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And That Happened: Sunday’s Scores and Highlights

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Hi. I’m back. I was in Los Angeles on vacation. I saw a Dodgers game. The Dodgers lost but the sky was beautiful and a friend I hadn’t seen in a while joined me. Often times the best thing about a ballgame has very little to do with the actual ballgame.

Anyway, here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Phillies 9, Braves 4: J.T. Realmuto hit a grand slam and Bryce Harper, Rhys Hoskins and Adam Haseley all went deep as the Phillies avoided the sweep at the hands of the Braves. Aaron Nola was dominant for six innings but got tagged for four in the seventh so his line score looked worse than his game. A pretty decent finish to the series for Philly given that they lost the first two games of the three-game set by a combined 24-9.

Royals 9, Indians 6: This game will be remembered as the Trevor Bauer meltdown game. He got shellacked, giving up eight runs — seven earned — in four and a third and when Terry Francona came out to the mound to take him out of the game he had a little temper tantrum and threw the baseball over the fence in center field:

Francona asked Bauer “What the f**k is wrong with you?” After all these years watching Bauer be, well, Bauer, I don’t know that anyone has a good answer for that. For what it’s worth, here’s what Bauer had to say after the game:

“I’m an intense competitor and that fire is what drives me. Today it completely consumed me and took over. I just wanted to say I’m sorry for how I behaved. It won’t happen again.”

I guess those of us who had cranky toddlers didn’t realize that we really just had “intense competitors” the whole time. And here I missed out on sending my then-three-year-old son off to play baseball at the highest levels. My loss.

Rays 10, Blue Jays 9: Toronto led 4-0 and 8-1 but the Rays fought back. Ji-Man Choi and Guillermo Heredia each hit two-run home runs and Willy Adames tied the game with a solo shot in the eighth. Joey Wendle drove in the tie-breaking run with a bases-loaded groundout in the ninth. There was just as much action in the executive suites, as Eric Sogard was traded from the Jays to the Rays in the middle of the game. Sadly no one had the hustle to get him a Rays uniform fast enough for him to play for both teams in the game. I dunno, maybe that’s not even allowed. It should be, though. We need more exciting crap like that to happen.

Mets 8, Pirates 7: New York jumped out with six runs in the fourth and, while not enough to win the game, they won the game anyway. Michael Conforto hit a two-run homer. The Mets scored three unearned runs. That’s a four-game winning streak for the Mets, who are now 10-5 since the All-Star break. The Pirates, meanwhile, are terrible and have lost eight in a row and 14 of 16. After the game the Mets acquired Marcus Stroman. Which would mean they’re going for it. Whatever “it” is for a team six and a half out of the Wild Card with many teams in front of them and who are likewise strongly rumored to be trading away Noah Syndergaard despite the fact they acquired Stroman. I guess enjoy the winning streak while it lasts because anything beyond the moment at hand for the Mets is an utter mystery.

Marlins 5, Diamondbacks 1: Elieser Hernández and four relievers combined to toss a four-hit, one-run game against the Snakes, who have alternated wins and losses over their last seven games. It’s like a Dutch 200 for baseball. Wait, can we say “Dutch 200” anymore? I know you’re not supposed to say “let’s go Dutch” if you’re splitting the check, but a “Dutch 200” was definitely a thing we youth bowlers tried to do back in the day. I hope you can still call it a Dutch 200. Although maybe I shouldn’t care. Anyway, Miguel Rojas, Brian Anderson and Harold Ramírez all went deep for the Fish.

Reds 3, Rockies 2: Alex Wood made his 2019 debut and, though he didn’t qualify for the win, he pitched well enough for four and two-thirds. Tucker Barnhart hit a tie-breaking single in the sixth inning to push the Reds to victory. Cincinnati took two of three.

