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And That Happened: Thursday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Nationals 5, Marlins 2: The Nats remain red hot. Anthony Rendon homered in the fourth to tie the game at two and hit an RBI single in the fifth to put the Nats up for good. Aníbal Sánchez, meanwhile, allowed two runs — only one earned — in six innings. Washington has won four in a row. Thanks to this win, and the Phillies’ loss to Atlanta, they’ve moved into second place in the NL East and are in a three-way tie for the top Wild Card position.

Indians 8, Royals 4: Like the Nats, the Indians were all but written off a month ago but they’re red hot as well. Here the Royals had a 3-2 lead to start the seventh when Cleveland exploded for six runs, capped off by Jose Ramírez’s second homer of the game. Francisco Lindor drove in three, including the go-ahead runs with a two-run single in that big inning. With that Cleveland sweeps the Royals, wins its fourth straight overall, now stands only six games behind the Twins in the Central and find themselves in the second Wild Card position in the American League.

Braves 12, Phillies 6: Philly jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first with three RBI singles off of Mike Soroka, but Soroka would settle down and wouldn’t give up another run before exiting in the fifth. The Braves bats, meanwhile, broke out the bats and tied things up by the end of the second inning and took the lead on a three-run homer from Ozzie Albies in the third. The homer-fest continued with Dansby Swanson hitting two out and Freddie Freeman and Josh Donaldson going deep as well. The Braves extend their lead over the now-third place Phillies to six and a half games. On June 1 the Phillies were in first place with a three-game lead.

Cubs 11, Pirates 3: Hey Joe Maddon, how do you feel about the Pirates pitching your guys up and in?

I see.

Normally I’d say something about Joe West being thin-skinned and unnecessarily ejecting a guy who’s sitting in the dugout simply for jawing, but it’s 100% the case that Maddon wanted to be run there in an effort to light a fire or what have you. And, whether it was mere correlation or actual causation, the Cubs did get hot after that, turning a one-run lead at the time of the ejection into a rout. They had a five-run fifth inning. Kris Bryant homered and four hits on the day. Willson Contreras had three hits and drove in three. Maddon, he said after the game, enjoyed “a nice glass of red wine” in the clubhouse after he got tossed.

Athletics 7, Twins 2: Marcus Semien had a game, hitting a solo homer in the fifth and a grand slam in the eighth which turned a 3-2 lead into a 7-2 lead. Semien after the game: “We had two grand slams this series. That’s the best you can do.” I know he means that a grand slam is the best possible outcome of any given at-bat, but when I first read that I took it as “you can’t do better than hitting two grand slams.” My mind immediately went “wait, how about three grand slams?” and then I immediately thought of this:

In my defense, I think of that at least three or four times a week.

Tigers 11, White Sox 5: We used to watch a lot of Tigers games in this house but their rebuild and their new broadcast booth has tamped down interest at Chez Calcaterra. Yesterday, however, we turned on this one and watched/listened as we prepped for Fourth of July chow and, whaddaya know, they broke out the bats and won big. Maybe it was us. Matthew Boyd struck out 13 in five and a third and Detroit put together a five-run sixth inning to salvage the final game of the three-game series. Eight of the nine batters in Detroit’s lineup drove in at least one run with Nicholas Castellanos, Niko Goodrum and John Hicks each knocked in two. Miguel Cabrera, Niko Goodrum and Jeimer Candelario each went deep.

Reds 1, Brewers 0: Luis Castillo was dominant, allowing only one hit while pitching shutout ball into the eighth inning and striking out nine. Yasiel Puig knocked in a run with an infield single in the first inning and that was all the offense in the entire game. This one concluded in a crisp two hours and nineteen minutes. Cincinnati won for the fourth time in five games. The Brewers have lost three of four and haven’t scored a run in 23 innings.

Cardinals 5, Mariners 4: Tommy Edman hit a big three-run homer in the Cards’ Wednesday win and he hit a big two-run single here, helping St. Louis snag a come-from-behind win. Jut before the single he almost hit a grand slam but it just hooked foul. Matt Wieters and Dexter Fowler homered for the Cards, who took two of three from Seattle.

Yankees 8, Rays 4: The Rays rallied against Aroldis Chapman in the ninth, forcing what was a three-run game into extra innings. The Yankees exploded for five runs in the tenth, however, when D.J. LeMahieu knocked in two with a single and Gary Sánchez followed with a three-run homer. Luis Cessa allowed one back to Tampa Bay in the bottom half, but he’d hold on for the save. The Yankees have taken eight of ten from the Rays this year and now have a season-high seven and a half game lead in the East.

Red Sox 8, Blue Jays 7: Marco Hernandez hit a tie-breaking home run in the ninth inning. Michael Chavis hit a three-run homer and Rafael Devers added a solo shot in a game the Blue Jays led 6-1 after four innings. Hernandez’s homer came off of Ken Giles. Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said this about Giles’ performance: “He just gave up a home run. Other than that, he was good.” Mrs. Lincoln rather enjoyed the first two acts of “Our American Cousin” as well. Not sure what else Montoyo would say there, though. It’s not like he could say “Giles? Harrumph! the Red Sox bats turned him inside out, that  sockdologizing home run trap!”

Rangers 9, Angels 3: This was supposed to be Tyler Skaggs‘ start. As it was, Brad Ausmus used a patchwork of pitchers that, in the end, weren’t very effective. Meanwhile Rangers starter Lance Lynn won his 11th game by allowing only two runs while scattering nine hits in seven innings of work. He was backed by two Rougned Odor homers — a two-run shot and a three-run blast — as the Rangers salvage one in a series everyone involved is relieved to be done with.

Dodgers 5, Padres 1: Hyun-Jin Ryu continues to do what he’s done all year, blanking the Padres on three hits for six innings. Max Muncy and Cody Bellinger homered. It was Bellinger’s 30th on the year. The win was the Dodgers’ 60th. That projects to 55 homers and 109 wins. Mercy.

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.