And That Happened: Wednesday’s scores and highlights

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Tigers 5, Angels 0: How Justin Got His Groove Back. Verlander, that is, who took a no-hitter into the ninth inning and ended up with a complete game, one-hit shutout. Back when I profiled Verlander here at HBT he was struggling mightily. In his last four starts he has given up one earned run in 29 innings. In six of his last seven starts he has given up either zero or one earned run. It’s too late to save the Tigers’ season, but there is no real path back to respectability and competitiveness for the Tigers without Justin Verlander pitching like an ace. To see him doing it once again has got to be encouraging.

Astros 6, Yankees 2: Two homers for Gattis as the Astros take the series. They now have one more win than they had all of last year. And, indeed, more wins with a month and change to play in 2015 than they had in any season dating back to 2010.

Mariners 8, Athletics 2: Felix Hernandez has had a pretty miserable August but he won his 15th here after allowing two runs in eight innings. Then again, he always seems to dominate the A’s. Nelson Cruz drove in three. He leads the league in homers is 39 and is only a few points behind Jason Kipnis for the batting title. The RBI title is probably a stretch for him — he can blame teammates for not being on base too much for that — but it’ll be hilarious if he wins 2/3 of the Triple Crown and finishes, like, fifth or sixth in the MVP voting.

Padres 6, Nationals 5: Justin Upton homered twice. He’s on pace for a 28 homer, 90 RBI season with a less-than-amazing average and a lowish OBP for a guy who is the biggest threat in lineup. In other words: the Platonic ideal of a Justin Upton season. The Nats are now 6.5 back of the Mets. It’s getting late boys.

Mets 9, Phillies 4: Seven scoreless innings from Bartolo Colon and a nice night from Michael Cuddyer, including a moon shot homer. The Mets have won eight straight over the Phillies, 11 of their last 12 against them this year and 23 of 28 against them over the past couple of seasons. Time to change the Wikipedia page from “Owner: Phillies limited partnership (John S. Middleton, Jim & Pete Buck,David Montgomery, Pat Gillick)” to “New York Mets.”

Indians 6, Brewers 2: Just glancing at “Indians Brewers” I got a shot of nostalgia for the old American League East. Oh well. Jason Kipnis homered and drove in three. Toby Harrah, Andre Thornton, Ben Oglivie and Don Money were unavailable for comment.

Rockies 6, Braves 3: Braves: you are only four games ahead of the Phillies, who are dead last in Major League Baseball. I would never advocate tanking for a draft pick, but I’m not gonna advocate NOT tanking for a draft pick either. Now, I’m gonna leave these suggested lineups and strategies on the table. Then I’m gonna leave the room. Whatever you do with them is your business and I don’t even want to know. Just know that they’re there and that whatever it is you decide to do, I will still love and respect you. Godspeed.

Dodgers 7, Reds 4: Scott Van Slyke, A.J. Ellis and Yasiel Puig homered during a five-run fourth inning and the Dodgers’ bullpen slipped out of jams. From the game story:

Even though the Dodgers’ bullpen went into the game with the 13th-worst combined ERA in the National League, manager Don Mattingly doesn’t think it’s that bad.

“Things are never as bad as they seem or as good as they seem,” Mattingly said.

That’s pretty zen for a guy from Indiana.

Pirates 7, Marlins 2: Andrew McCutchen homered and drove in four. In April he hit .194 and his OPS was .636. OPS by month since then: .985, .933, .914, 1.088. Bryce Harper has had the better overall year and he has the age advantage, but at the moment McCutchen is the best all-around player in the National League and it ain’t even close, regardless of what he did in April.

Twins 5, Rays 3: Two homers for Eduardo Escobar as the Twins win again. If the season ended today they’d be the second wild card team, which is pretty wild. So much of this is attributable to young guys coming up and playing great right out of the gate, but you have to figure Paul Molitor wins Manager of the Year, right?

Blue Jays 12, Rangers 4: Edwin Encarnacion hit a grand slam. He has a 21-game hitting streak now. David Price allowed two runs over six innings for his 13th win. Price is 4-0 with a 1.98 ERA with a 41/7 K/BB ratio in 36 and a third innings since being traded to Toronto.

Red Sox 3, White Sox 0: Sox win. Rick Porcello returned and tossed seven shutout innings, outdueling Chris Sale. You’ve got serious problems to begin with if you bet on baseball, but if you did bet on baseball last night I imagine taking the White Sox over Boston given that matchup looked pretty enticing. Thoughts, prayers to my degenerate gambler friends.

