And That Happened: Tuesday’s Scores and Highlights

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As I sit down to assess last night’s action, I am recalling how 27 or 28 teams had no real interest in pursuing Bryce Harper in free agency this past offseason. I am also recalling how many of y’all, every time we wrote something about Harper, rushed to the comments to tell us how he was overrated and just good, not great. That he was not likely the sort of player who could rise to the occasion and that Philly would eat him alive.

Anyway, he’s hitting .429/.556/1.214 with three homers two doubles and five RBI in four games, all against the two teams who figure to most directly stand in the way of the Phillies winning the division this year. Ain’t that a damn thing?

Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Phillies 8, Nationals 2: We covered the living heck out of Harper’s return to Washington last night, so if you want some good details and stuff those are the links to follow. Allow me to say, however, that the best part of the whole thing was, after Harper’s first inning strikeout, when the Nats Park crowd went crazy, Phillies play-by-play guy Tom McCarthy saying “well, the Nats haven’t won a championship since moving to D.C. but they are celebrating like they have won something.” The sickest burns are the most truthful burns.

Overall it was a very Nationals kind of night. Early enthusiasm — even the Nats’ Twitter feed thought it raised hell out of the gate — followed by disappointment late. It was all capped off, of course, by a big Harper homer . . .

. . . and a big Harper bat flip:

The Nationals’ will recover just fine after all of that. They’re a good team. And, indeed, the worst thing that happened last night wasn’t even Harper-related, it was Trea Turner breaking a finger on a bunt attempt. Note: Turner hit two home runs the game before that one and Dave Martinez had him bunting in a 0-0 contest. Does that make sense to you? Because it doesn’t make sense to me.

Diamondbacks 8, Padres 5: Have a game, Zack Greinke. The Dbacks’ ace allowed three runs over six and struck out ten and that was fine and all, but he also smacked two home runs. The first one was a a go-ahead three-run home run in the fourth inning. The second was a solo shot in the top of the sixth that had him going back-to-back with John Ryan Murphy. Watch:

After the first one his teammates jokingly gave him the silent treatment. Greinke later told reporters, “I told them it was the first time I wanted anyone to talk to me all year. And they didn’t want to talk to me then.” That’s a pretty on-brand quote for Greinke.

In other news, a weird call took place in the sixth when Manny Machado was called out on a dropped pop up for interfering with Murphy. Though they came close, Machado did not appear to touch Murphy as he went for the ball — he did drop the bat in Murphy’s vicinity, though Murphy didn’t touch it either — but the umpire said it was interference, which per the rules requires intentional and deliberate contact, neither of which seemed to go down. And, it’s worth noting, Machado was like five feet from Murphy when Murphy dropped the ball. Andy Green argued the call and was ejected and Machado seemed mostly perplexed. It was a weird call that did not otherwise seem to stir up acrimony — and I do not think would be called on any player other than Machado — but I suppose it’ll go into the “Machado is dirty” file so many folks are keeping.

Athletics 1, Red Sox 0: Chris Sale‘s velocity was low again — his fastball was in the high 80s most of the night — but he fought through it with breaking and offspeed stuff, allowing only one run over six. That one run — coming on a Matt Chapman solo homer in the first — was enough, though, thanks to (a) Matt Fiers and three relievers combining to shut out the World Series champs; and (b) this amazing, spectacular throw from Ramón Laureano to cut down Xander Bogaerts‘ in the top of the ninth:

Remember kids, even when you mess up, if you don’t panic, you can hustle and work hard to make the best of a bad situation and things might just turn out OK. At least if you have a hose like Laureano does. Also remember: don’t try to do too much. When life hands you a double, don’t get greedy and try to turn it into a triple. Especially if, like Bogaerts, you didn’t hustle out of the damn box.

Dodgers 6, Giants 5: The Dodgers jumped out to a 5-0 lead over Madison Bumgarner thanks mostly to a Cody Bellinger grand slam in the third inning. Bumgarner tried to make some of that up by hitting a homer himself in the sixth, and the Giants made a decent effort to come back, but it was just a tad too little and a tad too late. By the way: between Bumgarner and Greinke, last night there were three homers hit by pitchers. There were only two homers hit by designated hitters. Baseball is fun.

Rays 4, Rockies 0: Blake Snell gave up three home runs on Opening Day but he sure as heck turned things around in his second start of the season. The reigning Cy Young Award winner tied his career-high with 13 strikeouts in seven shutout innings while allowing only two hits in all. Both of the hits came from Trevor Story and one of those was an infield single. Utter dominance.

Orioles 2, Blue Jays 1: Birds win! Andrew Cashner bounced back from a bad Opening Day himself to shut down Toronto over six while Jonathan Villar and Trey Mancini knocked in the only two runs of support he’d need. After an Opening Day loss the O’s have taken four straight. All on the road. Break ’em up. They’re too dang good.

Brewers 4, Reds 3:  Orlando Arcia broke an 0-for-16 slump to hit a three-run homer to help the Brewers to a 5-1 start and yet another win over the Reds. Christian Yelich singled and doubled. Josh Hader got his fourth save in four save opportunities. The Brewers’ pen is a bit thinner at the moment than it’s been, but it’s stronger than ever in the ninth inning.

Tigers 3, Yankees 1: Tied 1-1 in the ninth and the Tigers get two runs off of Aroldis Chapman of all people, via an RBI double from Dustin Peterson — his first major league hit — and an RBI single from Jordy Mercer. The lead held up. Peterson could go 0-for-his-next-50, get DFA’d and never make the bigs again and he’ll always have a fantastic story to tell his kids and his grandchildren. It’s stuff like that that’ll make what figures to be a long season for the Tigers go a lot better.

