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And That Happened: Wednesday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Phillies 4, Marlins 2Tyler Goeddel hit his first career homer and Jeremy Hellickson was sharp. For a few hours anyway, until the Nationals won their game, the Phillies were tied for first place. I don’t think that necessarily means anything — I still suspect that they’ll fade as the spring turns to summer — but what a nice couple of months it has been for the Phillies, eh?

Tigers 6, Twins 3: Justin Verlander notched his 2,000th career strikeout and Ian Kinsler homered for the fourth straight game. Verlander trails only Mickey Lolich on the Tigers all-time strikeout list. Lolich is one of those guys people who aren’t Tigers fans or aren’t, like, 50, may not have heard much about. He was super solid pitcher who had some very nice career highlights, including a homer in the 1968 World Series. He was also part of that crop of 1970s pitchers who were absolutely ABUSED as far as workload goes. Still, fairly anonymous for a guy who won 25 games one time. Check out his Baseball-Reference.com page for an overlooked guy.

Royals 3, Red Sox 2; Red Sox 5, Royals 2Ah, the split doubleheader. Nature’s way of saying “eh.” Jarrod Dyson had a nice game in the opener, putting to rest that “maybe the platoon in right field won’t be a platoon anymore given Paulo Orlando‘s run of late” talk. In the nightcap David Price allowed two runs in seven and a third, putting to rest the “what’s wrong with our ace?” talk in Boston. At least for the next four days.

Athletics 8, Rangers 1: Khris Davis hit his fourth homer in less than 24 hours as the A’s sweep the Rangers. Marcus Semien and Danny Valencia each drove in two.

Nationals 7, Mets 1: Mets pitchers struck out 11. That’s good! They also walked 11. That’s bad! Daniel Murphy drove in two! That’s go– wait, no it’s not, at least not for Mets fans, because he doesn’t play for them anymore. Sorry, dudes. Gio Gonzalez, meanwhile, allowed one run while pitching into the seventh. Bartolo Colon‘s day started poorly with tabloid stories about his personal life all over the place and ended poorly when he couldn’t even make it out of the fifth inning.

Orioles 5, Mariners 2: Chris Tillman allowed two runs on four hits with six strikeouts while pitching into the seventh and winning his fifth straight start. I had forgotten until reading the game story that he was part of the Adam Jones-Erik Bedard trade which was disastrous for Seattle. And which continued to be disastrous, at least on this night.

Braves 3, Pirates 1: Julio Teheran pitched into the eighth and Tyler Flowers homered. It was Brian Snitker’s first ever win as a big league manager. He’ll have more. At least, like, a couple dozen. I won’t guarantee three dozen.

Rays 6, Blue Jays 3: Kevin Kiermaier hit a homer, making him the Cool Clutch Cat of the game! Yay! As a reward, here’s a picture of my kitties from some time over the winter. I was letting them drink the milk from my cereal when I was done. They really liked it! I had to stop, though, because it wasn’t agreeing with their digestive systems very much and that made the litter box stink. One day I hope to interview Kiermaier and I’ll tell him all about it:

Cats

Indians 8, Reds 7Rajai Davis hit a tying, two-run homer in the ninth and Francisco Lindor led off the 12th with what proved to be the game-winner. So yeah, the Reds’ bullpen continues to be amazing and inspiring. To wit: it has given up 33 homers and has blown nine of 13 save chances. The Tribe was won 10 of 15. Jay Bruce hit two homers in a winning effort in a losing cause.

Astros 5, White Sox 3Jose Altuve had three hits, walked and drove in two, continuing his MVP-level season going. Colby Rasmus and Jason Castro each homered. The fast-starting White Sox have now dropped four games in a row and six of seven. The White Sox may have lost, but they did turn a triple play here.

Cubs 2, Brewers 1: Travis Wood got the win in relief and likewise drew a walk with the bases loaded in the 13th inning for the go-ahead run in this five-hour affair. Poor Jimmy Nelson pitched shutout ball into the eighth for the Brewers but was forgotten in the outcome thanks to no run support and the bullpen blowing Milwaukee’s 1-0 lead in the ninth.

Cardinals 2, Rockies 0: Adam Wainwright pitched shutout ball into the seventh and Matt Holliday doubled in both of the Cardinals’ runs against his old mates. Well, actually, they’re not his old mates given that he hasn’t played for the Rockies in eight years. Jorge De La Rosa was on that team and I guess they could’ve hung out, gone in together on a wine club membership or do whatever chill bros do while playing for the Rockies, but otherwise I’m guessing he doesn’t know anyone there all that well anymore.

Yankees 4, Diamondbacks 2Nathan Eovaldi allowed a leadoff double and a couple of groundouts later that led to a run but, those groundouts included, he retired the other 18 souls he faced, going six innings for the win. His stuff is so amazing. He’s going to put it all together at some point and be pretty special, I reckon.

