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And That Happened: Wednesday’s Scores and Highlights

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Sorry this is so late. I thought I scheduled it to post in the morning, but I guess I didn’t!

Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Brewers 9, Diamondbacks 2: At the beginning of the month, the D-Backs were 21-8. After Wednesday afternoon’s loss — their seventh in a row and 13th loss in their last 14 games — they’re 25-24. The Brewers hung a seven-spot in the fourth inning, chasing Zack Godley from the game. Travis Shaw hit a three-run homer, Tyler Saladino also homered, and Jesus Aguilar knocked in three runs. The Brewers own the National League’s best record at 31-19.

Tigers 4, Twins 1: The struggling Tigers put an end to their five-game losing skid. Michael Fulmer held the Twins to a lone run on four hits and three walks with five strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings. Niko Goodrum hit a two-run homer. Nick Castellanos continues to hit, picking up a pair of knocks and improving his batting average to .324. Eddie Rosario was the only Twin swinging a good stick on Wednesday, singling three times in four at-bats and bringing home his team’s only run.

Royals 5, Cardinals 2 (10 innings): The lowly Royals take two of three from the Cardinals, surprisingly. Salvador Perez went yard again. Jakob Junis gave up two runs to the Cards in five innings. Michael Wacha pitched well himself, giving up two runs (one earned) on four hits and no walks with six strikeouts over 6 2/3 innings. Bud Norris, who has been solid all year, was victimized in the top of the 10th as the Royals scored three runs, including two on the light-hitting Drew Butera‘s tie-breaking single.

Tyler O'Neill somehow threw out Ryan Goins with this, preventing the Royals from scoring another run in the 10th:

Astros 4, Giants 1: Justin Verlander continues to dominate. The right-hander yielded a run on three hits and a walk with nine strikeouts over six innings. Verlander has been pitching so well that Wednesday’s outing actually caused his ERA to rise from 1.05 to 1.08. George Springer hit a two-run homer off of Jeff Samardzija, his 10th of the year.

Padres 3, Nationals 1: Tyson Ross might be one of the most appealing trade targets this summer. He’s signed to a relatively cheap $1.75 million one-year contract and, after pitching effectively again against the Nationals on Wednesday afternoon, now sports a 3.13 ERA. He limited the Nats to a run on five hits and a walk with nine strikeouts. The lone run came on Matt Adams‘ 11th home run. Erick Fedde, making his first major league start of 2018, surrendered three runs on five hits and a walk with six punch-outs in 5 2/3 innings.

Phillies 4, Braves 0: The Phillies have finally taken a series from the Braves, shutting them out in the rubber match. Jake Arrieta kept them off the board over 6 2/3 innings, yielding seven hits and a walk while striking out seven. He sports a low 2.45 ERA on the year. The Phillies had to scratch and claw their way for runs, scoring single runs in the third, fourth, fifth, and eighth innings. Rookie reliever Seranthony Dominguez remains untouchable, recording four outs on 12 pitches. He’s tossed nine scoreless innings in the big leagues so far and has looked incredible doing it. The Phillies are only a half-game out of first place.

Angels 5, Blue Jays 4: Tyler Clippard forked over four runs in the top of the ninth, walking the bases loaded then giving up run-scoring hits to Shohei Ohtani and Andrelton Simmons. Aaron Sanchez had been in line for the win after tossing five shutout innings (despite five walks). The Jays are really missing Roberto Osuna. The Angels, who have had closer issues of their own, handed the ball to Blake Parker in the bottom half of the ninth. Parker nearly gave up a walk-off three-run home run to Kendrys Morales, but it clanked off the wall and became an RBI single. Teoscar Hernandez then lifted a fly ball to right field and Curtis Granderson, on third base, tried to test Kole Calhoun‘s arm. Bad idea.

Rangers 12, Yankees 10: Another barnburner between the Rangers and Yankees. The two clubs combined for eight homers on Monday; they combined for six on Wednesday. Didi Gregorius, Neil Walker, Gleyber Torres, and Aaron Judge went deep for the Yankees; Nomar Mazara and Ronald Guzman went yard for the Rangers. Neither starter, veterans CC Sabathia and Doug Fister, were able to escape the fifth inning, giving up seven and eight runs, respectively. The Yankees’ bullpen coughed up five more runs after Sabathia exited.

Red Sox 4, Rays 1: David “Fortnite” Price was once again excellent, fanning nine while holding the Rays to a single run over six innings. Price also went the distance with eight strikeouts his last time out, so apparently concern that he was playing too much Fortnite may have been misplaced. Chris Archer was also solid for the Rays, holding the Red Sox to one run in six innings. The Red Sox broke through with a three-spot in the top of the ninth, breaking a 1-1 tie against Alex Colome. Craig Kimbrel fanned a pair in the bottom of the ninth to close out the game.

Marlins 2, Mets 1: Jacob deGrom was brilliant for the Mets, blanking the Marlins over seven innings with eight strikeouts. Seth Lugo worked a scoreless eighth before giving the ball to Jeurys Familia, who gave up four hits and a walk, allowing the Marlins to score two runs to take the lead. Brad Ziegler slammed the door in the bottom half to seal the heart-breaking loss for the Mets. deGrom’s ERA, by the way, is down to an NL-best 1.54.

