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And That Happened: Wednesday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Reds 7, Diamondbacks 4: The Diamondbacks had a 4-0 lead in this one. Of all of the teams in baseball you’d not expect to pull themselves up off the mat and make a comeback in that situation, you have to figure the Reds were near the top of the list, right? Welp, they pulled themselves up off the mat with an Adam Duvall grand slam in the fourth to tie it and then a two-run bomb from Scott Schebler and an RBI single from Eugenio Suarez to win it going away. Both of those homers came off Patrick Corbin, who also struck out ten. One of these days I’m going to stop looking at double digit strikeout totals and think “wow, he did well!” only to then have to take the time to comprehend why he did not, actually do well. These days strikeouts are like German marks during the Weimar Republic: available by the wheelbarrow, but increasingly worthless.

Nationals 2, Orioles 0: OK, that exercise in explaining away strikeouts is not as critical when Max Scherzer is pitching. He struck out 12 but also shut the O’s the heck out on two hits over eight innings because he’s Max Scherzer, the guy who is basically the best pitcher in baseball and probably has been longer than most of us have chosen to call him that. Bryce Harper‘s third inning solo shot was all the offense the Nats would need, even if they got an insurance run.

Tigers 6, Angels 1: Shohei Ohtani pitched five good innings, left the game and then the Tigers teed off on the Angels pen in the sixth, plating five via a bunch of singles and a groundout. In other news, Ohtani’s last pitch of his start clocked in at 101.1 mph, which is the fastest pitch by a starter this season. That speed gives me the excuse to post this:

I have some very complicated feelings about all of this. On the one hand, this sequel has no business being made for all sorts of reasons, including the fact that whatever the plot is going to be is going to be silly as hell (i.e. it has to involve a 55-year-old+ fighter pilot). Mostly, though, it has no business being made because I’ve watched “Top Gun” about 500 times and I cannot think of a single angle of Maverick’s story that is begging to be told. He’s not a complex character in need of some depth exploration. Indeed, he most realistically became a consultant for Northrop Grumman in the early 1990s, got country club (but not horse country) rich and now lives in Fauquier or Loudon County, Virginia, drives a Lexus and tries hard to avoid admitting he voted for Trump but does not, for one second, regret doing so. On the other hand: though Tom Cruise is not my favorite actor by a long shot, I really do respect the fact that he never mails in a performance. He’s limited in his skills and gifts, but dammit, he gives 100% every time out, even if the movie is an absolute turd. There is something admirable in that and, for that reason, I’m way more likely to see a bad movie he’s in than a mediocre movie actors I like better than him. Do. Effort, man. Gotta respect Tom Cruise’s hustle.

Speaking of “Top Gun,” gotta say it: I miss you, Goose.

Red Sox 6, Blue Jays 4J.D. Martinez hit a tiebreaking, two-run homer in the sixth inning — his 18th on the year — as the Red Sox finish their home stand 5-1 and now head to Houston to face the Astros. The Blue Jays have lost 13 of 17 and are now six games under .500 despite starting the season at Mach 2 with their hair on fire.

Rays 6, Athletics 0: Nate Eovaldi had not thrown a pitch in a major league game since August of 2016 due to undergoing a second Tommy John surgery. He came back last night and all he did was no-hit the A’s for six innings before being lifted because he’s on a pitch count. The A’s would only get one hit in the game. They also had an announced crowd of 6,295, so everyone could probably hear Eovaldi bitching about being taken out when he had a no-hitter going.

Indians 9, White Sox 1: Corey Kluber pitched six shutout innings and the Tribe had built up a 9-0 lead after four. Melky Cabrera drove in three, Michael Brantley extended his hitting streak to 19 games and Jose Ramirez and Edwin Encarnacion hit back-to-back homers. The Indians have won five straight and are slowly taking us off of “Oh my god, an AL Central team could win the division while finishing under .500” watch. That was never really realistic I don’t think, because if you play in the AL Central you get to play a lot of AL Central teams. If you’re just less than terrible, you’re gonna win a lot of those games.

Brewers 3, Cardinals 2: Orlando Arcia returned to the Brewers after a brief demotion to the minors and hit a tiebreaking RBI single in Milwaukee’s two-run seventh to give ’em the win. Another return — Cardinals starter Alex Reyes‘ return from over a year out due to Tommy John surgery — also went superficially well, as he tossed four shutout innings. His velocity and control were shaky, though, and he left a bit earlier than he had hoped. Jeremy Jeffress got the win despite allowing two runs in the top of the seventh, one earned. Those were the first runs he had allowed since giving up one on April 6th. He’s allowed only those two earned runs all dang season.

Yankees 5, Astros 3: Luis Severino struck out 11 and allowed only two runs in seven innings to give the Yankees yet another series win and yet another victory over the Astros, who have dropped five of seven to the Bombers this year. Gary Sanchez, Didi Gregorius, Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Hicks all drove in at least a run — Sanchez two — despite all of those guys being in slumps heading into the game.

