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And That Happened: Thursday’s Scores and Highlights

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Where we stand:

  • Cleveland was idle but the Twins lost, putting the margin between them at three and a half as the Twins arrive in Cleveland for a three-game series this weekend. I’m not sure how to handle an actual division race after a season in which most of these things were forgone conclusions, but hopefully these two groups of crazy kids give us something fun and close down to the wire;
  • The A’s won and the Rays lost, flip-flopping them in the AL Wild Card race, with the Indians a half game out of that picture at the moment;
  • The NL Wild Card race remained stable as Chicago, Milwaukee, Philly and New York all win, leaving the Cubs and Brewers tied for the second slot and the Phillies and Mets two games out. The Dbacks lost to the Mets and are three and a half back.

Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Mets 11, Diamondbacks 1: A week ago when the Nationals came back from seven down to beat the Mets with a Kurt Suzuki walkoff home run, everyone — your author included — figured that was a stake through their heart and that they wouldn’t get up from it. Welp, they’re up. The Mets are rolling and are hanging in that Wild Card race. Even if they ultimately fall short, that’s some pretty impressive perseverance. Yesterday it was simply impressive. Six homers, including two from Juan Lagares, one of which was a grand slam. Robinson Canó, Todd Frazier, Michael Conforto and Tomás Nido also went deep. Marcus Stroman allowed one run while pitching into the seventh. Not too shabby.

Yankees 10, Tigers 4; Yankees 6, Tigers 4: A sweep of a doubleheader but a costly one for the Yankees. Edwin Encarnación strained his oblique in the first game, Gary Sánchez left with groin tightness in the second. Sánchez’s injury is gonna cause some people to point some fingers as he did it after he was thrown out trying to steal. Aaron Boone said he called for the steal too. Can someone tell me why you’re asking your power-hitting catcher who has four career stolen bases and a history of groin problems to steal in a doubleheader against the worst team in baseball after you already have the division sewed up? Anyone? In light of those injuries the specific events of these two games are sort of unimportant, but know that Encarnación and Luke Voit homered in the first game and Gio Urshela and Aaron Judge homered in the nightcap. Also know that CC Sabathia and Domingo Germán piggy-backed in the second game with Sabathia taking the first few innings and Germán the next few, which may very well be what we see from New York in the postseason.

Cardinals 10, Rockies 3: After three straight low-scoring games the Cards finally break out the boomsticks at Coors Field. The biggest boom came off the bat of Rangel Ravelo who hit a 487-foot homer:

Watching that clip makes me think two things: (1) it’s nice to see they have begun to work in the extra-juiced postseason balls a couple of weeks ahead of time to get everyone used to them. Can’t wait for those 15-14 Yankees-Astros games; and (2) what on God’s green Earth was that home run call? “There we go . . . Knock me down . . . Hello! Goodbye! . . . Knock me down!” That makes “Boom goes the dynamite” sound like one of Dan and Keith’s better cuts from a 1996 SportsCenter. Dexter Fowler, Kolten Wong. Marcell Ozuna, and Harrison Bader also connected. That’s a lot of hellos and goodbyes.

Brewers 3, Marlins 2: Milwaukee won its seventh in a row and its eighth of nine. Five innings of shutout bullpen work was key here, as was Ryan Braun‘s tie-breaking two-run homer in the third.

Royals 6, White Sox 3: Hunter Dozier hit a tie-breaking, three-run home run in the sixth and Jorge Soler hit his third homer in the last two days. Kansas City has won eight of 11. Those games have come against the Orioles, Marlins, Tigers and White Sox who are, respectively, the three worst teams in baseball and a not-so-hot one in Chicago, but all games count.

Cubs 4, Padres 1: The Cubs had lost four of six coming into this one but Yu Darvish continued his recent tear, serving as stopper in this one and striking out 14 in six innings of work on a day when no one’s bats were particularly lively. The Padres only run came on a bases loaded plunking of a pinch-hitting Manny Machado.

Pirates 4, Giants 2: Joe Musgrove tossed five shutout innings. That led the Pirates to tweet this out:

Look, five shutout innings is a good thing, make no mistake, but I’m not sure it’s a “big line” highlight moment. Even in today’s era of bullpens the standard for a strong, headline-worthy starting pitching performance is, what, seven innings? I’d like to think it’s seven innings. Five shutout innings could easily be lost due to a bad day from the bullpen. I don’t wanna be one of those back-in-my-day guys, but I really don’t want five to be the new social media shoutout standard, OK?

