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.

Six of seven players decline $17.9 million qualifying offers

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Dodgers pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu was the only one of seven eligible players to accept his $17.9 million qualifying offer. Bryce Harper, A.J. Pollock, Craig Kimbrel, Patrick Corbin, Yasmani Grandal, and Dallas Keuchel each rejected his, officially making them free agents. Teams that had their QO’s rejected will recoup a draft pick once the player signs elsewhere.

That Harper rejected his QO comes as no surprise, as he is expected to strike perhaps the largest free agent contract in baseball history. Though the free agent market has been less lucrative lately than in previous years, the combination of Harper’s elite talent and his age — he’s only 26 years old — makes him a primary target for more than a handful of teams. Harper reportedly turned down a 10-year, $300 million contract extension offer from the Nationals, so that would seem to be a baseline.

It is also not surprising that Kimbrel, 30, turned down his QO from the Red Sox. Despite a so-so showing during a championship run, Kimbrel is still young and talented enough to land another lucrative contract on the free agent market.

Keuchel bet on himself in turning down the Astros’ QO. He’s been solid since winning the AL Cy Young Award in 2015, owning a 3.77 ERA across 83 starts over the last three seasons. However, he turns 31 years old at the beginning of 2019, and his already mediocre strikeout rate declined even further this past season, so there may be some skepticism about his ability to perform over the course of a multi-year deal. Keuchel will still get one eventually, but his market may be slower to develop.

Pollock, soon 31 as well, will be the outfielder most coveted once Harper is off the market. When he’s healthy, he’s a dynamic five-tool player. However, Pollock hasn’t played in more than 113 games in a season since 2015, so that may be a red flag. Pollock ended 2018 batting .257/.316/.484 with 21 home runs, 65 RBI, 61 runs scored, and 13 stolen bases in 460 plate appearances while playing above-average defense according to various defensive metrics.

Grandal, 30, could’ve gone either way with his QO, but ultimately chose to decline. He had a disappointing postseason, both offensively and defensively. Given how humans are prone to recency bias, it stood to reason that his October performance could have hurt his market. The catching position, however, is rather weak and Grandal stands out in a market that is otherwise focused on Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto. Grandal did swat 24 home runs with an .815 OPS in 140 games for the Dodgers this past season.

Corbin, 29, was the most obvious QO decline after Harper. The lefty is coming off of a career year, finishing with a 3.15 ERA and a 246/48 K/BB ratio in exactly 200 innings. Corbin is the best free agent pitcher on the market this offseason. The Yankees have been seriously linked with Corbin even before the season ended.

Ryu likely chose to accept his QO because of his age and injury history. It would have been a gamble to pursue a multi-year deal. He did, however, make 15 starts during the regular season to the tune of a 1.97 ERA with 89 strikeouts and 15 walks in 82 1/3 innings. Those are great numbers. And most clubs would have been smart enough to look beyond his 5.21 ERA in the postseason, which has more to do with a leaky bullpen than his own personal failings. Still, it’s hard to fault Ryu for playing it safe and taking the guaranteed $17.9 million for one year.