And That Happened: Wednesday’s scores and highlights

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Reds 8, Tigers 4: Todd Frazier plays the hero with a 13th inning walkoff grand slam. It was his second homer of the game and second day in a row in which he hit two homers. Between the 13 innings and an hour and a half rain delay, this thing ended at almost 1:30AM. Todd Frazier may be one of the more overlooked players in baseball, but all he’s doing is hitting .294/.361/.639 and is on a 55-homer pace.

Mariners 2, Giants 0: King Outduels Bum. Felix Hernandez has alternated good and bad starts lately, but this one was good. And necessary, as he was facing Madison Bumgarner. Felix shut the Giants out for eight innings, however, while Austin Jackson and Robinson Cano hit a triple and a double, respectively, off of Bumgarner in the sixth for the M’s only runs.

Rays 5, Nationals 0: Steven Souza was a hero in Washington the last time he played a regular season game in Nats Park. That’s when he saved Jordan Zimmermann’s no-hitter with an acrobatic catch in the last game of the 2014 season. Last night, as a Ray, he had three hits including a homer. The home crowd probably wasn’t as welcoming of that. They were probably even less welcoming of the fact that the Rays tossed a two-hit shutout in what was basically a bullpen game for them.

Yankees 2, Marlins 1: The Yankees’ winning equation: good starting pitching and old guys coming through. It was a gamble at the outset of the season and one that seemed like a longshot, but it’s paying off often enough for them to keep them in contention. Here the formula played out with Michael Pineda looking sharp into the seventh and both Alex Rodriguez and Carlos Beltran knocking in a run.

Orioles 6, Phillies 4: Chris Parmelee homered for the third time in two games. That’s twelve wins in their last fourteen for Baltimore. Nine losses in a row for Philly. When Ryne Sandberg was asked about the club’s record he said “It’s surprising.” Have to expect heads will be rolling soon.

Blue Jays 8, Mets 0: Drew Hutchison bounced back from a poor start to shut the Mets down into the sixth. Kevin Pillar went 3-for-4 with a homer and two RBI. Terry Collins: “We’ve got to start playing better on the road. We’ve got to start winning some games.” Between him and Sandberg it must’ve been Obvious Night last night.

Cubs 17, Indians 0: I sort of operate like the guy from that old HBO series “Dream On,” in that when stuff happens in life, little movie or TV clips play in my head to characterize it. In the past couple of days this has been getting worn out as I peruse the box scores:

 

Kris Bryant had a grand slam and Kyle Schwarber was 4-for-5. For the second night in a row we saw two position players take the mound for a team, this time Ryan Raburn and David Murphy, who combined to allow seven runs in the ninth. None of them were earned, however, as all seven runs scored after Francisco Lindor booted what would’ve been out number three in the inning.

Braves 5, Reds Sox 2: Boston has now lost eight of nine overall and 11 of 12 on the road. Nick Markakis knocked in the go-ahead run in the seventh inning. Pedro Ciriaco knocked in two. John Farrell lost a replay challenge, argued when asking for an umpire replay review later on and then got tossed arguing balls and strikes. Tough night at the office.

Pirates 3, White Sox 2: No one knew whether Jung Ho Kang’s gaudy numbers from Korea would translate to the majors, but he’s doin’ just fine, no? A two-run homer in this one puts him at .280/.363/.420 on the year and I think the Pirates are quite pleased with it. That’s seven wins in a row for Pittsburgh, who actually made up a game in the standings because . . .

Twins 3, Cardinals 1: . . . The Cardinals finally lost a game on a night Pittsburgh won. Tommy Milone gave up one run in seven innings and Glen Perkins notched a four-out save. This from the AP gamer strikes me as odd:

Carlos Martinez (7-3) gave up two runs — one earned — on five hits and struck out six in 6 2/3 innings for the Cardinals, who are embroiled in a federal investigation into allegations that members of the team’s baseball operations hacked into the Houston Astros’ personnel database.

Multiple additional words appear about the hacking thing as well. I guess context is context, but it seems really odd to me to insert this into a game story as the scandal seems so very far removed from actual game play. Especially given that no one is quoted talking about it.

Royals 10, Brewers 2: Joe Blanton got his first win — and made his first start — in nearly two years. I suppose this now means he’ll be the starting pitcher for the American League All-Star team.

