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And That Happened: Tuesday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Astros 9, Diamondbacks 4: The Astros built an 8-0 lead in the first four innings thanks to six extra-base hits and then put it on cruise control. It wasn’t all rosy, though. Astros starter Brad Peacock hit a double that plated a run, but he didn’t do so well in is primary task, failing to get past the fifth inning. Houston won here, but they’ve scuffled of late and still aren’t where they’d like to be once the playoffs start.

Yankees 5, Mets 4: Good news: Sonny Gray allowed two runs over six and got his first win in pinstripes. Bad news: Aroldis Chapman was terrible again, allowing two runs on two hits in his just-barely-a-save and then winced coming off the mound, which later was revealed to be due to a tweaked hamstring. It’s unclear if he’ll miss any time. If he doesn’t, he going to need to figure out how to miss some bats, because he ain’t been doing that lately.

Nationals 3, Angels 1: Gio Gonzalez snaps the Angels’ winning streak at six thanks to six innings of two-hit, shutout ball. He was backed by two Howie Kendrick solo homers. Kendrick has been on fire since coming over from Philly at the deadline. Since the trade he’s hitting .386/.413/.727 with four homers and 11 RBI in 14 games. Nice pickup.

Rays 6, Blue Jays 4Lucas Duda hit a two-run homer and Wilson Ramos added a solo shot to help the Rays end their four-game losing streak and giving them what, for them anyway, is an absolute offensive explosion. Josh Donaldson homered for the third straight game in a losing cause.

Red Sox 10, Cardinals 4: An eight-run fifth inning by the Sox did in the Cards. Xander Bogaerts had three hits and Hanley RamirezSandy Leon and Jackie Bradley Jr. each knocked in two. The play of the game was a defensive one, though, as the Sox turned an around-the-horn triple play:

Boston has won 11 of 13.

Giants 9, Marlins 4: Giancarlo Stanton homered in his sixth straight game. The record for consecutive games with a home run is eight, held by Stanton’s manager, Don Mattingly, Dale Long, and Ken Griffey, Jr., so keep watching. That was it for the Marlins, though, as the Giants offense did some damage. Denard Span had three hits including a homer. He and Hunter Pence each drove in a pair. Ryder Jones homered. Madison Bumgarner may have given up that shot to Stanton, but he knocked in a run of his own with a single while scattering nine hits and allowing four runs in six innings.

Brewers 3, Pirates 1: Zach Davies outdueled Ivan Nova, allowing one run over six. Manny Pina drove in two and Keon Broxton hit a pinch hit solo homer for the Brew Crew.

Rangers 10, Tigers 4: Texas beat up Justin Verlander for three homers and five runs over six innings, with the dingers coming off the bats of Joey Gallo (natch), Mike Napoli and Robinson Chirinos. Gallo’s homer was estimated at 459 feet, but the most impressive part of it was that the strikeout friendly slugger did it after coming back from an 0-2 count and laying off some high heat from Verlander, who had struck him out on three pitches in his previous at bat.

Reds 2, Cubs 1: Starters Luis Castillo and Kyle Hendricks each tossed six scoreless innings, but Scooter Gennett drove in Joey Votto with a sacrifice fly in the eighth to break a scoreless tie and Billy Hamilton singled home the go-ahead run in the ninth. Votto reached base three times, all on walks, to bring himself to within a game of Ted Williams’ record for the most consecutive games of reaching twice.

Indians 8, Twins 1: Carlos Santana hit two homers and teammates Jason Kipnis, Edwin Encarnacion and Austin Jackson each went deep as well. Danny Salazar allowed one run over seven, striking out ten. Maybe this year will be the opposite of last year for Cleveland, and they’ll peak late instead of early with healthy starting pitching heading into the playoffs.

Braves 4, Rockies 3: Nolan Arenado committed a rare throwing error which allowed Brandon Phillips to score the go-ahead run for Atlanta in the eighth inning. Nick Markakis homered as the Braves get a rare win in Coors Field. Back in the day (like, 20 years ago) they owned Colorado, but the Rockies had taken 11 straight from the Braves in Denver before this one.

Athletics 10, Royals 8: The teams combined to score 11 runs in the eighth inning. Viva bullpens. Matt Joyce hit a three-run double that inning, pulling the A’s from behind. Ned Yost walked Rajai Davis to load the bases to get to minor, too which, oops. Joyce had homered earlier in the game which made it all the more questionable, but managers like their lefty-lefty matchups and their theoretical double plays. Drew ButeraEric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas all homered in the Royals half of the run-happy eighth.

