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And That Happened: Sunday’s Scores and Highlights

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I won’t do an “And That Happened” after today’s game 163s, as they’ll each be entitled to their own stories, so this is it for the year.

It was my 11th year of doing daily recaps. It has always been and always will be my favorite thing I do each day. It’s the regular season boiled down to its essence: the cool stuff, the silly stuff, the important stuff and, of course, the unimportant stuff that, I’m not gonna lie, I love the most.

Today’s games count in the regular season standings and stats, but for all practical purposes, we’re now in the postseason. Which is great, because that’s the most important stuff that happens all year, but, if I’m being honest, it’s not what jazzes me the most about baseball. I dig the regular season the most. I probably always will.

So, for the last time of the regular season, here are the scores. And here are the highlights:

Rockies 12, Nationals 0: Charlie Blackmon hit for the cycle — his homer was a two-run shot — and drove in three runs in all. David Dahl and Nolan Arenado also knocked in three a piece and Tyler Anderson pitched shutout ball into the eighth as the Rockies routed Washington. That, combined with the Dodgers win, puts both teams at 91-71 and that means a tie and a tie-breaking game 163 today at 4PM Eastern time.

Oh, by the way: Arenado’s three driven in came courtesy of two homers, the second of which put him past Christian Yelich and Matt Carpenter for the NL lead. That’s not a big deal in the grand scheme of things but in addition to possibly giving him the home run crown, it could very well deprive Yelich of the triple crown. Today’s stats count for that.

Dodgers 15, Giants 0: A similar story in San Francisco, with Rich Hill tossing seven two-hit shutout innings, Matt Kemp driving in three and Brian Dozier, Max Muncy and Austin Barnes all going deep. Probably worth noting that there were not two more disappointing teams than the Nationals and Giants in the National League this season and each of them turned up supremely disappointing final weekend performances in order to give us this extra day of baseball today. So . . . thanks?

Cubs 10, Cardinals 5:  Anthony Rizzo picked up four hits and a walk and scored three times and Willson Contreras homered as the Cubs overcame an early deficit to win easily. Thanks to this and the Brewers’ win it’s a showdown for the NL Central crown at 1PM Eastern today. It was a nice second half run for the Cards, but they dug themselves too much of a hole early to make up for it. St. Louis missed out on the playoffs for a third straight year for the first time since 1997-99.

Brewers 11, Tigers 0: Gio Gonzalez tossed five shutout innings, Jesus Aguilar and Travis Shaw went deep and the Brewers, who were six games back in the NL Central at one point in late August, finished the slate of 162 tied with Chicago. As noted above, Yelich needs one homer today — and to hope that Nolan Arenado does not homer — and needs two more RBI than Javier Baez gets in today’s game to win the Triple Crown. Not likely, but certainly not impossible.

Orioles 4, Astros 0Jimmy YacabonisPaul Fry and Mychal Givens combined on a one-hitter. Which really is something the Orioles should’ve been doing all year. You know, calling the “toss a combined one-hitter against good teams” play. Maybe not totally easy given that, for the most part, the teams they were playing against had something to play for and weren’t just trying to stay healthy until the ALDS starts. In other news, Baltimore still lost more games than any team in the past 15 years.

Red Sox 10, Yankees 2: Win 108 for the Red Sox. It came courtesy of the Yankees keeping their powder dry for the Wild Card game, but a win is a win. I guess the Sox were keeping their powder dry too given that they went through eight pitchers. In the process, Mookie Betts ended his season as the AL batting champ and the likely MVP. J.D. Martinez won the RBI crown. Or is it a sash? I think the home run king gets a crown, the batting champ gets a sash and the RBI guy gets, like, maybe some cool cufflinks? I don’t know. Nobility is foreign to me. When the socialists take over baseball there will be no more batting crowns and home run kings. There will be collectives of 81-win teams, all happy for having played the game.

Phillies 3, Braves 1: Atlanta needed a win for a puncher’s chance at home field advantage in the NLDS but that didn’t happen. Eh, it’s all gravy. Home field in baseball matters less than in other sports. In other news, the Phillies were 15 games over .500 on August 5 and they end the season a game under .500. Atlanta now waits to see who wins today’s Dodgers-Rockies game and travels to the home town of the winner.

Angels 5, Athletics 4Taylor Ward hit a walkoff two-run homer in the ninth to give the Angels the win in what was Mike Scioscia’s final game as their manager. He’s had the gig since 2000. It’s rather stunning to think of how much time that is in baseball terms. A-Rod was still playing for the Mariners. Jason Giambi was playing for the A’s and leading baseball in OBP. A twenty-something Darin Erstad was leading the AL in hits and at-bats for Scioscia’s own Angels. As of now he has been a coach at Nebraska for over eight years. Tim Belcher was on that team for cryin’ out loud and he turns 57 years-old in a couple of weeks. I think it’s time for Scioscia to move on and for the Angels to head in a different direction, but MY GOD, it’s been a ride.

Pirates 6, Reds 5:  Pablo Reyes scored on Jackson Stephens‘ wild pitch in the top of the 10th inning giving the Pirates their winning margin. Starling Marte and Josh Bell homered for the Pirates who, though finishing well out of the playoff chase, made some moves this year that may position them for contention in the short to mid term. Meanwhile the Reds finish a season that, while seeing them lose 95 games, felt weirdly positive much of the time given how awfully they began it and how certain it seemed for a time that they’d lose well over 100. They still have a long way to go, but there are some green shoots emerging after a long figurative winter. Which should make the actual winter pretty interesting for them. And for the Pirates for that matter.