Red Sox 7, Blue Jays 4: Boston breaks a five-game losing streak. Xander Bogaerts hit his 50th double of the season and drove in a run, Marco Hernandez knocked in two. Mookie Betts had three hits and J.D. Martinez reached base three times. The Red Sox used nine pitchers in this nine-inning game. If only they had a horse like Joe Musgrove.

Phillies 9, Braves 5: César Hernández, J.T. Realmuto, Jean Segura and Adam Haseley homered as the Phillies earn the series split with Atlanta and hang two back in the Wild Card race. Hector Neris worked out of trouble in the eighth and then closed it out in the ninth for a four-out save. Ronald Acuña Jr. stole a couple of bases and homered. He now has 39 dingers and 36 thefts, bringing him close to becoming baseball’s fifth 40/40 man after Jose Canseco, Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez and Alfonso Soriano.

Dodgers 4, Orioles 2: It was tied 2-2 in the sixth with two outs and the bases loaded. Dylan Bundy faced Russell Martin with the count full. Bundy reared back for something extra and got Martin to swing and miss to seemingly end the Dodgers threat but . . . no. catcher Pedro Severino couldn’t get a handle on the ball, it went to the backstop, Bundy just brain-locked and didn’t cover home plate and not just one but two runs scored.

It’d be unbelievable if it happened to anyone but the Orioles. For his part Bundy said “I thought it was a strikeout” and that he couldn’t see where the ball was. Except, even if he couldn’t see the ball he could see his catcher scrambling and Martin running to first — and he didn’t continue to walk off the field himself — so he knew something was amiss. He just flat quit on the play. Insane.

In other news, Rich Hill got the start for the Dodgers for the first time since early June. The idea would be that, now that his arm is healed, he’d work his stamina up and pitch for them in the postseason. Nope. He left the game in the first inning with a knee injury. Strained MCL which will almost certainly end his season. Not great for him. For their part, the Dodgers would like to have him back but they have shown, quite obviously, that they can win without him.

Nationals 12, Twins 6: Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto each homered and drove in three and Adam Eaton and Yan Gomes each went deep as well as the Nats beat the Twins. That reduces Minnesota’s division lead to three and a half over Cleveland with a three-game series beginning in Cleveland tonight. It was a severely depleted Twins lineup. They’re just riddled with injuries right now. The baseball season, however, doesn’t care about your injury problems.

Rangers 6, Rays 4: The Rays traded Nick Solak to the Rangers in mid-July in exchange for pitcher Peter Fairbanks. Last night Fairbanks faced Solak and Solak hit a two-run homer off of him, turning a 3-1 lead into a 5-1 lead. I guess Texas won the trade. The loss, Tampa Bay’s second in a row, combined with the A’s win against the Astros puts Oakland a half game up in the Wild Card race. Both are in playoff position but if the season ended today the Rays would have to fly to Oakland.

Athletics 3, Astros 2: Homer Bailey allowed one run while pitching into the sixth and five relievers allowed only one more run the rest of the way. Matt Olson hit a two-run homer in the third inning which made the difference. It came off of Justin Verlander who struck out 11 but who still lost.

Reds 11, Mariners 5: Seattle led 5-2 heading into the seventh when the Reds rallied for five runs on the back of a Freddy Galvis grand slam. They’d plate four more in the eighth via two-run homers from both Curt Casali and Eugenio Suárez. The M’s Kyle Lewis hit yet another homer, giving him three in his three big league game career.

Ahoy, San Diego: 2019 Winter Meetings Preview

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Over the weekend the baseball world will descended on San Diego, California for the 2019 Winter Meetings. Let’s talk about what’ll go down there in the next week.

 

Free Agents

So far this has been a much brisker offseason than the past two, during which it seemed like no one signed between November and February. This year, however, we have already seen top-30 free agents Zack Wheeler, Yasmani Grandal, Cole Hamels, José Abreu, Jake Odorizzi, Mike Moustakas, and Michael Pineda sign, and a handful of others have inked pacts as well.

Still, there’s a lot of work to be done. Top free agent Gerrit Cole has had some heat around him lately, with the Yankees reportedly hot on his trail, and New York has at least had a conversation with San Diego native and resident Stephen Strasburg as well. Beyond them, Anthony Rendon, Madison Bumgarner, Nicholas Castellanos, and Josh Donaldson are all looking for new employers as well.

At the end of October Rotoworld’s Matthew Pouliot ran down the top 111 free agents, from highest-ranked to lowest, to help you get a jump on who is available.

