Getty Images

And That Happened: Monday’s Scores and Highlights

25 Comments

I woke up just before 4AM because nightmares are amazingly cool and good. When I did, the Dodgers-Diamondbacks game had just ended — it went five hours and forty-six minutes — and the beat writers and stuff were still awake and on Twitter and everything. Thank god for pace-of-play initiatives such as the mound visit rule and the bullpen carts or else they’d STILL be playing!

Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Pirates 5, Twins 4: The Pirates jumped all over Lance Lynn in his Twins debut, touching him for five first-inning runs and walking six times. I liked the Twins picking up Lynn — they got a great deal on him — but maybe they shouldn’t have let him pitch against the Pirates, who have a history of handing it to him. He’s pitched in 23 games against Pittsburgh in his career and has a 5.10 ERA. Last year he allowed 15 runs on 23 hits in 19.2 innings against the Buccos. The big blow here was a first inning grand slam by Colin Moran which gave the Pirates a 5-0 lead in the first, which would hold up despite a sixth-inning rally by Minnesota. A shameful rally, really. I mean, how dare they try hard when down 5-0? That’s not good for baseball, right Brian Dozier?

Tigers 6, Royals 1: Francisco Liriano impressed in his Tigers debut, allowing one run on four hits while pitching into the seventh. Victor Martinez drove in three on a 2-for-3 day. The Royals are now the last winless team in the American League. The Padres are the last winless team in the NL.

Cardinals 8, Brewers 4: Cards pitcher Miles Mikolas, making his first start in the bigs since returning from three years in Japan, got the win and (all together now) helped his own cause with a tie-breaking two-run homer in the fifth. He needed to hit that bomb too as he allowed Eric ThamesLorenzo Cain and Manny Pina the courtesy of hitting dongs for Milwaukee.

Reds 1, Cubs 0: Tyler Mahle shut the Cubs out on one hit for six innings and three relievers finished the job for a two-hit shutout overall. The only run in the game scored via an Adam Duvall groundout in the fourth. Cubs starter Tyler Chatwood walked six dudes, but walks didn’t lead to that one run and otherwise didn’t harm him. The game took two hours and thirty-three minutes, which means they could’ve played it twice and gotten about 2-3 innings into a third play of it in the time it took for the Dodgers and Diamondbacks to play their game out in Arizona.

Astros 6, Orioles 1: Houston unveiled its World Series banner before the game, giving them fond memories of 2017. Chris Tillman allowed four runs on seven hits in four innings and walked four guys, giving him and the Orioles less-than-fond memories of his 2017. Charlie Morton shut the O’s out for six and Derek Fisher drove in a couple courtesy of a triple and a sac fly. Marwin Gonzalez went deep for Houston. My Opening Day joke about the Orioles — who have the game’s worst run differential on the young season thus far — still holds:

Everyone knows that you can’t win without pitching. What the Orioles 2018 roster presupposes is: what if you can?

Blue Jays 4, White Sox 2Russell Martin hit a go-ahead, two-run homer in the seventh inning. Josh Donaldson and Aledmys Diaz each hit solo shots. Wellington Castillo hit two homers in a winning effort in a losing cause for the Chisox. All of the game’s runs came on home runs, in fact. I’m so old I remember when baseball games used to feature balls in play.

Red Sox 7, Marlins 3: Brian Johnson allowed one run over six innings as the Bosox got their fifth straight solid starting pitching outing in five games. They’ve needed those outings too, as the Sox offense hadn’t been much to write home about yet. Last night Hanley Ramirez and Mookie Betts and homered, though, which helped give the Red Sox their best offensive game on the season.

Nationals 8, Braves 1: Bryce Harper walked in the first inning, destroyed a baseball in the second inning and then walked, walked and walked in his remaining plate appearances because the Braves wanted no part of him whatsoever. He did manage to get something on which he could make contact in the ninth inning but grounded out. Until then he had drawn five walks and hit three home runs over a span of eight trips to the plate. It doesn’t come any more locked in then that. Despite this — and despite the Braves complete and utter fear of giving Harper a pitch to hit — numbskull Braves fans chanted “over-rated!” at Harper, just as Reds fans had the day before. Maybe people should stop doing that.

Indians 6, Angels 0: Edwin Encarnacion is not a fast man nor a small man but he hit an inside-the-park homer because Justin Upton is not a good defensive man:

This is why the triple will always be the most exciting play in baseball. Yes, they can be the result of a defensive miscalculation, but the truly bad ones tend to be inside-the-parkers. Yonder Alonso and Tyler Naquin hit more conventional homers. In other news, Mike Clevinger — who tossed shutout ball for Cleveland into the sixth inning –was a 2011 draft pick and then farmhand of the Angels. They traded him to Cleveland in 2014 for Vinnie Pestano, who has not thrown a major league pitch since 2015. Guessing they’d like to have that one back.

Athletics 3, Rangers 1: Matt Chapman homered and Jed Lowrie hit a tie-breaking two-run double in the seventh to give the A’s the win. Andrew Triggs and Bartolo Colon each allowed one run, Triggs over five innings, Colon over six.

