And That Happened: Sunday's scores and highlights

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Phillies 9, Cardinals 2: Trading for Matt Holliday is all
Wellemeyer and good, but you gotta pitch too. Despite their new bauble,
the Cards drop two of three to the Phils, and find themselves knocked
out of first place because . . .

Cubs 5, Reds 2: The Cubbies are on fire. I was a guest on WDWS
radio in Champaign, Illinois last month, and host Brian Moline asked me
how I liked the Cardinals chances. My answer boiled down to “with
Albert, all things are possible.” I noted, however, that at the time
just about every single thing you can imagine had gone wrong for the
Cubs yet (a) they were still only two games out and; (b) some things
would stop going wrong for them eventually. That seems to have happened
(or stopped happening depending on your point of view), and it’s now a
very real race. I’m going to be on WDWS again on Tuesday, and I suspect
I will gloat a bit. I may even mention that I’m an Ohio State fan too,
which should really make me popular in Cardinals/Illini country.

Yankees 7, A’s 5: The Yankees are 9-1 out of the break. Sure,
seven of those ten games have come against last place teams (Baltimore
and Oakland) but they still count and there’s something to be said
about winning the ones you’re supposed to. Apropos of nothing, I’m
reading this box score as I watch the Tigers-White Sox game, and I’m
realizing that, all year, I thought that Adam Kennedy was playing for
the Tigers and Adam Everett was playing for the A’s instead of the
other way around. Not sure if that says more about those guys or me as
a writer. Either way, I’m sure I could have gone with that
misconception all season and never once had it really matter for bloggy
purposes.

Orioles 6, Red Sox 2: Albert Einstein once said “The definition
of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting
different results.” Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Red Sox and
their use of John Smoltz. Smoltzie, who won’t get too many cheers from
me until he’s back in Atlanta for his number retiring ceremony next
summer, gave up another six runs on nine hits in five innings. As
predicted, he’s really becoming a difference maker in the AL East race.

Blue Jays 5, Rays 1: A bit of a letdown for the Rays after
mounting an eight-run comeback in twelve innings on Saturday night.
Which itself came a couple of days after getting blanked by Mark
Buehrle. Maybe the Rays were just tired of talking to the media about
big doings. Tampa Bay now has a series against the Yankees, a breather
against the Royals, and then a short series against the Red Sox.
Anytime is a good time, but now would be a particularly good time to
make a move and get off the fringes and into the, well, whatever the
opposite of “fringes” are of the AL East race. Is “fringes” a blanket
metaphor? What the hell do you call the middle of a blanket?

Braves 10, Brewers 2: A day off for Chipper meant a rare start
for Kelly Johnson, with Martin Prado sliding over to third. Johnson
responded by going 3-4 with a double, a homer and two RBI. Though it
makes sense that Prado has the job from here on out, I haven’t yet
given up on Kelly Johnson, and I believe that he can still be an
important part of this nutritious breakfast. Atlanta is making up no
ground on the Phillies these days because the Phillies don’t fell much
like losing anymore, but they’re only 3.5 back in the wild card race,
tied with an inferior Marlins team, and trailing the flailing Cards and
Giants. The Rockies sit at the top of that heap, however, and since
their turnaround this year seems to have been caused by one of these, they may be tough to catch.

Nationals 3, Padres 2: Without looking at official attendance,
I’m going to wager that tens and tens of people watched this one.
Probably fair to say that, overall records aside, the Padres are a
worse team than the Nats are. Royals too, for that matter. And speaking
of the Royals . . .

Rangers 7, Royals 2: You have to figure that the Royals are
going to win the game when Sidney frickin’ Ponson of all people throws
six scoreless innings, but it wasn’t to be. Another day, another
bullpen implosion, another loss. Can’t really blame Hillman for not
sending out Soria this time as he threw two innings and 37 pitches on
Saturday. You can blame Alberto Callaspo, however, who dropped a pop
fly that would have ended the seventh inning with no runs scoring
instead of the three that did, and Juan Cruz who got shellacked once
again. What’s with Cruz, anyway? After ending April with a 1.69 ERA, he
threw up a 6.00 for May, a 6.97 for June, and an 8.22 so far in July.
I’m no mathematician, but I think that puts him on pace to, um [carry
the two . . .] be really, really awful for August and September.

Mets 8, Astros 3: Ponson and Livan Hernandez (7 IP, 8 H, 3 ER)
each pitched well yesterday. In other news, I started to dig a bunker
in the backyard. You can never be too careful with sings and portents
and whatnot.

Rockies 4, Giants 2: As mentioned in the Braves recap, the
Giants are in near free fall and the Rockies are bulletproof. Colorado
now goes on the road for ten games. In years past I’d say something
like “now’s the time when the competition can make their move,” but
this Rockies team isn’t like the Rockies teams of old. They have 54
wins this year. 27 of them came at home. 27 have come on the road.

Twins 10, Angels 1: Justin Morneau now leads the AL in both
homers and RBI. If he keeps that up, he may very well lead all of
baseball in the category of most undeserved MVP awards, lifetime.
Though to be fair to him, if the music stopped right now, a 2009 MVP
award would be less egregious than his 2006 award and his second place
finish in 2008. He’s having a good season. If either he or Mauer are
gonna get voter love, though, the Twins have to do better than this, as
they’re just 4-6 since the break.

Marlins 8, Dodgers 6: Jason Schmidt pitches again, is bad again,
but this time he doesn’t dodge the bullets he did against the Reds on
Monday. Will he get another start? If he does, this business will get
out of control. It will get out of control and we’ll be lucky to live
through it.