Mariners 3, Orioles 1: Andrew Albers allowed one run over five for his first win in just over four years. The last came on August 12, 2013. Don’t make any plans for mid-August, 2021 if you’re an Albers fan. He had some serious help from Jarod Dyson. Look at this throw, off friggin’ balance, too:

Dodgers 6, White Sox 1: Seems unfair to let the White Sox play the Dodgers, but that’s what the schedule called for. It looked close for a while, actually, as the game was tied 1-1 in the eighth. That’s when L.A. unloaded for five runs, with the go-ahead run coming on a bases loaded hit-by-pitch of Joc Pederson followed by two-run singles from both Austin Barnes and Corey Seager. The Dodgers are no 50 games over .500.

Padres 8, Phillies 4: Cory Spangenberg homered for the third time in four games and drove in four and starter Dinelson Lamet allowed two runs over seven innings of work, striking out seven. He also leads the league in Names That Should Totally Be That Of The Main Character In Magical Realist Novels.

World Series Preview: Marquee starting pitching matchups lead the way

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The Astros were the best team in baseball in 2019, winning 107 games, so everyone expected them to be here. As you’ve heard a thousand times by now the Nationals started out poorly in 2019, standing at 19-31 in late May. After that, however, they went on a 74-38 tear in 112 games. A tear which, if extrapolated to 162 games is a . . . 107-win pace.

Which is to say that, despite whatever the oddsmakers are telling you, this is not quite the mismatch some may want to make it out to be. The Astros are a great team, no question, but the Nationals as they stand right now are a strong match for them. If you doubt it, go ask the Dodgers and Cardinals about whether Washington played like a 93-win Wild Card team when they met in the earlier rounds.

No matter how you think the teams matchup overall, however, you can’t help but love the matchups between the clubs’ starting pitchers.

The Astros feature the top two Cy Young candidates in the American league in Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander and feature a third starter, Zack Greinke, who would be most teams’ ace. The Nationals, meanwhile, counter with Max Scherzer, who won the Cy Young in 2016 and 2017, finished in second place last year and, before for an injury this season, was a strong contender to take home the hardware again. After him comes Stephen Strasburg, also a 2019 Cy Young candidate, and Patrick Corbin, who was last offseason’s big pickup and who won 14 games and posted an ERA+ of 141 this season. It may be the Era of Bullpenning and all of that, but this Fall Classic looks to be a throwback to a time when — gasp! — starting pitchers mattered.

Here’s how it all breaks down:

THE ROTATIONS

We just listed the big names. The exact order in which they appear is not yet officially known but you’ll color me shocked if Game 1 isn’t Max Scherzer vs. Gerrit Cole, Game 2 isn’t Stephen Strasburg vs. Justin Verlander, and Game 3 isn’t Zack Greinke vs. Patrick Corbin. In Game 4 the Nats will likely go with the hot Aníbal Sánchez who, if he stays on his game like he has been of late, gives them depth the Astros can’t quite match. Brad Peacock or “Bullpen” could get the ball for A.J. Hinch in Game 4, depending on the circumstances of the series at that point.

As for Game 1, Scherzer is coming off two strong postseason outings, allowing one run on five hits with 18 strikeouts in 14 innings in those starts. Cole was somewhat human in his last start, walking five guys. But, um, yeah, he still tossed seven shutout innings. It seems like all he has done since before Memorial day is toss seven or eight shutout innings or something close to it.

We simply couldn’t ask for a better head-to-head matchup to start this bad boy. There isn’t a hitter on either of these teams happy about who they’ll have to face in this series.

THE LINEUPS

Saturday night’s José Altuve walkoff blast notwithstanding, the Astros’ mighty offense has been somewhat less mighty over the past couple of weeks, averaging just 3.7 runs per game and posting a .645 team OPS. A lot of that was due to the scads of fresh and strong bullpen arms the Rays and Yankees trotted out, but it’s not like things will get easier, at least against Washington’s starting pitching. The Astros had timely hitting — and some big home runs — as they made their way to the World Series, but they’ll definitely need to rattle the ball off the walls and get on base at a higher clip like they did in the regular season if they want to win this thing. To do so, I don’t suspect A.J. Hinch will do much shuffling or fiddling with his lineup — his dudes are his dudes — he’ll just have to hope that they snap out of their relative funk and remind everyone that, when everyone is healthy on this club, there is no better offense in baseball.

