And That Happened: Tuesday’s scores and highlights

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Mariners 5, Padres 0: Mike Montgomery has made six big league starts. Two of them — the last two of them — are shutouts. This was a one-hitter, in which Yangervis Solarte’s ground rule double in the seventh was the only thing that Padres could muster off of him. Montgomery is the third M’s pitcher to have back-to-back shutouts, with the other two being Randy Johnson and Mark Langston. Johnson once had three shutouts in a row. Montgomery will get a chance to do it against Oakland on Sunday.

Rangers 8, Orioles 6: Game two in which, in my mind, the O’s and Rangers battle for the Rafael Palmeiro Cup, which goes to the winner of the season series between these guys each year. Sort of the Little Brown Jug of big-bopping, band box-dwelling, PED-fueled teams of the 90s. God, what a glorious time. Anyway, Mitch Moreland hit two homers for the second straight game and the Rangers had four homers against the Orioles for the second straight game, with Shin-Soo Choo and Robinson Chirinos hitting dingers too.

Brewers 4, Phillies 3: This is, I dunno, the Ricky Bottalico Bowl. Same thing as the Rangers-O’s thing, but named after a guy who played for both of these less exciting teams. Here Aramis Ramirez drove in three runs and Ryan Braun had four hits. This one was delayed nearly an hour and a half by rain. Either from clouds or from God crying for having to watch these two squads play.

Cubs 1, Mets 0: Kyle Hendricks and three of his friends combined on the shutout, outdueling Jon Niese. If you’re a Mets pitcher you basically have to be perfect these days, it seems.

Red Sox 4, Blue Jays 3: Break up the Red Sox, who have won three in a row and are now only six back. David Ortiz and Jackie Bradley Jr. hit homers and Eduardo Rodriguez allowed only one run over six innings. Not-so-fun fact for Toronto: Jose Bautista is hitless in 24 straight at bats.

Pirates 5, Tigers 4: The Pirates broke through in the 14th inning in spite of themselves. Tied 4-4 with Gorkys Hernandez on first, Josh Harrison hit a double. Hernandez started breaking back to first base because he thought the ball was caught for some reason. Then turned around and headed to third, missed second and ended up being called out. That sort of thing has to be totally dispiriting to a team playing after midnight on the road, but Neil Walker saved Hernandez’s bacon by doubling in Harrison for the eventual winning run.

Nationals 6, Braves 1: That’s nine straight for the Nats over the Braves, who are now legally foreclosed from referring to Washington as a “rival.” Jordan Zimmermann took a shutout into the eighth inning and the Braves’ only run came on an it-doesn’t-matter Juan Uribe homer in the ninth. Danny Espinosa was 3-for-5. Clint Robinson drove in two.

Twins 8, Reds 5: This one featured a two hour delay for a storm that never came. That’s some absurdist, existential stuff. It’s some Feudian and Jungian overtones away from being a Beckett play. Once it started, Torii Hunter hit his fourth homer in his past four games Eduardo Nunez had three hits and an RBI single and Kurt Suzuki drove in two. Phil Hughes was solid — the Reds closed a big gap late due to some sloppy Twins play after Hughes had left the game — and has allowed only two runs over his last two starts, which totaled 16 innings.

Marlins 5, Giants 3: An inside-the-park homer from Dee Gordon was the highlight here:

 

Is it rude of me to point out that maybe this should be a triple and an error due to the little glove-flippy nonsense going on by the Giants in the outfield? Oh, OK then. I won’t point it out. In Gordon’s defense, though, he booked it like crazy out of the box and never slowed down on the basepaths.

Indians 6, Rays 2: Danny Salazar was on his game and pitched two-hit ball into the eighth. He had some offensive help in the form of three homers backing him. And some defensive help in the form of plays like this gem from Francisco Lindor:

 

Astros 4, Royals 0: This practice run for a possible ALCS is not going too well for the Royals, as the Astros shut them out and win for the second straight day. Dallas Keuchel, of course, who has been nothing short of fantastic all year. Here he Here he shut KC out for eight innings, striking out seven and lowering his ERA to 2.03. George Springer hit a two-run homer and Jose Altuve doubled in a run.

White Sox 2, Cardinals 1: A Tyler Flowers homer in the 11th was the difference here. And while Chris Sale didn’t figure in the decision, he went eight innings, allowing only one run and striking out 12. That extends his double-digit strikeout streak to eight. The only other guy who has done that is Pedro Freakin’ Martinez.

Dodgers 6, Diamondbacks 4: Another extra inning game on a night with several. Yasmani Grandal was the hero for L.A., homering early and hitting a two-run double in the 10th inning, driving in four in all.

Angels 2, Yankees 1: Three runs in the game, all coming on homers. Albert Pujols and Erik Aybar went deep for Anaheim and Mark Teixeira hit one for the Bombers. Besides that one, however, Andrew Heaney was stingy, allowing only two hits and one run over seven while striking out seven. Huston Street got the save and has pitched in four straight games. Careful: relief pitchers don’t do that too often. You don’t want to take him out of his routine. He may retire.

Rockies 2, Athletics 1: Jorge De La Rosa tossed seven shutout innings. Rubby De La Rosa pitched for the Dbacks in their game against Lost Angeles. We need to get these two on the same team. the Rockies scored the run that gave them their margin of victory on a Fernando Rodriguez wild pitch.

Nationals succeeded by spending money

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Throughout the playoffs, the Nationals have been cast as plucky underdogs fighting and scrapping their way into the World Series. It’s somewhat true: the Nats overcame a dreadful start to the regular season after losing their star outfielder in Bryce Harper, and were heavy underdogs in the NLDS against the Dodgers, who won 13 more games. But the Nationals are not David in a David vs. Goliath story. They’re closer to Goliath because they have flexed their payroll muscle to fill the roster with talented players.

The Nationals didn’t come close to matching the 13-year, $330 million contract the Phillies wound up agreeing to with Harper, instead offering a 10-year, $300 million deal of which about $100 million was deferred. Losing Harper has somewhat defined their 2019. But they did sign starter Patrick Corbin to a six-year, $140 million contract, and they’re paying Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg $38.33 million and $37.4 million, respectively. As we saw in the NLCS, it was the starting rotation that carried them into the World Series.

Scherzer, a three-time Cy Young Award winner, will not win the award again this year most likely, but he once again ranked among the game’s best pitchers. During the regular season, he posted a 2.92 ERA with 243 strikeouts across 172 1/3 innings. Strasburg led the league in wins with 18 and innings with 209 while authoring a 3.32 ERA with 251 strikeouts. Corbin continued to impress with a 3.25 ERA and 328 strikeouts in 202 innings. As a unit, the Nationals’ 3.53 ERA from starting pitchers ranked second-best in baseball behind the Dodgers. Sounds about right for a rotation collectively earning about $100 million.

We — the royal we — have been quick to point out when an uncommon strategy works, like the Cubs’ and Astros’ rebuilding strategies before they came in vogue or the Rays’ use of the “opener.” It’s only fair to point out that a time-tested strategy, spending money on good baseball players, also works. The Nationals’ current payroll of about $204.5 million is third-highest in baseball, according to USA TODAY.

In September, the Nationals’ NL East rival Phillies were reported by The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal to have curtailed efforts to compete for a Wild Card because of a lack of certainty. The front office didn’t want to invest significant resources into grabbing a lowly Wild Card only to have to match up with the behemoth Dodgers in the NLDS. But that’s exactly what the Nationals did. The Nationals also swept the slumping Phillies in a five-game series September 23-26.

The Phillies aren’t alone. We’ve seen in the last few offseasons that teams have become loath to invest in free agents, particularly ones 30 and older. Even Scherzer took notice. Asked about the Nationals’ collective age, Scherzer said via The Athletic’s Rustin Dodd, “It just seems everybody wants younger and younger players. And everybody wants to forget about all the old guys. We see it in free agency, we’re not dumb. And the fact (is) we’re the oldest team and we won the National League.”

Gerrit Cole, Anthony Rendon, and Josh Donaldson will highlight the upcoming free agent class. They could be joined by Strasburg, Aroldis Chapman, and J.D. Martinez if they exercise the opt-out clauses in their contracts. In the cases of Cole and Rendon, at least two-thirds of the league should be actively pursuing them but if the past few years are any indication, the actual interest will be muted and they won’t end up signing until after the new year. Front offices have continued to blindly recite the phrase “aging curve” while pointing at the Rays in an effort to scale back payroll. The Nationals, meanwhile, are putting the “money” back in Moneyball and they might win a championship because of it.