Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:
Brewers 11, Cubs 1: And then the Cubs’ lead in the NL Central was only three. Wade Miley allowed one run on three hits and didn’t walk anyone over six innings of work while the Brewers totaled 11 on 11 hits and drew nine walks on the evening. Lorenzo Cain walked four times himself, actually, and reached base five times. Milwaukee has won five of their last six meetings with the Cubs. They play one more game tonight and meet up for a three-game set next Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, so stay freakin’ tuned.
Cardinals 11, Nationals 8: St. Louis led 4-0 early, blew that lead, retook the lead and headed into the top of the ninth inning up 7-5. That the Nats scored three runs in the bottom of the ninth would’ve been worrisome for them if it had not been for the fact that Yadier Molina hit a dang grand slam in the top of the ninth. Yes, I sort of described that backwards to make it seem more dramatic than it was, but time is just an arbitrary construct people. There is no future. There is no past. Do you see? Time is simultaneous, an intricately structured jewel that humans insist on viewing one edge at a time, when the whole design is visible in every facet.
Pirates 7, Reds 3: Joe Musgrove took a shutout into the seventh inning. He and the Pirates didn’t take it out of the seventh inning but since Starling Marte hit a two-run homer and Gregory Polanco had a two-run double and the Buccos had a 6-0 lead heading into that frame it didn’t really matter.
Rays 4, Blue Jays 0: Seven Rays pitchers combined for a three-hit shutout, striking out ten. Which is a tremendous team accomplishment that, admittedly, I still do not know how to process as a baseball fan beyond intellectually appreciating it as effective and a key to the win. I’m going to talk about that for a long time now. If you’re not up for a big philosophical rant, skip down to the Indians-Royals recap.
My particular approach to taking in a baseball game as a narrative or aesthetic experience is and always has been about seeing it as a battle between starting pitchers. Yes, there are 48 other players in the park on a given night and what they do is important and can be exciting, but I think of games first and foremost as competitions between the starters which unfold as the innings wear on. Who starts strong and who doesn’t. Who breaks first, who makes adjustments or gets out of jams. Who gets tired, who finds that extra gear. My favorite games, invariably, are ones where the starters go pretty deep and, at the end of the game you can frame your particular story about the game as “Smith beat Jones” or “Johnson was good but Williams was better” or something like that. It’s just what I like and how I’ve always processed the game.
While increased bullpen use over the years has forced me to rein in my expectations about such things — I now get super jazzed if a starter comes out for the seventh inning instead of comes out for the ninth — the choice to view games through such a prism still, generally, holds up. Bullpenning, however, breaks that prism. Breaks it pretty definitively.
To be clear, I’m not saying it’s bad or it’s illegitimate or anything like that. I’ve taken a lot of heat from Rays fans lately because of some stuff I wrote about them back in the offseason, so I want to be clear when I write this that (a) the bullpenning stuff was not and is not a part of my criticism of the Rays front office; and (b) a baseball team has no other obligation as important as winning baseball games, so how they do it is, with few exceptions, less important than that they do it. Teams gotta win games. The Rays have found that this works for them. There wasn’t a damn person on that Rays roster last night who was going to come out and throw a three-hit shutout, so if Kevin Cash could get seven guys to Voltron-up and do it, more power to him. None of this should be construed as a criticism of the Rays.
I’m merely saying that I, as an old guy who has processed baseball a certain way for 40 years, have to figure out how to process this kind of thing. Not as an analyst — that’s easy, it’s still just baseball — but as a consumer of a sport that, when I’m not required to analyze it, I take in like art or a novel or a performance of some kind, importing my own aesthetic preferences into it and extracting benefits from it that are more emotional than they are quantifiable. When it comes to that level of experiencing baseball, I don’t know how to contextualize a bullpen win like this one. I don’t know what to think of it as an aesthetic thing and, as such, it leaves me something less than satisfied.
What I am not going to do if, as is likely the case, more teams attempt this approach and bullpenning becomes commonplace, is make bold, negative and opinionated assertions about it, which is what most people tend to do when presented with aesthetic experiences that are not in keeping with their preferences and habits. I won’t throw fruit or fume or riot like the crowd in Paris did when Stravinsky and Nijinsky debuted The Rite of Spring. I won’t shake my head in disgust and lecture about what real music is like my parents did the first time they heard Run-DMC coming out of my bedroom. I don’t know if bullpenning is the start of something big or a weird ideological cul-de-sac that we’ll all forget about in a few years, but I do know that people often scoff and judge when new things appear and, as such, more and more people will scoff and judge bullpenning the more common it becomes. We shouldn’t do that with art and we shouldn’t do it with baseball as long as the new things that appear accomplish the goal the innovators set out to accomplish.
