And That Happened: Tuesday’s scores and highlights

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Phillies 4, Braves 0Cubs 7, Brewers 1Cardinals 6, Pirates 4Mets 8, Marlins 6: “Hi, we’re the four teams at least plausibly fighting for the second NL Wild Card right now. We all lost last night. We all lost the game we played before, too! Milwaukee, here [step forward, Milwaukee] has lost seven in a row! Atlanta [now you] has only lost two in a row, but they have only scored one run in the past four games. It seems like they haven’t scored a run since Dale Murphy played center field! This may all seem rather dreary, but look on the bright side! We’re freeing up a night in early October for you so you don’t have to watch the NL wild card game. Or, worse, so that you watch it and one of us actually wins it and becomes a bona fide playoff team despite us being really, really horrible.”

Dodgers 4, Nationals 1: At least Clayton Kershaw is a palate-cleanser. And if he keeps this up, he’s the NL MVP. I mean, I still think the favorite is either Andrew McCutchen (if the Pirates win the wild card) or Giancarlo Stanton (if the Marlins stay close until the end) but given how uninspiring their teams are of late, Kershaw may be building up an MVP resume to go with that lock for the Cy Young (8 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 8K).

Giants 12, Rockies 7: San Francisco was going to get lumped in with the “NL Wild Card contenders stunk last night” crew, but they rallied after being down 7-1 through five innings. Buster Posey was a wrecking crew from the sixth inning on, hitting a solo homer and smacking two RBI doubles to finish with four driven in on the night. The Giants have won seven of eight. Imagine where this team would be if they hadn’t punted so much of June and July.

Orioles 5, Reds 4: Bud Norris pitched six shutout inning while navigating around two rain delays. The second one was a lengthy one — one hour and forty-six minutes — which would normally ice a pitcher for the night, but not Norris. Since the rain didn’t come until after the top of the first, Reds starter Mat Latos ended up not throwing his first pitch until after both delays. That did mess with him, apparently, as he allowed four runs in the first and five overall. The O’s have won seven of nine and now have a nine and half game lead in the East.

Tigers 4, Indians 2: J.D. Martinez had a three-run homer in the top of the ninth off closer Cody Allen to put the Tigers ahead for good. A nice redemption for the Tigers who had stranded runners all night before that. The Indians are seeing their claim to contention evaporate almost as soon as it materialized a few days ago. They’re now five and a half out in the Central. The Tigers are a half game behind leaders Kansas City.

Royals 2, Rangers 1: That’s because the Royals kept pace, with Sal Perez driving in the go-ahead run in the eighth. Alex Gordon has been a trendy stealth MVP pick in the American League, but it seems like Perez has big hits every other night. Must be the perfume.

Red Sox 9, Yankees 4: So much of the disappointment for the Red Sox this year came because they were depending on young players who didn’t deliver. Among them, Xander Bogaerts. He delivered last night, knocking four hits including a homer and driving in two. Another youngster — Mookie Betts — had three hits and hit a homer of his own. Daniel Nava hit a three-run homer and Yoenis Cespedes tripled, doubled and singled. Sleep on this Red Sox team in 2015 at your peril.

Editor’s Note: Hardball Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $40,000 Fantasy Baseball league for Wednesday night’s MLB games. It’s just $25 to join and first prize is $5,500. Starts at 7:05pm ET on WednesdayHere’s the FanDuel link.

Blue Jays 8, Rays 2: R.A. Dickey allowed two runs over seven innings, striking out six.The Jays bombed Jeremy Hellickson.

White Sox 6, Twins 3: Two home runs for Tyler Flowers. And then Dayan Viciedo broke a tie in the 10th with a solo shot. Chicago is now three up on Minnesota in the race for cellar avoidance.

