Daily Dose: Verlander wins seventh straight

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Justin Verlander took matters into his own hands Wednesday with Joel
Zumaya and Fernando Rodney both unavailable after working three
straight days, holding the White Sox to one run in a complete-game win.

Jim Thome’s solo homer was the only damage, as Verlander struck out
nine and walked one while topping 110 pitches for the eighth time in
nine starts. He’s 7-0 with a 1.10 ERA in that time.

While the Tigers sit seven games above .500 while the rest of their
division is 24 games below .500, here are some other notes from around
baseball …

* Grady Sizemore is still experiencing pain in his elbow, so he’ll
be shut down for the rest of the week before undergoing an MRI exam
Monday. He’s still hoping to avoid surgery, but Indians trainer Lonnie
Soloff said Wednesday that he’s unsure whether the “incremental gains
in range of motion” that Sizemore has made are enough for that to be
likely. Surgery would knock him out for another 4-6 weeks.

* John Smoltz is scheduled to make his final minor-league rehab
start Thursday at Triple-A after posting a 1.56 ERA, 13/2 K/BB ratio,
and .148 batting average against through his first four outings. If
things go smoothly Smoltz could join the Red Sox’s rotation as soon as
Tuesday against the Marlins, although Boston will have to make a
decision on which starter to bump before then.

* Brandon Morrow has changed his mind again regarding his long-term
role and asked the Mariners to let him try starting again after
struggling mightily as closer before losing ninth-inning duties to
David Aardsma. Seattle never should have let Morrow become a full-time reliever
at the age of 24 anyway and starting again is the best thing for him,
but he’ll be at Triple-A for a while building arm strength.

* Jim Leyland announced Wednesday that Dontrelle Willis will remain
in Detroit’s rotation, which tells you how bad Jeremy Bonderman looked
in his season debut. Willis is 1-3 with a 6.60 ERA and 16/20 K/BB ratio
in 30 innings, yet Leyland said that he “deserves” to start Sunday.
Willis has looked fairly serviceable when he’s not imploding, but the
decision says more about Bonderman’s diminished stuff.

* Ozzie Guillen revealed Wednesday that Carlos Quentin likely won’t
return from his foot injury until after the All-Star break, which is
rough news for a White Sox’s offense that ranks 12th among AL teams in
runs. Scott Podsednik has started 16 straight games in Quentin’s
absence and is playing surprisingly well, but his OPS is still 225
points below Quentin’s mark from last season and he’s due to decline.

* Anthony Reyes was one of my sleeper picks in AL-only leagues
coming into the year, but he posted a 6.57 ERA in eight starts before
landing on the disabled list and is now scheduled to undergo ulnar
nerve transposition surgery Friday at the hands of Dr. James Andrews.
Andrews may also perform Tommy John surgery if he discovers that Reyes
needs the ligament replaced, so his career is in trouble.

AL Quick Hits: John Lackey was rocked for nine runs Wednesday
and has a 6.61 ERA in six starts since coming off the disabled list …
Mark Teixeira went 4-for-5 with a homer Wednesday and is batting .343
with 16 homers in 36 games since his terrible April … Jeff Niemann
followed up last week’s complete-game shutout by allowing five runs in
3.2 innings Wednesday … Carl Pavano’s strong 11-start stretch came to a
screeching halt Wednesday as he coughed up nine runs … Gil Meche threw
seven scoreless innings Wednesday and tied a career-high with 11
strikeouts … Chien-Ming Wang didn’t make it out of the third inning
Wednesday and Phil Hughes also struggled relieving him … Denard Span
has left the Twins to have his bouts of dizziness examined … Alberto
Callaspo went 4-for-4 with a grand slam Wednesday, driving in his first
runs since May 16 … Jacoby Ellsbury sat out Wednesday’s game with
continued shoulder soreness.

NL Quick Hits: David Wright went 3-for-5 with two stolen bases
Wednesday and has already surpassed last year’s total of 15 steals …
Brad Lidge (knee) hopes to come off the disabled list in about two
weeks, but the Phillies have expressed much less optimism … Jorge Cantu
said Wednesday that his recent dizziness is caused by cholesterol
medication and should “clear out” soon … Charlie Morton lasted just one
inning against his former Braves teammates Wednesday, leaving with a
strained hamstring … Roy Oswalt’s next start has been pushed back from
Thursday to Saturday because of wrist soreness … Kyle Lohse (forearm)
will be out for at least a month and possibly through the All-Star
break … No. 10 pick Drew Storen signed before the draft was even over
Wednesday and the Stanford closer will be on the fast track to
Washington … Rich Harden (back) will be on an 85-pitch limit Saturday …
Rick Ankiel missed the cycle by a single Wednesday.

And That Happened: Thursday’s scores and highlights

ST. LOUIS, MO - SEPTEMBER 29: Rain falls during a game between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Cincinnati Reds at Busch Stadium on September 29, 2016 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights.