Mets 6, Marlins 5: Jose Urena gave up five first inning runs and the Marlins, while getting to Jason Vargas a bit, couldn’t make it pay off well enough and couldn’t come back all the way late. Marlins catcher Jorge Alfaro was particularly unlucky, going 0-for-4 and stranding seven baserunners, including the potential tying run at third to end the eighth inning. Some nights the hits simply do not fall. Wilson Ramos and Dominic Smith each had two hits and an RBI for the Mets, who improved to 4-1.

Rangers 6, Astros 4: Justin Verlander didn’t have it, allowing four over four inefficient innings, and a late two-run single by Joey Gallo put Texas over the top. The Rangers have won three of their first five games and Gallo has had the go-ahead hit in two of them and scored the winning run in the third. Asdrubal Cabrera homered. The Rangers will miss the retired Adirán Beltré eventually, but so far Cabrera is doing a nice job filling in for the future Hall of Famer.

Twins 5, Royals 4: Nelson Cruz doubled in two and later hit the go-ahead single in the top of the 10th inning to lead the Twinkies to victory. He has six RBI in the last three games, so yeah, the old man is still an artist with the Thompson. Adalberto Mondesí hit an inside-the-park homer to break a 3-3 tie in the eighth:

As is the case with a lot of inside-the-parkers, a misplay or a weird bounce or an injury contributed. As you can see in the video, Byron Buxton hit the wall hard going for that one and was late recovering to get to it, helping Mondesi score. Buxton would later leave the game with bruised ribs, so that was less-than-ideal. Kansas City’s announced attendance as 10,024, the lowest at Kauffman Stadium since 9,279 souls showed up against Cleveland on April 21, 2011.

Mariners 2, Angels 1: Marco Gonzales was excellent, allowing only one run on four hits while pitching into the ninth inning. Mitch Haniger doubled in a run to put the M’s on the board in the sixth and Dan Vogelbach homered in the eighth to give Seattle the winning margin. Seattle improves to 7-1 on the season and the Angels fall to 1-7.

Nationals’ Soto youngest ever to win NL batting crown

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
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WASHINGTON — Juan Soto became the National League’s youngest batting champion, Trea Turner hit a grand slam and drove in seven runs, and the Washington Nationals closed out the season with a 15-5 victory over the New York Mets on Sunday.

Soto walked and singled before being lifted for a pinch hitter in the third inning, elevating his average to .351 and sealing the NL lead in the category during this pandemic-shortened 60-game season.

The 21-year-old Soto surpassed Brooklyn’s Pete Reiser for the youngest ever to take a batting crown. Reiser was 22 when he ended the 1941 season hitting a league-leading .343.

“For me, it doesn’t matter the age,” Soto said with a smile when informed of the feat’s historical significance. “If you deserve it, you deserve it.”

Soto held off Atlanta teammates Freddie Freeman (.341) and Marcell Ozuna (.338) and also finished 2020 with the major league-lead in on-base percentage (.490) and slugging percentage (.695).

Yan Gomes homered for Washington, which won seven of its last nine and closed the season on a three-game winning streak and caught the Mets in the NL East standings.

“These guys don’t quit,” Washington manager Dave Martinez said. “They play hard every day and you saw what they did the last nine games. I’m proud of them hanging in there.”

The Nationals finished 26-34 a year after winning their first World Series. The Nationals’ .433 winning percentage in the truncated season was the lowest for a defending champion since the 1998 Florida Marlins went 54-108 (.333).

New York slipped from 86-76 last season and third place in the NL East to 26-34 and tied for fourth in manager Luis Rojas’ first season. The Mets still held slim playoff hopes entering Saturday before dropping three in a row, and they would have secured a wild card had they won those games because of three-game slides by Philadelphia and San Francisco to end the season.

“We didn’t get it done,” Rojas said. “We needed to do it, and we didn’t do it. It was definitely all on us. It makes it a little bit more frustrating just seeing that part happened the way we wanted, but we didn’t execute what we needed to do.”

Pete Alonso homered twice for New York and finished with 16 after clubbing a rookie-record 53 last season. Guillermo Heredia added a solo shot for the Mets.

Washington right-hander Austin Voth (2-5) needed 36 pitches to escape the first but made it through five innings to close his season with back-to-back victories. Voth allowed four runs while striking out four.

The Nationals chased Mets starter Seth Lugo after 1 1/3 innings. Lugo (3-4) allowed six runs on five hits and two walks.

With Washington already leading 7-3, Turner busted the game open with a third-inning grand slam off reliever Steven Matz. It was Washington’s first grand slam of the season.

KENDRICK’S FUTURE

Washington and INF Howie Kendrick have a mutual option for 2021, and he has at least one prominent figure hopeful for his return.

“I’m holding onto his leg,” Martinez said. “He’s got a lot of discussions to have with his family and I told him we’ll stay in touch as we always do and we’ll see where he’s at.”

The 37-year-old Kendrick hit .275 with two homers and 14 RBIs in 25 games, and ended the season on the injured list with a left hamstring strain.

NATS AWARDS

Soto was named Washington’s player of the year and RHP Max Scherzer (5-4, 3.74 ERA) earned the team’s pitcher of the year award in voting by local media. LHP Sean Doolittle won his third consecutive Good Guy Award.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Mets: New York placed RHP Erasmo Ramirez (right groin tightness) on the injured list. Ramirez was 0-0 with an 0.63 ERA in six games. The Mets recalled RHP Corey Oswalt.

Nationals: OF Victor Robles was hit by a pitch in the second inning and was lifted for a defensive replacement in the third.

UP NEXT

Mets: New York opens its 2021 spring training schedule on Feb. 27 against Miami in Port St. Lucie, Florida.

Nationals: Washington takes on Houston on Feb. 27 in West Palm Beach, Florida, in its scheduled 2021 spring training debut.