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And That Happened: Tuesday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Nationals 25, Mets 4: Well that sure was a butt-kickin. Like, it was already a butt-kickin’ when it was 19-0 after five innings and then Jose Reyes was brought in to pitch in the eighth and coughed up six more runs. In all it was the Mets’ most-lopsided defeat in the team’s 57-season history, and in case you were unaware, there has been a lot of futility packed in to those 57 seasons. As this one wore on, Keith Hernandez, Ron Darling and Gary Cohen of the SNY broadcast team read verbatim from the team’s media guide to kill the time as the theme from “Masterpiece Theatre” played in the background. Which, hats off to them for doing anything to make this all entertaining. Daniel Murphy hit two homers and drove in six runs, Anthony Rendon had four RBI and Ryan Zimmerman, Matt Adams and Mark Reynolds homered. Adams and Reynolds’ should only count for half, though, as they came off of Reyes. I dunno, there was blood all over the box score. That’s why I link it up top. If I spend to much more time on it I may get nauseous.

Meanwhile, in games that were not a complete and utter joke . . .

Giants 3, Padres 2: Giants starter Derek Rodriguez allowed one run over seven and was in line for the win before Manuel Margot and the Padres scored in the eighth to force extras. In the top of the tenth Evan Longoria led things off with a triple, however, and he was eventually plated by a Brandon Crawford single to give San Francisco the winning margin and the sweep of the two-game series.

Phillies 3, Red Sox 1: In contrast, Jake Arrieta‘s one run over seven held up for the W, as he was backed by RBIs from Jorge Alfaro, Scott Kingery and Carlos Santana, ending the Phillies’ four game skid. After the game Gabe Kapler said “We are a bunch of fighters . . . there’s a lot of grit and determination and heart in that room and those are the things we can be very proud of in this moment.” What, no moxie? For shame.

Yankees 6, Orioles 3: A four-run fifth led by a Miguel Andjuar three-run homer keyed the Bombers offense and Masahiro Tanaka‘s six shutout innings kept the O’s off the board until they were already in too deep a hole to climb out of. Jace Peterson knocked in two of Baltimore’s three runs and scored the third on an error. Given all of the trades the Orioles made yesterday it’s frankly amazing that someone any of us had heard of did that for them. I expected their box score to have names like “Guy,” “Dude Man,” and “The kid, you know, with the hair?” all over it.

Athletics 6, Blue Jays 2Trevor Cahill allowed two runs on five hits and struck out six in six innings and Khris Davis homered and had three hits in all. Matt Olson had two RBI, Mark Canha doubled twice and stole home and Marcus Semien added two hits. It was Bob Melvin’s 600th win as the Athletics’ manager. If he keeps the job for three more seasons — and he’s likely to — he’ll eventually pass Tony La Russa, who had 798 in green and gold. He’ll need about 36 more seasons, at .500 ball, to catch Connie Mack. That would make Melvin 92 years old or so when he broke the record. Which sounds rather silly. Of course Connie Mack himself was 87 when he was forced out of the dugout, and I’m guessing a 92-year-old Melvin will have more of his faculties about him then the 87-year-old Connie Mack did, so let’s do this thing!

Pirates 5, Cubs 4: David Freese doubled in Gregory Polanco twice and Polanco and Francisco Cervelli homered as the Pirates stay hot. There was a call late that went in favor for the Cubs on the field but was overturned on replay. After the game Joe Maddon said “I went up and looked at it. The call on the field has integrity and I’d really need to see why that was changed.” I don’t know what that means, “the call on the field has integrity.” It means little I suppose, but even the implication that replay calls are somehow less legitimate than ump calls is one of the many reasons why the whole manager challenge thing is dumb. If the replay crew was just part of the umpire crew and was considered its eyes and ears instead of some sort of big brother figure from on high we’d never talk about it. It’d be just like any other umpire calls we debate.

Tigers 2, Reds 1: Matt Boyd tossed eight shutout innings and got a homer from Niko Goodrum and an RBI double from Mike Gerber to back him. Homer Bailey went the distance — eight innings since the Tigers didn’t have to bat in the ninth — and took the tough loss. Can’t remember the last time I saw a couple of regular guy pitchers, as opposed to dueling aces, go eight innings against one another.

Rays 10, Angels 6: The Rays put up a seven-run fourth inning and chased Tyler Skaggs that frame after he gave up ten runs in all. Carlos Gomez had two hits in the big inning, Matt Duffy had three hits and Jake Bauers homered. Mike Trout homered and doubled and Kole Calhoun had three hits including a two-run homer in the losing cause.