Mets 1, Marlins 0: Noah Syndergaard tossed a five-hit shutout to end the Mets season. A weird season to be sure. It started fast, went deep into the pits of hell, and then ended remarkably respectably, resulting in a seven-win improvement over 2017. Which is still somewhat disappointing, but there’s reason for hope with a 1-2-3 punch of Jacob deGrom, Syndergaard and Zack Wheeler next season. Now, if the front office will quit dicking around with blah moves on offense, New York could actually do something next season. We say such things every season, though, don’t we? And then they center their offseason on signing Jay Bruce or someone like him.

Padres 4, Diamondbacks 3: San Diego won on a walkoff dropped third strike:

Manuel Margot reached on a triple there, homered and stole a base on his 3-for-5 afternoon. What a way to end the season.

Rays 9, Blue Jays 4: The Rays, appropriately for their season, went with an opener and pitched a bullpen game in their final contest of the season. And they, appropriately, won it. For the year Tampa Bay went 46-38 with regular starters and 44-34 in bullpen games. That’s 90 wins for the year, which is much better than anyone thought they’d get. Here Ryan Yarbrough got the win. It was his 16th on the year, 14 of which came in relief. I’ve been arguing with Rays fans all year about whether 2018 was successful. Of course it was on one level. They won 90 games and that’s pretty darn good and for that you have to give Kevin Cash and his players a ton of credit. One wonders, though, what might’ve happened if they did not spend the offseason dumping salary. Were there seven more wins to be found, which would’ve put them in the postseason? Maybe, maybe not, but one would hope that they’d look to add like a winner adds this winter rather than repeat their reshuffling winter of 2017-18.

Indians 2, Royals 1: Carlos Carrasco picked up his 17th win with five innings of one-run work and Francisco Lindor hit his 38th homer on the year. More importantly, Trevor Bauer pitched four shutout innings in relief. It’ll be interesting to see how Terry Francona deploys Bauer in the postseason. No matter what he does, he figures to be an important weapon. Whit Merrifield got a hit to extend his hitting streak to 20 games, which will continue at the beginning of 2019. He finished the season with 192 hits and 45 stolen bases, leading the majors in both categories.

Mariners 3, Rangers 1: Having recapped every series involving every team for the entire season, I can tell you that the Mariners and Rangers have played each other ten times more than any other teams have played each other this season. I estimate, conservatively, that they met 180-190 times in the 2018 season. I realize that reference to the stats and the actual schedule will not show that, but those sources are wrong. I know better. They’ve played each other hundreds and hundreds of times, and this the last. As it went, Roenis Elias was sharp and the Rangers offense couldn’t get going, but it mattered little for anyone.

It mattered, however, for Adrian Beltre and every one of us who enjoyed his career, which is likely now over. And which will, without question, lead him to induction in Cooperstown a few years from now. He might decide to play next year, but most doubt it. Assuming most are right, here are his final moments on a baseball field:

Twins 5, White Sox 4: Joe Mauer hasn’t announced that he’s retiring either but he most likely is. To that end, the Twins gave him an unofficial goodbye, and it was a good one. They let him catch one last time:

This is what I was talking about above, by the way. This will matter not a bit come 1PM today, let alone a couple of weeks from now when we’re entering the stomach-turning portion of the postseason and everything is on the line. Here, though, a moment happened. A moment that will not change Joe Mauer’s legacy and will not change the history of baseball or even that of the Twins. But it was a moment that could be appreciated as it occurred and can be appreciated as we think of it now before it drifts away. And the moment was beautiful. Beautiful for what it was. Beautiful simply because it happened.

Enjoy the postseason, my friends. Even if part of us wants to jump ahead to next year when the days begin to unfold one after another in wonderful, relative meaninglessness once again.

Dodgers plan to tab Clayton Kershaw for Game 1 of World Series

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MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick reports that the Dodgers plan to tab ace Clayton Kershaw for Game 1 of the World Series. Nothing is set in stone yet ahead of Tuesday’s Game 1 of the World Series. In the event Kershaw can’t start Game 1, Rich Hill would start. Otherwise, Hill would start Game 4.

Kershaw, started Game 1 and Game 5 of the NLCS against the Brewers, then closed out Game 7 with a flawless inning. He was hit around to the tune of five runs (four earned) over three-plus innings in Game 1, but rebounded for seven innings of one-run ball in Game 5. He struck out two en route to sending the Dodgers to the World Series in the ninth inning of Game 7.

Kershaw also tossed eight shutout innings against the Braves in Game 2 of the NLDS. Overall, he has a 2.37 ERA in 19 innings this postseason. There was no doubt who would be the Dodgers’ first choice to start Game 1, but it’s a relatively recent situation where the ace of a team also closed out the final game of the previous series.

Hill has put up a 2.61 ERA in 10 1/3 innings this postseason. While he doesn’t have Kershaw’s pedigree, the Dodgers would be confident having him lead off the series. Hill was excellent down the stretch last year, helping the Dodgers reach Game 7 of the World Series against the Astros.

The Red Sox plan to start Chris Sale in Game 1 now that he’s recovered from a brief stint in the hospital due to a stomach ailment. The lefty has a 3.48 in 10 1/3 innings in the playoffs this year. He’s among a handful of candidates for the AL Cy Young award after posting a 2.11 ERA in the regular season, but his lack of innings (158) may hurt him.