Getty Images

And That Happened: Monday’s Scores and Highlights

22 Comments

I took the kids to see “Captain America: Civil War” last night. Its plot is set in motion by a powerful and at times inspiring hero who, unfortunately, is divisive, occasionally arrogant, is prone to poor impulse control and who is really feeling the heat after he is accused of destroying an entire country. He also has at times questionable facial hair and a sidekick named Clint who is surprisingly heroic when given the chance. When I got home, I watched the last couple of innings of the Nationals-Tigers game which featured a powerful and at times inspiring hero who, unfortunately, is divisive, occasionally arrogant, prone to poor impulse control and who is often accused of destroying an entire country. He also has at times questionable facial hair and a sidekick named Clint who is surprisingly heroic when given the chance.

I guess what I’m saying is that I totally expect people to propose the baseball equivalent of the Sokovia Accords for Bryce Harper today, even if I expect him to be less receptive to it than Iron Man was. In both cases our hero is far more interesting when he’s doing the things he’s born to do than when he’s pulled into contrived controversies, so here’s hoping we can just see more repulsor beam firing from our hero and less political intrigue surrounding him going forward. And here’s hoping Iron Man’s life is simplified a bit too.

Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Nationals 5, Tigers 4: For all of that Bryce Harper drama, the absolute best part of this game was Clint Robinson admitting that he thought it was the eighth inning and not the ninth and didn’t realize at first he had hit a walkoff homer. The second best part of this was that my friend who is a Tigers fan was watching it as the ninth was starting and texted me to tell me that she was going to go bed, saying “Don’t really want to see how the Tigers lose this one and I have to work early tomorrow.” Real Tigers fans know. They know it in their bones. It’s not even surprising or particularly disappointing to them anymore.

Yankees 6, Royals 3: The Yankees hit five solo homers. Carlos Beltran hit two of them. The Royals hit two homers as well. Just a dingeriffic night in the Bronx. Well, not so much for Kansas City who has lost 10 of 13 and is under .500 for the first time in forever. Aroldis Chapman made his 2016 and his Yankees debut, striking out two and flashing triple-digit heat but also giving up two hits and a run.

Red Sox 14, Athletics 7: Jackie Bradley Jr. hit a grand slam and drove in six. He’s on a 15-game hitting streak during which he’s hitting .382 (21-for-55). Brock Holt hit a two-run homer, and David Ortiz had three hits and two RBI for Boston. The Sox have won seven of 10.

Reds 3, Pirates 2: Tucker BarnhartZack Cozart and Joey Votto all went deep for the Reds’ only three runs and, shocker, the bullpen didn’t allow any runs in three innings.

Marlins 4, Brewers 1: Jose Fernandez tossed seven shutout innings but the highlight of the game was clearly J.T. Realmuto hitting what would’ve been a tiebreaking two-run home run only to have it negated because he passed the baserunner ahead of him on the basepaths. That’s the kind of thing that would be excruciating in a loss, but they can joke about it in a win. Maybe whoever bats ahead of him in the lineup tonight should be designated “line leader” like my kids had in preschool.

White Sox 8, Rangers 4: Todd Frazier had been slumping, but a grand slam in extra innings will turn that frown upside down. It was Frazier’s second homer of the game. He, like Bradley in Boston, had six RBI on the night. They were all needed as the White Sox pen blew leads in the eighth and ninth innings before having their bacon saved.

Astros 7, Indians 1: The Astros bats beat up the 2014 Cy Young winner for five runs in two and two-thirds, propelled by Jose Altuve‘s three RBI and a pair from Colby Rasmus. Altuve is putting up MVP numbers — .323/.408/.654.

Diamondbacks 10, Rockies 5: Jake Lamb homered and drove in four. A lot of baseball writers won’t admit it, but I will because I’m all about transparency: I’m gonna like Lamb for the rest of his career because he gave me a really fun and funny interview in spring training. I didn’t even use the best part for any story. The upshot was that he was talking to his dad over the winter and he mentioned some famous player like Paul Goldschmidt and his dad was all impressed and talked about what it must be like to be a big famous major leaguer. Lamb was like “dad, you know I am a major leaguer too . . .” And Lamb’s dad told him “Well, yeah, but you know what I mean.” I understand, Jake. I totally understand.

Mariners 5, Rays 2: Felix Hernandez is now the all-time wins leader for the Mariners, passing Jamie Moyer. I bet a lot of people would’ve thought it was Randy Johnson. It’s easy to think that — he spent parts of ten seasons in Seattle — but he wasn’t RANDY JOHNSON yet for the first few and ended up with only 130 wins in an M’s uniform while Hernandez now has 146. Ketel Marte hit a tiebreaking three-run homer in the sixth here to ensure King Felix’s place atop the team leaderboard.

Mets 4, Dodgers 2: Steven Matz won his fifth after allowing two runs and six hits in six innings and striking out five. Scott Kazmir continues to allow a lot of homers — he now has surrendered nine on the year, which is a 46-HR pace if he’s allowed to pitch all season — and the Dodgers continue to reel. Chase Utley pinch hit and came to the plate twice, but there was no hint of retribution for the infamous slide from last year’s playoffs.

Blue Jays 3, Giants 1: Aaron Sanchez allowed only one run and three hits in seven innings. Edwin Encarnacion hit a two-run homer in the third which provided the winning margin. The call on that homer was pretty impressive.

Padres vs. Cubs; Orioles vs. Twins — POSTPONED: Rain down, rain down
Come on rain down on me
From a great height
From a great height… height…
Rain down, rain down
Come on rain down on me
From a great height
From a great height… height…
Rain down, rain down
Come on rain down on me

Two injured MVPs is a major bummer for baseball

Getty Images
Leave a comment

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.