Braves 11, Marlins 6: Kolby Allard made his big league debut as the Braves starter and allowed five runs — four earned — in five innings. That won’t normally get you a win, but since his teammates unleashed a 19-hit attack, he was fortunate enough to get the W. Ronald Acuña, Nick Markakis and Johan Camargo all went deep for Atlanta and Kurt Suzuki hit a three-run double. Ender Inciarte had four hits and Freddie Freeman had three as the Braves won their third in a row.

Royals 4, White Sox 2: Danny Duffy pitched shutout ball into the sixth as Ryan O’Hearn, making his big league debut, and Brett Phillips each hit two-run homers for the Royals. The Chisox lost their fifth in six games.

Indians 6, Twins 2: Trevor Bauer battled himself a bit, walking a few and striking out fewer, but he allowed only two runs while pitching into the seventh. Jose Ramirez had three hits and drove in two, Greg Allen had three hits and scored three runs and Edwin Encarnacion drove in a three late insurance runs with a two-run single and a fielder’s choice.

Diamondbacks 6, Rangers 0: Zack Godley struck out ten and allowed only two hits in seven shutout innings. A.J. Pollock homered. Nick Ahmed drove in two on a double and scored on a wild pitch. This win put the Dbacks back into first place in the NL West, with an assist from . . .

Brewers 1, Dodgers 0: . . . Wade Miley, who tossed seven shutout innings, the Brewers pen, which tossed two more and Lorenzo Cain, who doubled in the game’s only run in the third inning. Miley is now 4-0 with a 2.06 ERA in seven starts in Los Angeles and, somehow, has a 2.01 ERA in five starts overall this season despite walking more guys than he has struck out.

Rockies 6, Cardinals 3Charlie Blackmon and Carlos Gonzalez each homered and Jon Gray pitched into the eighth inning, winning his fourth straight decision. The Rockies finished July with a 17-6 record and are now tied with the Dodgers, a half game back. The NL West race is gonna be fun over the final two months of the season.

Astros 5, Mariners 2: Houston snaps its five-game losing streak. Evan Gattis and Josh Reddick each hit two-run homers and Reddick added an RBI single. Charlie Morton struck out eight while allowing two runs over six. Their lead goes back up to four over Seattle in the West.

World Series Preview: Marquee starting pitching matchups lead the way

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The Astros were the best team in baseball in 2019, winning 107 games, so everyone expected them to be here. As you’ve heard a thousand times by now the Nationals started out poorly in 2019, standing at 19-31 in late May. After that, however, they went on a 74-38 tear in 112 games. A tear which, if extrapolated to 162 games is a . . . 107-win pace.

Which is to say that, despite whatever the oddsmakers are telling you, this is not quite the mismatch some may want to make it out to be. The Astros are a great team, no question, but the Nationals as they stand right now are a strong match for them. If you doubt it, go ask the Dodgers and Cardinals about whether Washington played like a 93-win Wild Card team when they met in the earlier rounds.

No matter how you think the teams matchup overall, however, you can’t help but love the matchups between the clubs’ starting pitchers.

The Astros feature the top two Cy Young candidates in the American league in Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander and feature a third starter, Zack Greinke, who would be most teams’ ace. The Nationals, meanwhile, counter with Max Scherzer, who won the Cy Young in 2016 and 2017, finished in second place last year and, before for an injury this season, was a strong contender to take home the hardware again. After him comes Stephen Strasburg, also a 2019 Cy Young candidate, and Patrick Corbin, who was last offseason’s big pickup and who won 14 games and posted an ERA+ of 141 this season. It may be the Era of Bullpenning and all of that, but this Fall Classic looks to be a throwback to a time when — gasp! — starting pitchers mattered.

Here’s how it all breaks down:

THE ROTATIONS

We just listed the big names. The exact order in which they appear is not yet officially known but you’ll color me shocked if Game 1 isn’t Max Scherzer vs. Gerrit Cole, Game 2 isn’t Stephen Strasburg vs. Justin Verlander, and Game 3 isn’t Zack Greinke vs. Patrick Corbin. In Game 4 the Nats will likely go with the hot Aníbal Sánchez who, if he stays on his game like he has been of late, gives them depth the Astros can’t quite match. Brad Peacock or “Bullpen” could get the ball for A.J. Hinch in Game 4, depending on the circumstances of the series at that point.

As for Game 1, Scherzer is coming off two strong postseason outings, allowing one run on five hits with 18 strikeouts in 14 innings in those starts. Cole was somewhat human in his last start, walking five guys. But, um, yeah, he still tossed seven shutout innings. It seems like all he has done since before Memorial day is toss seven or eight shutout innings or something close to it.

We simply couldn’t ask for a better head-to-head matchup to start this bad boy. There isn’t a hitter on either of these teams happy about who they’ll have to face in this series.

THE LINEUPS

Saturday night’s José Altuve walkoff blast notwithstanding, the Astros’ mighty offense has been somewhat less mighty over the past couple of weeks, averaging just 3.7 runs per game and posting a .645 team OPS. A lot of that was due to the scads of fresh and strong bullpen arms the Rays and Yankees trotted out, but it’s not like things will get easier, at least against Washington’s starting pitching. The Astros had timely hitting — and some big home runs — as they made their way to the World Series, but they’ll definitely need to rattle the ball off the walls and get on base at a higher clip like they did in the regular season if they want to win this thing. To do so, I don’t suspect A.J. Hinch will do much shuffling or fiddling with his lineup — his dudes are his dudes — he’ll just have to hope that they snap out of their relative funk and remind everyone that, when everyone is healthy on this club, there is no better offense in baseball.

Washington’s lineup was nowhere near as fearsome during the regular season but it was the second-best unit in the National League, so they’re no slouches. Like the Astros, they have not exactly set the world ablaze offensively in the playoffs, posting a team OPS about a hundred points lower than their regular season mark. Also, like the Astros, they’ve had some huge hits at great times, as do all teams that get this far. Luck and good timing matter a whole heck of a lot in October.

Editor’s note: Need World Series tickets? Click here to see the Nats try to stop the Astros

A bit of a wild card here: the de-juiced ball everyone is talking about. While the Nats, like everyone else, hit a lot more homers in 2019, they were somewhat less reliant on homers than a lot of other winning teams, finishing only sixth in that category in the NL. The Astros were third in the AL and might’ve come close to matching New York and Minnesota’s totals if they didn’t have so many injuries to key offensive performers in the first half. Which is to say that the dead ball’s taking away of a few feet of flight from equally-struck balls probably hurts the Astros a bit more than the Nats, even if the Astros hitters are better on average.

One can overstate all that, of course. At the end of the day both of these teams have MVP-candidates — Alex Bregman for Houston, Anthony Rendon for Washington — and a good supporting cast of thumpers like Juan Soto, José Altuve, Yordan Álvarez and hot-in-October Howie Kendrick, who will likely see DH action in the games in Houston. Ultimately it will come down, as always, to who is hotter over the next 4-7 games.

THE BULLPENS

The bullpen was the Nationals’ biggest weakness all season long. In the NLDS against the Dodgers Dave Martinez masked the problem by creatively deploying starting pitchers in relief, praying a bit, and watching it work. in the NLCS they so thoroughly steamrolled the Cardinals that it didn’t truly matter, though they did get some good innings from guys not named Sean Doolittle and Daniel Hudson. Meaning that, heck, you may even see Fernando Rodney and Tanner Rainey in games that aren’t blowouts. Either way, the week off the Nationals have been given by wrapping up the NLCS so quickly means that every arm is fresh, with extra rest even, so the team’s biggest weakness is about as contained at the outset as it can be. As suggested above, the deeper Scherzer, Strasburg, Corbin and Sánchez can go, the better.

Houston’s bullpen has allowed 16 earned runs in 35.1 innings this postseason (4.08 ERA). This after having the third-best bullpen ERA in all of baseball during the regular season (3.75). Sample sizes are obviously an issue here. As is the class of competition. They were more than capable of getting the job done during the ALDS and their failures — like Roberto Osuna‘s blown save in Game 6 — were either contained by the work of others or led to less-than-fatal wounds. They simply have better arms that Washington does down there even if, as is the case with the Nats, they’ll hope to need them as little as possible.

THE MANAGERS

A.J. Hinch has hoisted a trophy before and rarely harms his team. Dave Martinez learned over the course of the season that the less he does the better. Without putting too fine a point on it, if it comes down to a chess match, it’s advantage: Astros. At this point Martinez simply needs to let his horses run and muster enough will to pull them out of the race if they’re tired. That’s easier said than done when it’s, say, Max Scherzer. His arm could be hanging by frayed tendons and he’d still probably glare at Martinez if he walked out to pull him.

THE HISTORY

There is virtually none. These teams share a spring training complex but they have not faced each other in interleague play since 2017. A host of players on each squad has never faced the pitchers on the other. In addition to starting pitchers being so critical here, add “NL vs. AL, in a matchup of unknowns” to the list of things that make this Fall Classic a throwback to olden days.

If we did the usual “Advantage: [TEAM]” for every one of those categories, I feel like we’d probably end up with the Astros coming out on top in each of them. The closest is probably the rotation, with the top-end talent of Cole, Verlander and Greinke outweighing the four-deep depth the Nats have at the moment. But as the earlier rounds showed, it’s not as much of an advantage as you might think and being able to run four starters out there whom you trust matters a lot.

Which is to say that, yeah, I think the Astros are the better team. They’re better in record, better on paper and should be favored. But I don’t think they’re overwhelming favorites. And I don’t think it could or should be considered a massive upset if this better-than-most-people think Nats team comes out on top. I feel like this will be a very, very even and competitive series, in fact.