Rockies 7, Padres 4: Charlie Blackmon homered again. He has four already in the Rockies first four games, all on the road. Last year he was a pretty extreme Coors Field hitter, so the fact that he’s raking on the road could be pretty scary for opposing pitchers. Unless of course hit first series at Coors ruins him for the road, as some people used to think — still think? — about Rockies hitters. Ian Desmond homered too and drove in three on the evening. DJ LeMahieu also went yard. The Padres have yet to win a game. They also lost Wil Myers to a triceps injury which he said afterward was due to him making throws in from the outfield, to which he was just shifted after spending a couple of years at first base. No one expected Myers to challenge for a Gold Glove out there, but if he can’t make the throws without being injured, the whole Myers-to-the-outfield plan isn’t going to go very well.

Diamondbacks 8, Dodgers 7: A fifteen inning, nearly six-hour marathon, occasioned primarily by the Dbacks rallying for three runs against Kenley Jansen after he recorded two outs in the bottom of the ninth. Chris Owings three-run jack sent them to extras where Chase Utley put the Dodgers ahead with an RBI single in the top of the 15th. With Dave Roberts out of pitchers, Wilmer Font of the Dodgers entered his fifth inning of work in the bottom of the frame but could not save it, allowing Nick Ahmed to double in Jake Lamb to tie it and then allowing Jeff Mathis — who would’ve been pitching for Arizona if the game went to the 16th — to single in Ahmed with his 74th pitch of the game. Jansen lost his first appearance of the season by giving up a homer to Joe Panik. Not being able to hold a three-run lead in his second appearance is concerning. After the game he said he was having mechanical issues but felt fine. Guess we’ll see.

Rays vs. Yankees; Phillies vs. Mets — POSTPONED:

There’s a storm outside, and the gap between crack and thunder
Crack and thunder, is closing in, is closing in
The rain floods gutters and makes a great sound on concrete
On a flat roof, there’s a boy leaning against the wall of rain
Aerial held high, calling, “Come on thunder, come on thunder”

Nats’ success shouldn’t be about Bryce Harper

Getty Images
7 Comments

Bryce Harper turns 27 years old today. As an early birthday present, he got to watch his former team reach the World Series for the first time in franchise history. His new team finished exactly at .500 in fourth place, missing the playoffs. These were facts that did not go unnoticed as the Nationals completed an NLCS sweep of the Cardinals at home last night.

Harper spent seven seasons with the Nationals before hitting free agency and ultimately signing with the Phillies on a 13-million, $330 million contract. The Nationals offered Harper a 10-year, $300 million contract at the end of the 2018 regular season, but about $100 million of that was deferred until he was 65 which lowered the present-day value of the offer. The Nats’ offer wasn’t even in the same ballpark, really.

Nevertheless, Nationals fans were upset that their prodigy jilted them to go to the Phillies. He was mercilessly booed whenever the Phillies played in D.C. Nats fans’ Harper jerseys were destroyed, or at least taped over.

Harper, of course, was phenomenal with the Nationals. He won the NL Rookie of the Year Award in 2012, then won the NL MVP Award several years later with an historically outstanding 1.109 OPS while leading the league with 42 homers and 118 runs scored. Overall, as a National, he had a .900 OPS. Pretty good. He was also productive in the postseason, posting an .801 OPS across 19 games, mostly against playoff teams’ best starters and best relievers. Furthermore, if the Nats had Harper this year, he would have been in right field in lieu of Adam Eaton. Harper out OPS’d Eaton by 90 points and posted 2.5 more WAR in a similar amount of playing time. The Nationals would have been even better if they had Harper this year.

The Nationals lost all four Division Series they appeared in during the Harper era. 3-2 to the Cardinals in 2012, 3-1 to the Giants in ’14, 3-2 to the Dodgers in ’16, and 3-2 to the Cubs in ’17. They finally get over the hump the first year they’re without Harper, that’s the difference, right? I saw the phrase “addition by subtraction” repeatedly last night, referring to Harper and the Nats’ subsequent success without him.

Harper, though, didn’t fork over four runs to the Cardinals in the top of the ninth inning in Game 5 in 2012. He didn’t allow the Dodgers to rally for four runs in the seventh inning of Game 5 in ’16 before ultimately losing 4-3. He didn’t use a gassed Max Scherzer in relief in 2017’s Game 5, when he allowed five of the seven Cubs he faced to reach base, leading to three runs which loomed large in a 9-8 loss. If certain rolls of the dice in those years had gone the Nationals’ way, they would have appeared in the NLCS. They might’ve even been able to win a World Series.

The Nationals saw how that looks this year. It was the opposing manager this time, Dave Roberts, who mismanaged his bullpen. Howie Kendrick then hit a tie-breaking grand slam in the 10th inning off of Joe Kelly to win the NLDS for the Nats. The playoffs are random. Sometimes a ball bounces your way, sometimes an umpire’s call goes your way, and sometimes the opposing manager makes several unforced errors to throw Game 5 in your lap.

Reaching the World Series, then thumbing your nose while sticking out your tongue at Harper feels like a guy tagging his ex-girlfriend on his new wedding photos. It’s time to move on.