Associated Press

And That Happened: Wednesday’s Scores and Highlights

11 Comments

Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Brewers 4, Cardinals 1: Keston Hiura homered and drove in three and, for reasons science is still trying to explain, Jordan Lyles pitched well once again to help the Brewers snap the Cardinals’ six-game winning streak. Lyles has made six starts since coming over from the Pirates. One was a clunker in which he allowed five runs in four innings against a Nats team that was scoring runs by the bucketful for a week or so there. He has allowed only one earned run in four of the other five and zero in the sixth. Pirates fans are doing that thing where they silently nod while inside their head they are screaming.

Yankees 7, Mariners 3: More bombs for the Bombers with D.J. LeMahieu, Gary Sánchez, Aaron Judge and Mike Ford all going deep to help New York finish off a three-game sweep. The downside: James Paxton didn’t look terribly good and third baseman Gio Urshela left in the fifth inning after he felt tightness in his groin. We’ll probably know more about that later today.

Phillies 12, Pirates 3: J.T. Realmuto had three hits, including a homer and a triple, César Augusto Hernández had three hits and drove in three and Corey Dickerson went deep as Philly turned a close game into a rout with a five-run fifth inning and kept pouring it on after that. Even Tuesday’s goat, Rhys Hoskins, got in on the act doubling, tripling and driving in a run.

Nationals 8, Orioles 4: Max Scherzer is still building up his stamina but the quality is still there as he struck out eight in only four and a third innings. That put him over 200 Ks for the eighth strait year, which is one behind Tom Seaver’s record of nine straight. Kurt Suzuki homered and drove in four. The Orioles brought some fireworks too, but it was the wrong kind of fireworks: reliever Richard Bleier and third-base coach Jose David Flores got into an obscenity-filled shouting match in the dugout:

Bleier said afterward that it was started when he said something about how bad defensive positioning is what caused a ball to get through the infield. This as he’s coming off the field after allowing three runs on four hits while only recording one out. I feel like there might be some other things that contributed to all that than defensive positioning, but what do I know?

Braves 9, Blue Jays 4: For my money, Foltynewicz vs. Waguespack is the best starting pitching matchup of the year, at least as far as names go. The hitting mattered more though as Freddie Freeman and Matt Joyce each homered and drove in two for the Braves while Ronald Acuña Jr. had a two-run double. Josh Donaldson went hitless for the second straight game against his old team, drawing a couple of walks. Very polite of him.

Cubs 10, Mets 7: Chicago jumped all over Noah Syndergaard, lighting him up for ten runs — nine earned — on nine hits in only three innings. Three of those hits were homers with Kyle Schwarber, Ian Happ, and Nicholas Castellanos taking him deep as well. Some days you get the bear and some days it gets you. Here it got Syndergaard for the worst start of his career. For what it’s worth, I spent a few minutes Googling “Thor fights bear” to see if I could find a comics panel where that happened and came up empty. I bet one exists, though. There’s a comics panel for everything.

Indians 4, Tigers 2: Rookie Aaron Civale looked good, allowing two over seven, while Jason Kipnis looked great, homering twice. Francisco Lindor also knocked one out of the park. Related: We’re in the last month of the most homer-crazy season in baseball history and I’m running out of ways to say “hit a home run” that don’t sound ridiculously repetitive at this point.

Yes, exactly. And it’s your fault, MLB, so quite being so flip about it.

Reds 5, Marlins 0: Anthony DeSclafani pitched one of the best games of his life, allowing only two hits while striking out eight and blanking the Marlins for seven innings. He was backed by a three-run homer from Aristides Aquino, who in so doing tied a National League rookie record for home runs in a calendar month. This was Aquino’s 13th in August, which ties Cody Bellinger, who hit 13 homers in June 2017 for the Dodgers. The major league record is 18, held by Rudy York of the Tigers in August 1937. Rudy York is one of the pretty good players of yore that no one really ever talks about, by the way. Go out and start a Rudy York conversation with someone at your office today. I’ll give you a prompt: “Hey, did you know that, on more than one occasion, Rudy York fell asleep in his hotel room after having a bit too much to drink, cigarette in hand, which caused a fire? Also: he moved Hank Greenberg off first base. Can you imagine?” A ton more about him here. It’s a nice, long article about an old timey baseball player, mostly lost to history.

Twins 8, White Sox 2: Jonathan Schoop hit two homers and drove in four runs. He has five homers in his last five starts. That goes back to mid August and covers a time when he sat on the bench for six total games. What a weird job it must be to be a part time player. Jake Odorizzi allowed two runs and five hits in six effective innings, picking up his 14th win. The Twins have four straight.

Astros 8, Rays 6: George Springer broke a tie with an RBI single in Houston’s three-run seventh inning, bringing them back from being down 3-0 early to help Houston win its sixth straight game. He’d later draw a walk with the bases loaded. Gerrit Cole struck out 14 dudes but gave up four runs and left with a no-decision. When I was a kid a 14-strikeout game would get you on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Also when I was a kid the ferry cost a nickel, and in those days, nickels had pictures of bumblebees on ’em. “Give me five bees for a quarter,” you’d say. Now, where were we?