Pirates 5, Reds 4 (12 innings): Josh Harrison tripled in Jordy Mercer to break a 4-4 tie in the top of the 12th inning. The Reds loaded the bases in the bottom half of the 12th but couldn’t bring anyone home. Harrison had a 4-for-6 night, bringing his average up to .319 and his OPS to .801. Corey Dickerson picked up four hits of his own and he’s now batting .316 with an .856 OPS. For the Reds, Scooter Gennett homered again, going 2-for-4 with a pair of walks.

Indians 1, Cubs 0: Adam Plutko, called up from Triple-A to take Josh Tomlin‘s spot in the rotation, brought a no-hit bid into the seventh inning. He lost it when Anthony Rizzo led off with a double. Willson Contreras then singled, putting runners on second and third, chasing Plutko from the game. Andrew Miller came in and wriggled out of trouble. Cody Allen got the final four outs of the ballgame to close it out. Jon Lester pitched well for the Cubs, holding the Indians to a run on six hits and a walk with four strikeouts.

White Sox 11, Orioles 1: Alex Cobb got shelled, surrendering six runs in 3 2/3 innings. Yoan Moncada, Adam Engel, and Jose Rondon all hit homers for the Sox. Engel enjoyed a 4-for-4 evening, scoring three runs.

Mariners 1, Athletics 0: Another pitcher’s duel, this time between Marco Gonzales Daniel Gossett. Gonzales tossed seven shutout frames, limiting the A’s to only two hits and two walks while fanning six. Gossett gave up a lone run (on a fielder’s choice) on four hits and a walk with five strikeouts.

Dodgers 3, Rockies 0: Kenta Maeda dominated striking out 12 over 6 2/3 scoreless frames, yielding a pair of hits and four walks. The Dodgers got their runs on an RBI ground-rule double from Logan Forsythe, a fielder’s choice from Yasiel Puig, and a sacrifice double play by Matt Kemp.

Nationals succeeded by spending money

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Throughout the playoffs, the Nationals have been cast as plucky underdogs fighting and scrapping their way into the World Series. It’s somewhat true: the Nats overcame a dreadful start to the regular season after losing their star outfielder in Bryce Harper, and were heavy underdogs in the NLDS against the Dodgers, who won 13 more games. But the Nationals are not David in a David vs. Goliath story. They’re closer to Goliath because they have flexed their payroll muscle to fill the roster with talented players.

The Nationals didn’t come close to matching the 13-year, $330 million contract the Phillies wound up agreeing to with Harper, instead offering a 10-year, $300 million deal of which about $100 million was deferred. Losing Harper has somewhat defined their 2019. But they did sign starter Patrick Corbin to a six-year, $140 million contract, and they’re paying Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg $38.33 million and $37.4 million, respectively. As we saw in the NLCS, it was the starting rotation that carried them into the World Series.

Scherzer, a three-time Cy Young Award winner, will not win the award again this year most likely, but he once again ranked among the game’s best pitchers. During the regular season, he posted a 2.92 ERA with 243 strikeouts across 172 1/3 innings. Strasburg led the league in wins with 18 and innings with 209 while authoring a 3.32 ERA with 251 strikeouts. Corbin continued to impress with a 3.25 ERA and 328 strikeouts in 202 innings. As a unit, the Nationals’ 3.53 ERA from starting pitchers ranked second-best in baseball behind the Dodgers. Sounds about right for a rotation collectively earning about $100 million.

We — the royal we — have been quick to point out when an uncommon strategy works, like the Cubs’ and Astros’ rebuilding strategies before they came in vogue or the Rays’ use of the “opener.” It’s only fair to point out that a time-tested strategy, spending money on good baseball players, also works. The Nationals’ current payroll of about $204.5 million is third-highest in baseball, according to USA TODAY.

In September, the Nationals’ NL East rival Phillies were reported by The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal to have curtailed efforts to compete for a Wild Card because of a lack of certainty. The front office didn’t want to invest significant resources into grabbing a lowly Wild Card only to have to match up with the behemoth Dodgers in the NLDS. But that’s exactly what the Nationals did. The Nationals also swept the slumping Phillies in a five-game series September 23-26.

The Phillies aren’t alone. We’ve seen in the last few offseasons that teams have become loath to invest in free agents, particularly ones 30 and older. Even Scherzer took notice. Asked about the Nationals’ collective age, Scherzer said via The Athletic’s Rustin Dodd, “It just seems everybody wants younger and younger players. And everybody wants to forget about all the old guys. We see it in free agency, we’re not dumb. And the fact (is) we’re the oldest team and we won the National League.”

Gerrit Cole, Anthony Rendon, and Josh Donaldson will highlight the upcoming free agent class. They could be joined by Strasburg, Aroldis Chapman, and J.D. Martinez if they exercise the opt-out clauses in their contracts. In the cases of Cole and Rendon, at least two-thirds of the league should be actively pursuing them but if the past few years are any indication, the actual interest will be muted and they won’t end up signing until after the new year. Front offices have continued to blindly recite the phrase “aging curve” while pointing at the Rays in an effort to scale back payroll. The Nationals, meanwhile, are putting the “money” back in Moneyball and they might win a championship because of it.