best against each other.

The Red Sox, as we’ve already discussed, were the best team in baseball all year and, Vegas lines notwithstanding, are not anyone’s underdogs. Meanwhile in the National League, yes, I know the Brewers had home field advantage and a better overall record than the Dodgers, but after getting over their horrible start, it’s fair to say Los Angeles was the class of the Senior Circuit for most of the year. They certainly were as measured by run differential and, of course, dispatched the Brewers, primarily due to their depth.

Stars taking on stars. History facing history. A whole lot of celebrities in the stands in both parks and — if we’re truly lucky — Red Sox/Dodgers star Manny Ramirez will throw out the first pitch.

Wait, that’s NEVER going to happen. But some good baseball is over the next week or so. Here’s how it all breaks down:

 

THE ROTATIONS

In the regular season, based on ERA anyway, the Dodgers rotation of Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Walker Buehler were better than the Sox’ rotation of Chris SaleDavid PriceNathan Eovaldi and Rick Porcello. In the postseason, though, the Dodgers’ starters have all mixed in some clunkers with their fine performances while Boston’s quartet has been pretty consistent, leading to each team’s starters doing about as well as the other’s. Of course Boston has faced far tougher offensive competition than L.A. has — they had to go through the Yankees and the Astros — so adjust your analysis accordingly.

David Price will probably be the difference maker here. If his excellent ALCS Game 5 performance, the product of going heavy with his changeup, was harbinger as opposed to fluke, it’s a huge boost to Boston. Same goes for Chris Sale’s durability. He didn’t pitch much late in the season and we don’t know if his ALCS illness is going to play a factor. If there are any issues with Price or Sale, I give the Dodgers’ rotation an edge. If not, well, the Dodgers are still going to have a tall order in facing the Sox’ relentless offense, so it’s not like the edge is massive. At he moment I’ll lean in their direction, but it’s not a heavy lean. ADVANTAGE: DODGERS

 

THE LINEUPS

The Dodgers are no offensive slouches — they led the National League in runs and homers this year — but top to bottom I don’t think they’re anywhere near as scary as the Red Sox’ balanced lineup is. Indeed, Boston led all of baseball in runs, average, on-base percentage, slugging, total bases and OPS+. Oh, and they also scored 29 runs in five games after an excellent Astros pitching staff. There are no weak links here.

Once you take pitchers batting stats out of it, the Dodgers actually look pretty darn similar to the Red Sox, statistically speaking, and their superior bench — see below — is a big plus, but it’s very hard to make a case that they have a better offense than the Red Sox. Indeed, it’s hard to make a case that any team has a better offense than the Red Sox in all of 2018. ADVANTAGE: RED SOX

 

THE BULLPENS

The bullpen was the part of the team Red Sox fans worried about most heading into the postseason, but Matt Barnes, Ryan Brasier and Joe Kelly have allowed only two runs in 18 and two-thirds innings in October and Alex Cora’s use of starters Rick Porcello, Chris Sale and Nathan Eovaldi in relief has actually made it a strength. Indeed, Craig Kimbrel has been the shakiest part of the reliever corps so far, but perhaps that was because of tipping pitches? Hard to say as that is a go-to excuse for a lot of struggling pitchers, but it’s also hard to say that Red Sox bullpen is as serious a weakness as some feared a few weeks ago.

Heading into the NLCS all of the talk was about the Brewers’ bullpen, but Dodgers relievers were better, combining for a 1.45 ERA over 31 innings in those seven games. The signature game for them was, in hindsight, the series turning point: Game 4, with the Dodgers down two games to one and starter Rich Hill knocked out after five innings. Dave Roberts called on eight — eight! — relievers to shut Milwaukee out after that, and L.A. won it on a Cody Bellinger walkoff single. Can he do that every day? Nah, but it certainly was the case that Roberts has had confidence in every single member of his pitching staff this postseason and that confidence has been rewarded. That kind of depth will allow him to be aggressive in the World Series. ADVANTAGE: DODGERS

 

