And That Happened: Sunday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Cubs 4, Nationals 3: When you’re 11-years-old and you’re imagining that you’re in the big leagues and you say something to yourself like “bottom of the ninth . . . two outs . . . two strikes . . . bases loaded . . . down by three . . . AND CALCATERRA HITS A GRAND SLAM!!!” you actually stop yourself because you realize, dude, you’re gilding the lily a bit. Yet that’s exactly what David Bote did to the Nationals last night. As a pinch-hitter, no less. He’s already living a dream as a rookie called up to fill in for an injured All-Star and is doing a fantastic job of that, but then he adds this to the memory book. All of this after Max Scherzer tossed three-hit ball over seven scoreless innings, striking out 11. An amazing moment for Bote and the Cubs. A rip-your-heart-out-and-show-it-to-them-while-it’s-still-beating moment for the Nats.

The best thing about it? Bote knew he did it the second the ball came off the bat:

Red Sox 4, Orioles 1Chris Sale struck out 12 guys in five one-hit, shutout innings. Now that he appears healthy again I suppose the Sox will end this minor league rehab stint and activate him from the disabled list.

[Editor: Uh, Craig, he was activated for this start. He was facing the Baltimore Orioles]

I stand by my statement.

Tigers 4, Twins 2: It was Jack Morris Number Retirement Day in Detroit and, afterward, Tigers starter Matt Boyd joked that Morris might be mad at him for only pitching six innings. Given that Morris, his reputation as a complete game-slingin’ horse notwithstanding, averaged 6.9 innings per outing for his career, I hope he was OK with it. Boyd also said that he has talked to Morris a bunch about pitching and that Morris has given him lots of advice. The upshot of that advice, according to Boyd:

“The theme of every conversation we’ve had is competing,” Boyd said. “Compete on every pitch . . .”

No one tell that to the BBWAA guys who, for years, erroneously claimed that Morris’ ERA was so high specifically because he did NOT compete on every pitch but, rather, “pitched to the score,” easing up in games when the Tigers had big leads.

Oh well. Boyd got the win, giving up one run on two hits and struck out three in six innings. A pretty Jack Morris-like outing, actually.

Yankees 7, Rangers 2: CC Sabathia threw six shutout innings of one-hit ball and Giancarlo Stanton and Didi Gregorius homered. In other news, the AP game story for this one framed it, basically, as “Didi Gregorius has done a good job filling Derek Jeter’s shoes at shortstop for the Yankees.” That’s an . . . interesting choice. Or at least it would be if it were written in 2015. I didn’t read the Cubs gamer, but I hope said something like “Move over Vance Law, there’s a new slugger at the hot corner in Chicago!”

Padres 9, Phillies 3: Freddy Galvis hit a grand slam against his old mates and Travis Jankowski stole four bases and scored three times which is not the sort of thing that happens much in baseball these days. Talk to some old timer and they’ll tell you it happened six times every day back in the days of big hair and plastic grass, of course. It didn’t, but they’ll still say that. Never trust an old guy telling you about how things were when he was young. A lot of the times he may be telling the truth, but always check it because old guys are often full of crap.

Giants 4, Pirates 3: I woke up at 3:30am today for no reason at all — old guys are often full of crap, but we’re also filled with non-specific anxiety and acid reflux too — so these recaps could’ve been up at 4:30am if I had tried harder. Instead I spent a lot of time screaming into the void on Twitter and getting lost in Wikipedia holes. Part of me said it shouldn’t matter. No one pays me enough to work at 3:30am and, even if I did have the recaps up at 4:30am, the only person who would’ve read them then would be my friend Lisa, who is a Five-Star General in the Wake Up Early Army and is doing stuff like going to the gym or cooking pork roasts and crap at that time. A woman after my own early-rising heart, I tells ya. Of course, thinking about how Lisa would’ve liked to read the recaps at 4:30am, and me not having them up then even though I could’ve, made me sort of sad. But then I remembered that she’s a Pirates fan and who wants a reminder that their team lost at 4:30am? That’s the sort of thing that can really kill the buzz of, I dunno, some squat-thrusts or a good pork roast. All of which is to say that now, at just before 6:30am, I’m feeling rather conflicted about it all.

Anyway: rookie Dereck Rodriguez threw seven innings of two-hit ball to up his rookie-year record to 6-1 and drop his ERA to 2.25. Son of Pudge is a pretty good one, yeah?

