And That Happened: Sunday's scores and highlights

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Braves 7, Mets 1: Correlation is not the same thing as
causation, but it’s worth noting that the Braves are 5-2 since
unloading Francoeur. The Mets are now seventeen games back of the Nats
in the Bryce Harper sweepstakes. Maybe that makes them a longshot, but
I like their chances of winning that race way more than I like them
winning the N.L. East.

Phillies 5, Marlins 0: While the Braves trend upwards and the
Mets trend down, the Phillies simply don’t plan on losing, it seems.
J.A. Happ shuts the Marlins down for seven and four others combine to
handle the remaining two innings, as the Phils sweep the Marlins. They
lead the East by 6.5 games, and no one else in that division looks as
though they have a higher gear.

Angels 1, Athletics 0: It was like Game 7 of the 1991 World
Series, but only if Jack Morris was lifted after nine and John Smoltz
was lifted after eight. And if Dan Gladden was a Venezuelan right
fielder with minimal range who homered instead of doubled. And if the
game really didn’t mean all that much. Hope you didn’t blink during
this one, though. It was 2 hours, 17 minutes for a 10 inning game.

Giants 4, Pirates 3: The Giants finally find some post-break
offense. Not a lot, mind you, but enough to finally win a game. Matt
Cain was strong (7 IP, 5 H, 1 ER). Heavy hearts in the San Francisco
dugout, as earlier in the day Giants’ part owner Sue Burns died of
complications from cancer. According to reports of her death, she was
diagnosed with the disease July 10. Christ, why do we care about most
of the stupid crap we care about in this world when any single one of
us can go from zero to cancer to the sweet hereafter in nine freakin’
days?

Dodgers 4, Astros 3: Big surprise as the Dodgers’ seventh hitter
goes 3-3, scores four runs and hits the game-winning dinger. Oh, wait.
It was Matt Kemp, so I suppose the only surprising thing about it is
that he’s still hitting seventh. Whatevers, Joe.

Rockies 6, Padres 1: It’s Jason Marquis’ world; the rest of us
are just, quite unexpectedly, living in it. The Major League leader in
wins — I repeat, Jason Marquis, the Major Leagues’ leader in victories
— not only pitches eight strong innings, but he doubles and drives in
two runs as well.

Cardinals 2, Diamondbacks 1: Joel Piniero is apparently living
in Jason Marquis’ world too, contributing on the hill and at the plate
(7 IP, 5 H, 1 ER; 1-3, 2B, 2 RBI).

Rays 4, Royals 3: Roman Colon walked in the winning run after
getting ahead of the hitter 0-2 which, like so many other things in
Kansas City these days, had to be kind of depressing. Luke Hochevar
pitched well. When asked about it, he sounded like he was sending Colon
a message: “I got to two strikes a lot and I tried to put them away.”
“Unlike that no-good sonofa@!$%# Colon,” Hochevar thought but did not
add. And this may mean nothing, but Joe Posnanski’s Facebook status
last night said “Something big coming?” I suppose it could mean that a
Skyline Chili is opening up in Kansas City, but with Joe that would
have inspired an exclamation point. No, if I had to guess, I’d say he
heard someone telling someone that someone was getting fired. Or
something.

Yankees 2, Tigers 1: Nice weekend for the Yankees as they sweep
Detroit, but this one is especially nice as Joba Chamberlain looked
good for the first time in a while. Can’t say that the Tigers looked
bad, though. Leyland pretty much said it all: “If you told me that we’d
hold those guys to nine runs in three games in this ballpark, I’d say
we’d have won two out of three for sure, maybe even sweep. We just
didn’t get any hits. Period.”

Orioles 10, White Sox 2: Jeremy Guthrie (8 IP, 3 H, 2 ER) and
Greg Zaun (3-4, HR, 4 RBI) had nice days to salvage one from the
Chisox. In other news, I like to say “Chisox.” Chisox, Chisox, Chisox.

Blue Jays 3, Red Sox 1: Halladay was his usual ridiculous self
(CG, 6 H, 1 ER, 7K, 0 BB). He’s still not going anywhere, despite what
the writers of all the game stories say in the seven paragraphs that
precede any discussion of the actual game action, but yes, he was
impressive. The Sox’ lead over the Yankees is now down to one game.

Cubs 11, Nationals 3: Julian Tavarez had another bad outing and was designated for assignment after the game. Chico Harlan has a detailed story about it all,
and it’s actually kind of sad. Tavarez lives in a hotel room near the
stadium in Washington and keeps no friends in D.C. He gets to the park
early. He does nothing else but play, go home, sleep, and then come to
the park again. He says that baseball is everything to him. You hear
about a guy like that and hope that he can stick around a while. When
he doesn’t, you probably have to worry about him even more than you did
when he was on the team.

Mariners 5, Indians 3: If there were any doubts — and I suppose
there could have been a few — as to whether Ichiro was a Hall of Famer
based solely on his U.S. output, they’re being put to rest this season.
He went 3-4 yesterday, raising his average to .363, which suggests a
Tony Gwynn-decline, not a Roberto Alomar one. As for the Indians, I’m
running out of smack to talk. There was a “the bright side of the 2009
Indians” kind of article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer yesterday, and
it focused on Sizemore, Choo, Martinez and Cabrera. Those dudes
combined to go 0-15.