Oh, and here is my take on the idiotic ending to the Reds-Cardinals game which could potentially cost the Giants a playoff berth.

Nationals 5, Diamondbacks 3: Wilmer Difo hit his first major league homer. Pedro Severino hit his second. No National succumbed to season-ending injuries. So a rare success for Washington in these final days of the regular season.

Yankees 5, Red Sox 1: CC Sabathia allowed one run and four hits while pitching into the eighth inning. It was only his ninth win of the year — his first win in a month — but he lowered his ERA to 3.91. He strike out fewer guys than he used to, walks more and allows more hits. But the fact that he made 30 starts this year and made at least a modest return to form suggests that, maybe, Sabathia still has something in the tank. Not as an ace, of course, but at least as a guy who can give you some respectable innings at the back of a rotation. In other news, the Yankees were eliminated in the middle of this game by virtue of the Orioles beating the Blue Jays. Inevitable, but the mere fact that they staved off elimination until game 159 is pretty impressive given all that has happened this year.

Cubs 1, Pirates 1: You don’t see many ties in baseball. Unless it’s spring training. Or, like, 1912 or something and it gets dark. Thank Mother Nature for the game being called at 1-1. Thank this game having no playoff implications whatsoever for it not being resumed at a later date. It was the first tie in a regular season game since 2005.

Orioles 4, Blue Jays 0: Ubaldo Jimenez and two relievers combined on a three-hit shutout. Jimenez allowed one of those hits in his six and two-thirds innings. The O’s and Jays are tied in the Wild Card standings with Detroit (1.5 back) and Seattle (2 back) the only ones left who can break up their postseason party.

Braves 5, Phillies 2Freddie Freeman‘s 30-game hitting streak ended but the Braves won for the 10th time in 11 games. The Tigers play Atlanta in the season’s final series. A month or two ago that looked like a nice way to end things. Right now, however, there’s a decent chance that the Braves help end the Tigers season. If that comes to pass, please say a prayer for those Braves fans you know who are engaged to grumpy Tigers fans come Sunday. Not, um, that I know any of those.

Twins 7, Royals 6:

screen-shot-2016-09-30-at-6-51-30-am

Same.

Cardinals 4, Reds 3: Not sure what else there is to say at this point that I didn’t say here. I dunno, Yadier Molina and Jedd Gyorko hit solo homers. Wheeeeeee.

Rays 5, White Sox 3: Congratulations to Chris Archer for avoiding his 20th loss of the season. Pitcher wins and losses mean little about the skill or prowess of a pitcher, but it’s better not to be the answer to a trivia question like that.

Dodgers 9, Padres 4Joc Pederson doubled twice and drove in three as the Dodgers avoided a sweep. The Dodgers are two games behind the Nationals with three to play in the race for home-field advantage in their division series matchup. Between that and possibly keeping the Giants out of the Wild Card game, they have a lot to play for this weekend in San Francisco.

Mariners 3, Athletics 2: Mike Zunino hit a go-ahead home run in the seventh inning to keep the Mariners alive for at least one more day.

Giants 7, Rockies 2: Johnny Cueto started out a bit shaky, giving up two in the top of the first, but he settled down and didn’t allow anything else in his remaining six innings. It was close until the sixth when the San Francisco pulled ahead, thanks in part to an uncharacteristic defensive blunder by Nolan Arenado. The Giants control their own destiny in the Wild Card, standing a game ahead of St. Louis with three to play.

Indians vs. Tigers: POSTPONED: The leaves of brown came tumbling down

Remember in September in the rain
The sun went out just like a dying amber
That September in the rain

To every word of love i heard you whisper
The raindrops seemed to play our sweet refrain
Though spring is here to me it’s still September
That September in the rain

The idiocy of baseball’s replay system was on full display in St. Louis last night

ST. LOUIS, MO - SEPTEMBER 29: Matt Carpenter #13 of the St. Louis Cardinals scores the game-winning run against the Cincinnati Reds in the ninth inning at Busch Stadium on September 29, 2016 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
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Baseball’s current instant replay system, in place since the beginning of the 2014 season, has experienced hiccups, but it has generally avoided extreme controversy or high profile failures. Last night in St. Louis, however, the replay system failed in spectacular fashion, potentially costing a team a playoff berth.

We wrote about the play last night: bottom of the ninth in a tied Reds-Cardinals game, Matt Carpenter on first base, Yadier Molina at the plate. Molina hits a ball which should’ve been a ground rule double, halting Carpenter at third. The umpires missed the ball bouncing out of play, however, and Carpenter was allowed to run home, scoring the winning run. Due to the noise and confusion of the Cardinals’ apparent walkoff win, Reds manager Bryan Price could not hear the phone call from his video coordinator telling him to challenge the play. By the time the message got to Price, he was told his challenge was too late. Game over.