Astros 8, Rockies 4: Carlos Correa hit one of Houston’s four home runs and he and George Springer each had three hits. In his first nine games he’s hitting .359/.375/.641 with three homers. And he won’t be able to have a legal beer for over three months.

Diamondbacks 3, Angels 2: Paul Goldschmidt and Welington Castillo each hit homers and Yasmany Tomas had three hits with an RBI triple. Goldschmidt is putting up video game numbers this year: .363/.481/.679 with 19 homers and 54 RBI. He’s five homers and eight RBI behind Giancarlo Stanton for the lead in all three triple crown categories. Heck, we actually could have a Triple Crown race this year between him and Bryce Harper.

Athletics 16, Padres 2: Another blowout, this one paired with a dominating pitching performance from Jesse Chavez, who struck out 11. Billy Butler had a big game, hitting a homer on a 4-for-5, 3 RBI night. And of course we got more position player pitching, this time from Alexi Amarista. He only threw two pitches, though, which is kind of sad. We’ve come to expect so much more this week.

Rangers 5, Dodgers 3: Clayton Kershaw struck out ten but he was touched for a Joey Gallo homer and a lot of timely Rangers hitting. Sort of the story of his year, really. Good stuff but you look up at the end of the night and wonder how he gave up four runs.

Nats’ success shouldn’t be about Bryce Harper

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Bryce Harper turns 27 years old today. As an early birthday present, he got to watch his former team reach the World Series for the first time in franchise history. His new team finished exactly at .500 in fourth place, missing the playoffs. These were facts that did not go unnoticed as the Nationals completed an NLCS sweep of the Cardinals at home last night.

Harper spent seven seasons with the Nationals before hitting free agency and ultimately signing with the Phillies on a 13-million, $330 million contract. The Nationals offered Harper a 10-year, $300 million contract at the end of the 2018 regular season, but about $100 million of that was deferred until he was 65 which lowered the present-day value of the offer. The Nats’ offer wasn’t even in the same ballpark, really.

Nevertheless, Nationals fans were upset that their prodigy jilted them to go to the Phillies. He was mercilessly booed whenever the Phillies played in D.C. Nats fans’ Harper jerseys were destroyed, or at least taped over.

Harper, of course, was phenomenal with the Nationals. He won the NL Rookie of the Year Award in 2012, then won the NL MVP Award several years later with an historically outstanding 1.109 OPS while leading the league with 42 homers and 118 runs scored. Overall, as a National, he had a .900 OPS. Pretty good. He was also productive in the postseason, posting an .801 OPS across 19 games, mostly against playoff teams’ best starters and best relievers. Furthermore, if the Nats had Harper this year, he would have been in right field in lieu of Adam Eaton. Harper out OPS’d Eaton by 90 points and posted 2.5 more WAR in a similar amount of playing time. The Nationals would have been even better if they had Harper this year.

The Nationals lost all four Division Series they appeared in during the Harper era. 3-2 to the Cardinals in 2012, 3-1 to the Giants in ’14, 3-2 to the Dodgers in ’16, and 3-2 to the Cubs in ’17. They finally get over the hump the first year they’re without Harper, that’s the difference, right? I saw the phrase “addition by subtraction” repeatedly last night, referring to Harper and the Nats’ subsequent success without him.

Harper, though, didn’t fork over four runs to the Cardinals in the top of the ninth inning in Game 5 in 2012. He didn’t allow the Dodgers to rally for four runs in the seventh inning of Game 5 in ’16 before ultimately losing 4-3. He didn’t use a gassed Max Scherzer in relief in 2017’s Game 5, when he allowed five of the seven Cubs he faced to reach base, leading to three runs which loomed large in a 9-8 loss. If certain rolls of the dice in those years had gone the Nationals’ way, they would have appeared in the NLCS. They might’ve even been able to win a World Series.

The Nationals saw how that looks this year. It was the opposing manager this time, Dave Roberts, who mismanaged his bullpen. Howie Kendrick then hit a tie-breaking grand slam in the 10th inning off of Joe Kelly to win the NLDS for the Nats. The playoffs are random. Sometimes a ball bounces your way, sometimes an umpire’s call goes your way, and sometimes the opposing manager makes several unforced errors to throw Game 5 in your lap.

Reaching the World Series, then thumbing your nose while sticking out your tongue at Harper feels like a guy tagging his ex-girlfriend on his new wedding photos. It’s time to move on.