Royals 6, Athletics 4: Oakland jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first but Hunter Dozier hit a two-run homer in the third to tie it back up. Mark Canha hit his own two-run homer for the A’s but an RBI double from Jorge Soler and a homer from Ryan O'Hearn tied it up once again. Dozier gave Kansas City the lead with an RBI single in the seventh and Alex Gordon stopped the see-saw match by grounding into a run-scoring double play to make it a 6-4 game. Oakland would threaten in the ninth but the Royals held on. Lots of bruises here too, as three guys got hit including Matt Chapman who took one off the helmet. He’d leave the game but he said afterward he was fine.

Red Sox 7, Rockies 4: Xander Bogaerts homered twice and Rafael Devers and J.D. Martinez each went deep as well, with the three of those chaps combining to go 8-for-14 on the night, driving in six of the Sox’ seven runs. The Rockies have lost eight of ten, are now 16 games under .500, and are playing some fairly horrendous baseball in the process.

Dodgers 6, Padres 4: Kenley Jansen blew his seventh save. He came in in the ninth, gave up a leadoff double, the runner reached third on a fly out and then Jansen uncorked a wild pitch to allow him to score. Not what you want. The Dodgers rallied against MLB saves leader Kirby Yates in the tenth when Kiké Hernandez walked, stole second and then scored on a throwing error, after which A.J. Pollock singled in an insurance run and Casey Sadler locked it down in the bottom half. The Dodgers are a fantastic team overall but if anyone thinks they’re not going to lose a close game or three in the playoffs due to the shaky bullpen, they’re dreaming. Could be the difference between winning it all and disappointing in October once again.

Rangers 3, Angels 0: An opener pitched one scoreless frame, Ariel Jurado tossed six scoreless frames and two relievers each tossed a scoreless frame to finish off a three-hit combined shutout. I like calling innings “frames” because it reminds me of bowling and I like bowling. Mike Trout strikes me (haha, get it?) as a guy who likes bowling too, Maybe I’m wrong about that, but I bet he does. He had the night off last night with a sore foot but he says he’s fine and he’ll play in the Angels next game. That’s Friday. I wonder if Mike Trout will go bowling on his off-day.

World Series Preview: Marquee starting pitching matchups lead the way

Getty Images
4 Comments

The Astros were the best team in baseball in 2019, winning 107 games, so everyone expected them to be here. As you’ve heard a thousand times by now the Nationals started out poorly in 2019, standing at 19-31 in late May. After that, however, they went on a 74-38 tear in 112 games. A tear which, if extrapolated to 162 games is a . . . 107-win pace.

Which is to say that, despite whatever the oddsmakers are telling you, this is not quite the mismatch some may want to make it out to be. The Astros are a great team, no question, but the Nationals as they stand right now are a strong match for them. If you doubt it, go ask the Dodgers and Cardinals about whether Washington played like a 93-win Wild Card team when they met in the earlier rounds.

No matter how you think the teams matchup overall, however, you can’t help but love the matchups between the clubs’ starting pitchers.

The Astros feature the top two Cy Young candidates in the American league in Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander and feature a third starter, Zack Greinke, who would be most teams’ ace. The Nationals, meanwhile, counter with Max Scherzer, who won the Cy Young in 2016 and 2017, finished in second place last year and, before for an injury this season, was a strong contender to take home the hardware again. After him comes Stephen Strasburg, also a 2019 Cy Young candidate, and Patrick Corbin, who was last offseason’s big pickup and who won 14 games and posted an ERA+ of 141 this season. It may be the Era of Bullpenning and all of that, but this Fall Classic looks to be a throwback to a time when — gasp! — starting pitchers mattered.

Here’s how it all breaks down:

THE ROTATIONS

We just listed the big names. The exact order in which they appear is not yet officially known but you’ll color me shocked if Game 1 isn’t Max Scherzer vs. Gerrit Cole, Game 2 isn’t Stephen Strasburg vs. Justin Verlander, and Game 3 isn’t Zack Greinke vs. Patrick Corbin. In Game 4 the Nats will likely go with the hot Aníbal Sánchez who, if he stays on his game like he has been of late, gives them depth the Astros can’t quite match. Brad Peacock or “Bullpen” could get the ball for A.J. Hinch in Game 4, depending on the circumstances of the series at that point.

As for Game 1, Scherzer is coming off two strong postseason outings, allowing one run on five hits with 18 strikeouts in 14 innings in those starts. Cole was somewhat human in his last start, walking five guys. But, um, yeah, he still tossed seven shutout innings. It seems like all he has done since before Memorial day is toss seven or eight shutout innings or something close to it.

We simply couldn’t ask for a better head-to-head matchup to start this bad boy. There isn’t a hitter on either of these teams happy about who they’ll have to face in this series.