Orioles 8, Royals 5: Wow, the Orioles scored some runs. I had forgotten they could do that. After scoring 15 runs in their past six games, all losses, they broke out big here with two-run homers from Chris Davis, Manny Machado, and Jonathan Schoop. Schoop’s may still be flying. It was beeping like Sputnik and entered orbit just slightly lower.

Cardinals 3, Diamondbacks 1: John Lackey allowed a run on seven hits and struck out four. His defense turned three double plays behind him, continuing what they did against Arizona on Tuesday night.

Giants 4, Cubs 2: Jake Peavy and the Giants end the Cubs’ six-game winning streak. Nori Aoki hit a homer as the Giants arrest a slide and win for the second time in seven games. The Dodgers can be had. The Giants have blown their chances to get ’em so far. But they could do it.

Two injured MVPs is a major bummer for baseball

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Last week Christian Yelich‘s season ended with a fractured kneecap. At the time he went down he was neck-and-neck with Cody Bellinger — I think a tad behind, though people may reasonably differ — and, at least by my reckoning, a hair or three above Anthony Rendon, Ketel Marte and Pete Alonso in the race for the NL MVP Award. As I wrote last week, I think that means Bellinger is going to walk away with the hardware when the winner is announced in November. Yelich’s injury will prevent him from making a late season surge to surpass Bellinger, but I think it would’ve taken a surge for him to do it.

Over the weekend we learned that Mike Trout’s season is over as well. He’ll be having foot surgery to deal with a nerve issue causing him pain. At the time he went down he was the clear frontrunner to win his third MVP Award. Unlike Yelich, I’m pretty sure Trout will still win the trophy. Sure, Trout hasn’t played since September 7, meaning that he’ll miss more time than Yelich will, but strained articles stumping for alternative candidates notwithstanding, his lead in the MVP race was more secure.

Trout’s 2019 ends with him setting a career high in homers with 45 and slugging percentage at .645—both of which lead the American League. He likewise leads the league in on-base percentage (.438), OPS (1.083), and in both Baseball-Reference.com’s and FanGraphs’ versions of WAR at 8.3 and 8.6, respectively. With just under two weeks to go it seems likely that Jorge Soler of the Royals will pass Trout for the home run lead, but he’s not an MVP candidate himself. Alex Bregman will likely pass him in walks. Trout seems pretty certain to finish with his lead in all or most of the other categories intact. That’s an MVP resume even if he’ll only have played in 134 games. To give the award to anyone else would be an exercise in narrative over reason. Something born of a desire to reward a guy — like, say, Bregman — for playing on a winning team as opposed to his individual accomplishments. Sure, voters are allowed to do that, but they’ve mostly eschewed such tendencies in recent years. It’d be a surprise if they backslid.

Even if Yelich’s and Trout’s injuries aren’t likely to radically change the MVP race — again, I think the NL’s was Bellinger’s to lose — they’re both still lamentable separate and apart from the fact that all injuries stink. Lamentable in a way that, unfortunately, creates a downer for baseball as it gets ready for the postseason.

The Brewers won the game in which Yelich went down and have won four of five since then. In so doing they have remained close in the race for the second Wild Card and currently stand one game back. They also have an insanely favorable schedule the rest of the way, exclusively facing the weak sisters of the National League in the Padres, Pirates, Reds and Rockies. Even so, it’s no gimmie — those Reds and Rockies games are on the road, and Great American Ballpark and Coors Field makes those bad teams better — and the reward at the end of this is likely to be a one-game play-in. You want your best player in any and all situations and the Brewers don’t have theirs. And won’t, even if they make the postseason and even if they win the Wild Card game. Having one of the game’s brightest stars on crutches for the playoffs is not something anyone at the league office wants.

The Angels have no such postseason concerns and haven’t had them for most of the season. Once again they’re terrible. As they have been for almost the entirety of Trout’s career. They’ve made the postseason only once in his career — back in 2014, losing the LDS in three games — and do not appear poised to put a winner on the field any time soon. Trout is still in his prime, obviously, but like all players he’ll either slow down or break down eventually. Given the state of the club, I’m not sure I’d put a ton of money on them being good, let alone consistently good, while Trout is still the best or even one of the few best players in baseball. The upside to me seems to be an Al Kaline situation with the Tigers, in which the team finally put it together behind him only after he began to age and miss time to injuries. Having the best player in baseball outside of the playoffs looking in is not something anyone at the league office should want either.

Yet here we are.

Injuries happen. Every contender is missing at least one and in some cases several important players. But for one MVP candidate to miss the postseason this year and another one to miss the postseason every year is a major bummer for a league that has a tough go of it marketing itself even under the best of circumstances.