And That Happened: Tuesday's scores and highlights

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Dodgers 8, Mets 0: Somewhere on Long Island there’s a guy who
went to last night’s game for the express purpose of booing Manny and
holding up a sign with a syringe on it or something. And, yes, Manny
was booed and was even ejected from the game for arguing balls and
strikes! Dude from Long Island was probably loving it! Too bad, then,
that Manny also knocked in three runs and then, after his ejection,
watched the Dodgers complete a pretty damn dominant performance from
the clubhouse while eating candy and drinking soda or whatever it is
Manny does.

Rays 3, Blue Jays 1: Phun Pfact: Map makers will sometimes slip
in phantom streets or towns or something so that they can tell if a
competing map maker is really just copying their work. I suspect that
the people who put together box scores do the same thing. Evidence: the
“pitcher” named Marc Rzepczynski. He doesn’t really exist. He’s a
copyright protection device. He was created by the NBC Sports people so
that they can tell if Yahoo! is ripping off the scores. At least I’m
pretty sure that’s the case.

Tigers 8, Royals 5: Verlander wasn’t particularly sharp, but he
strikes out 11 because the Royals aren’t particularly sharp either.
According to the game story, Verlander’s 141 strikeouts are the most by
a Detroit pitcher before the All-Star Game in 37 years. Of course that
was Mickey Lolich, and Mickey Lolich used to pitch approximately 598
innings a year back in the early 70s, so Verlander’s feat is far more
impressive.

White Sox 10, Indians 6: I’m struggling to think of a trade that
was as disastrous for both teams involved as the Perez-DeRosa trade has
been this far for Cleveland and St. Louis. Paul Konerko drove in seven.
Why is it, despite the fact that he’s 33 years-old and has been in the
league for 12 years, that I still think of him as a Dodgers’ prospect?
Same thing happened to me with Robin Ventura for his whole career. No
matter how old he got, I pictured him playing for Oklahoma State in the
1987 College World Series. Maybe the White Sox uniforms have some sort
of time warping effect or something.

Orioles 12, Mariners 4: Luke Scott was a one-man wrecking crew
(3-4, HR, 3B, 7 RBI). From the game story: “Ichiro Suzuki has turned
down MLB’s request to participate in the Home Run Derby.” Wait, what?
The guy hits six homers a year. The only reason they’d want him in
there is as a cynical rating ploy for the Japanese market, which I’m
assuming gets the All-Star broadcast. Good for him for not wanting to
be used like that.

Cardinals 5, Brewers 0: Both Brewers’ bench coach Willie
Randolph and hitting coach Dale Sveum were ejected. I said at the
beginning of the year that it may be awkward for both of these former
managers to be in subordinate roles this year. I’d like to think, then,
that their ejections were really auditions for any managerial openings
that pop up the rest of the year.

Braves 2, Cubs 1: Javier Vazquez continues to get no run
support, but he didn’t need much last night, as he gave a single run in
seven innings. His ERA is down to 2.95, but because his record is only
6-7, he doesn’t make the All-Star Game. Total ripoff.

Pirates 6, Astros 3: I can’t think of a single thing to say about this game, so I’ll say this: my son, Carlo, recently discovered the book Where the Wild Things Are.
He loves it. I loved it when I was a kid, and I love reading it to him.
I think our love of it is based on the fact that, deep down, we both
have anger issues. Nothing crazy — neither of us are violent or
bombastic — but both he and I are easily frustrated and often stomp
around a bit in something not unlike the book’s wild rumpus when things
don’t go just the way we planned. The book, you see, is really about
anger, and how it’s natural and follows a predictable but necessary arc
before resolving itself and how ultimately it’s OK. But the thing is,
the beauty of the book has a lot to do with the fact that it’s only ten
sentences long and can be read in a couple of minutes, even if you
linger on the pictures a bit. It follows that anger arc and resolves
itself pretty quickly, resulting in an almost therapeutic effect. Which
makes me wonder how in the hell they’re going to make a movie out of it.
And why they felt the need to in the first place. I hope my son never
gets wind of the movie, because I don’t want the wonderful few minutes
we spend with the book each night to be sullied in any way.