Nationals 11, Dodgers 4: Stephen Strasburg won his seventh consecutive start and his 14th game overall by tossing seven innings of one-run, two-hit ball. Meanwhile, Brian Dozier and Juan Soto each homered and Anthony Rendon had three hits and four RBI. The Nats salvaged one in the three-game set and broke a three-game losing streak. Now they start a three-game set against the Braves, who they trail by five and a half.

Cubs 11, Brewers 4: Kyle Schwarber hit a second inning grand slam that went about eleventeen miles and then hit a three-run homer in the fourth to give the Cubs a 7-0 lead all by his lonesome. Victor Caratini helped out with a three-run homer later.

Twins 11, White Sox 1: The Twins jumped out to a 5-0 lead and led 9-0 before the fifth was over. Miguel Sanó Jorge Polanco, Jonathan Schoop and Max Kepler all went deep as the Twins completed a three-of-four-games pounding of the White Sox to maintain their thin lead over the Indians in the Central, which is now at two games. It was one when yesterday began. While on my vacation I had lost track of almost all baseball except for that game I went to in L.A. and, I’ll have to admit, realizing how close the AL Central has gotten over the past couple of weeks snuck up on me.

Astros 6, Cardinals 2: George Springer led off the game with a home run because of course he did and Jose Altuve and Yordan Alvarez socked homers as well. Altuve had three hits. Paul Goldschmidt‘s streak of six straight games with a home run came to an end. Houston has won nine of 11.

Angels 5, Orioles 4: Matt Thaiss opened the scoring in the game with a second inning two-run homer. He also ended the scoring with a walkoff solo homer. In between those two Albert Pujols hit his 650th career longball. Only 646 more for Thaiss to tie Pujols. Thaiss’ heroism kept the O’s from completing a four-game sweep of the Angels which, frankly, would’ve been embarrassing.

Giants 7, Padres 6: Mike Yastrzemski had four hits, two RBI and scored the go-ahead run and Madison Bumgarner pitched seven solid enough innings to win his last game before the trade deadline. If the deadline, in fact, matters as the Giants are surging and now stand only two and a half back in the Wild Card race. Do they still sell off? Probably, but I have no idea.

Mariners 3, Tigers 2: J.P. Crawford hit a walkoff single with one out in the 10th inning to carry the M’s to their fifth straight win. The teams combined to use eleven pitchers in an 3-2 game. Thats quite the dang thing but that’s 2019 for ya.

Athletics 6, Rangers 5: A third AL West walkoff win, this one coming after a two-run rally with the first run scoring when Matt Olson singled in Chris Hermann. That was followed by a walkoff walk to Khris Davis. Marcus Semien is the one who scored on the walk. Earlier he homered. Tough loss for the Rangers, who rallied from a 4-2 deficit in the eighth to take a 5-4 lead.

Yankees 9, Red Sox 6: I didn’t watch this one even though I was home because “A Place in the Sun” was on TCM and I’d rather watch Monty Cliff and Liz Taylor do their thing for two hours than watch the Yankees and Red Sox do their thing for over three and a half. Although, on some level, you sort of know what you’re getting with both of these. Shelly Winters, as usual, ends up dead in the water — seriously, that happens in like four of her movies — and the ESPN booth spends more time talking about other stuff than the game in front of them. Frankly, I’ll take Cliff, Taylor and dead Shelly Winters over New York and Boston. Although maybe we could trade away Raymond Burr, who seems to be acting in a completely different movie, for Mookie Betts. Ah, yes. Mookie Betts as the prosecutor in “A Place in the Sun” would make it even better. He’d never smash that rowboat. He’d have Cliff on death row way easier than that.

Wait. Where was I? Oh yeah, the ballgame:

Chris Sale continues to be terrible, allowing six runs in five and a third. It’s the fourth time in his last six outing he’s allowed at least five. Austin Romine and Didi Gregorius homered to give the Yankees a 4-0 lead early and after that it appeared from the box score anyway to be kind of a snooze fest of bad pitching and defense. Again, I stress, “A Place in the Sun” was the way better choice.

