And That Happened: Thursday’s scores and highlights

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Tigers 5, Pirates 2: Max Scherzer got his 14th win and struck out 14 men in eight shutout innings. J.D. Martinez helped account for the Tigers’ first three runs with a homer, a bases-loaded walk and an infield single which forced in a run on a Pirates error.

Brewers 6, Cubs 2: Mike Fiers became only the seventh pitcher in the last 100 years to strike out as many as 14 batters in six or fewer innings. This after his first start of the season last weekend saw him outduel Zack Greinke. Khris Davis and Mark Reynolds homered.

Dodgers 6, Braves 4: Dee Gordon three hits and scored four runs. Yasiel Puig and Adrian Gonzalez each had three hits as well. The Braves have lost 12 of 14. After the game Freddie Freeman said “We can still make something of this if we keep grinding.” Maybe start grinding first?

Royals 7, Athletics 3: A five-run seventh for the Royals who took five of seven from the A’s in the season series. The A’s may still be the best team in baseball, but the Royals — who have won 18 of 22 — are certainly baseball’s hottest team.

Nationals 4, Mets 1: Two-run homers from Bryce Harper and Adam LaRoche and a nice start from Stephen Strasburg gave the Nats their 11th straight win against the Mets on the road. Someone on the Nats is gonna take Chipper Jones’ example and name their kid “Citi.”

Red Sox 9, Astros 4: A seven-run sixth inning for the Sox put this one away. The other day I said something like “teams which score seven runs tend to win games.” Brandon Isleib had my back:

So post-those seven-run innings, take the other eight innings off, win a lot of games and conserve your energy, guys.

Marlins 5, Diamondbacks 4: Marcell Ozuna doubled home Garrett Jones with the winning run in the 10th. Mike Dunn got his 10th win as a reliever. That’s a very 1970s-80s kind of thing. I like it.

Rays 6, Rangers 3: Evan Longoria homered and drove in three. Logan Forsythe had three hits and a two-run homer of his own. After the game Joe Maddon said this of pitcher Jake Odorizzi:

“He’s swaggering out to the mound, and swaggering back in. The whole group is confident.”

This must be Odorizzi’s sweet ride.

Cardinals 4, Padres 3: A disputed call at the plate when Alex Amarista came home with what would have been the tying run. He was called out on a play at the plate. After a lengthy review, the replay officials upheld the out call, but they really appeared to have missed this one. A.J. Pierzynski’s swipe tag looks to have missed, and both he and Amarista acted as if he missed, with Amarista going back to touch the plate and Pierzynski trying desperately to tag him again. Neither guy acts like that if a tag is applied. And, given that there wasn’t a fantastic camera angle on this, my guess is that the replay guys felt like they couldn’t overturn Bob Davison’s initial bad call. Which he made rather tentatively.

Rockies 7, Reds 3: Charlie Culberson hit a three-run homer and Jorge De La Rosa allowed three runs over seven. Culberson is Troy Tulowitzki’s replacement. Before the game the Rockies announced Carlos Gonzalez was done for the year. Just not how anyone drew this up.

Two injured MVPs is a major bummer for baseball

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Last week Christian Yelich‘s season ended with a fractured kneecap. At the time he went down he was neck-and-neck with Cody Bellinger — I think a tad behind, though people may reasonably differ — and, at least by my reckoning, a hair or three above Anthony Rendon, Ketel Marte and Pete Alonso in the race for the NL MVP Award. As I wrote last week, I think that means Bellinger is going to walk away with the hardware when the winner is announced in November. Yelich’s injury will prevent him from making a late season surge to surpass Bellinger, but I think it would’ve taken a surge for him to do it.

Over the weekend we learned that Mike Trout’s season is over as well. He’ll be having foot surgery to deal with a nerve issue causing him pain. At the time he went down he was the clear frontrunner to win his third MVP Award. Unlike Yelich, I’m pretty sure Trout will still win the trophy. Sure, Trout hasn’t played since September 7, meaning that he’ll miss more time than Yelich will, but strained articles stumping for alternative candidates notwithstanding, his lead in the MVP race was more secure.

Trout’s 2019 ends with him setting a career high in homers with 45 and slugging percentage at .645—both of which lead the American League. He likewise leads the league in on-base percentage (.438), OPS (1.083), and in both Baseball-Reference.com’s and FanGraphs’ versions of WAR at 8.3 and 8.6, respectively. With just under two weeks to go it seems likely that Jorge Soler of the Royals will pass Trout for the home run lead, but he’s not an MVP candidate himself. Alex Bregman will likely pass him in walks. Trout seems pretty certain to finish with his lead in all or most of the other categories intact. That’s an MVP resume even if he’ll only have played in 134 games. To give the award to anyone else would be an exercise in narrative over reason. Something born of a desire to reward a guy — like, say, Bregman — for playing on a winning team as opposed to his individual accomplishments. Sure, voters are allowed to do that, but they’ve mostly eschewed such tendencies in recent years. It’d be a surprise if they backslid.

Even if Yelich’s and Trout’s injuries aren’t likely to radically change the MVP race — again, I think the NL’s was Bellinger’s to lose — they’re both still lamentable separate and apart from the fact that all injuries stink. Lamentable in a way that, unfortunately, creates a downer for baseball as it gets ready for the postseason.

The Brewers won the game in which Yelich went down and have won four of five since then. In so doing they have remained close in the race for the second Wild Card and currently stand one game back. They also have an insanely favorable schedule the rest of the way, exclusively facing the weak sisters of the National League in the Padres, Pirates, Reds and Rockies. Even so, it’s no gimmie — those Reds and Rockies games are on the road, and Great American Ballpark and Coors Field makes those bad teams better — and the reward at the end of this is likely to be a one-game play-in. You want your best player in any and all situations and the Brewers don’t have theirs. And won’t, even if they make the postseason and even if they win the Wild Card game. Having one of the game’s brightest stars on crutches for the playoffs is not something anyone at the league office wants.

The Angels have no such postseason concerns and haven’t had them for most of the season. Once again they’re terrible. As they have been for almost the entirety of Trout’s career. They’ve made the postseason only once in his career — back in 2014, losing the LDS in three games — and do not appear poised to put a winner on the field any time soon. Trout is still in his prime, obviously, but like all players he’ll either slow down or break down eventually. Given the state of the club, I’m not sure I’d put a ton of money on them being good, let alone consistently good, while Trout is still the best or even one of the few best players in baseball. The upside to me seems to be an Al Kaline situation with the Tigers, in which the team finally put it together behind him only after he began to age and miss time to injuries. Having the best player in baseball outside of the playoffs looking in is not something anyone at the league office should want either.

Yet here we are.

Injuries happen. Every contender is missing at least one and in some cases several important players. But for one MVP candidate to miss the postseason this year and another one to miss the postseason every year is a major bummer for a league that has a tough go of it marketing itself even under the best of circumstances.