Sorry Pirates and Astros fans. I’ll try to pay more attention tomorrow night.

Red Sox 5, A’s 2: Round numbers galore: Beckett’s 10th win,
Bay’s 20th home run, Giambi’s 0 for 4. I guess what I’m saying is that
nothing out of the ordinary happened.

Reds 4, Phillies 3: Way to bounce back after getting
slaughtered. A couple of homers for Brandon Phillips and a single off
of Brad Lidge carried the day.

Yankees 10, Twins 2: Production from all over the Yankees’ order in this one, as Cano, Gardner and Cervelli combine to go 7-14 with 6 RBI.

Rockies 5, Nationals 4: Defensive breakdowns killed the Nats,
with the last being a potentially inning-ending comebacker that Joe
Beimel threw to the wrong guy down at second.

Rangers 8, Angels 5: And we’re tied again, as Andruw Jones — on
an unexpected hot streak — blasts a three-run homer in the course of a
big fifth inning. In addition to the game, the Angels lose Vlad to a
knee injury that, while maybe not terribly serious, has to be enough to
keep him from ever playing the field again, right? I mean, he has to be
a DH at this point, doesn’t he?

Diamondbacks 4, Padres 3: Four in a row for Arizona, all coming
after Mark Reynolds yelled at everyone on his team. Coincidence? Well,
yes, it most like is a coincidence, actually.

Giants 3, Marlins 0: It’s probably against the rules for Tim
Lincecum to have dressed up in Barry Zito’s uniform and pitch last
night, but he apparently did it anyway (8.1 IP, 4 H, 0 ER).

Eddie Perez likely to be Braves’ interim manager if Fredi Gonzalez is fired

Atlanta Braves bullpen coach Eddie Perez, left, stands with manager Fredi Gonzalez during a spring training baseball workout, Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014, in Kissimmee, Fla. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
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There’s been a lot of rumbling that Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez will soon get the pink slip. His team is 7-20 entering Thursday’s action. Historically, front offices — particularly those of rebuilding/restructuring teams — respond to that by making coaching and/or managerial changes.

Per MLB.com’s Mark Bowman, bullpen coach Eddie Perez is likely to fill in as the Braves’ manager on an interim basis if and when Gonzalez is fired. Perez has been with the Braves as a coach since 2007. He played for the Braves in 10 out of his 11 seasons from 1995-2005. Perez wasn’t known for his bat, but was respected for the way he called games and handled the Braves’ then-elite pitching staff.

Bowman notes that Gonzalez isn’t expected to be fired over the weekend. If the team plays well, that could extend Gonzalez’s leash, so to speak.

First baseman Freddie Freeman issued a vote of confidence for his skipper, saying, “I think everything is getting magnified since we’re off to this start. I don’t know if it’s fair to put it all on [Gonzalez] because he’s not a player. We’re the 25 guys [who have to] go out there and play every day. We’re obviously not playing to our capabilities. To say that’s Fredi’s fault is unfair in my opinion.”

What’s on Tap: Previewing Thursday’s action

Chicago Cubs' Anthony Rizzo, left, and Kris Bryant celebrate a 7-1 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates in a baseball game in Pittsburgh, Tuesday, May 3, 2016. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar
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The Phillies and Cardinals got started a little early, finishing up their four-game series on Thursday afternoon. In the evening, we have 10 games on our slate, including Cubs-Nationals.

The Cubs have jumped out to a 20-6 start, looking like baseball’s best — and scariest — team. Entering Thursday’s action, the Cubs have a +93 run differential (runs scored minus runs allowed). That’s by far the best in baseball. The next best are the Nationals at +50, the Mets at +44, and the Cardinals at +41. In fact, the Cubs’ run differential is so good that they have under-performed relative to their expected won-lost record of 22-4.

This is without Kyle Schwarber. This is with Jason Heyward hitting a miserable .211/.317/.256, Jorge Soler hitting .185/.276/.292, and Addison Russell hitting .224/.356/.329. It’s with John Lackey pitching to a 4.32 ERA.