Angels 8, Dodgers 1: The Freeway Series heads down to Anaheim and the Angels win easily, thanks to a five-run fifth inning. Nick Tropeano allowed one run in seven innings. He pitched in some trouble but always got out of it.

Giants 2, Padres 1: Johnny Cueto continues to show how great a pickup he was this offseason, going the distance, allowing one run and striking out eight. Hunter Pence‘s two-run shot in the fourth was all the G-men needed. Wait — do we call the Giants the G-men? Or is that just a Chris Berman, “New York Football Giants” thing? Someone help out here. I feel like we don’t call the San Francisco Giants the G-men, but I’m prepared to admit ignorance on the matter.

2019 Preview: National League West

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2019 Preview: National League West

The Padres won the offseason, signing infielder Manny Machado to a 10-year, $300 million contract. Despite the huge addition, they are still expected to be about a .500 team. The Dodgers are the prohibitive favorites in the NL West, followed by the Rockies and Diamondbacks with the Padres and Giants bringing up the rear.

Let’s talk about the teams.

Los Angeles Dodgers

For the first time since 2010, Clayton Kershaw will not be starting on Opening Day. Kershaw has an ailing left shoulder but is expected to return before the end of April. The Dodgers have not yet named their Opening Day starter. Walker Buehler could get the nod. That 2010 Opening Day starter, by the way? Vicente Padilla. It’s been a while.

The Dodgers added center fielder A.J. Pollock, inking the former D-Back to a four-year, $55 million contract in late January. They also signed reliever Joe Kelly to a three-year, $25 million contract. Other than that, they had a quiet offseason and will enter 2019 with largely the same roster they had at the start of last season, which isn’t a bad thing.

The Dodgers should have one of the better, more well-rounded offenses in the National League. Pollock and Cody Bellinger will steal the occasional base. Bellinger, Max Muncy, Joc Pederson, and Justin Turner will supply the power. Turner, Muncy, and Bellinger will get on base at decent clips. Shortstop Corey Seager returns after missing most of the 2018 season. If he can return to form, he can very easily contend for the NL MVP Award.

The starting rotation is a shaky foundation but with very high potential. Kershaw, Kenta Maeda, Rich Hill, and Hyun-Jin Ryu are anything but reliable when it comes to staying healthy, but we have seen in the past what they are each capable of doing when they take the bump. Buehler may end up being the anchor of the rotation, as the 24-year-old posted an impressive 2.62 ERA in 23 starts and one relief appearance last season.

Kenley Jansen will hold the fort down in the bullpen. He’s been dealing with a heart issue, but he remains one of baseball’s most dominant closers. Last year’s 3.01 ERA was actually a career-high, but he still racked up 38 saves with 82 strikeouts in 71 2/3 innings. Kelly and Pedro Báez will bear much of the responsibility bridging the gap to Jansen in the later innings.

Colorado Rockies

The Rockies added only one free agent during the offseason: second baseman Daniel Murphy on a two-year, $24 million deal. Winners of 91 games last year, the Rockies elected to have very little roster turnover. The most notable thing the club did was sign third baseman Nolan Arenado to an eight-year, $260 million extension in late February.

Arenado is the heart and soul of the Rockies. A perennial MVP candidate, Arenado hit .297/.374/.561 with 38 home runs and 110 RBI across 156 games last year while playing his usual outstanding defense. He has won a Gold Glove in each of his six seasons in the majors. Arenado will be backed up by shortstop Trevor Story, who broke out with a .914 OPS, 37 homers, and 108 RBI last year. Murphy, David Dahl, and Charlie Blackmon turn an otherwise good offense into a great offense. The Rockies’ offense last year ranked second in the NL in runs scored and very easily could be No. 1 in that department this year.

The pitching staff leaves a bit to be desired, though it’s a tough ask pitching half their games in Coors Field. Kyle Freeland broke out last year, going 17-7 with a 2.85 ERA across 202 1/3 innings, but a repeat performance may be unrealistic. Freeland struck out only 173 against 70 walks, which isn’t predictive of a sub-3.00 ERA. German Márquez is a solid No. 2, registering a 3.77 ERA with 230 strikeouts and 57 walks in 196 innings last year. One could argue he has the higher upside between him and Freeland. The rotation will be rounded out by Tyler Anderson, Jon Gray, and Chad Bettis.

In the bullpen, Wade Davis will reprise his role as closer. He led the league with 43 saves, but also put up a disappointing 4.13 ERA. We have seen in the past what he is capable of doing, but the right-hander is 33 years old and has seen his average fastball decline every year since 2015. The arms behind Davis in the bullpen don’t pop out at you, but it’s quite a solid mix of arms, including Seung-Hwan Oh, Scott Oberg, and Jake McGee.

Arizona Diamondbacks

The Diamondbacks bid adieu to some outstanding talent during the offseason, trading All-Star first baseman Paul Goldschmidt to the Cardinals in December while watching Patrick Corbin and A.J. Pollock leave for free agency. The club was also expected to pursue trading Zack Greinke and Robbie Ray, among others, but they’re here for now.

