Getty Images

And That Happened: Sunday’s Scores and Highlights

9 Comments

Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Reds 4, Tigers 3; Reds 4, Tigers 0: Welcome to the debut of seven inning doubleheader games. How do we feel about it? Maybe hard to gauge given that the first game was delayed by rain for two hours as it was. In the first game former Tiger Nick Castellanos homered twice and drove in three, but also committed a costly error that brought Detroit back into it. Reds outfielder Shogo Akiyama hit an RBI single in the seventh to give Cincinnati the winning margin. Before that happened, though, a little bit of history happened, as Tigers reliever Tyler Alexander, working in the third, fourth, and fifth innings, struck out the first nine batters he faced, tying the American League record for consecutive strikeouts. The record he tied is held by Tiger Doug Fister. That’s DOUG Fister. Please, be careful with how you type that.

The second game was the Trevor Bauer show. The Reds starter went the distance — with “the distance,” again, being seven innings — allowing two hits, no runs, and striking out seven. That’s a complete game shutout, friends. The rules say so. The first game took two hours and twenty-five minutes. The second took 2:36. With the rain delay and the changeover I suppose the two clubs spent just as much time at the park as they would’ve with a traditional twin bill, at least if the weather was good.

Orioles 5, Rays 1: The Rays are, on paper, one of baseball’s best teams. The Orioles, on paper, are one of baseball’s worst teams. The Rays came into Baltimore for a three-game set and got their butts handed to ’em. How about that? It was the Orioles’ first series sweep since August of 2018. Not their first series sweep agains the Rays, mind you. Their first series sweep against anyone.  Renato Núñez and Pat Valaika homered. Hanser Alberto doubled in the tie-breaking run in the seventh. The O’s are 5-3. We’d never make a big deal out of this a week and change into a normal season, but everything is so sideways now that I think people really and truly need to embrace even a week of the Orioles kicking a good team’s butt. Playoffs or bust, Baltimore!

Braves 4, Mets 0: Five Braves pitchers combined to scatter ten hits and shut out the Mets while striking out 12. Johan Camargo homered for Atlanta. Ronald Acuña Jr. drew a bases-loaded walk. Freddie Freeman grounded out to score one run and singled in another. The Braves have won five in a row. The Mets have lost five in a row, and they’re involved in the usual sorts of Mets drama and bad P.R. If you look at all of this with the right kind of eyes it’s almost like the season is normal right now.

White Sox 9, Royals 2: White Sox prospect Nick Madrigal played in his third big league game and all he did was go 4-for-5, drive one in and score twice. Yasmani Grandal played in his 886th game and all he did was hit two RBI singles and draw a bases loaded walk to knock in three on the day. Nicky Delmonico drove in two, but the Sox were already steaked to a lead at that point. Runs weren’t exactly rare for Chicago yesterday, after all. As a team the Sox’ effort was well done.

Twins 3, Indians 1: It was a bullpen game for the Twins and the bullpen was fantastic, giving up only two hits and allowing one run. Mitch Garver homered and Max Kepler doubled twice and scored twice. The Twins took three of four from Cleveland — allowing only four runs in the whole dang series — and reminded the Indians who the boss is in the AL Central.

Cubs 2, Pirates 1: Kevin Newman hit a solo homer in the top of the first and that was the only run the Pirates would get all day. that blemish was all Jon Lester allowed in six innings of work while the Cubs embattled bullpen shut the Buccos out for five. Chicago scored its first run via  Kyle Schwarber double in the fifth and won it with a walkoff single from Javy Báez in the bottom of the eleventh. The new extra innings rule was relevant here, of course, with that winning run coming after Anthony Rizzo hit a sac fly to move the runner on second base to third before Báez’s hit through a drawn-in infield. The Pirates, meanwhile, got two stabs at extra innings with a runner on second and blew it both times. In the 10th, it happened when Pirates catcher Jacob Stallings tried to score from second on a single by Josh Bell with no outs and was thrown out by Kyle Schwarber from left. In the 11th, Kevin Newman was thrown out at third trying to advance on a grounder to shortstop. I don’t really consider those to be functions of the new rule, though. Those would’ve been bad base running decisions no matter when they occurred.