THE BENCHES

If each team follows form, they will utilize platoons, so expect to see Rafael Devers and Mitch Moreland to come off the bench later in games with lefty starters. Same for Joc Pederson and Max Muncy when the Sox go with their southpaws. The Red Sox lineup is superior, but the Dodgers have more depth and flexibility, utilizing every player on its roster during the postseason in ways no team has come close to matching. Indeed, they basically used 12 everyday players despite having only eight positions in which to put them and got the most out of everyone. It’s a nice luxury for Dave Roberts to have. ADVANTAGE: DODGERS

 

THE MANAGERS

The “Alex Cora played for Los Angeles and Dave Roberts played for Boston” thing is going to be the “Jerome Bettis is from Detroit” storyline of this World Series, I imagine. And I suppose that’s fine, as storylines like that have never killed anyone. Still, there are more fun ones:

  • How about “Dave Roberts: drought-ender?” As you may have heard, he was a hero for the Red Sox in 2004, helping to end an 86-year title drought for Boston. While the Dodgers’ drought has been nowhere near that long — 30 years — it has been long for that historically successful franchise.
  • How about “Terry Francona managerial tree” as both Roberts and Cora played for Tito in Boston, with Cora arriving the year Roberts left in 2005? If you go with that one, forgot momentarily that they both played much longer for Jim Tracy in Los Angeles, where they were teammates. The “Jim Tracy managerial tree” is nowhere near as fun a storyline.
  • How about “For the first in in baseball history, two minority managers will face off in the Fall Classic.” Take that, baseball’s hopefully-dead-and-buried history of not giving minorities a fair shot at such jobs due to the racist belief that they couldn’t handle it. Famously advanced, unfortunately, by a Dodgers figure once upon a time

In the end, though, storylines won’t matter. Both Cora and Roberts have proven themselves to be outstanding managers and neither of them has ever stood accused of screwing things up which, given the nature of managerial evaluation, is often the first thing anyone notices.

Each will have their challenges here, as the Red Sox’ superior lineup will make Roberts’ decisions about who to call on from the pen and when far more difficult than those he faced in Milwaukee. Cora, like most AL managers, has to decide what to do in the three games in the NL park when he does not have a DH. It’s a much bigger problem for Cora than a lot of teams, however, as his DH — J.D. Martinez — will have to displace the likely AL MVP in Mookie Betts on defense. As we’ve discussed, that will likely send Betts to second base, which takes away a big advantage the Sox have in terms of outfield defense. A tough call, the alternative for which is strategically using Martinez to pinch hit. Better that Cora have to make it than any of us.

A manager’s specific call could very well decide this World Series, but heading into it, there is little reason to doubt the ability of either skipper to make the right call when necessary. I suppose one could give Roberts a nod here simply because he’s more experienced, but that ignores the fact that Cora has already been to the Series as a bench coach and that managing one year in Boston is probably like managing four years anyplace else thanks to the scrutiny and stress. He’s not gonna be a deer in the headlights, folks.  ADVANTAGE: PUSH

 

PREDICTION

As my friend Joe Sheehan likes to say in his previews, the last three words of any preview — “[Team] in [Number of Games]” are the least important of them all. That’s thanks to randomness and the overall difficulty in predicting baseball outcomes of an insufficiently large sample size of games and all of that. Still, y’all expect a prediction and I, obviously, have never been afraid of looking wrong or dumb, so I’ll offer one in a second. First, I’ll talk my way through it.

The Dodgers have more areas of advantage as broken down above, but in most areas those advantages are slight. I think Boston’s offense, meanwhile, is significantly better and will prove to be far more exhausting for the Dodgers pitchers to face than anything they’ve seen so far.

This series is no mismatch, though, and one can easily imagine a scenario in which Clayton Kershaw reminds everyone why he was the best pitcher in baseball for several years running, L.A’s big playmakers Justin Turner and Yasiel Puig and come up big and the L.A. bullpen continues doing what it did in the N.L. playoffs and neutralizes the big Boston bats.

Ultimately, however, the Sox need less to go right than the Dodgers do. They simply need their lineup to continue doing what it has done, Chris Sale to be Chris Sale and David Price to simply not be a liability, which he was not the last time we saw him. Simply from an imagination standpoint, it’s easier to imagine the Sox running through the Dodgers than vice-versa. So I’ll call it this way:

BOSTON IN SEVEN