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And That Happened: Thursday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Phillies 2, Nationals 0: I wrote this one up yesterday afternoon, but the upshot was that Aaron Nola was dominant, he out-pitched Max Scherzer and he threw a speedball by Bryce Harper, made him look like a fool. A big win for Philly, who risked falling even farther behind the Braves because . . .

Braves 5, Marlins 0: . . . they took care of their business against the Marlins in dominating fashion. Sean Newcomb allowed only two hits in six shutout innings. Charlie Culberson hit a two-run homer, Ender Inciarte went deep. Oh, and Ronald Acuña went deep against the Marlins again too — he just keeps doing that — and, of course, a Marlins pitcher plunked him again because they’re whiny baby-men who can’t stand it that a 20-year-old owns them like Chipper owned the Mets. I’d say if Acuña ever has kids he should do what Chipper did and name them after the Marlins’ park, but it’s such a sad sack franchise that the park isn’t named after anyone and doesn’t even have commercial naming rights. Just “Marlins Park,” which they had to do so people don’t show up at the wrong place.

Red Sox 7, Indians 0: After dropping two the Sox came back and win two to earn the split in the possible playoff preview. Six of Boston’s seven runs came in the fifth inning when three dudes — Blake Swihart, Xander Bogaerts and Eduardo Nunez — each hit two-run doubles. David Price, meanwhile, tossed eight shutout innings. He’s been pretty amazing lately, by the way, which probably kills a lot of Boston columnist’s ideas about playoff previews with headlines like “should Price be on the postseason roster?” or “David Price: weak link,” because from what I’ve seen they love to kill Price in Boston.

Tigers 7, White Sox 2: Matt Boyd with the classic Number of the Beast game, allowing six hits and striking out six while tossing six shutout innings. The Tigers lineup certainly made James Shields Run to the Hills, lighting him up for seven runs on ten hits, with Nick Castellenos, Mike Mahtook and Ronny Rodriguez all going deep.

Giants 3, Mets 1: Madison Bumgarner and Jacob deGrom faced off and they did not disappoint. The former outdueled the latter, allowing one run on five hits over eight innings while the latter allowed two — one earned — on four hits over six. Bumgarner also hit an RBI double and Evan Longoria homered.

Rockies 4, Padres 3: San Diego took a 3-2 lead into the bottom of the ninth and had Kirby Yates on the mound trying to close it out. He didn’t. After striking out Nolan Arenado and allowing Trevor Story to reach on a single he got Gerardo Parra for out number two. Then up came Ian Desmond who deposited Yates’ second pitch — a splitter that didn’t split — over the left field wall for a walkoff homer.

Rays 4, Royals 3: Another walkoff win, this one via a bases-loaded grounder which Ryan O’Hearn threw away while trying to get the lead runner at home. Royals gonna Royal. That means 4-0 sweep for the Rays and a 7-0 season series sweep against Kanas City. It also gives the Rays the same record as the Los Angeles Dodgers. Which, in my view, says a whole lot more about the Dodgers right now than the Rays, but you wouldn’t know it from my Twitter mentions, which I woke up to discover were laden with Rays fans taunting me because they think I was one of those people who thought Tampa Bay would lose 100 games or something this year.

Welp, sorry to disappoint you, Rays fans. Here’s my Rays preview from March. As with most teams, I noted that if things went sideways things could be ugly, but I also assessed the team as having a chance for a low-80s win total. At the moment they’re on pace for 85 wins. How very, very hater-like of me! So much doomsaying!

Eventually they’ll either tire of bugging me or else they’ll figure out that my actual criticism of the Rays was criticism of ownership for cutting payroll and playing for the future rather than add to what was a decent team last year in an effort to make them a truly competitive team this year. As it is, they’ve played over their heads and are still nine games out of a Wild Card slot. Maybe a move or two would’ve had them in the playoff picture. I don’t think that’s too much for any fan to ask.

Cubs 7, Reds 1: Cole Hamels tossed a complete game, giving up only one run on eight hits, and Javier Baez hit a homer that went nearly 500 dang feet while going 3-for-5 and Anthony Rizzo hit a two-run homer and knocked in three. Hamels has a 0.79 ERA in five starts as a Cub, by the way. Everyone cited his weird home/road splits when he was with Texas and I tend to be skeptical of that being a thing that predicts future success or failure, but maybe he really did just hate pitching in Arlington.

Twins 6, Athletics 4: A two-run, pinch-hit double by Mitch Garver put Minnesota up 4-2 in the fourth inning, Joe Mauer added an RBI single to knock Garver in and the Twins didn’t look back. Well, Max Kepler homered, but he was probably looking ahead of him when he did that. It’s hard enough to homer as it is, you know. The A’s lose their second game in a row, which has not happened to them very much lately.

