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.

Rob Manfred on robot umps: “In general, I would be a keep-the-human-element-in-the-game guy.”

KANSAS CITY, MO - APRIL 5:  Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred talks with media prior to a game between the New York Mets and Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium on April 5, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
Ed Zurga/Getty Images
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Craig covered the bulk of Rob Manfred’s quotes from earlier. The commissioner was asked about robot umpires and he’s not a fan. Via Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports:

Manfred was wrong to blame the player’s union’s “lack of cooperation” on proposed rule changes, but he’s right about robot umps and the strike zone. The obvious point is that robot umps cannot yet call balls and strikes with greater accuracy than umpires. Those strike zone Twitter accounts, such as this, are sometimes hilariously wrong. Even the strike zone graphics used on television are incorrect and unfortunate percentage of the time.

The first issue to consider about robot umps is taking jobs away from people. There are 99 umps and more in the minors. If robot umpiring was adopted in collegiate baseball, as well as the independent leagues, that’s even more umpires out of work. Is it worth it for an extra one or two percent improvement in accuracy?

Personally, the fallibility of the umpires adds more intrigue to baseball games. There’s strategy involved, as each umpire has tendencies which teams can strategize against. For instance, an umpire with a more generous-than-average strike zone on the outer portion of the plate might entice a pitcher to pepper that area with more sliders than he would otherwise throw. Hitters, knowing an umpire with a smaller strike zone is behind the dish, may take more pitches in an attempt to draw a walk. Or, knowing that information, a hitter may swing for the fences on a 3-0 pitch knowing the pitcher has to throw in a very specific area to guarantee a strike call or else give up a walk.

The umpires make their mistakes in random fashion, so it adds a chaotic, unpredictable element to the game as well. It feels bad when one of those calls goes against your team, but fans often forget the myriad calls that previously went in their teams’ favor. The mistakes will mostly even out in the end.

I haven’t had the opportunity to say this often, but Rob Manfred is right in this instance.

Report: MLB approves new rule allowing a dugout signal for an intentional walk

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 29:  MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred laughs during a ceremony naming the 2016 winners of the Mariano Rivera American League Reliever of the Year Award and the Trevor Hoffman National League Reliever of the Year Award before Game Four of the 2016 World Series between the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians at Wrigley Field on October 29, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images
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ESPN’s Howard Bryant is reporting that Major League Baseball has approved a rule allowing for a dugout signal for an intentional walk. In other words, baseball is allowing automatic intentional walks. Bryant adds that this rule will be effective for the 2017 season.

MLB has been trying, particularly this month, to improve the pace of play. Getting rid of the formality of throwing four pitches wide of the strike zone will save a minute or two for each intentional walk. There were 932 of them across 2,428 games last season, an average of one intentional walk every 2.6 games. It’s not the biggest improvement, but it’s something at least.

Earlier, Commissioner Rob Manfred was upset with the players’ union’s “lack of cooperation.” Perhaps his public criticism was the catalyst for getting this rule passed.

Unfortunately, getting rid of the intentional walk formality will eradicate the chance of seeing any more moments like this: