And That Happened: Sunday’s scores and highlights

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Mets 5, Nationals 2: Curtis Granderson and Daniel Murphy went back-to-back in the third inning and then Lucas Duda added one more. That was more than enough for Noah Syndergaard, who went eight innings allowing only two runs and putting the ball more or less wherever he wanted to. The Mets win the biggest game in the history of Citi Field and move into a first place tie with the Nats after the sweep.

Astros 4, Diamondbacks 1: New Astro Carlos Gomez hit a two-run, go-ahead single in the fourth and Colin McHugh allowed one run on eight hits in seven innings. More hits than innings = “scattered” hits. If there are mushrooms on the hits, they’re “capped.” It’s all on the Astros’ secret menu.

Cardinals 3, Rockies 2: I said this after the Cardinals picked up Brandon Moss on Thursday:

[Moss is] hitting just .217/.208/.487 this season and perversely, is hitting lefties better than righties — but he has a line of .254/.340/.504 over the previous three years. And of course, the Cardinals and their devil magic tend to turn everyone into a near-superstar as soon as they’re acquired. If they didn’t get Moss they could’ve probably signed Will Clark out of retirement again and have him hit .280/.340/.500. That’s just how they roll.

So of course Moss hits a pinch hit walkoff RBI single in this one. Hail Satan.

Blue Jays 5, Royals 2: Things got chippy here, with Royals starter Edinson Volquez pitching inside to Josh Donaldson,  eventually hitting him with a pitch in the third inning. Then came retaliation later in the game, and benches-clearing incident. Which wasn’t a brawl because guys just don’t brawl these days. Of course the silliest thing here is that after all of the Royals throwing at Jays, — including Ryan Madson pitching inside to  Troy Tulowitzki and Donaldson in the seventh inning — umps eject Aaron Sanchez and DeMarlo Hale for hitting Alcides Escobar in the bottom half of the seventh. So, if you’re the aggressor in a plunking war, you get three or four chances but the first time you plunk back, you’re outta here. I’m sure that’s not written someplace in the unwritten rule book.

Pirates 3, Reds 0: Benches cleared here too as a plunking of Marlon Byrd on Saturday carried over to Sunday with Pedro Villarreal hitting Andrew McCutchen with a pitch followed by Tony Watson hitting Brandon Phillips. Finally, for good measure I guess, Mark Melancon hit Reds catcher Tucker Barnhart. Wheee! Oh, both here and in the Jays-Royals game there was actual baseball played too. Click the box scores for that. We’re just here for the fighing.

Dodgers 5, Angels 3: The Dodgers got something of a mixed bag from their recent acquisitions, with Mat Latos giving up only one run on four hits over six innings and leaving with a 2-1 lead. But Jim Johnson, who came over in the same trade, gave up a tying homer by Kole Calhoun with one out in the eighth. Onto extra innings where Andre Ethier ended it with a two-run homer. It was his second one of the day, and both times he put the Dodgers in the lead. That’s some serious takin’ care of business.

Marlins 5, Padres 2: Marlins shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria broke a 2-2 tie in the bottom of the ninth inning with a walk-off three-run home run off Padres reliever Brandon Maurer. That helped the Fish avoid a sweep. Which really is bad for them because they’re totally in the race with the Phillies for the top pick in the 2016 draft. So, yes, quite the setback.

Tigers 6, Orioles 1: Welcome to Detroit Daniel Norris. The Tigers’ acquisition in the David Price deal went seven and a third innings allowing one run on four hits. J.D. Martinez hit a three-run homer in the first and the Tigers would never trail.

Rays 4, Red Sox 3: The Rays avoid a sweep thanks to a late rally keyed by an Asdrubal Cabrera double followed by a James Loney single in the eighth. Which reminds that James Loney played 30 games for the Red Sox back in 2012 which seems like a dream.

Braves 6, Phillies 2: Atlanta avoids the sweep at the hands of the Phillies. I got all sad that the Braves traded away prospect Jose Peraza, but that sadness is tempered by things like Jace Peterson having three hits, including a three-run home run. I mean, he’s nothin’ special, but the Braves have a long and rich history of winning with kind of crap second baseman so they can do it again a year or two from now, right? Think of it as a tribute to Keith Lockhart. Julio Teheran pitched well on the road. That does not happen very often.

Yankees 12, White Sox 3: Jacoby Ellsbury and Mark Teixeira homered and Stephen Drew had three hits and four RBI. This against Jeff Samardzija of all people, so not bad at all. The bottom three in the Yankees order, Chase Headley, Didi Gregorius and Drew, combined for seven hits, six RBI and eight runs scored.

Cubs 4, Brewers 3: The Cubs win their fifth straight, but it was costly as Kris Bryant leaving the game following a headfirst slide into second in which Jean Segura’s glove hand came down kind of hard on Bryant’s head. He sort of slid into Segura’s leg too, as he was really moving. He was woozy after the game and went through concussion testing. Joe Maddon thinks he’ll be fine, though.

Mariners 4, Twins 1: Logan Morrison hit an RBI double in the M’s three-run 11th inning. Nelson Cruz hit a 440+ foot homer earlier in the game.

 

Rangers 2, Giants 1: Mike Leake allowed two runs in six and a third in his Giants debut but that’s not good enough when your boys only score one. Martin Perez — who got destroyed by the Yankees his last start out — allowed only one run while pitching into the ninth. I think we all have days we just pretend never happened. Perez’s was last Tuesday. “What happened last Tuesday?” Perez asks. “I don’t think anything happened. Was there even a last Tuesday?” He continues.