This Day in Transaction History: Phillies acquire John Kruk from Padres

John Kruk
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John Kruk is one of the more underrated hitters in baseball history. Kruk, who is currently a broadcaster for the Phillies, had a 10-year career during which he hit exactly 100 homers, batted exactly .300, and posted an excellent .397 on-base percentage. In baseball history, there are only 32 members of the admittedly arbitrary 100/.300/.395+ club. Kruk is one of only 10 members of the club that played after 1963. The others: Mike Trout, Joey Votto, Todd Helton, Chipper Jones, Manny Ramírez, Frank Thomas, Larry Walker, Edgar Martinez, and Wade Boggs. Of them, five are Hall of Famers. Trout and Votto will be, and Helton and Ramírez should be.

On this day in 1989, the Phillies made a franchise-altering trade, acquiring Kruk along with infielder Randy Ready from the Padres in exchange for outfielder Chris James. The Padres had just swept the Phillies at home and were hoping to jump into the playoff race. They immediately went into a losing skid, but caught fire at the end of the season, finishing 89-73. However, that wasn’t good enough as the Giants won the NL West with a 92-70 record. James was solid for the Padres, posting a .743 OPS with 11 homers and 46 RBI in 87 games.

Kruk had an interesting but brief major league career with the Padres. His roommate, Roy Plummer, was an armed robber. Kruk was completely unaware of this. In spring training of 1988, the FBI informed Kruk of his roommates’ activities. Kruk feared retribution from Plummer and said that the anxiety affected his baseball performance. In 1988, Kruk batted what was for him a poor .241/.369/.362 with nine homers and 44 RBI over 466 plate appearances.

The Phillies didn’t enjoy immediate success upon Kruk’s arrival in 1989. The club finished the season with a losing record and would do the same in the ensuing three seasons. None of it was Kruk’s fault, though: in aggregate, from 1990-92, he hit .303/.393/.459, earning two All-Star nominations. In this span of time, the only other first basemen to hit above .300 were Frank Thomas, Paul Molitor, Hal Morris, and Rafael Palmeiro. The Padres had used Kruk both in the corner outfield and at first base, but the Phillies made him a full-time first baseman, which turned out to be a good move.

In 1993, everything came together for the Phillies and Kruk had what was arguably the greatest season of his career. He hit .316, which was actually seven points below his average the previous year, but he drew 111 walks to push his on-base percentage up to .430. Kruk hit third in the lineup, creating plenty of RBI opportunities for Dave Hollins in the clean-up spot, Darren Daulton at No. 5, and the trio of Jim Eisenreich, Pete Incaviglia, and Wes Chamberlain in the No. 6 spot. The Phillies shocked the world in ’93, winning the NL East by three games over the Expos with a 97-65 record. They then dispatched the Braves in six games in the NLCS to advance to the World Series against the Blue Jays.

Kruk was productive in the NLCS, contributing six hits including a pair of doubles, a triple, a home run, four walks, five RBI, and four runs scored. But he turned things up a notch in the World Series, registering multi-hit performances in the first three games. He would finish the World Series with eight hits in 23 at-bats along with seven walks, four RBI, and four runs scored. The World Series was winnable for the Phillies as they lost a barnburner Game 4 15-14, and of course, dropped the deciding Game 6 on a World Series-clinching walk-off three-run home run by Joe Carter off of Mitch Williams.

1994 was tough on Kruk in many ways. He was diagnosed with testicular cancer in spring training. Knee issues continued to bother him, and then Major League Baseball had a work stoppage. In an abbreviated season, Kruk hit a still-productive .823 OPS. He became a free agent and, when baseball came back, he signed with the White Sox. In the first inning of a July 30 game against the Orioles in ’95, Kruk singled to left field off of Scott Erickson. He reached first base, bowed to the fans, and walked off the field into retirement. Kruk told the media, “The desire to compete at this level is gone. When that happens, it’s time to go.”

Kruk has spent his post-playing days working in sports media as both a broadcaster (Phillies, ESPN nationally) and as a commentator (The Best Damn Sports Show Period, Baseball Tonight). The Phillies inducted him into their Wall of Fame in August 2011. One wonders if Kruk hadn’t been bit by the injury bug, and if there hadn’t been a work stoppage, if he might have been able to accrue some more numbers to have a borderline Hall of Fame case. Regardless, he’ll go down as one of the games’ quietly great hitters.