Indians 12, Mariners 3: Break up the Tribe! They sweep a good
Mariners team and are riding a four game winning streak. And they
really bombed out the Ms, outscoring them 31-6 in the three game
series. The Mariners fall to 7.5 games back of the Angels and 6.5 back
in the wild card race. Which sucks, but may make it easier for Jack
Zduriencik to do some deals that need doing rather than go through the
motions of being in a playoff race.

White Sox 5, Tigers 1: This one was over quick, as Rick Porcello
pitched the first inning like he was 20 years-old or somethin’:
nibbling, worrying about the runners too much, then making a mental
error on defense when he didn’t cover first like he should have, then
giving up a howitzer shot to Paul Konerko. Down 4-0 before even getting
to bat, The Tigers couldn’t muster much of anything against Clayton
Richard (8 IP, 5 H, 1 ER). Not even Adam EVERETT could get a hit. Still
a good weekend for Detroit, which beat back the Sox, taking three of
four as soon as they got really close at the end of last week.

Diamondbacks 9, Pirates 0: I wonder if pitchers watched Mark
Buehrle throw that perfecto the other day and thought “hey, why don’t I
work quickly, trust my stuff, and throw strikes more often?” Max
Scherzer may have, because he was down to bidness yesterday, throwing
85 of his 109 pitches for strikes, didn’t walk anyone, which is rare
for him, and reached a three-ball count only twice. Gerardo Parra
finished a triple short of the cycle. Story of my life, man.

Video: Minor League Manager goes on epic rant

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Frisco RoughRiders manager Joe Mikulik got his money’s worth last night. He was ejected after arguing an automatic double play on an enforcement of the slide rule, and he didn’t go gently into that goodnight.

Rather, he threw things, kicked things, threw things and then subsequently kicked those same things, gave overly-demonstrative slides and safe signs and basically went all Earl Weaver/Lou Piniella on everyone.

Double-A baseball is the best minor league because you tend to see more prospects there than you do at Triple-A. But it’s also the best because, when you’re a manager who is not quite a heartbeat away from getting your shot at the big leagues, you’re a little less uptight about things. Or at least Mikulik was. Or maybe he was more uptight. I don’t know. He just went with it, and going with it has its charms.

 

(h/t Big League Stew)

A must-read oral history of the 1998 home run chase

7 Jul 1998:   American Leaguer player Mark McGwire #25 of the St Louis Cardinals and Sammy Sosa #21 of  the Chicago Cubs answer questions during  the Major League Baseball All-Star Game at Coors Field in Denver,  Colorado.The American  League defeated the
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It’s hard to believe that it’s been 18 years since Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa captivated the nation with their epic chase of Roger Maris’ home run record. But it has been, and after years of reaction, counter-reaction and, of course, baseball’s reckoning with the performance-enhancing drugs which helped fuel the chase, it’s probably finally time to do our best to contextualize it historically.

Today one of my favorite news outlets does that with an oral history. All of the key figures weigh-in on it, from McGwire and Sosa to Bud Selig to Tony La Russa. Randy Johnson makes an appearance as well, reminding us that it wasn’t just the sluggers who had an amazing year in 1998. Indeed, his story, including his being traded to Houston and going on an amazing second-half run, has almost been lost to history.

This is bookmark material, my friends. For savoring later if you can’t read it now. And for revisiting at another time given the depths to the drama which justifies multiple readings. I’ll just warn you that there is some adult language in the story, but that’s to be expected given the passion the 1998 baseball season inspired.

Go check it out.

UPDATE: Asdrubal Cabrera leaves Mets-Nats game with back spasms

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MAY 12:  Shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera #13 of the New York Mets throws to first from his knee after diving to catch a ground ball to get Joc Pederson #31 of the Los Angeles Dodgers for the second out of the sixth inning at Dodger Stadium on May 12, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  The Dodgers won 5-0.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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UPDATE: Cabrera was removed from the game due to back spasms.

1:21PM: This is not good: Asdrubal Cabrera was removed from today’s game against the Nationals with an apparent injury.

It’s unclear what the injury was, as Cabrera had yet to even play in the game. Matt Reynolds came on to play shortstop in the bottom of the first inning, but Cabrera didn’t bat in the top of the first. It could be an illness. Or some freak occurrence.

We’ll update when we hear more.

There are apparently unwritten rules about manager replay challenges now

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 05: Manager Joe Maddon #70 of the Chicago Cubs shakes hands with manager Mike Matheny #26 of the St. Louis Cardinals before the Opening Night game at Wrigley Field on April 5, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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Last night’s Cardinals-Cubs game was a blowout, with the Cubs beating the Cards 12-3. Apparently, however, in the ninth inning of the game, Reynoldsburg, Ohio’s own Mike Matheny played the Cardinals infield in, which is a move you never see in a blowout. Why did he do that?

He hasn’t said yet, but Cubs manager Joe Maddon just spoke to the media before today’s game and he’s speculating that Matheny did it as a form of protest:

God, I hope that’s true. I hope that manager replay challenges, which are already dumb enough inasmuch as they turn what should be an officiating correction device into a strategic tool, are now turning into another front in the Great Unwritten Rules Wars. I hope that we now have a bunch of people talking about how there’s a right way and a wrong way to use the replay system and that one can disrespect the other side if they do it the wrong way. The way the replay system has been implemented often resembles tragedy. Why not make it farce?

Oh well, I guess it beats throwing at someone for doing that wrong. And I guess it’s just a reminder that no matter what we do, baseball is always gonna give us an opportunity for petty bits of silliness.