Athletics 2, Indians 1: Another walkoff. Sure has been a lot of them lately, it seems. This one courtesy of Mark Canha’s two-out double in the 10th. He wasn’t even supposed to be there yesterday, but he took over for Josh Reddick, who suffered lower back tightness after chasing a foul ball in the Indians bullpen earlier in the game.

Astros sweep as Twins lose 18th straight in playoffs

Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
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MINNEAPOLIS — Shaken up by a scandal before the virus outbreak shrunk the season, the Houston Astros barely played well enough to reach the playoffs – with the rest of baseball actively rooting against them.

Well, they’re not ready to leave yet.

Carlos Correa hit a two-out, tiebreaking home run in the seventh inning for the Astros, who produced another stifling pitching performance and swept Minnesota over two games with a 3-1 victory Wednesday that sent the Twins to a record 18th straight postseason loss.

“I know a lot of people are mad. I know a lot of people don’t want to see us here,” Correa said. “But what are they going to say now?”

Nine months after Houston’s rules-breaking, sign-stealing system was revealed, the Astros advanced to the Division Series in Los Angeles. As the sixth seed, they’ll face the Oakland Athletics or Chicago White Sox in a best-of-five matchup starting Monday at Dodger Stadium.

“I don’t think they necessarily thought that they had anything to prove. They just had to play ball,” said manager Dusty Baker, who took his fifth different team to the playoffs and advanced for the first time in seven rounds since winning the 2003 NL Division Series with the Chicago Cubs.

The Twins are 0-18 in the playoffs since winning Game 1 of their Division Series at the New York Yankees on Oct. 5, 2004, a total of seven rounds lost. Since that date, the Astros are 43-35 in postseason play, winning 10 of 15 rounds with three trips to the World Series.

Kyle Tucker hit two RBI singles for the Astros and made a key throw from left field for the inning-ending out in the fifth.

Rookie Cristian Javier worked three hitless innings in relief for the victory in his postseason debut and Ryan Pressly pitched a perfect ninth against his former team, giving the Houston bullpen a total of 9 2/3 scoreless innings in this wild card series with three hits allowed.

“From the very beginning, we envisioned ourselves back in the playoffs and playing real well,” Tucker said. “So we never counted ourselves out at any point.”

Nobody on this Twins team has had a hand in more than six of the playoffs losses, but for the second straight year one of baseball’s most potent lineups limped through a brief postseason cameo. In a three-game division series sweep by the Yankees last year, the Twins totaled seven runs and 22 hits. Against the Astros, they mustered only two runs and seven hits.

“We put a lot of balls in play, it seemed like, but they were up in the air and, yeah, it seemed like we played into their trap,” said Max Kepler, one of four starters who went hitless in the series. “At the end of the day, we didn’t get the job done.”

Nelson Cruz gave the Twins an RBI double for a second straight game, this time in the fourth inning against starter Jose Urquidy. Luis Arraez aggressively tried to score from first base, but Correa took the throw from Tucker and fired home to beat Arraez to the plate to preserve the tie after third base coach Tony Diaz waved him in.

“I don’t know why he sent him,” Correa said.

Then in the seventh against losing pitcher Cody Stashak, Correa drove a 1-0 slider into the tarp-covered seats above right-center field for his 12th home run in 52 playoff games.

After winning 101, 103 and 107 games in the last three regular seasons, winning the 2017 World Series and losing the championship in seven games to the Washington Nationals last year, the Astros stumbled through the 2020 season at 29-31 under Baker and new general manager James Click with a slew of injuries after the COVID-19 pandemic cut the schedule to 60 games.

They had the third-worst road record in the major leagues, too, but none of that mattered this week against the third-seeded Twins, who were out of sorts in their two biggest games this year.

Jose Berrios was one of the few who were locked in with five strong innings to start, with just two hits allowed. His two walks were costly, though, issued right before Tucker’s single in the fourth.

“I don’t think anyone was ready to leave, to end this way,” Cruz said. “That’s life.”

KIRILLOFF FOR BUXTON

Already missing third baseman Josh Donaldson, the Twins held another one of their most valuable players out: center fielder Byron Buxton. Baldelli declined to confirm whether Buxton was experiencing a recurrence of concussion symptoms that kept him out of the last two regular season games. Buxton was picked off first base after pinch running for Cruz in the eighth.

Kepler moved to center, and Alex Kirilloff – the 2016 first-round draft pick – played right field to become the first Twins player in history to make his major league debut in a postseason game. Kirilloff singled in the fourth. With the bases loaded in the first, he flied out to end the inning.

FEELING BLUE

Both teams took issue with plate umpire Manny Gonzalez’s strike zone, with Astros slugger George Springer the first to visibly complain. After being called out on strikes in the fourth, Springer barked, “No way, man!” multiple times on his way back to the dugout.

Then in the sixth, the Twins lost left fielder Eddie Rosario to ejection after he argued a called strike two that would’ve given him a walk if it were called a ball. After swinging and missing at strike three, Rosario yelled again and was quickly tossed.

First base umpire Tim Timmons missed consecutive calls in the eighth inning on grounders by the Astros when he called the runners safe. Both were reversed to outs after replay review.

UP NEXT

The Astros, who have reached the AL Championship Series in each of the last three years, will play Monday against either the A’s or the White Sox. RHP Lance McCullers Jr. is the only member of their regular season rotation who did not pitch in Minnesota.

The Twins enter the offseason with 10 players set to become free agents, including the 40-year-old Cruz who led the team in home runs and batting average (among players with a qualifying amount of at-bats) for a second straight season. Their 2021 opener is scheduled for April 1 at Milwaukee.