Washington’s lineup was nowhere near as fearsome during the regular season but it was the second-best unit in the National League, so they’re no slouches. Like the Astros, they have not exactly set the world ablaze offensively in the playoffs, posting a team OPS about a hundred points lower than their regular season mark. Also, like the Astros, they’ve had some huge hits at great times, as do all teams that get this far. Luck and good timing matter a whole heck of a lot in October.

Editor’s note: Need World Series tickets? Click here to see the Nats try to stop the Astros

A bit of a wild card here: the de-juiced ball everyone is talking about. While the Nats, like everyone else, hit a lot more homers in 2019, they were somewhat less reliant on homers than a lot of other winning teams, finishing only sixth in that category in the NL. The Astros were third in the AL and might’ve come close to matching New York and Minnesota’s totals if they didn’t have so many injuries to key offensive performers in the first half. Which is to say that the dead ball’s taking away of a few feet of flight from equally-struck balls probably hurts the Astros a bit more than the Nats, even if the Astros hitters are better on average.

One can overstate all that, of course. At the end of the day both of these teams have MVP-candidates — Alex Bregman for Houston, Anthony Rendon for Washington — and a good supporting cast of thumpers like Juan Soto, José Altuve, Yordan Álvarez and hot-in-October Howie Kendrick, who will likely see DH action in the games in Houston. Ultimately it will come down, as always, to who is hotter over the next 4-7 games.

THE BULLPENS

The bullpen was the Nationals’ biggest weakness all season long. In the NLDS against the Dodgers Dave Martinez masked the problem by creatively deploying starting pitchers in relief, praying a bit, and watching it work. in the NLCS they so thoroughly steamrolled the Cardinals that it didn’t truly matter, though they did get some good innings from guys not named Sean Doolittle and Daniel Hudson. Meaning that, heck, you may even see Fernando Rodney and Tanner Rainey in games that aren’t blowouts. Either way, the week off the Nationals have been given by wrapping up the NLCS so quickly means that every arm is fresh, with extra rest even, so the team’s biggest weakness is about as contained at the outset as it can be. As suggested above, the deeper Scherzer, Strasburg, Corbin and Sánchez can go, the better.

Houston’s bullpen has allowed 16 earned runs in 35.1 innings this postseason (4.08 ERA). This after having the third-best bullpen ERA in all of baseball during the regular season (3.75). Sample sizes are obviously an issue here. As is the class of competition. They were more than capable of getting the job done during the ALDS and their failures — like Roberto Osuna‘s blown save in Game 6 — were either contained by the work of others or led to less-than-fatal wounds. They simply have better arms that Washington does down there even if, as is the case with the Nats, they’ll hope to need them as little as possible.

THE MANAGERS

A.J. Hinch has hoisted a trophy before and rarely harms his team. Dave Martinez learned over the course of the season that the less he does the better. Without putting too fine a point on it, if it comes down to a chess match, it’s advantage: Astros. At this point Martinez simply needs to let his horses run and muster enough will to pull them out of the race if they’re tired. That’s easier said than done when it’s, say, Max Scherzer. His arm could be hanging by frayed tendons and he’d still probably glare at Martinez if he walked out to pull him.

THE HISTORY

There is virtually none. These teams share a spring training complex but they have not faced each other in interleague play since 2017. A host of players on each squad has never faced the pitchers on the other. In addition to starting pitchers being so critical here, add “NL vs. AL, in a matchup of unknowns” to the list of things that make this Fall Classic a throwback to olden days.

If we did the usual “Advantage: [TEAM]” for every one of those categories, I feel like we’d probably end up with the Astros coming out on top in each of them. The closest is probably the rotation, with the top-end talent of Cole, Verlander and Greinke outweighing the four-deep depth the Nats have at the moment. But as the earlier rounds showed, it’s not as much of an advantage as you might think and being able to run four starters out there whom you trust matters a lot.

Which is to say that, yeah, I think the Astros are the better team. They’re better in record, better on paper and should be favored. But I don’t think they’re overwhelming favorites. And I don’t think it could or should be considered a massive upset if this better-than-most-people think Nats team comes out on top. I feel like this will be a very, very even and competitive series, in fact.