Greinke is in the fourth year of his six-year, $206.5 million deal, which hasn’t yielded dividends for the D-Backs. Over the last three years, Greinke has a solid but not great 3.53 ERA, but at least he has been mostly healthy, making 91 starts. Ray finished seventh in NL Cy Young Award balloting in 2017, but had a less successful 2018 campaign, making only 24 starts with a 3.93 ERA. If he returns to form and stays healthy, he and Grienke are a pretty good 1-2 punch. Behind those two are Zack Godley, Luke Weaver, and Merrill Kelly. Taijuan Walker could rejoin the team this summer as he continues his recovery from Tommy John surgery.

The offense will likely be the Diamondbacks’ biggest weakness. PECOTA, from Baseball Prospectus, projects Jake Lamb to be the only player crossing the 20-homer plateau. It also projects Lamb to lead the team with 71 RBI. There’s not much speed on the team, either, as Steven Souza, Jr. is projected to lead the team in steals with 11. And as far as on-base skills, Wilmer Flores is projected to be the best in that department among regulars at .332. Quite a motley crew.

Archie Bradley will handle closing duties for the first time. The 26-year-old right-hander was dominant in 2017, posting a 1.73 ERA. He followed it up with a solid 2018, finishing with a 3.64 ERA. Bradley has the potential to emerge as one of the league’s more dominant closers. Greg Holland and Yoshihisa Hirano will be tasked with handing Bradley the ball with a lead in the seventh and eighth innings.

San Diego Padres

The addition of Machado could help the Padres arrive sooner than expected. The organization is replete with tremendous upside. In MLB Pipeline’s top 100 prospect list, they have shortstop Fernando Tatis, Jr. at No. 2, pitcher Mackenzie Gore at No. 15, infielder Luis Urías at No. 23, catcher Francisco Mejia at No. 26, pitcher Chris Paddack at No. 34, pitchers Luis Patino and Adrian Morejon at Nos. 48 and 49, pitcher Michel Baez at No. 72, pitcher Logan Allen at No. 74, and pitcher Ryan Weathers at No. 92.

The current iteration of the 25-man roster isn’t quite there yet, which is why the Padres are still projected to hover around .500. Machado will do Machado things, which is to say he’ll hit like an All-Star and play Gold Glove-caliber defense. If Wil Myers can stay healthy, he should be good for 20 homers and 20 steals. Eric Hosmer will hopefully be able to pick up his production after inking an eight-year, $144 million deal in February 2018. Beyond those three, however, it’s hard to project greatness from the rest of the offense.

Joey Lucchesi will lead the rotation following a solid rookie campaign last year. He posted a 4.08 ERA with 145 punch-outs and 43 walks in 130 innings. It wouldn’t be surprise him to see him finish with an ERA closer to 3.50 this time around. Lucchesi will be followed on the rotation by Eric Lauer, Robbie Erlin, Matt Strahm, and Chris Paddack.

Kirby Yates will serve as the club’s full-time closer. He impressed last year with 12 saves, a 2.14 ERA, and a 90/17 K/BB ratio in 63 innings. He can certainly put up a repeat performance. Craig Stammen and Adam Warren will help bridge the gap to him in an otherwise modest group of relievers.

San Francisco Giants

The Giants were rumored to have been involved in the pursuit of mega free agents Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, and particularly Harper until the very end. Ultimately, the team didn’t do anything during the offseason. Because of that, they’re expected to be the worst team in the NL West.

Madison Bumgarner will lead the rotation, but he could be wearing another uniform by the end of July. Bumgarner can become a free agent after the season, so the Giants could choose to turn him into a couple of prospects. Though he has battled injuries in recent seasons, Bumgarner is still among the better starters in the league and absolutely a guy a contending team would want to start for them in the postseason. In 21 starts last year, Bumgarner managed a 3.26 ERA with 109 strikeouts and 43 walks in 129 2/3 innings.

Dereck Rodríguez deserves a mention as well. The lefty did not get any love in NL Rookie of the Year balloting last year despite posting a 2.81 ERA across 19 starts and two relief appearances. His 89 strikeouts and 36 walks don’t inspire confidence in a repeat performance, but he also pitches in the spacious confines of Oracle Park. The rotation will be rounded out by Jeff Samardzija, Derek Holland, and Andrew Suarez.

The offense will be a severe weakness. FanGraphs projects them to be the second-worst team in baseball at scoring runs, beating only the Marlins in that department. The bullpen isn’t terribly great either, featuring Will Smith, Tony Watson, and Mark Melancon in the late innings.

The upshot: The NL West is the Dodgers’ division to lose once again. It is really difficult seeing any other team winning the title, but stranger things have happened. The Rockies can be a solid Wild Card team. The rest of the division is fairly weak, but as mentioned, the Padres could arrive a year earlier than expected, not unlike the Braves last year.