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And That Happened: Monday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Giants 6, Padres 5: San Diego led 5-3 heading into the bottom of the ninth and had All-Star reliever Brad Hand on the hill. Last year the Giants would’ve been dead men walking at this point — that team had no pluck at all — but they had pluck in spades last night. Hand led the inning off by plunking Austin Slater, but then got two strikeouts in a row. There would not be a third out. Buster Posey took a walk, and then Evan Longoria hit a bloop single against a deep outfield to knock in Slater to make it 5-4. Brandon Belt then walked to load the bases, bringing up pinch hitter Nick Hundley. Hundley did this:

Like I said: pluck.

Cubs 3, Rockies 2: The Rockies had a lot of chances — many handed to them thanks to Chicago miscues — but they couldn’t capitalize. It’s so weird to see the Rockies having basically only two hitters. When one of them — Nolan Arenado — doesn’t come through in a clutch situation, such as when he had runners on first and third in the ninth but struck out to end the game, it has to sting that much more. Anyway, that’s five wins in a row for the Cubs. They have not scored more than three runs in any of those five wins, by the way. Baseball is weird and it’s good to get good starting pitching.

Nationals 3, Pirates 2: Tanner Roark allowed two runs over seven and knocked one in himself. The Nats, like the Cubs, haven’t been scoring many runs lately. They haven’t been as lucky either, as this was only their fourth win in their last ten games. This early season business is really putting a dent my whole “super teams” preseason analysis of the season, but I suppose each of these teams are in a better position than the other NL “super team” who . . .

Diamondbacks 8, Dodgers 5: . . . lost again. And on the day they lost their star shortstop for the whole season. Ouch. L.A. was down 5-0 by the sixth inning thanks to two homers from A.J. Pollock and a homer and an RBI single from Nick Ahmed. Pollock would homer for a third time in the eighth inning, all three being solo shots. That was enough support for Zack Greinke, who struck out ten and allowed two runs over six. Arizona has the largest division lead in all of baseball right now, standing ahead of the Giants by five and a half games, the Rockies by six and the Dodgers by eight.

Indians 7, Rangers 5: Trevor Bauer and Cole Hamels struck out a bunch of guys and kept the game low scoring and close but each bullpen got got, with the Rangers bullpen being more got. Rangers reliever Chris Martin was the most got, giving up four in the eighth, with Jose Ramirez knocking a two-run double and Francisco Lindor and Yonder Alonso each singling home a run. The Rangers had a chance to rally late, but Tribe reliever Jeff Beliveau struck out Joey Gallo with two runners on in the ninth to end the game. It was a Dante-from-“Clerks” kind of game for Beliveau — he wasn’t even supposed to BE here today — but with Andrew Miller out Terry Francona tried to get a two-inning save from closer Cody Allen and it didn’t go as smoothly as planned. It’s OK, though. Worked out in the end.

Rays 3, Tigers 2: It was 0-0 until the ninth when C.J. Cron and Brad Miller each went deep off of Tigers reliever Shane Greene to give Tampa Bay a 3-0 lead. Detroit’s offense tried to rally — Victor Martinez hit a two-run single — but that’s all they’d get. Tampa Bay has won nine of ten.

Brewers 6, Reds 5: Brewers reliever Josh Hader was called on to get an eight-out save on Monday against the Reds. He was more than up to the task, getting all eight of his outs on strikeouts. His victims:  Joey Votto ,Scott Schebler in the seventh inning. In the eighth, he fanned Eugenio SuarezAlex Blandino, and Adam Duvall and he punched out Billy HamiltonJesse Winker, and Jose Peraza in the ninth to close it out. Hader now has a K/BB ratio of 39/5 in 18 innings of work on the year. His performance last night is the first time ever that a pitcher has struck out eight batters in less than three innings. On offense, Manny Pina hit a solo homer and Lorenzo Cain hit a two-run shot to end the Brewers’ four-game losing streak.

Red Sox 10, Royals 6Xander Bogaerts hit a grand slam and had three hits. Mitch Moreland hit a solo homer and had three hits as well. The Red Sox have set a pre-May record for grand slams, and reporters asked various Sox folk about it after the game. Bogaerts wins the award for the most cliche-packed quote of the night:

“Especially with the bases loaded, we’re getting some good swings. I think we’ve been really selective and looking for some good pitches to hit.”

No word on whether the Red Sox are taking them one game at a time, but that doesn’t matter I suppose. The win was Boston’s 19th in the month of April, the most the team has ever hit in the season’s traditional first month.

Marlins 8, Phillies 4: Brian Anderson homered and drove in four. He also made this catch with the bases loaded and the Fish only leading by two:

Come for the great catch, stay for the Marlins announcer saying “wow . . . wow . . . wow . . .” He’s not the best color man in the league for nothing, folks.

Blue Jays 7, Twins 5: Curtis Granderson took a bases-loaded walk in the second for the Jays second run and he scored on a passed ball in the fourth for their third run. There should be a name for a category of those sorts of runs which involve no balls in play and/or other dubious things. Justin Smoak and Russell Martin homered, but homers already have their own category.

Astros 2, Yankees 1: Charlie Morton tied up the big Yankees bats, striking out ten and allowing only one run in seven and two-thirds. Sonny Gray was actually pretty good for once, allowing only a run-scoring groundout in the first and a Yuli Gurriel RBI double in the fourth, but on this night that was enough to lose to ChazMo. Ok, maybe we’re not doing “ChazMo.” I use this feature to workshop, you know. They’re not all winners.

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.