Padres 2, Diamondbacks 1: Cory Spangenberg is making his presence felt in a hurry. He had the night off until he punch hit in the bottom of the ninth and then all he did was hit a walkoff homer on the first pitch he saw. Here’s Bud Black on the decision to pinch hit with Spangenberg:

Black said hitting coach Phil Plantier “felt good about the at-bat with Spangy. Cam didn’t have great numbers against Ziegler. Phil through Ziegler’s type of pitching was pretty good for Spangy. Spangy’s sort of a slasher, likes the ball a little bit out, a little bit down and it worked out.”

“Spangy.” Maybe let’s give the guy more than two days in the big leagues before just defaulting to the lame “-y” nickname. Because it’s almost as if he’s the kind of guy who might develop a cool one himself soon.

Astros 8, Angels 3: Jose Altuve has eight hits in the past two nights. He’s hitting .340. Barring an extreme September slump, of which there is no evidence whatsoever, Altuve is going to win the batting title. He’ll be the first Astro to ever do it, too. He had a homer among his four hits last night. Guy is just a player. Tom Lawless is now undefeated as a major league manager. He should think about retiring on top.

Mariners 6, Athletics 5: Seattle made sure the Angels didn’t lost ground to the A’s, though. James Paxton took a shutout into the eighth. And while he and the bullpen bent at that point, they did not break. Oakland has lost 5 of 6.

Columnist bashes Bryce Harper’s fundamentals, “write it,” says Nats player

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Tom Boswell of the Washington Post wrote a column over the weekend about how the 2019 Nats are looking really, really good. And for the most part it’s a column that makes a lot of sense. The Nats added some key pieces this offseason and, because so much of their underachieving 2018 season was based on health, particularly in the bullpen, there is reason to be optimistic this coming year.

There is one weird passage in the middle of the column, though: a swipe at Bryce Harper, his fundamentals and his attitude. The upshot: Boswell is arguing that losing Harper to free agency is addition by subtraction:

Though few mention it, subtracting Harper, while it will cost 34 homers, a .899 career OPS and some amazing hair flips, would help any team improve its attention to fundamentals. When the most famous player on the team can’t go 10 days without failing to run out a groundball or overthrowing a cutoff man by 15 feet or throwing to the wrong base or being caught unprepared in the outfield or on the bases, it’s hard to demand total alertness from the other 24.

“Write it,” one prominent Nats vet said.

The “Write it” is what has me most fascinated.

It could possibly be read in two different ways. One way would be for that to be the non-committal reaction of a player when Boswell bounced his Harper-is-a-slacker theory. Saying, in effect, “you write that if that’s your take.” It seems far more likely to me though, that Boswell is echoing the off-the-record sentiments of Harper’s former Nats teammates and the “write it” is an encouraging plea to give public voice to that which the player has chosen not to.

If it is the latter, this would only be the latest of many anonymously-sourced disgruntled sentiments from the Nats clubhouse over the years. Former manager Matt Williams had a full-scare revolt on his hands that made it into the media. Last year Dave Martinez’s clubhouse had someone saying negative things to the press as well, and it was so bad that GM Mike Rizzo sent off a useful reliever — at a time when the Nats really, really needed a useful reliever — because he was the suspected source. If Boswell is giving voice to some anti-Harper sentiment in Nats camp, it’s just more soap opera from a bunch that, historically, can’t seem to handle their issues in-house.

As for the substance: I don’t watch Harper as much as Nats fans do — and I can’t say that I’ve ever heard anyone describe him as some sort of lazy slacker — but sure, there are players who are more fundamentally sound than him. It’s also the case, though, that Harper has always been judged more harshly for his deportment than a lot of players in the league, so I’m not prepared to totally defer to word of mouth — especially anonymous word-of-mouth — to someone slamming him on that stuff.

It’s still pretty interesting, though, that in an offseason in which the average fan’s take is that Manny Machado is the no-hustle slacker who should be avoided, that Machado’s former teammates have had no complaints about him, while Harper’s former teammates seem to have the knives out for him.