And That Happened: Thursday’s scores and highlights

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Astros 3, Mariners 2: Jose Altuve hit a walkoff single in the tenth inning, lifting the Astros to their seventh straight win. Altuve was up, by the way, because Lloyd McLendon decided to walk Colby Rasmus to get to Altuve with a man on second. I suppose that whole set-up-the-double-play thing has been on page 16 of the Managerial Handbook for 100 year, but I feel like “Don’t Pass Up a Much Easier Hitter To Get To The Reigning American League Batting Champion” is on page 13 or 14. In any event, I’d rather go after Rasmus, hope to get him out and then be able to be carful with Altuve, but I’m just some schmo in my armchair. Oh well. The Astros’ 15-7 record and .681 winning percentage represents their best April in 29 years.

Cardinals 9, Phillies 3: After a slow start to the year the Cards’ offense is now clicking. Some may choose to believe that adjusting the batting order, dropping Matt Carpenter down from the leadoff spot and stuff is what has done the trick. I prefer the Occam’s Razor=friendly explanation which has only one variable, with that being “the Phillies have been in town.” As it was, Carpenter doubled, singled and walked twice. Matt Adams had three hits, including a two-run homer, and drove in three.

Twins 12, White Sox 2: In basketball, the big star is almost always going to have a good game, even if the team comes up flat. In football, teams can be out of synch — quarterbacks and receivers not on the same page or the game plan disrupted by a superior defense — but it’s not like the quarterbacks forget how to throw or the receivers forget how to run routs. In baseball, though? Dang, sometimes even the best players show up to the park and simply don’t have it. Like Chris Sale last night. He’s one of the best in the game but, sometimes, you just don’t have anything and one of the worst teams in the game beat you around like the Twins did last night. But, in baseball, you also don’t get a week’s worth of thinkpieces about it. No one talks about benching Sale or questions his skills. We just say “huh, I’ll be damned,” shrug our shoulders and forget it the next day, his inflated ERA the only real reminder of that shellacking. It’s part of what I love about baseball. Here, as in life, you’re best not to dwell on a bad day. And most of the time we don’t.

Angels 6, Athletics 5: Kole Calhoun drove in three, but this catch from Mike Trout with the bases loaded and two out in the ninth is what everyone was talking about:

Watch the second time they show the play on video — the one with the wide shot showing Trout’s positioning before the ball hit off the bat — and note how immediately that dude breaks back once you hear the crack. Just outstanding instincts and a quick-as-all-get-out read.

Blue Jays 5, Indians 1: The Jays plated five in the fourth with some walks, singles and doubles strung together. Which for them anyway is small ball. Blue Jays starter Daniel Norris threw 78 pitches in three innings without allowing a run somehow. That’s quite a trick. Normally that would spell disaster, but the Jays’ pen — Jeff Francis, Roberto Ozuna, Aaron Loup and Brett Cecil — allowed only one run over six.

Reds 5, Braves 1: Mike Leake tossed eight shutout innings and hit a homer to [all together now] help his own cause. Todd Frazier, Tucker Barnhart and Billy Hamilton all had solo homers, helping Leake’s own cause as well. And their own, because there is no “i” in “own cause.”

Nationals 8, Mets 2: Remember way, way back at the beginning of the season when the Mets couldn’t lose and the Nationals couldn’t win and we were talking about how great it was for New York and how crappy and underachieving Washington was? Nah, me neither. The Mets have dropped five of seven since their big winning streak. The Nats have notched three wins in a row. Bryce Harper hit two doubles and drove in three.

Royals 8, Tigers 1: Danny Duffy put up goose eggs into the eighth inning and Royals’ bats were not fooled by Alfredo Simon. Eric Hosmer homered for the second straight day. The Royals finish April 15-7 and a half game up on Tigers in the Central.

Brewers on the brink of their first pennant in 36 years

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A series that had swung back and forth twice already swung back in Milwaukee’s favor last night with a convincing win. That it was convincing — it was not at all close after the second inning — is a key factor heading into today, as Craig Counsell has his bullpen set up nicely to shorten the game if his Brewers can get an early lead.

Josh Hader — who, if you are unaware, has not allowed a run and has struck out 12 batters in seven innings of postseason work — did not pitch yesterday or in Game 5. As such, he’s had three full days off. Given that this is a win or go home day and, if they win, he’s guaranteed two more days off before the World Series, he’s good for two innings and could very well go for three. That’s not what you want if you’re the Dodgers.

But it gets worse. Jeremy Jeffress pitched last night but it was only one pretty easy inning, so he could go two if he has to. Corey Knebel pitched an inning and two-thirds but he could probably give Counsell an inning of work if need be. Joakim Soria didn’t pitch at all yesterday. Between those guys and the less important relievers, all of whom save Brandon Woodruff are all pretty fresh, the Dodgers aren’t going to have any easy marks.

But the thing is: Counsell may not need to go that deep given that Jhoulys Chacin, their best starter of the postseason, gets the start. So, yes, in light of that, you have to like the Brewers’ chances tonight, and that’s before you realize that the home crowd is going to be louder than hell.

Not that the Dodgers are going to roll over — it’ll be all hands on deck for them with every pitcher except for Hyun-Jim Ryu available, you figure — but if they’re going to repeat as NL champs, they’re going to have to earn it either by bloodying Chacin’s nose early and neutralizing the threat of facing Hader and company with a lead, or by marching through the teeth of the Brewers bullpen and coming out alive on the other side.
NLCS Game 6

Dodgers vs. Brewers
Ballpark: Miller Park
Time: 8:09 PM Eastern
TV: FS1
Pitchers:  Walker Buehler vs. Jhoulys Chacin
Breakdown:

The most important part of this breakdown — the stuff about the Brewers’ pen — has already been said and, I presume anyway, the starters here will have the shortest of leashes. Chacin’s will be longer, as he has not allowed a run over 10 and a third innings in his first two postseason starts, making him the Brewers’ defacto ace. Every inning he goes tonight makes things much, much harder for the Dodgers once he’s gone as it means Milwaukee will be able to rely more and more on Hader and Jeffress, so the Dodgers had best get to him early.

Buehler has come up weak so far this postseason, having allowed nine runs in 12 innings, including surrendering four runs on six hits over seven innings in Milwaukee’s Game 3 victory. Still, it’s not hard to remember how dominating he was in the second half of the season. If that Buehler shows up and can keep things close, we’ll have a ballgame. If L.A. finds itself in an early hole once again, theirs will be the tallest of orders.