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And That Happened: Thursday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Rockies 10, Diamondbacks 3: Kyle Freelandwho, as Bill wrote last night is someone you should know better — picked up his 15th win while helping his own cause by doubling in a run. Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story homered. Arenado reached the 100 RBI plateau with his. In so doing the Rockies take three of four from Arizona, holding on to their one-and-a-half-game lead over the Dodgers in the NL West — two in the loss column — and shoving the fading Dbacks four and a half back. Arizona is 3-12 in September.

Mets 4, Marlins 3; Mets 5, Marlins 2Michael Conforto and Todd Frazier hit back-to-back homers with two outs in the ninth inning to give New York a walkoff 4-3 victory in the first game. Before that the Mets only had two hits in the whole game, though one of them was a homer from starter Steven Matz. In the nightcap Conforto knocked in three more runs and rookie Tomas Nido hit his first career homer. The Mets took three of four in the series and have won nine of 12 overall.

Cubs 4, Nationals 3: A makeup game that the Cubs have been complaining about having to play for some time carried with it some good news and some bad news. The good news: Cubs win, with Javier Baez bunting in a run in the top of the 10th:

Despite what the announcer said there, it was not Joe Maddon’s call. Baez decided to bunt for himself. The runner who scored — Kris Bryant — didn’t even know it was coming. Baez also homered and drove in three runs overall, pushing himself ahead of Trevor Story for the league lead in RBI, 103-102 and keeping himself in the thick of the MVP race.

The bad news for Chicago: reliever Pedro Strop batted for himself in that 10th inning and then strained a hamstring running to first base while trying to beat a double play ball. Losing Strop — as the Cubs are likely to for at least a couple of weeks given how hamstring injuries go — is a huge blow. He’s been closing for them since Brandon Morrow went down to injury and has been doing a fine job of it. Now he’s likely out at least until the playoffs start.

Mariners 8, Angels 2: Nelson Cruz hit a three-run homer and he, Mitch HanigerRobinson Cano and Kyle Seager each had two hits as the M’s eliminate the Angels from playoff contention. Not that they were, practically speaking, in playoff contention of course. We just keep track of such things, much like Astinus — the worldly form of Gilean, God of Neutrality — who watches over the Great Library of Palanthas and scribes all history as it happens.

Wait, what?

Red Sox 4, Blue Jays 3: The Blue Jays rallied for two runs to tie the game up in the top of the eighth and then they coughed up a run to Boston when second baseman Yangervis Solarte dropped a popup which allowed Xander Bogaerts to score from third base to give the Sox the lead and, eventually, the game. Rafael Devers homered as Boston increased its lead in the AL East to ten and a half games and reduced its magic number for clinching the division to six.

Orioles 5, Athletics 3: The A’s had a six-game winning streak and the Orioles had a six-game losing streak coming into this one. Streaks: ended. Dylan Bundy allowed two runs on six hits and struck out eight in six innings. Tim Beckham hit a two-run single and John Andreoli and Breyvic Valera each knocked in a run as well. Jace Peterson knocked in the final O’s run with an RBI double and the O’s pen squelched a would-be eighth inning rally for Oakland.

Dodgers 9, Cardinals 7Manny Machado homered, drove in three runs and made a nifty barehand play at short as well. David Freese had a big hit against his old mates, tripling in two runs in the first inning and helping Los Angeles build an early 8-1 lead. The Cards came back late, bringing the tying run to the plate in the ninth inning, but a less-than-dominant Kenley Jansen closed it out. Pretty? Nah. But L.A. pulled to within one game of the second Wild Card slot, currently held by St. Louis. Three more games to go in this series.

Royals 6, Twins 4Heath Fillmyer allowed four runs but pitched into the eighth inning and the Royals came back from a small early deficit thanks to back-to-back homers from Sal Perez and Jorge Bonafacio in the sixth. Play of the game, though, was made by a non-roster participant:

Often when such plays happen the announcer will joke “sign that guy to a contract!” Given the state of the Royals these days it’d likely only be a partial joke. Like, no, the Royals wouldn’t sign him, but I’m not willing to say that a low level intern was not at least asked to, you know, do some quick checking on the guy’s high school stats or what have you.

Nats’ success shouldn’t be about Bryce Harper

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Bryce Harper turns 27 years old today. As an early birthday present, he got to watch his former team reach the World Series for the first time in franchise history. His new team finished exactly at .500 in fourth place, missing the playoffs. These were facts that did not go unnoticed as the Nationals completed an NLCS sweep of the Cardinals at home last night.

Harper spent seven seasons with the Nationals before hitting free agency and ultimately signing with the Phillies on a 13-million, $330 million contract. The Nationals offered Harper a 10-year, $300 million contract at the end of the 2018 regular season, but about $100 million of that was deferred until he was 65 which lowered the present-day value of the offer. The Nats’ offer wasn’t even in the same ballpark, really.

Nevertheless, Nationals fans were upset that their prodigy jilted them to go to the Phillies. He was mercilessly booed whenever the Phillies played in D.C. Nats fans’ Harper jerseys were destroyed, or at least taped over.

Harper, of course, was phenomenal with the Nationals. He won the NL Rookie of the Year Award in 2012, then won the NL MVP Award several years later with an historically outstanding 1.109 OPS while leading the league with 42 homers and 118 runs scored. Overall, as a National, he had a .900 OPS. Pretty good. He was also productive in the postseason, posting an .801 OPS across 19 games, mostly against playoff teams’ best starters and best relievers. Furthermore, if the Nats had Harper this year, he would have been in right field in lieu of Adam Eaton. Harper out OPS’d Eaton by 90 points and posted 2.5 more WAR in a similar amount of playing time. The Nationals would have been even better if they had Harper this year.

The Nationals lost all four Division Series they appeared in during the Harper era. 3-2 to the Cardinals in 2012, 3-1 to the Giants in ’14, 3-2 to the Dodgers in ’16, and 3-2 to the Cubs in ’17. They finally get over the hump the first year they’re without Harper, that’s the difference, right? I saw the phrase “addition by subtraction” repeatedly last night, referring to Harper and the Nats’ subsequent success without him.

Harper, though, didn’t fork over four runs to the Cardinals in the top of the ninth inning in Game 5 in 2012. He didn’t allow the Dodgers to rally for four runs in the seventh inning of Game 5 in ’16 before ultimately losing 4-3. He didn’t use a gassed Max Scherzer in relief in 2017’s Game 5, when he allowed five of the seven Cubs he faced to reach base, leading to three runs which loomed large in a 9-8 loss. If certain rolls of the dice in those years had gone the Nationals’ way, they would have appeared in the NLCS. They might’ve even been able to win a World Series.

The Nationals saw how that looks this year. It was the opposing manager this time, Dave Roberts, who mismanaged his bullpen. Howie Kendrick then hit a tie-breaking grand slam in the 10th inning off of Joe Kelly to win the NLDS for the Nats. The playoffs are random. Sometimes a ball bounces your way, sometimes an umpire’s call goes your way, and sometimes the opposing manager makes several unforced errors to throw Game 5 in your lap.

Reaching the World Series, then thumbing your nose while sticking out your tongue at Harper feels like a guy tagging his ex-girlfriend on his new wedding photos. It’s time to move on.