Cardinals 8, Royals 2Yadier Molina broke a tie with a two-run single in the seventh inning and the Cards won going away. Patrick Wisdom — who, somehow, is not a character from a low-budget 80s action movie –had two hits, drove in a run and scored two in his major league debut. The Cardinals have won five in a row. They also win the season series over the Royals, 4-2. For losing the Battle of Missouri, the Royals, I imagine, get stuck with Missouri.

Lay off, Missourians. I’ve been making this joke about Ohio for years.

Blue Jays 2, Rays 1: Marcus Stroman allowed one over five but had to hit the showers early because of a blister. Five relievers shut the Rays down the rest of the way, however, so it all worked out OK. Well, except for Stroman, who still has that blister. The Jays avoid the sweep.

Diamondbacks 9, Reds 2: The Dbacks jacked five homers out of Great American Ballpark. Paul Goldschmidt had two of them. Daniel DescalsoEduardo Escobar and David Peralta had the other three. Goldschmidt and Descalso drove in three runs a piece. The Dbacks avoid the sweep and, thanks to L.A. losing again, take over sole possession of first place in the National League West.

Mets 4, Marlins 3: Noah Syndergaard allowed three runs over seven innings and Jose Reyes and Michael Conforto each homered. The Mets take two of three. Imagine watching a Mets-Marlins game.

Braves 8, Brewers 7: The Braves blew an early lead and were outhit 19-9 on the day but they kept themselves in it and then clawed back on top via Ozzie Albies‘ tiebreaking homer in the seventh inning. Ronald Acuña and Dansby Swanson each hit two-run shots of their own. Atlanta takes two of three from the Brewers after taking two of three from the Nats. Not a bad week.

Indians 9, White Sox 7: Cleveland led 6-1 after two innings and Carlos Carrasco was outstanding, allowing a run on three hits over seven innings, striking out nine. Relievers Adam Cimber and Dan Otero tried to make it interesting in the eighth and ninth innings, allowing six runs between them, requiring Terry Fancona to bring in Cody Allen on a day when Cody Allen shoulda gotten a breather. Melky Cabrera homered and drove in three and Yandy Diaz and Jason Kipnis each knocked in a pair.

Mariners 4, Astros 3: Shut out through seven, the Astros rallied for three runs in the eighth and figured they had this one, but Ryon Healy figured differently, swatting a homer off of Hector Rondon with two out in the top of the ninth to force extras. In the tenth Dee Gordon singled off of Roberto Osuna and Mitch Haniger promptly doubled him in to give the M’s the lead and, ultimately, the win. The Mariners completed a four-game sweep of the Astros and now the AL West is a happy jumble, with Houston’s lead down to 2.5 games over Oakland, four over Seattle.

Rockies 4, Dodgers 3: The Rockies win on a walkoff walk drawn by Chris Iannetta. That’s not quite as exciting as the way they won on Saturday, via Ryan McMahon’s three-run walkoff homer, but no one in Colorado was complaining. The Rockies took three of four from L.A. All three of the losses were awarded to Dodgers relievers. Yeah, they’re already missing Kenley Jansen.

Athletics 8, Angels 7: Jed Lowrie homered and notched his 1,000th career hit as the A’s took their ninth win in the last 11 and moved to within two and a half games of the slumping Astros. The A’s led by five after five innings and almost saw the Angels come back, but they fell short.

Astros sweep as Twins lose 18th straight in playoffs

Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
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MINNEAPOLIS — Shaken up by a scandal before the virus outbreak shrunk the season, the Houston Astros barely played well enough to reach the playoffs – with the rest of baseball actively rooting against them.

Well, they’re not ready to leave yet.

Carlos Correa hit a two-out, tiebreaking home run in the seventh inning for the Astros, who produced another stifling pitching performance and swept Minnesota over two games with a 3-1 victory Wednesday that sent the Twins to a record 18th straight postseason loss.

“I know a lot of people are mad. I know a lot of people don’t want to see us here,” Correa said. “But what are they going to say now?”

Nine months after Houston’s rules-breaking, sign-stealing system was revealed, the Astros advanced to the Division Series in Los Angeles. As the sixth seed, they’ll face the Oakland Athletics or Chicago White Sox in a best-of-five matchup starting Monday at Dodger Stadium.

“I don’t think they necessarily thought that they had anything to prove. They just had to play ball,” said manager Dusty Baker, who took his fifth different team to the playoffs and advanced for the first time in seven rounds since winning the 2003 NL Division Series with the Chicago Cubs.

The Twins are 0-18 in the playoffs since winning Game 1 of their Division Series at the New York Yankees on Oct. 5, 2004, a total of seven rounds lost. Since that date, the Astros are 43-35 in postseason play, winning 10 of 15 rounds with three trips to the World Series.

Kyle Tucker hit two RBI singles for the Astros and made a key throw from left field for the inning-ending out in the fifth.

Rookie Cristian Javier worked three hitless innings in relief for the victory in his postseason debut and Ryan Pressly pitched a perfect ninth against his former team, giving the Houston bullpen a total of 9 2/3 scoreless innings in this wild card series with three hits allowed.

“From the very beginning, we envisioned ourselves back in the playoffs and playing real well,” Tucker said. “So we never counted ourselves out at any point.”

Nobody on this Twins team has had a hand in more than six of the playoffs losses, but for the second straight year one of baseball’s most potent lineups limped through a brief postseason cameo. In a three-game division series sweep by the Yankees last year, the Twins totaled seven runs and 22 hits. Against the Astros, they mustered only two runs and seven hits.

“We put a lot of balls in play, it seemed like, but they were up in the air and, yeah, it seemed like we played into their trap,” said Max Kepler, one of four starters who went hitless in the series. “At the end of the day, we didn’t get the job done.”

Nelson Cruz gave the Twins an RBI double for a second straight game, this time in the fourth inning against starter Jose Urquidy. Luis Arraez aggressively tried to score from first base, but Correa took the throw from Tucker and fired home to beat Arraez to the plate to preserve the tie after third base coach Tony Diaz waved him in.

“I don’t know why he sent him,” Correa said.

Then in the seventh against losing pitcher Cody Stashak, Correa drove a 1-0 slider into the tarp-covered seats above right-center field for his 12th home run in 52 playoff games.

After winning 101, 103 and 107 games in the last three regular seasons, winning the 2017 World Series and losing the championship in seven games to the Washington Nationals last year, the Astros stumbled through the 2020 season at 29-31 under Baker and new general manager James Click with a slew of injuries after the COVID-19 pandemic cut the schedule to 60 games.

They had the third-worst road record in the major leagues, too, but none of that mattered this week against the third-seeded Twins, who were out of sorts in their two biggest games this year.

Jose Berrios was one of the few who were locked in with five strong innings to start, with just two hits allowed. His two walks were costly, though, issued right before Tucker’s single in the fourth.

“I don’t think anyone was ready to leave, to end this way,” Cruz said. “That’s life.”

KIRILLOFF FOR BUXTON

Already missing third baseman Josh Donaldson, the Twins held another one of their most valuable players out: center fielder Byron Buxton. Baldelli declined to confirm whether Buxton was experiencing a recurrence of concussion symptoms that kept him out of the last two regular season games. Buxton was picked off first base after pinch running for Cruz in the eighth.

Kepler moved to center, and Alex Kirilloff – the 2016 first-round draft pick – played right field to become the first Twins player in history to make his major league debut in a postseason game. Kirilloff singled in the fourth. With the bases loaded in the first, he flied out to end the inning.

FEELING BLUE

Both teams took issue with plate umpire Manny Gonzalez’s strike zone, with Astros slugger George Springer the first to visibly complain. After being called out on strikes in the fourth, Springer barked, “No way, man!” multiple times on his way back to the dugout.

Then in the sixth, the Twins lost left fielder Eddie Rosario to ejection after he argued a called strike two that would’ve given him a walk if it were called a ball. After swinging and missing at strike three, Rosario yelled again and was quickly tossed.

First base umpire Tim Timmons missed consecutive calls in the eighth inning on grounders by the Astros when he called the runners safe. Both were reversed to outs after replay review.

UP NEXT

The Astros, who have reached the AL Championship Series in each of the last three years, will play Monday against either the A’s or the White Sox. RHP Lance McCullers Jr. is the only member of their regular season rotation who did not pitch in Minnesota.

The Twins enter the offseason with 10 players set to become free agents, including the 40-year-old Cruz who led the team in home runs and batting average (among players with a qualifying amount of at-bats) for a second straight season. Their 2021 opener is scheduled for April 1 at Milwaukee.