 

Trades

Free agent signings notwithstanding, we are in an age in which a lot of teams are in cost-savings mode. For that reason some big, MVP-caliber names are reportedly on the trading block, including Mookie Betts of the Red Sox, Francisco Lindor of the Indians and, perhaps, Kris Bryant of the Cubs and Nolan Arenado of the Rockies. Beyond them, there has been chatter about the Dodgers dealing Joc Pederson, the Tigers dealing Matthew Boyd and the Pirates and Rockies shopping anyone worth a bag of balls.

Whether any of those big names switch teams, it’s already been a pretty active trading season so far, and it would not be at all surprising of the transaction wire is humming in the next week. We, of course, will have near-instant breakdowns of every deal that goes down, so make sure you keep a window open with this site on it and hit refresh early and often.

 

Managers on Parade

 

Trade deals and free agent negotiations take place behind closed doors, so we can only talk about those once they happen. One of the major public activities of the Winter Meetings is when all 30 of the managers meet and greet the press.

We have a boatload of new managers this year, all of whom have had their happy little press conferences back in their home cities so far. The press availabilities at the Winter Meetings are a bit more in depth and, quite often, feature managers giving more detailed answers to their philosophies and their plans as they prepare for the 2020 season.

New at the little tables and under the bright lights this year: Jayce Tingler with the Padres, Mike Matheny with the Royals, Gabe Kapler with the Giants, David Ross with the Cubs, Derek Shelton with the Pirates, Joe Maddon with the Angels, Carlos Beltrán with the Mets, and Joe Girardi with the Phillies.

And, yes, the tradition like no other continues this year, as I will be ranking all 30 of the current managers on the basis of handsomeness. Here’s last year’s rankings. The new rankings will go up first thing Monday morning. It’s the silliest thing I do all year and, for better or for worse, it’s the thing I’m best known for. What a life I have.

 

Hall of Fame Vote

The Modern Baseball Era Committee — formerly known as the Veterans Committee — will meet on Sunday to vote in, or not vote in, new inductees for the Hall of Fame. For the past two weeks I’ve been profiling the candidates. Here are those profiles:

Committee members get four votes each. If I had four I’d give them to Whitaker, Evans, Simmons, and Miller, but you never know what the real voters will do. We’ll have the results up on Sunday evening once the vote is made public.

 

Major League Baseball vs. Minor League Baseball

One thing a lot of people don’t know about the Winter Meetings is that it’s put on, primarily, by Minor League Baseball as an organization and the vast majority of the people on the ground at the Winter Meetings either run or work for or are trying to sell stuff to minor league teams. Almost every team’s owner comes and brings along some staffers. Coaches, trainers, scouts, and other team employees who spend most of their year out in the bushes as opposed to back at the big club’s home base attend meetings and hobnob with one another.

Normally that’s all pretty routine. This year, however, it probably won’t be thanks to Rob Manfred’s plan to contract 42 minor league clubs and rearrange a great many more of them across levels and leagues.

As we noted earlier today, that scheme has set off a political firestorm and is no doubt the top agenda item and point of concern for every single minor league official and employee at the Winter Meetings. There are, reportedly, already meetings going on in San Diego about all of this. Expect some news about it at any point in the next week. At this point I’d expect anything from Manfred totally scrapping the plan, to him doubling down on it, to reports of general acrimony and possible legal action and everything in between.

 

The Boring Business of Baseball 

Outside of the transactions, the Hall of Fame stuff, the managers and the minor league contraction intrigue, we’ll likely have more mundane Winter Meetings business. Most people at the Winter Meetings aren’t there for transactions. They’re there to network, seek jobs and discuss the business of baseball like any other industry convention. Ever year we hear about a rule change or a proposal for future rule changes at the Meetings. There is no single rule change that everyone is talking about at the moment, but something will likely pop up. Sometimes we’re completely surprised with that kind of stuff.

 

The Rule 5 Draft

The final event of the Winter Meetings is the Rule 5 Draft, which will take place at 8am Pacific time on Thursday morning. You likely have no idea who most of the players who will be selected, but by next summer you may very well know some of them who are either picked or who were made available this week. Max Muncy could’ve been had by anyone a couple of years ago, went un-picked and all he’s done is rake like crazy for the team with the most wins in the National League. Given that even the combined minds of 29 front offices didn’t think he was worth a roster spot last year, you’ll be forgiven for not having any idea about the guys in this year’s Rule 5. But, if you want to at least attempt to be prepared for it, here’s a good place to start.

So, yes, there’s a lot to be done. I’ll be on the scene at the Hyatt Manchester in San Diego — and maybe a few other places around town — bringing you all the best hot stove business we have to offer and, as usual, some more fun odds and ends from baseball’s biggest offseason event.