The lack of a replay review in that situation was huge. The call would’ve, without question, been overturned if it were reviewed. If that had occurred, there is a possibility that the Cardinals would’ve lost that game, putting them two games back of the Giants with three to play. Instead, they were gifted a win and are now one game back with three to play. At the very least, this will cause the Giants to have to play one more meaningful game this weekend than they might’ve otherwise had to, in turn giving them one less game to rest players and set up their pitching staff for the Wild Card game. It could also, of course, prove to be the difference between them making the Wild Card game and going home after Sunday’s finale against the Dodgers.

If this comes to pass, Major League Baseball will no doubt characterize Thursday night’s events as a freak occurrence. Just one of those things that you could never predict and thus could never prepare for. If you don’t buy that they’ll admonish you that this outcome would’ve occurred the same way had it happened before replay was instituted in 2014 and, hey, we’re doing the best we can. If you’re still not satisfied, baseball will ignore you and pivot to the fans who care less about it, casting the replay failure as a charming and memorable historical event, a la Merkle’s Boner, the Pine Tar Game or Don Dekinger’s blown call at first base in the 1985 World Series. One which, however bad it seemed at the time, is poised to become just another chapter in baseball’s grand history, ready for highlight reels and preroll ad-sponsored video clips. Baseball will turn the page on this, so why can’t you?

Don’t buy any of that. Not for a second. Don’t buy the notion that this was some sort of freak play because freak plays are, by definition, unforeseeable. And while the narrow specifics of last night’s replay failure in St. Louis may not have been predicted, the weaknesses and vulnerabilities of instant replay as implemented were foreseeable from the moment baseball idiotically decided to use a challenge system to initiate replay reviews.

We sharply criticized the use of a challenge system for instant replay in baseball at the time it was adopted in August 2013. Indeed, we sharply criticized a challenge system almost a year earlier when it was merely suspected that baseball would go in that direction with all of this. The reasons were pretty straightforward. Conceptually speaking, it should not be the responsibility of managers to correct the mistakes or oversights of umpires on the field, which is what a challenge system requires. Moreover, a challenge system, and its rules limiting the number and manner of challenges, subordinates getting the call right to strategy and gamesmanship with respect to when and how to use the arbitrary number of challenges granted, and that makes zero sense when the point is to simply correct mistakes.

The problems with a challenge system were not all conceptual, however. Some were practical. In January 2013, Mike Port, who served as Major League Baseball’s vice president in charge of umpiring between 2005 and 2011, talked about how managers were the weak link in a challenge system, saying “you would be amazed how many managers, coaches, and players are not conversant with the rules.” He might’ve added, as others have, that managers cannot possibly see everything that happens on the field from their vantage point, including balls hit to the boundaries. As a result, the notion that a manager can always instantly and knowledgeably pop out of the dugout to challenge a call is unrealistic. He’s going to need some help.

Which is why every team hired a video coordinator, sitting in the clubhouse watching the plays, ready to call the manager in order to tell him when to challenge and when not to. This arrangement solved one problem — the manager’s inability to see it all — but created others. For one thing, it creates potential inefficiencies and inequalities, with some clubs inevitably having more savvy or highly-skilled coordinators, giving them an edge that fair and impartial umpiring would never have created. For another, it necessitated the use of technology — video and phone lines — and technology can always fail. Just as it did last night when Bryan Price’s phone could not be heard over the roar of the crowd in a pre-playoff frenzy.

It was a technological failure that last night’s crew chief, Bill Miller, implied could’ve been fixed if Price had “made eye contact” or something but, hey, he didn’t, so the game was over. When baseball first announced the challenge system in 2013, John Schuerholz, tasked with defending it, said that it would create “a happy balance that will retain the uniqueness and charm of baseball.” I suppose there’s something “charming” about the need for a major league manager to have to gaze into the eyes of an umpire in order to get a blown call corrected, but one would hope that, in 2016, there are better ways to handle things.

Of course it was obvious that there were better ways to handle it in 2013 when Major League Baseball came up with this dumb system. Baseball’s managers, who did not want a challenge system, knew it. Baseball’s former umpire chief knew it. Even dumb bloggers in their mother’s basement knew it. In 2013, baseball had carte blanche and the support of everyone in the game to institute a system that got calls right. They chose, however, to go with a system that, by definition, does not have getting calls right as its sole objective and by necessity limits the ability for calls to be reviewed in the first place due to managers not being omniscient and omnipresent and due to technological limitations.

For want of a nail the shoe was lost. For want of an answered phone call, a playoff spot might be too. It never had to be this way, but baseball wanted it this way. If the Giants end up sitting at home next week rather than playing the Mets in a Wild Card game, I’m pretty sure they won’t be comforted by whatever baloney Major League Baseball dishes out to tell everyone why this is all OK.