Rockies 9, Padres 6: Late last week I went on a radio station in San Diego and sung the praises of the Padres. Then they immediate go out and drop two of three to Colorado. I wonder if they’ll have me back? I dunno. Matt Kemp homered for Colorado for the second straight game, which provides a handy reminder that, like, Matt Kemp is still playing. The Rockies had a 9-1 led heading into the eighth and gave up five in the last two innings, but it’s Coors Field and that kind of stuff happens. The Rockies won it anyway and they move to 6-2, which is the team’s second-best first eight games of a season in the history of the franchise. They began 7-1 in 1995.

Rangers 9, Giants 5: Texas has a 5-1 lead in the fifth, blew it in the sixth, and then rallied in the seventh, loading the bases, getting a tie-breaking sac fly from Willie Calhoun after which Joey Gallo cleared ’em all with a three-run homer. Shin-Soo Choo also went deep. Evan Longoria and Chadwick Tromp homered for San Francisco, though I personally refuse to believe that there is an actual baseball player named “Chadwick Tromp.” That’s a character’s name from a really bad first draft of a first novel in which the author is trying way too hard.

Dodgers 3, Diamondbacks 0: Clayton Kershaw made his first start of the year after starting the season on the injured list. It was a very good start: Five and two-thirds innings, three hits, no runs, no walks, and six strikeouts. Cody Bellinger and Mookie Betts both homered. L.A. took three of four from the Snakes and have won five of six overall. The reports that the Dodgers would be a dominant team in 2020 were not exaggerated.

Athletics 3, Mariners 2: Ramón Laureano’s three-run homer in the fifth was all of the Athletics scoring on the day but it was all the scoring they would need. Chris Bassitt was strong into the sixth, allowing one run and striking out seven. M’s rookie Kyle Lewis hit a 420-foot homer, his third on the season. He has hit safely in all ten of Seattle’s games.

Astros 6, Angels 5: Albert Pujols hit a grand slam — career homer 658, two shy of Willie Mays — but the Angels blew an early 4-2 lead with a Josh Reddick RBI single in the ninth sending it to extras. The teams traded runs in the tenth but Houston prevailed when Alex Bregman‘s eleventh inning RBI single went unanswered in the bottom half. Worse news than just the loss for the Angels: Shohei Ohtani was terrible again. He got the start but was unable to finish the second inning, allowing two runs on five walks. After the game he said he felt discomfort in his pitching arm and was sent for an MRI. He’s not hitting either, so yeah, things are looking grim at the moment.

Yankees 9, Red Sox 7: Aaron Judge is absolutely dialed in right now and no one seems to have any idea how to stop him. He hit two homers here, a two-run shot and a three-run shot, and both of them were absolutely blasted. The second, a 468-foot bomb if you believe the box scores, broke a 7-7 tie in the bottom of the eighth. Just a crushing blow in more ways than one. It’s the fifth consecutive game in which Judge has homered. That’s the longest streak by a Yankees player since Álex Rodríguez did it from September 4-9 in 2007. A player has homered in six or more consecutive games just 32 times in MLB history. Six have done it seven times. The record is eight straight, held jointly by Ken Griffey Jr., Don Mattingly, and Dale Long. the way Judge is mashing at the moment, it seems like he has a fair shot at it.

Nationals vs. Marlins: POSTPONED

Cardinals vs. Brewers: POSTPONED

Phillies vs. Blue Jays: POSTPONED

Astros sweep as Twins lose 18th straight in playoffs

Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
Leave a comment

MINNEAPOLIS — Shaken up by a scandal before the virus outbreak shrunk the season, the Houston Astros barely played well enough to reach the playoffs – with the rest of baseball actively rooting against them.

Well, they’re not ready to leave yet.

Carlos Correa hit a two-out, tiebreaking home run in the seventh inning for the Astros, who produced another stifling pitching performance and swept Minnesota over two games with a 3-1 victory Wednesday that sent the Twins to a record 18th straight postseason loss.

“I know a lot of people are mad. I know a lot of people don’t want to see us here,” Correa said. “But what are they going to say now?”

Nine months after Houston’s rules-breaking, sign-stealing system was revealed, the Astros advanced to the Division Series in Los Angeles. As the sixth seed, they’ll face the Oakland Athletics or Chicago White Sox in a best-of-five matchup starting Monday at Dodger Stadium.