Pirates 2, Cubs 1: Joe Musgrove allowed one run over seven and all of the scoring in this one was done by the second innings. It was then, though, that it got interesting as Musgrove slid hard into Javier Baez to break up a double play, after which words were exchanged and benches cleared. I’m sure the Cubs — who seem to believe that anything short of hitting a defender with a bag of doorknobs is totally clean when they do it — believe that Musgrove violated the sanctity of the game and imperiled the lives of countless people, but that’s just how baseball goes I guess.

As Musgrove walked off the field, Báez had a few words for him. Musgrove turned back and then the benches and bullpens emptied onto the field. No punches were thrown and order was quickly restored. Musgrove’s slide was deemed legal.

Mets 4, Braves 1: When the Mets’ injuries started piling up the other day it was announced that they’d bring Jason Vargas back on short rest to pitch this one. My thinking at the time was “Jason Vargas on short rest is bad news. “This business will get out of control. It will get out of control and we will be lucky to live through it.” Shows you what I know: Vargas tossed five shutout innings. Brandon Nimmo and Adrian Gonzalez each drove in a couple as the Mets and Braves split the series.

Royals 11, Twins 8: The Royals jumped out to a nine-run lead in the first couple of innings and held on. Mike Moustakas homered, doubled and drove in four runs — all in those first two innings, mind you — and Jorge Soler went 4-for-5 with a home run. That they almost woofed it away is in keeping with that stuff I said about the AL Central above.

Giants 7, Rockies 4: The Giants avoid the sweep thanks to some decent hitting by Brandon Crawford and thanks to Derek Holland settling down after a rocky first frame during which he spotted Colorado three runs. Buster Posey drove in a couple.

Rangers 7, Mariners 6: James Paxton left with a 4-2 lead but, for the second night in a row, the Seattle pen coughed it up, giving up five runs in the sixth and seventh inning. Robinson Chirinos’ tiebreaking two-run double in the seventh capped the rally. Seattle pitchers have issued 15 walks in the last two games.

Dodgers 8, Phillies 2: Ross Stripling allowed one run and struck out nine in seven innings and Matt Kemp homered and drove in four. Kemp is hitting .345/.372/.554 on the year. This after I would’ve bet even money back in February that he’d be cut before the Dodgers broke camp.

Padres 3, Marlins 2: Miami took a 2-1 lead into the bottom of the ninth and Brad Ziegler came in to lock it down. He walked the leadoff batter, gave up a double to Freddy Galvis to put runners on second and third intentionally walked the bases loaded, then gave up an infield single which let the guy on third score the tying run just as third baseman Miguel Rojas threw the ball away to allow Galvis to score the walkoff run via an error. Marlins baseball: it’s FAN-tastic.

Nationals’ starting pitching carrying them into World Series

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In my postseason preview at the end of September, I listed the Nationals’ starting rotation as a strength and their bullpen as a weakness. Anyone who had followed the club this season could have told you that. Even the Nats are aware of it as manager Dave Martinez has leaned on his rotation to hide his sometimes unreliable ‘pen.

In Game 1 of the NLDS against the Dodgers, Martinez was burned by his bullpen as Tanner Rainey, Fernando Rodney, and Hunter Strickland combined to allow six base runners and four runs. Martinez used ace Max Scherzer in relief in Game 2, sandwiched by Sean Doolittle and Daniel Hudson. Starter Patrick Corbin pitched in relief in Game 3 and it backfired, but the bullpen after Corbin continued to allow more runs — three officially, but Wander Suero allowed two inherited runners to score on a three-run homer by Max Muncy. Martinez only had to rely on Doolittle and Hudson in Game 4 and he again went to Corbin in relief in Game 5.

The strategy was clear: use the actual bullpen as little as possible. If Martinez absolutely has to, Doolittle and Hudson get top priory by a country mile, followed by a starter, then the rest of the bullpen.

Thankfully for Martinez and the Nationals, the starting pitching has done yeoman’s work in the NLCS, jumping out to a three games to none series lead over the Cardinals. Aníbal Sánchez famously brought a no-hit bid into the eighth inning of Game 1, finally relenting a two-out single to José Martínez before his night was over. Doolittle got the final four outs in the 2-0 win. Max Scherzer flirted with a no-hitter in his Game 2 start as well, losing it when Paul Goldschmidt led off the seventh with a single. He was erased on an inning-ending double play. Doolittle, Corbin, and Hudson got the final six outs in the 3-1 victory.

It was more of the same in Game 3. While Stephen Strasburg didn’t flirt with a no-hitter, he was dominant over seven innings, yielding one unearned run on seven hits with no walks and 12 strikeouts. The Nats’ offense woke up, amassing eight runs through seven innings which allowed Martinez to give his main relief guys a night off. Rodney and Rainey each pitched a perfect inning of relief with two strikeouts in low-leverage situations, their first appearances in the NLCS.

The Nationals starting pitching has been outstanding by itself, but it has also had the secondary effect of allowing Martinez to hide his team’s biggest weakness. Now Martinez just has to hope for more of the same for one more game, then at least four more in the World Series.