And That Happened: Thursday’s Scores and Highlights

Associated Press
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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Red Sox 11, Yankees 6: The Red Sox clinch the AL East and they do it as Mookie Betts, I presume, clinches the AL MVP Award. He has a strong case for it on the merits, but his three-run homer in the eighth in the division-clinching game, in a week in which he was hobbled by an injury, are the sprinkles the voters like to see on top of that MVP cake. (See Jones, Chipper, 1999). Jackie Bradley and Brock Holt each hit homers as well. Giancarlo Stanton hit a grand slam in a losing cause. The Yankees loss also drops them to a mere game and a half above the A’s for the top Wild Card slot because . . .

Athletics 21, Angels 3: . . . Oakland romped in a game that was . . . something less than competitive. Marcus Semien had three hits and drove in five while Stephen Piscotty homered and drove in four. Angels Catcher Francisco Arcia pitched the last two innings. He gave up three runs but he also hit a homer, which I’ll call a “net two” in my wholly invented plus/minus system for two-way players. That made him better than three of the other Angels pitchers yesterday, none of whom had the chance —  or the guts! — to bat. Look for the Calcaterra Plus/Minus System to be adopted widely in the coming years. It’ll come in handy literally tens of times. Maybe.

Blue Jays 9, Rays 8: The Rays led this one 9-2 heading into the bottom of the ninth, but Jaime Schultz and Sergio Romo could not hold that lead, giving up three home runs in the final frame, including Justin Smoak‘s walkoff blast. Danny Jansen hit a three-run shot in the ninth and Lourdes Gurriel hit a two-run shot. As I noted the other day, Tampa Bay has been surging in the past month or so. Surging so much that they had even entered the fringes of the Wild Card discussion, pulling to within five and a half games as of yesterday morning. This gut-punch loss, however, drops them back to six and a half back with ten games to play.

Braves 8, Phillies 3Kevin Gausman allowed three runs in six and a third innings and Lucas Duda hit a pinch-hit double to drive in the go-ahead run in the seventh inning and give Atlanta the win. Coming into yesterday’s action, the Braves led the Phillies by five and a half. Daunting, but since the two teams had seven matchups against one another in the season’s final eleven days, Philly had a puncher’s chance. They needed to win most of these matchups and otherwise hold serve, but it could be done. Now, one day later, it’s that much harder. Indeed, If Atlanta takes two of three this weekend, it’s all over.

Mets 5, Nationals 4: The Mets blew an early three-run lead, built thanks to homers from Michael Conforto and Jay Bruce. Max Scherzer settled down after that, however, and ended up striking out 13 Mets in seven innings of work. The Nationals still trailed but came back from a two-run deficit in the eighth inning to force extras. That’s all the scoring they’d do, though, and their old friend Jose Lobaton hit a go-ahead sacrifice fly in the top of the 12th to give New York the win. Between him, Dusty Baker and a bunch of relievers they case off, the Nationals have a whole army of departed Force Ghosts watching them from the sidelines like Yoda and Obi-Wan watched Luke. Except, of course, they’re watching the Nationals face plant as opposed to triumph.

White Sox 5, Indians 4Matt Davidson hit a run-scoring single with two out in the 11th to give the White Sox the win. Sox reliever Hector Sanchez pitched three scoreless innings to end the game. It was the White Sox’ first win in Cleveland this year in nine tries.

Tigers 11, Royals 8: Christin Stewart hit two homers — career homers number one and number two — drew a bases-loaded walk and drove in six in all. It was the most RBI a Tigers player has had in a game in 11 years. Given that those 11 years covered Miguel Cabrera‘s prime, that’s quite a trick. It was only Stewart’s 11th career game. He’ll remember it for the rest of his life.

Reds 4, Marlins 2: Cody Reed pitched six shutout innings — picking up his first win as a starter — and Scooter Gennett homered and doubled as the Reds take the first game of a four-game series in Miami. Question: will this be the least-attended four-game series in baseball this year? It’s gotta be in the top five.

Biden praises Braves’ ‘unstoppable, joyful run’ to 2021 win

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said the Atlanta Braves will be “forever known as the upset kings of October” for their improbable 2021 World Series win, as he welcomed the team to the White House for a victory celebration.

Biden called the Braves’ drive an “unstoppable, joyful run.” The team got its White House visit in with just over a week left before the 2022 regular season wraps up and the Major League Baseball playoffs begin again. The Braves trail the New York Mets by 1.5 games in the National League East but have clinched a wildcard spot for the MLB playoffs that begin Oct. 7. Chief Executive Officer Terry McGuirk said he hoped they’d be back to the White House again soon.

In August 2021, the Braves were a mess, playing barely at .500. But then they started winning. And they kept it up, taking the World Series in six games over the Houston Astros.

Biden called their performance of “history’s greatest turnarounds.”

“This team has literally been part of American history for over 150 years,” said Biden. “But none of it came easy … people counting you out. Heck, I know something about being counted out.”

Players lined up on risers behind Biden, grinning and waving to the crowd, but the player most discussed was one who hasn’t been on the team in nearly 50 years and who died last year: Hall of Famer Hank Aaron.

Hammerin’ Hank was the home run king for 33 years, dethroning Babe Ruth with a shot to left field on April 8, 1974. He was one of the most famous players for Atlanta and in baseball history, a clear-eyed chronicler of the hardships thrown his way – from the poverty and segregation of his Alabama youth to the racist threats he faced during his pursuit of one of America’s most hallowed records. He died in January at 86.

“This is team is defined by the courage of Hank Aaron,” Biden said.

McGuirk said Aaron, who held front office positions with the team and was one of Major League Baseball’s few Black executives, was watching over them.

“He’d have been there every step of the way with us if he was here,” McGuirk added.

The president often honors major league and some college sports champions with a White House ceremony, typically a nonpartisan affair in which the commander in chief pays tribute to the champs’ prowess, poses for photos and comes away with a team jersey.

Those visits were highly charged in the previous administration. Many athletes took issue with President Donald Trump’s policies and rhetoric on policing, immigration and more. Trump, for his part, didn’t take kindly to criticism from athletes or their on-field expressions of political opinions.

Under Biden, the tradition appears to be back. He’s hosted the NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks and Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the White House. On Monday he joked about first lady Jill Biden’s Philadelphia allegiances.

“Like every Philly fan, she’s convinced she knows more about everything in sports than anybody else,” he said. He added that he couldn’t be too nice to the Atlanta team because it had just beaten the Phillies the previous night in extra innings.

Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was later questioned about the team’s name, particularly as other professional sports teams have moved away from names – like the Cleveland Indians, now the Guardians, and the Washington Redskins, now the Commanders – following years of complaints from Native American groups over the images and symbols.

She said it was important for the country to have the conversation. “And Native American and Indigenous voices – they should be at the center of this conversation,” she said.

Biden supported MLB’s decision to pull the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta to protest Georgia’s sweeping new voting law, which critics contend is too restrictive.