“I don’t think they necessarily thought that they had anything to prove. They just had to play ball,” said manager Dusty Baker, who took his fifth different team to the playoffs and advanced for the first time in seven rounds since winning the 2003 NL Division Series with the Chicago Cubs.

The Twins are 0-18 in the playoffs since winning Game 1 of their Division Series at the New York Yankees on Oct. 5, 2004, a total of seven rounds lost. Since that date, the Astros are 43-35 in postseason play, winning 10 of 15 rounds with three trips to the World Series.

Kyle Tucker hit two RBI singles for the Astros and made a key throw from left field for the inning-ending out in the fifth.

Rookie Cristian Javier worked three hitless innings in relief for the victory in his postseason debut and Ryan Pressly pitched a perfect ninth against his former team, giving the Houston bullpen a total of 9 2/3 scoreless innings in this wild card series with three hits allowed.

“From the very beginning, we envisioned ourselves back in the playoffs and playing real well,” Tucker said. “So we never counted ourselves out at any point.”

Nobody on this Twins team has had a hand in more than six of the playoffs losses, but for the second straight year one of baseball’s most potent lineups limped through a brief postseason cameo. In a three-game division series sweep by the Yankees last year, the Twins totaled seven runs and 22 hits. Against the Astros, they mustered only two runs and seven hits.

“We put a lot of balls in play, it seemed like, but they were up in the air and, yeah, it seemed like we played into their trap,” said Max Kepler, one of four starters who went hitless in the series. “At the end of the day, we didn’t get the job done.”

Nelson Cruz gave the Twins an RBI double for a second straight game, this time in the fourth inning against starter Jose Urquidy. Luis Arraez aggressively tried to score from first base, but Correa took the throw from Tucker and fired home to beat Arraez to the plate to preserve the tie after third base coach Tony Diaz waved him in.

“I don’t know why he sent him,” Correa said.

Then in the seventh against losing pitcher Cody Stashak, Correa drove a 1-0 slider into the tarp-covered seats above right-center field for his 12th home run in 52 playoff games.

After winning 101, 103 and 107 games in the last three regular seasons, winning the 2017 World Series and losing the championship in seven games to the Washington Nationals last year, the Astros stumbled through the 2020 season at 29-31 under Baker and new general manager James Click with a slew of injuries after the COVID-19 pandemic cut the schedule to 60 games.

They had the third-worst road record in the major leagues, too, but none of that mattered this week against the third-seeded Twins, who were out of sorts in their two biggest games this year.

Jose Berrios was one of the few who were locked in with five strong innings to start, with just two hits allowed. His two walks were costly, though, issued right before Tucker’s single in the fourth.

“I don’t think anyone was ready to leave, to end this way,” Cruz said. “That’s life.”

KIRILLOFF FOR BUXTON

Already missing third baseman Josh Donaldson, the Twins held another one of their most valuable players out: center fielder Byron Buxton. Baldelli declined to confirm whether Buxton was experiencing a recurrence of concussion symptoms that kept him out of the last two regular season games. Buxton was picked off first base after pinch running for Cruz in the eighth.

Kepler moved to center, and Alex Kirilloff – the 2016 first-round draft pick – played right field to become the first Twins player in history to make his major league debut in a postseason game. Kirilloff singled in the fourth. With the bases loaded in the first, he flied out to end the inning.

FEELING BLUE

Both teams took issue with plate umpire Manny Gonzalez’s strike zone, with Astros slugger George Springer the first to visibly complain. After being called out on strikes in the fourth, Springer barked, “No way, man!” multiple times on his way back to the dugout.

Then in the sixth, the Twins lost left fielder Eddie Rosario to ejection after he argued a called strike two that would’ve given him a walk if it were called a ball. After swinging and missing at strike three, Rosario yelled again and was quickly tossed.

First base umpire Tim Timmons missed consecutive calls in the eighth inning on grounders by the Astros when he called the runners safe. Both were reversed to outs after replay review.

UP NEXT

The Astros, who have reached the AL Championship Series in each of the last three years, will play Monday against either the A’s or the White Sox. RHP Lance McCullers Jr. is the only member of their regular season rotation who did not pitch in Minnesota.

The Twins enter the offseason with 10 players set to become free agents, including the 40-year-old Cruz who led the team in home runs and batting average (among players with a qualifying amount of at-bats) for a second straight season. Their 2021 opener is scheduled for April 1 at Milwaukee.