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And That Happened: Saturday’s Scores and Highlights

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Saturday’s games featured Bryce Harper‘s impressive game-winning blast, Brandon Belt‘s first splash hit of the year and the reemergence of the infamous Rally Squirrel. Here are the rest of the day’s scores and highlights:

Blue Jays 7, Mariners 2: The Blue Jays aren’t playing like a last-place team these days. Marcus Stroman led the charge in the team’s sixth win of the week, delivering nine strikeouts and two runs over six solid innings. Jose Bautista came through with the three-run blast in the seventh, powering a five-run lead while the Mariners lost yet another starting pitcher to injury.

Giants 3, Reds 1: Whatever fatigue the Giants may have felt after their 17-inning victory the night before seemed to vanish by Saturday afternoon. Brandon Belt clubbed his first splash hit of the season, sinking a 2-1 pitch from Lisalverto Bonilla into McCovey Cove to get the Giants on the board in the first inning. Bonilla tossed the first complete game of his career, keeping the Giants to a three-run spread over eight innings and recording his first career hit, but was left hanging by a lackluster offense, who couldn’t solve Matt Moore to tie the game.

Cardinals 5, Cubs 3: Neither Jon Lester nor Carlos Martinez escaped with pristine pitching lines in Saturday’s match-up. Lester was dinged with four runs and four walks, falling victim to Jedd Gyorko‘s solo home run, an RBI single by Magneuris Sierra and a two-RBI effort from Tommy Pham. Martinez surrendered a home run to newcomer Ian Happ, who went 1-for-3 in his major league debut.

While the Cardinals eventually prevailed, taking a two-run lead for their 20th win of the season, both Lester and Martinez had another thing in common: they each produced an RBI base hit to get their respective teams on the board.

Twins 4, Indians 1: Jose Berrios cut a commanding figure on the mound during Saturday’s 4-1 win, imposing four strikeouts on the Indians and issuing just two hits, a walk and a run in his first outing of the season. Nearly as impressive: this party-crasher, who took a lap around the infield in the sixth inning and managed to evade capture after dashing into the stands.

Red Sox 6, Rays 3: Behind every great pitcher is a great offense, so the saying goes. Chris Sale‘s 12-strikeout effort was decorated with six runs from the Red Sox’ lineup, including Mookie Betts‘ sixth home run of the year:

Betts combined with Deven Marrero and Xander Bogaerts for an impressive run in the fifth inning, collecting three hits and four runs off of beleaguered Rays’ starter Blake Snell. With the win, the Sox sit 2.5 games above the Rays for third place in the AL East.

Nationals 6, Phillies 4: Bryce Harper is having a pretty remarkable weekend. Hours after inking a one-year, $21.65 million contract extension with the Nationals, Harper smashed a two-run shot off of Philadelphia reliever Edubray Ramos for his second walk-off home run of the season:

In the words of Nationals’ manager Dusty Baker: “Nobody can say he ain’t worth the money.”

Braves 3, Marlins 1: It’s probably nothing more than pure coincidence that the Marlins’ five consecutive losses overlapped with the five games they decided not to close the roof in Marlins Park this week. On Saturday evening, however, the lack of cover cost them an important run when Marcell Ozuna lost track of a ball during the fourth inning, losing it against the light-colored sky and allowing Freddie Freeman to stretch a routine fly ball into a leadoff double. Freeman came home to score two batters later on Nick Markakis‘ RBI single, putting the Braves up 1-0 and setting the stage for their eventual 3-1 win.

Brewers 11, Mets 4: With an injury-riddled rotation and the recent loss of closer Jeurys Familia, the Mets entered Saturday’s match at a clear disadvantage. Not helping matters was starter Robert Gsellman, who took his third loss of the season after the Brewers engineered an eight-run attack in the fifth inning. After dropping three straight games, the Mets sit a full seven games back of the division-leading Nationals with a 16-19 record.

White Sox 5, Padres 4: The Padres technically lost their 24th game of the year on a controversial play at the plate, but defensive miscues from starter Trevor Cahill set up the loss several innings in advance. In the fourth, Jose Abreu reached on a fielding error, then moved to second base when Cahill issued a wild pitch to Avisail Garcia:

That wild pitch was followed by another:

And another:

Not surprisingly, Abreu became the first White Sox player to score on three wild pitches since 1961.

Royals 4, Orioles 3: Striking out 12 batters in a single outing is a feat for any pitcher, but doing it in just five innings is almost unheard-of. Nate Karns delivered 12 strikeouts over five frames on Saturday, joining Jake Arrieta, Chris Archer, Andrew Cashner, Alex Cobb and Zack Greinke as the only major league hurlers to record 12+ whiffs in five or fewer innings. (Most impressive is the Rays’ Alex Cobb, who struck out 13 batters in just 4 2/3 innings back in 2013.) There was plenty of excitement at the plate, too — the Orioles’ Francisco Pena clubbed his first and second home runs of the year, while Brandon Moss went deep for the go-ahead run in the sixth inning.

Rangers 6, Athletics 5: The A’s wasted another gem from Sonny Gray on Saturday, dropping their second game of the series after the Rangers exploded for four runs in the seventh inning. Yonder Alonso brought the team within one run of tying the game with his 12th home run of the year, but the rest of the offense fell short against Texas right-hander Matt Bush, who needed just 13 pitches to send the A’s packing in the ninth.

Dodgers 4, Rockies 0: Coors Field isn’t exactly what you’d call a pitcher’s park, but its hitter-friendly reputation didn’t seem to faze the Dodgers’ Alex Wood at all. Wood crafted six scoreless innings against the Rockies, allowing five hits and a walk and striking out 10 of 23 batters for his fourth win of the season. Although the left-hander commanded an inflated 7.16 run support average through his first seven outings of 2017, he needed just four runs to clinch Saturday’s shutout, including RBI doubles from Austin Barnes and Justin Turner, Brett Eibner’s first home run of the year, and Wood’s own sacrifice bunt.

Pirates 4, Diamondbacks 3: The Pirates finally caught a break on Saturday after sustaining a six-game skid last week. Right-hander Trevor Williams, whose performance has been inconsistent at best and downright terrible at worst, rebounded to deliver five innings of one-run, four strikeout ball, even generating his own run support after reaching base on a run-scoring error in the fourth inning. The Diamondbacks put up three home runs, including Nick Ahmed’s twin blasts off of Williams and reliever Tony Watson, but stranded the tying run on a game-ending pop-out in the ninth inning.

Tigers 4, Angels 3: J.D. Martinez is back, and boy, are the Tigers glad to see him. Martinez was a welcome, if underwhelming presence in the lineup during his season debut on Friday, but returned on Saturday to go 3-for-4 at the plate with two home runs — including the game-winning shot:

The Angels did cool things, too — Mike Trout hit his longest home run of the season and Albert Pujols tied Carl Yastrzemski with the 11th most career RBI in major league history — but faltered in the ninth inning for their 21st loss of 2017.

And That Happened: Sunday’s Scores and Highlights

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Hope you had a nice weekend. My Sunday was pretty good. I did some gardening, planting annuals and stuff because I’m a suburban dad and that’s what my people do in the spring. I’m a bit of a rebel suburban dad, though, as in this part of the country they say you really should wait until May to plant your annuals because of the risk of a late frost. But you know how I like to live life on the edge.

As I did that I listened to the first couple of innings of the Yankees game on the radio. That was OK. I had not taken in a John Sterling/Suzyn Waldman broadcast for many years and I was pleasantly surprised. I never liked them that much before — and I loathed Sterling when he did Braves games for a brief period in the 80s — but they’re better than I remember. I am amazed, however, at just how many mid-inning promos and ads they’re forced to read through. They can’t go three seconds without talking about how this or that is brought to you by whoever and whatever. I know all broadcasters have to do that but the Yankees broadcast amps that up by a factor of, like, five.

At 2pm I switched to Bob Uecker and the Dodgers-Brewers game. It was a wild one, as you may know and as we’ll discuss below, but I have to say how fun it was to listen to it on the radio as opposed to watching it on TV. I’ve talked about that a lot over the past couple of weeks so I won’t dwell, but listening to a game on the radio just exercises a different part of your brain, ya know? Between that and digging in the dirt it was just a fantastic way to spend a Sunday afternoon. It sucks for Monday morning because my muscles are as sore as hell, but it was great for a Sunday.

Anyway, here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Yankees 7, Royals 6: With so many hitters on the injured list the Yankees are gonna need a lot of good pitching performances to get through this. And they got the second great one in a row from James Paxton, as he tossed six shutout innings and struck out 12. Then Chad Green and Adam Ottavino took over, each coughing up three runs in the Royals’ six-run eighth inning. Austin Romine tied it back up at six in the Yankees’ half of the eighth, it went into extras and Romine won it for the Bombers with a walkoff RBI single in the tenth. Well, they called it a single, but it flew to the warning track. A single was all it took.

Dodgers 6, Brewers 5: A similar situation here, as the Dodgers took a 5-0 lead by the fourth thanks to a couple of Joc Pederson homers, a couple of Cody Bellinger RBI singles and an RBI double from Corey Seager. Lorenzo Cain got two back with a homer off of Clayton Kershaw in the fifth — I was just about done with the snapdragons when that happened — and then pinch hitter Eric Thames hit a three-run shot in the eighth off of Kenley Jansen, who was trying for a four-out save. Tie game. Could’ve been worse, but Bellinger robbed Christian Yellich of homer with a fantastic catch earlier in the eighth. Jansen didn’t get that save, obviously, but he did vulture a win when Bellinger struck again, hitting a homer in the ninth off of Josh Hader, which held up. It was the second time in three days that Hader gave up a late homer and took the loss to the Dodgers. Not the sort of thing you expect to see all that often.

On the day, Pederson, Bellinger and Seager combined to go 10-for-14 with three homers, two doubles and six RBI. The rest of the Dodgers lineup went a combined 0-for-22 with eight strikeouts. L.A’s three beat Milwaukee’s nine.

Rangers 11, Astros 10: The Rangers had a bigger lead than either the Yankees or Dodgers had. They never blew it, but they did turn a 10-1 lead into a nail-biter. Joey Gallo drove in five, one of which came on his first career sac fly in 1,337 plate appearances which seems impossible but is true. I suppose the issue is either (a) really bad luck; or (b) when he hits fly balls, they tend to get the hell out of the park. Hunter Pence homered and drove in three. Big offensive numbers for Houston too, obviously, but they also dropped two of three to the Rangers and gave up 20 runs in the past two games. Not what a team that’s supposed to have one of the best pitching staffs around wants to be doing. The Rangers don’t have one of the best staffs but Shelby Miller got the win. It was his first in two years and three days.

Twins 4, Orioles 3: Kyle Gibson allowed two over six innings. The Twins hit 11 homers in Saturday’s doubleheader but none yesterday, proving that there’s more than one way to skin a cat. Which is a horrible phrase when you think about it, both for the disturbing images it invokes but also for the troublesome notion of there being some deeply entrenched cat-skinning establishment that refused to hear of alternative cat-skinning methods for so long that the ultimate existence of one had to be proven with some sort of grand, cliche-creating gesture. Stasis in any industry is bad. You have to innovate constantly if you want to get ahead, whether it’s in cat-skinning or other sectors.

Tigers 4, White Sox 3: Another big lead imperiled by the pen, though here the Tigers held on. Daniel Norris tossed five shutout frames, but Blaine Hardy and Victor Alcántara combined to cough up three runs in the eighth to make it close. Their not blowing it all the way allowed Norris to get his first win since September 2017. Shane Greene got another save. The Tigers have ten wins. He’s saved ’em all. He’s like John Hiller during the dark days in between the Kaline Tigers and the Sparky Anderson Tigers or something.

Nationals 5, Marlins 0: Stephen Strasburg tossed eight innings, allowed two hits, no runs, and struck out eleven. Ryan Zimmerman hit two solo homers. It’s like 2010 all over again, except no one calls Strasburg’s starts “Strasmas” anymore, Zimmerman can’t play third base anymore and the Nats probably aren’t gonna lose 93 games.

Giants 3, Pirates 2: All the Pirates got was a two-run homer from Josh Bell. All the Giants got was a three-run homer from Buster Posey. Three is better than two so the Giants won, Quod Erat Demonstrandum.

Red Sox 4, Rays 3: Boston was up 3-2 in the eighth when Tommy Pham — who played the goat on Saturday by getting picked off of first base to end the game — hit a homer to tie things up and force extras. The Sox rallied in the 11th, though, and got the go-ahead run thanks to a Christian Vázquez sac fly which held up. The Red Sox entered this series eight games back of the Rays. They swept Tampa Bay and left it trailing by five. Boston still has a lot to do, but that sure as heck seems less daunting than being back eight. Or, nine, ten or eleven for that matter.

Cardinals 6, Mets 4: Noah Syndergaard allowed six runs — four earned — on eight hits in five innings. That’s bad. He hit a homer, though. That’s good. It wouldn’t have been a homer, though, if Dexter Fowler hadn’t helped it over the fence with this ally-oop play:

That’s bad. At least for Fowler. The Cardinals won, though. That’s good. The win had potassium benzoate in it.

[pause]

That’s bad.

Cubs 2, Diamondbacks 1: Tyler Chatwood and Robbie Ray dueled all afternoon but it came down to the ninth. With the Cubs up 1-0, Jarrod Dyson homered to tie it up in the top half. Chicago rallied in the bottom of the ninth, however, with Javier Báez doubling and then reaching third on an error. David Bote singled him in for the walkoff win. No one got a quote from Bote about it afterward, though, because he followed the walkoff with a run-off, as in run off to the airport to fly home to be with his wife who was in labor. Imagine how much trouble he would’ve been in if he had failed to come through there, the game went 17 innings and he missed David Jr. or Davidina or whatever they’re naming this kid bein’ born.

Rockies 4, Phillies 1: Jon Gray put up his third straight great start in a row, allowing only one hit in six shutout innings. Given that his first two starts of the season were pretty bad, I guess you could say that there’s not much . . . gray area when it comes to his outings? Hmmm?

What? You do thousands of these recaps every year for twelve straight seasons and see if all your jokes are winners, OK? Jesus, you get this stuff for free, you know.

Angels 8 Mariners 6: Tommy La Stella hit two dingers, Brian Goodwin and Kevan Smith each hit one too and the Angels snapped a six game losing streak. This was yet another game in which a big lead was almost blown — Los Angeles led 8-1 heading into the ninth — but a trio of Mariners homers was not quite enough to help Seattle sweep the Halos.

Blue Jays 5, Athletics 4: Not quite as big a lead almost blown but a 5-1 lead in the eighth ended up pretty close, even if the A’s late rally petered out just short. No one cares as much about the outcome, though, as they care about this ridiculous double play started by Ramón Laureano. He robs a homer, throws the ball like he’s got a dang cannon on that shoulder of his and then, because he overthrew it so much, it deked the base runner into trying to advance:

I mean, look at this still shot of the catch. Tell me how he caught this dang ball:

Laureano is a freak of nature and I love it.

Padres 4, Reds 3: Just like the Angels, the Padres snap a six-game skid. This thanks to an Austin Hedges homer and a Wil Myers go-ahead, two-run double in San Diego’s four-run third inning. Meanwhile, Joey Lucchesi held the Reds to one run and five hits in five and two-thirds, striking out eight.

Braves 11, Indians 5: Josh Donaldson hit two homers in the first two innings — a solo shot in the first and a three-run shot in the second — to help Atlanta jump out to an early 5-0 lead and things just got more and more out of control from there. I’d try to come up with some sort of storyline between Donaldson and his old team, but he was with Cleveland for, like, 11 minutes last season, so he probably didn’t even unpack his suitcase into the Holiday Inn Express dresser or wherever he was. Anyway, after that Atlanta just kept pouring it on, taking an 11-1 lead while Max Fried was tossing two-run ball into the seventh. Francisco Lindor hit his first homer of the season in his second game back, and Cleveland would score a couple more in all, but that was the end of their highlights for the night. Wait, I take that back. They had backup catcher Kevin Plawecki pitch the ninth and he somehow set the Braves down in order, so that was sweet. They got a couple more runs in garbage time but otherwise there was not much to write home about for the Tribe.

The Braves down to Cincinnati now for a midweek series. I’m going to the Wednesday night game because, hey, why not? I have a friend who got me sweet seats behind home plate and just above the left-handed batters box, if I’m guessing right. Look for me. I’ll be buried in my phone, ignoring the game like a proper online citizen.