But, just like I never would’ve expected fans of traditional ballet to love modern dance or my dad to get into Wu-Tang or something, I do not have to force myself to enjoy bullpenning or pretend that I like it when I really don’t. Again, as an aesthetic experience, not as an intellectual one. Indeed, I sort of doubt I will come around to it. I’ll still appreciate a team that can spin a three-hit shutout with seven pitchers and understand that that’s good, but seeing six or seven pitchers in a nine inning game still makes it feel like a spring training game to me. I’ll analyze it fairly and properly and give all the credit that is due — and all of the criticism it is due as well — but I doubt I’ll ever love it or enjoy it on the level I enjoy a starting pitcher who guts out seven or eight innings, allowing two or three runs and standing in line for the win. If you like it, that’s wonderful. You should like what you like. But it’s just not for me.
Indians 9, Royals 3: Cleveland scored six runs in the first two innings and Royals starter Danny Duffy left with a shoulder injury in the middle of all of that so, yeah, that was kind of a nightmare game for Kansas City. Mike Clevinger, meanwhile, allowed one run over six innings and struck out 10 while Francisco Lindor and Yandy Diaz homered and tripled in a run. The Indians ended a three-game losing streak and reduced their magic number for the AL Central title to 10.
Phillies 9, Marlins 4: Philly snapped a three-game losing streak as well, thanks to a fast start of their own. Carlos Santana homered and the Phillies put up four runs in the first. That was not quite enough for Jake Arrieta, who gave up four runs while striking out 11, but they had him covered by the second inning when they put up two more. It was Arrieta’s first win since July 31.
Red Sox 5, Braves 1: The Phillies picked up a game on the Braves who fell again to the Red Sox. Rick Porcello and four relievers combined to allow one run on four hits and Steve Pearce had three hits and three RBI. Braves pitchers walked nine — five by starter Sean Newcomb — and that’s just no way to go through life, son.
Tigers 8, White Sox 3: Mikie Mahtook hit a two-run homer, Grayson Greiner drove in three and Dawel Lugo also had a two-run double as the Tigers cruised. Most of you know Mahtook but I wonder what percentage of you could’ve said which team the other two played for if I had just listed their names by themselves and had you guess. Probably not many. Hell, I doubt I could’ve and I (a) do this for a living; and (b) am married to a Tigers fan. Ah, the joys of rebuilding.
Astros 5, Twins 2: Yuli Gurriel hit a two-run homer in the Astros’ four-run first inning and Alex Bregman hit three doubles as Houston wins its fourth in a row and extends its lead in the West to three and a half games over the A’s, who fell to the Yankees. Justin Verlander allowed one run on three hits while striking out eight over seven innings of work. Verlander has now been with the Astros just over a year and has 35 regular season starts in a Houston uniform, which is about as full a season a starter ever has these days. In those 35 starts he’s 19-9 with a 2.47 ERA (ERA+ 161) and has 291 strikeouts to 39 walks in 222 innings.
Rockies 6, Giants 2: David Dahl and Ryan McMahon homered — McMahon’s was a pinch-hit job — and Carlos Gonzalez tripled with the bases loaded. The Rockies put up a five-run seventh inning in this one and held on to their slim, half-game lead in the NL West. Which is, itself, an accomplishment. According to the Associated Press gamer, this is the first time the Rockies have held a lead in the division in September or October since 1995.
Diamondbacks 6, Padres 0: Robbie Ray pitched two-hit shutout ball into the seventh, striking out ten. It was close when he left — the Snakes held a 2-0 lead, but they put up four runs in the seventh inning. Francisco Mejia made his Padres debut as a pinch-hitter, going 0-for-1.
Yankees 5, Athletics 1: J.A. Happ was solid for the Yankees, giving up one run over six, Luke Voit hit a tiebreaking homer in the seventh and Adeiny Hechavarria homered late as well. In other news, any of you who thought that the Yankees would be playing J.A. Happ, Luke Voit and Adeiny Hechavarria in September games while the club was still on pace for 100 wins this season are lying liars.
Dodgers 11, Mets 4: Rich Hill and the Dodgers were down 4-0 after three innings but turned things around with five between the third and fourth inning and a six-run seventh to win this one quite easily in the end. Austin Barnes homered and drove in three. David Freese went deep for L.A. as well. The same things I said about Happ, Voit and Hechavarria playing for a contending Yankees team in September go for Freese and the Dodgers.
Orioles 5, Mariners 3: Seattle wasted an excellent performance from Wade LeBlanc (6 IP, 0 ER), lost to the worst team in baseball thanks to allowing them to rally for four runs in the seventh, with all of this taking place in front of their smallest crowd of the year on a night when there was a fight in their own clubhouse. Some folks gotta hit rock bottom before they can improve themselves. The problem is that there just isn’t enough time for the Mariners to do that in 2018. As such, all this is just the signature evening of a collapse, for lack of a better term. A season in which they were in first place at one point but which ended ignominiously.