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And That Happened: Wednesday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Braves 7, Nationals 1: I spilled a lot of ink complaining about Ronald Acuna not being with the big club early — and I stand by that complaining — but let it be known that the guy keeping left field warm for him, Preston Tucker, has raked on the young season. Here he hit a three-run homer — his second such dong in as many days — and his 9-for-21 with eight driven in in six games. Not saying that’s sustainable, but I am saying that when Acuna comes up, perchance Atlanta might consider whether whatever is sustainable for Tucker is better than what can be expected from Nick Markakis. In other news, Braves starter Mike Foltynewicz outpitched Max Scherzer, allowing one run in five and a third and (all together now) helped his own cause by doubling in two runs in the fourth inning. The Braves are 4-2. It’s the first time they’ve been two games over .500 in three years.

Yankees 7, Rays 2: For the first time since they got together, Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez all homered in the same game, all of which were two-run shots. That was more than enough run support for Luis Severino, who allowed two while pitching into the eighth before handing it over to the pen. This is the Platonic idea of a 2018 Yankees win, I’d say. Expect many to follow this general arc this year.

Mets 4, Phillies 2: The most notable thing about this game is that it was streamed on Facebook. Like, exclusively. No local TV of any kind. Which means that if you wanted to watch this game you had to click a little box that said “YES: I agree to handing over all of my personal information to shady gray market data miners.” Hey, if you really love your Mets and Phillies, you’d do it. As for the game itself, Noah Syndergaard couldn’t make it past four innings, but the Mets bullpen was strong, facing the minimum over the final five frames, shutting Philly out in that span. Yoenis Cespedes went deep. Oh, And Amed Rosario hit a two-run triple that should NOT have been a triple but was because Gabe Kapler had right fielder Nick Williams playing roughly 50 feet shallower than the average right fielder would play, assuming Rosario couldn’t hit to the opposite field with authority. Watch:

 

I’m not gonna say Kapler’s data-driven innovations are bad ideas, full stop. I get the theory. I am gonna say, though, that when they backfire like they have so far, he’s gonna take the heat for it and deservedly so.

Astros 3, Orioles 2: Give the O’s pitching staff props for only giving up three runs I guess. Give Dallas Keuchel props for allowing only two — one unearned — and Brad Peacock for tossing three innings of scoreless relief. Josh Reddick had three hits and Alex Bregman hit a tiebreaking RBI single in the seventh to help Houston complete the sweep.

Diamondbacks 3, Dodgers 0: Patrick Corbin shut the boys in blue down, striking out 12 in a little over seven innings of work and the Dbacks bat, while mostly contained by Alex Wood, chipped off three in the first three innings. That’s a three-game series sweep for Arizona and their ninth straight regular season over Los Angeles overall.

Angels 3, Indians 2: Andrelton Simmons is a man after my heart for bunting to break up Corey Kluber’s no-hit bid in the fifth inning. To the extent that had the potential to be slammed as an Unwritten Rules violation, Shohei Ohtani nipped it in the bud by taking a Kluber fastball out to center field for a two-run home run, tying the game at 2-2. It was Ohtani’s second homer in as many days. That didn’t end things, of course. The game would be tied after regulation and eventually make it into the 13th inning, where Zack Cozart walked ’em off with this blast:

The Angels are 4-2 to start the season for the first time since 2007.

Twins 7, Pirates 3: The warm sunshine. The smell of the green grass. The fresh breezes. The relief pitcher catching snowflakes in his mouth as he’s trying to lock down the game in the ninth:

Brian Dozier hit his fourth homer in as many days and the Twins put up a four-spot in the sixth inning to hand the Pirates their first loss of the year. Miguel Sano had three hits and two RBI. Eduardo Escobar drove in two as well.

White Sox 4, Blue Jays 3: Jose Abreu‘s eight inning homer on a 3-0 pitch broke a 3-3 tie and gave the Chisox the game. Earlier Matt Davidson hit his fourth homer on the season. Sox starter Carson Fulmer held Toronto to three runs and five hits over five innings, and I continue to refuse to believe that that’s his name as opposed to the name of a backup quarterback someplace that an agitated fan base doesn’t severely overvalue in the way that backup quarterbacks are overvalued. I mean, yeah, he looks good on the sidelines and had some nice college numbers, but Trent Whoeverthehell is this club’s best option at QB, even with the current rough patch.

Giants 10, Mariners 1: The San Francisco offense finally work up, jumping out to a 3-0 lead in the first and making it 9-0 after five. Pablo Sandoval walked with the bases loaded in the first to drive in a run and later it a three-run homer on his four-RBI day. Gorkys Hernandez, Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford also went deep for the Giants. Gorkys should change his name to “Brandon” so we can refer to this offensive attack as “The Three Brandons.” Wait, never mind. That sounds like a craft beer only boring white dudes drink. He can stay “Gorkys.”

Cardinals 6, Brewers 0: Carlos Martinez shut the Brewers out through eight and a third, striking out ten while Yadi Molina homered and hit a sac fly. At one point Martinez retired 16 straight. The Brewers threatened in the ninth but Bud Norris got out of a bases loaded jam to end it. St. Louis takes two of three from Milwaukee on the road.

Athletics 6, Rangers 2: Sean Manaea was in control here, tossing eight innings of three-hit, one-run ball, which allowed the A’s four-run fourth inning to more than hold up. Bob Melvin did not allow Manaea to go out for the ninth despite the fact he was only at 94 pitches. Manaea was OK with that:

“Obviously I wanted to finish the game, but talking to BoMel it kind of wasn’t the right idea this early in the season,”

“BoMel?” No. Uh-uh. We are not doing this. Do you hear me, Oakland? If I hear “BoMel” one more time, I’m stopping this car.

Rockies 5, Padres 2: Jon Gray tossed seven shutout innings, striking out seven and walking none, while the Rockies $108 million man, Charlie Blackmon, got two hits and scored twice. Ian Desmond and Trevor Story each drove in two. Nolan Arenado doubled in a run. The game took just 2 hours and 41 minutes, and neither team used a mound visit. Progress? I dunno.

Royals vs. Tigers — POSTPONED:

The rain falls hard on a humdrum town
This town has dragged you down
Oh, the rain falls hard on a humdrum town
This town has dragged you down
Oh, no, and everybody’s got to live their life
And God knows I’ve got to live mine
God knows I’ve got to live mine

Nats’ success shouldn’t be about Bryce Harper

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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.