Two injured MVPs is a major bummer for baseball

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Last week Christian Yelich‘s season ended with a fractured kneecap. At the time he went down he was neck-and-neck with Cody Bellinger — I think a tad behind, though people may reasonably differ — and, at least by my reckoning, a hair or three above Anthony Rendon, Ketel Marte and Pete Alonso in the race for the NL MVP Award. As I wrote last week, I think that means Bellinger is going to walk away with the hardware when the winner is announced in November. Yelich’s injury will prevent him from making a late season surge to surpass Bellinger, but I think it would’ve taken a surge for him to do it.

Over the weekend we learned that Mike Trout’s season is over as well. He’ll be having foot surgery to deal with a nerve issue causing him pain. At the time he went down he was the clear frontrunner to win his third MVP Award. Unlike Yelich, I’m pretty sure Trout will still win the trophy. Sure, Trout hasn’t played since September 7, meaning that he’ll miss more time than Yelich will, but strained articles stumping for alternative candidates notwithstanding, his lead in the MVP race was more secure.

Trout’s 2019 ends with him setting a career high in homers with 45 and slugging percentage at .645—both of which lead the American League. He likewise leads the league in on-base percentage (.438), OPS (1.083), and in both Baseball-Reference.com’s and FanGraphs’ versions of WAR at 8.3 and 8.6, respectively. With just under two weeks to go it seems likely that Jorge Soler of the Royals will pass Trout for the home run lead, but he’s not an MVP candidate himself. Alex Bregman will likely pass him in walks. Trout seems pretty certain to finish with his lead in all or most of the other categories intact. That’s an MVP resume even if he’ll only have played in 134 games. To give the award to anyone else would be an exercise in narrative over reason. Something born of a desire to reward a guy — like, say, Bregman — for playing on a winning team as opposed to his individual accomplishments. Sure, voters are allowed to do that, but they’ve mostly eschewed such tendencies in recent years. It’d be a surprise if they backslid.

Even if Yelich’s and Trout’s injuries aren’t likely to radically change the MVP race — again, I think the NL’s was Bellinger’s to lose — they’re both still lamentable separate and apart from the fact that all injuries stink. Lamentable in a way that, unfortunately, creates a downer for baseball as it gets ready for the postseason.

The Brewers won the game in which Yelich went down and have won four of five since then. In so doing they have remained close in the race for the second Wild Card and currently stand one game back. They also have an insanely favorable schedule the rest of the way, exclusively facing the weak sisters of the National League in the Padres, Pirates, Reds and Rockies. Even so, it’s no gimmie — those Reds and Rockies games are on the road, and Great American Ballpark and Coors Field makes those bad teams better — and the reward at the end of this is likely to be a one-game play-in. You want your best player in any and all situations and the Brewers don’t have theirs. And won’t, even if they make the postseason and even if they win the Wild Card game. Having one of the game’s brightest stars on crutches for the playoffs is not something anyone at the league office wants.

The Angels have no such postseason concerns and haven’t had them for most of the season. Once again they’re terrible. As they have been for almost the entirety of Trout’s career. They’ve made the postseason only once in his career — back in 2014, losing the LDS in three games — and do not appear poised to put a winner on the field any time soon. Trout is still in his prime, obviously, but like all players he’ll either slow down or break down eventually. Given the state of the club, I’m not sure I’d put a ton of money on them being good, let alone consistently good, while Trout is still the best or even one of the few best players in baseball. The upside to me seems to be an Al Kaline situation with the Tigers, in which the team finally put it together behind him only after he began to age and miss time to injuries. Having the best player in baseball outside of the playoffs looking in is not something anyone at the league office should want either.

Yet here we are.

Injuries happen. Every contender is missing at least one and in some cases several important players. But for one MVP candidate to miss the postseason this year and another one to miss the postseason every year is a major bummer for a league that has a tough go of it marketing itself even under the best of circumstances.