THE LINEUPS

Saturday night’s José Altuve walkoff blast notwithstanding, the Astros’ mighty offense has been somewhat less mighty over the past couple of weeks, averaging just 3.7 runs per game and posting a .645 team OPS. A lot of that was due to the scads of fresh and strong bullpen arms the Rays and Yankees trotted out, but it’s not like things will get easier, at least against Washington’s starting pitching. The Astros had timely hitting — and some big home runs — as they made their way to the World Series, but they’ll definitely need to rattle the ball off the walls and get on base at a higher clip like they did in the regular season if they want to win this thing. To do so, I don’t suspect A.J. Hinch will do much shuffling or fiddling with his lineup — his dudes are his dudes — he’ll just have to hope that they snap out of their relative funk and remind everyone that, when everyone is healthy on this club, there is no better offense in baseball.

Washington’s lineup was nowhere near as fearsome during the regular season but it was the second-best unit in the National League, so they’re no slouches. Like the Astros, they have not exactly set the world ablaze offensively in the playoffs, posting a team OPS about a hundred points lower than their regular season mark. Also, like the Astros, they’ve had some huge hits at great times, as do all teams that get this far. Luck and good timing matter a whole heck of a lot in October.

Editor’s note: Need World Series tickets? Click here to see the Nats try to stop the Astros

A bit of a wild card here: the de-juiced ball everyone is talking about. While the Nats, like everyone else, hit a lot more homers in 2019, they were somewhat less reliant on homers than a lot of other winning teams, finishing only sixth in that category in the NL. The Astros were third in the AL and might’ve come close to matching New York and Minnesota’s totals if they didn’t have so many injuries to key offensive performers in the first half. Which is to say that the dead ball’s taking away of a few feet of flight from equally-struck balls probably hurts the Astros a bit more than the Nats, even if the Astros hitters are better on average.

One can overstate all that, of course. At the end of the day both of these teams have MVP-candidates — Alex Bregman for Houston, Anthony Rendon for Washington — and a good supporting cast of thumpers like Juan Soto, José Altuve, Yordan Álvarez and hot-in-October Howie Kendrick, who will likely see DH action in the games in Houston. Ultimately it will come down, as always, to who is hotter over the next 4-7 games.

THE BULLPENS

The bullpen was the Nationals’ biggest weakness all season long. In the NLDS against the Dodgers Dave Martinez masked the problem by creatively deploying starting pitchers in relief, praying a bit, and watching it work. in the NLCS they so thoroughly steamrolled the Cardinals that it didn’t truly matter, though they did get some good innings from guys not named Sean Doolittle and Daniel Hudson. Meaning that, heck, you may even see Fernando Rodney and Tanner Rainey in games that aren’t blowouts. Either way, the week off the Nationals have been given by wrapping up the NLCS so quickly means that every arm is fresh, with extra rest even, so the team’s biggest weakness is about as contained at the outset as it can be. As suggested above, the deeper Scherzer, Strasburg, Corbin and Sánchez can go, the better.

Houston’s bullpen has allowed 16 earned runs in 35.1 innings this postseason (4.08 ERA). This after having the third-best bullpen ERA in all of baseball during the regular season (3.75). Sample sizes are obviously an issue here. As is the class of competition. They were more than capable of getting the job done during the ALDS and their failures — like Roberto Osuna‘s blown save in Game 6 — were either contained by the work of others or led to less-than-fatal wounds. They simply have better arms that Washington does down there even if, as is the case with the Nats, they’ll hope to need them as little as possible.

THE MANAGERS

A.J. Hinch has hoisted a trophy before and rarely harms his team. Dave Martinez learned over the course of the season that the less he does the better. Without putting too fine a point on it, if it comes down to a chess match, it’s advantage: Astros. At this point Martinez simply needs to let his horses run and muster enough will to pull them out of the race if they’re tired. That’s easier said than done when it’s, say, Max Scherzer. His arm could be hanging by frayed tendons and he’d still probably glare at Martinez if he walked out to pull him.

THE HISTORY

There is virtually none. These teams share a spring training complex but they have not faced each other in interleague play since 2017. A host of players on each squad has never faced the pitchers on the other. In addition to starting pitchers being so critical here, add “NL vs. AL, in a matchup of unknowns” to the list of things that make this Fall Classic a throwback to olden days.

If we did the usual “Advantage: [TEAM]” for every one of those categories, I feel like we’d probably end up with the Astros coming out on top in each of them. The closest is probably the rotation, with the top-end talent of Cole, Verlander and Greinke outweighing the four-deep depth the Nats have at the moment. But as the earlier rounds showed, it’s not as much of an advantage as you might think and being able to run four starters out there whom you trust matters a lot.

Which is to say that, yeah, I think the Astros are the better team. They’re better in record, better on paper and should be favored. But I don’t think they’re overwhelming favorites. And I don’t think it could or should be considered a massive upset if this better-than-most-people think Nats team comes out on top. I feel like this will be a very, very even and competitive series, in fact.