Reds 5, Brewers 3: It’s curious that the Brewers have now lost
four straight Yovani Gallardo starts. I mean, usually you’re better off
with your ace on the mound. Lots of complaining about the umps
in this one from the Milwaukee side of things. “[Dale Sveum] felt that
this guy’s strike zone was a little erratic,” manager Ken Macha said,
adding that “the strike zone got a little wide in the eighth and ninth
innings.” Well yeah. Umps got flights to catch after Sunday games just
like anyone else. What does Sveum expect?

Rangers 5, Twins 3: Ian Kinsler starts the game with a leadoff
homer and ends it with a walkoff. Pretty neat! Not so neat that he did
it off of a knuckleballer, of course — Karma’s gonna kick him in the
jewels for that somehow — but I suppose he’s riding pretty high today,
anyway.

Don Mattingly thinks pace of play can be improved by changing views on strikeouts

Miami Marlins manager Don Mattingly sits in the dugout prior to a baseball game against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Los Angeles, Monday, April 25, 2016. (AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo)
AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo
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Marlins manager Don Mattingly has one potential solution to the pace of play issue: change the way people value strikeouts, the Associated Press reports.

Strikeouts have been rising steadily since 2005. Then, a typical game averaged 6.30 strikeouts. In 2016, there were 8.03 strikeouts per game. There are many explanations for this phenomenon. For one, teams are searching specifically for young pitchers who can throw hard — like triple-digits hard. They figure they can teach them the other pertinent skills in the minors. Second, Sabermetrics has shown that a strikeout is only marginally worse than an out made on a ball put in play. Sometimes, the strikeout is preferable, especially if there’s a runner on first base with less than two outs and a weak hitter at the plate. Sabermetrics has also shown home runs to be the best and most efficient way to contribute on offense. Furthermore, younger players tend to focus more on power in order to get noticed by scouts. Unless it’s paired with other elite skills, a scout isn’t going to remember a player who hit the ball into the hole on the right side, but he will remember the kid who blasted a 450-foot homer.

Here’s what Mattingly had to say:

Analytically, a few years back nobody cared about the strikeout, so it’s OK to strike out 150, 160, 170 times, and that guy’s still valued in a big way. Well, as soon as we start causing that to be a bad value — the strikeouts — guys will put the ball in play more. So once we say strikeouts are bad and it’s going to cost you money the more you strike out, then the strikeouts will go away. Guys will start making adjustments and putting the ball in play more.

[…]

If our game values [say that] strikeouts don’t matter, they are going to keep striking out, hitting homers, trying to hit home runs and striking out.

Simply believing strikeouts are bad won’t magically change its value. However, creating social pressure regarding striking out can change it. Theoretically, anyway. Creating that social pressure is easier said than done.

There is a dichotomy here as well. Home runs are exciting. Strikeouts and walks are not. Often, though, the three go hand-in-hand-in-hand. A player actively trying to cut down on his strikeouts by putting the ball in play will also likely cut down on his strikeout and walk rates. There doesn’t seem to be an elegant solution here. Wishing for fewer strikeouts, walks, and homers doesn’t really seem to give way to a more exciting game.

Sean Doolittle: “Refugees aren’t stealing a slice of the pie from Americans.”

ANAHEIM, CA - JUNE 25:  Sean Doolittle #62 of the Oakland Athletics pitches during the ninth inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on June 25, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images
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In the past, we’ve commented on Athletics reliever Sean Doolittle and his girlfriend Eireann Dolan’s community service. In 2015, the pair hosted Syrian refugee families for Thanksgiving and their other charitable efforts have included LGBTQ outreach and help for veterans.

Athletes and their significant others have typically avoided stepping into political waters, but Doolittle and Dolan have shown that it’s clearly no concern to them. In the time since, the Syrian refugee issue has become even more of a hot-button issue and Doolittle recently discussed it with Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times.

I think America is the best country in the world because we’ve been able to attract the best and brightest people from all over the world. We have the smartest doctors and scientists, the most creative and innovative thinkers. A travel ban like this puts that in serious jeopardy.

I’ve always thought that all boats rise with the tide. Refugees aren’t stealing a slice of the pie from Americans. But if we include them, we can make the pie that much bigger, thus ensuring more opportunities for everyone.

Doolittle, of course, is referring to Executive Order 13769 signed by President Trump which sought to limit incoming travel to the United States from seven countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. A temporary restraining order on the executive order was placed on February 3, a result of State of Washington v. Trump.

Doolittle spoke more about the plight refugees face:

These are people fleeing civil wars, violence and oppression that we can’t even begin to relate to. I think people think refugees just kind of decide to come over. They might not realize it takes 18-24 months while they wait in a refugee camp. They go through more than 20 background checks and meetings with immigration officers. They are being vetted.

They come here, and they want to contribute to society. They’re so grateful to be out of a war zone or whatever they were running from in their country that they get jobs, their kids go to our schools, they’re paying taxes, and in a lot of cases, they join our military.

Around this time last year, Craig wrote about Doolittle and Dolan not sticking to baseball. They’re still not, nor should they be. Hopefully, the duo’s outspokenness inspires other players and their loved ones to speak up for what’s right.

[Hat tip: Deadspin’s Hannah Keyser]