What makes the Cubs so good? They’re on-base machines. The club’s aggregate .364 on-base percentage is second best in the majors behind the Pirates. Dexter Fowler has an outstanding .470 OBP and Anthony Rizzo is at an elite .403. In fact, of their regulars with 100-plus plate appearances, Heyward is the only one with a sub-.350 OBP. The league average is .319. The Cubs steal bases, too, as they’re 17-for-24 (~71 percent) in that department.

The Cubs have baseball’s best pitching staff, which has yielded a major league-best 2.54 runs per game. Only four teams are below 3.00 runs allowed per game. Of course, reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta is the big contributor to that with a sterling 0.84 ERA, but Jon Lester has put up a 1.58 mark and Jason Hammel 1.24. Closer Hector Rondon has found himself in only four save situations but has converted each of them with an even 1.00 ERA and a 15/0 K/BB ratio in nine innings. The Cubs’ aggregate bullpen ERA of 2.66 is fifth-best in the majors.

It’s too early to use defensive statistics with any degree of certainty, but even the eye test shows the Cubs to be elite defenders at the important positions, particularly shortstop (Russell), right field (Heyward), and third base (Kris Bryant).

The Cubs’ success isn’t exactly surprising. The club rode five consecutive fifth-place finishes into some high draft picks and that talent is starting to establish itself in the majors. Whether it was fans, writers, or Vegas oddsmakers, the Cubs were preseason darlings.

Kyle Hendricks starts for the Cubs opposite the Nationals’ Joe Ross at Wrigley Field tonight at 8:05 PM EDT.

The rest of Thursday’s action…

Detroit Tigers (Michael Fulmer) @ Cleveland Indians (Trevor Bauer), 6:10 PM EDT

New York Yankees (Masahiro Tanaka) @ Baltimore Orioles (Kevin Gausman), 7:05 PM EDT

Texas Rangers (Derek Holland) @ Toronto Blue Jays (J.A. Happ), 7:07 PM EDT

Arizona Diamondbacks (Robbie Ray) @ Miami Marlins (Adam Conley), 7:10 PM EDT

Milwaukee Brewers (Chase Anderson) @ Cincinnati Reds (Alfredo Simon), 7:10 PM EDT

Boston Red Sox (Henry Owens) @ Chicago White Sox (Erik Johnson), 8:10 PM EDT

Seattle Mariners (Wade Miley) @ Houston Astros (Chris Devenski), 8:10 PM EDT

New York Mets (Jacob deGrom) @ San Diego Padres (Colin Rea), 10:10 PM EDT

Colorado Rockies (Chris Rusin) @ San Francisco Giants (Matt Cain), 10:15 PM EDT

The Phillies are seeing to it that their minor leaguers eat well

Crop of vegetables. Potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and other vegetables.
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For years we’ve talked about how odd it is that baseball teams are in the extraordinarily competitive business of developing highly-trained athletes yet, for whatever reason, it pays minor leaguers virtually nothing and all but forces them to subsist on junk food and other cheap options.

As Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports, however, the Phillies are changing that. Indeed, they’re plowing serious money into nutritious food options for their minor league players:

The Phillies are teaching their minor leaguers how to play baseball, so why not teach them how to eat well, too?

“We want them to not have to worry about anything other than baseball,” assistant general manager Ned Rice said. “When they’re playing for the Phillies, they’ll have that stuff taken care of for them.”

 

That this is a news story — and it is a good and novel one — is kind of sad in some ways. How teams haven’t been on board with this approach for decades is beyond me.

Tracking baseball’s “Naturals”

The Natural
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Rob Neyer has a great column in today’s New York Times in which he tracks the real life players who, at one time or another, were dubbed “The Natural.” A la Roy Hobbs in the book and movie of the same name.

There are some that a lot of people probably remember: Jeff Francoeur and Ken Griffey, Jr. as “The Natural” come to mind easily. There are some who I don’t ever recall being called “The Natural” but were, apparently, like Terry Pendelton and Karim Garcia. There are also some whose stories were far odder and far more tragic than any version of Hobbs’ tale (oh man, a Toe Nash sighting!). Then there’s Rick Ankiel, whose path may be the closest one to Hobbs’ of them all, at least broadly speaking.

Fun stuff that, in addition to being a walk down memory lane, is also an instructive lesson about how the power of narrative works in sports.