And That Happened: Sunday's scores and highlights

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Hello all. I’m pinch-hitting for Craig as he works on perfecting his Perry Mason imitation. Go easy on me. I can’t even imitate Rusty Hardin.

Dodgers 9, Braves 1: Chad Billingsley struck out nine in five innings, but Joe Torre sat him down after the pitcher came down with a cramp in his hamstring. Billingsley’s knee appeared to buckle as he followed through on a pitch in the fifth inning, but the right-hander said “I always do it. That’s nothing new.”

Rangers 4, Mariners 2: Ian Snell was solid in Seattle debut (6 innings, 3 hits, two runs), but the Rangers continued to play home run derby (Young, Murphy, Saltalamacchia), taking three of four in series. Mariners fans will probably prefer the headline on this story.

Marlins 3, Cubs 2: Dan Uggla hit a home run in the ninth that might still be circling the Earth. Cody Ross followed with his second of the game — on the very next pitch — to give the Marlins a dramatic win. It was Kevin Gregg’s second blown save in as many days and his fifth in 26 chances this season. Don’t look now, but the Marlins are five game behind the Phillies.

Blue Jays 7, Athletics 2: Jays starter Ricky Romero discovered that when you’re facing the A’s, all you have to do is throw your fastball across the plate and you’ll be OK. A’s starter Vin Mazzaro discovered that it’s not the same when facing the Blue Jays. Aaron Hill proves it with two-run home run.

Giants 7, Phillies 3: San Francisco finished off a 6-1 homestand as Freddy Sanchez – one of 10 ex-Pirates enjoying their recent call-ups to the actual majors – comes up with two hits and two RBIs in his Giants debut. Also, Barry Zito pitches like its 2002.

Brewers 6, Padres 1: Trevor Hoffman faced his old team in a surreal setting, closing out a scoreless ninth in a non-save situation. Interestingly, it was not the first time he had faced the Padres (twice in 1993 when with the Marlins). Furthering the Padres’ misery, pitcher Kevin Correia hit into a double play after faking a bunt with runners on first and second and nobody out in the fifth inning.

Astros 2, Cardinals 0: Bud Norris dominated the Cardinals in his first major league start, allowing just two hits in seven sharp innings and giving our own D.J. Short great joy. Norris actually carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning before St. Louis pitcher Adam Wainwright led off with a single. Tony La Russa admitted after the game that Albert Pujols is “in a funk.”

Angels 13, Twins 4: Who needs Torii Hunter and Vladimir Guerrero? Kendry Morales hit a pair of three-run home runs and drove in a career-high six RBIs in the destruction of the Twins. The Halos have won 13 of 15 and now have the best record (63-40) in the AL. Said Twins outfielder Denard Span: “Thank God they’re getting out of here. The last two days, they were just pretty much stealing our lunch money, kicking our butts.”

Yankees 8, White Sox 5: Melky Cabrera became the first Yankee to hit for the cycle since – you guessed it – Tony Fernandez in 1995. The expected pitcher’s duel between CC Sabathia and Mark Buerhle becomes a slugfest.

Royals 4, Rays 1: James Shields carried a no-hitter into the eighth inning, but then the Rays do their best Royals imitation, giving away the victory. Tropicana Field now has gone 940 regular season games without witnessing a no-hitter. Or the warm Florida sun.

Red Sox 18, Orioles 10: Putting Victor Martinez at catcher in place of Jason Varitek proves advantageous to the Patriots – err Red Sox, as Boston’s new slugger goes 5-for-6. Red Sox have won four straight and are ½ game behind the Yankees. The Orioles are just happy their not the Nats.

Indians 11, Tigers 1: Carl Pavano pitched eight sharp innings in a rout of the Tigers. “The key was keeping the ball in the park,” he said. I’m guessing a lot of Yankees fans wished he had figured that out a long time ago.

Diamondbacks 5, Mets 2: Chad Tracy robbed Gary Sheffield of a “scud missile” during a key moment in the fifth inning, sparking Jon Garland in a complete game victory. But don’t worry Mets fans, help is on the way. Nelson Figueroa will be activated on Monday to start against Dan Haren. Seems like a fair fight.

Rockies 6, Reds 4, 11 inn.: Dexter Fowler won the game with a two-out RBI triple in the 11th. It was the fourth straight win for the Rockies, who remain tied for the NL wild card lead. In just his second game for Cincinnati since being traded from Toronto on Friday, Scott Rolen was hit in the helmet with a pitch. He didn’t sound badly hurt, saying “It stunned me, but I could still cuss.”

Nationals 5, Pirates 3: Had to save the best for last, of course. The highlight of the game? Had to be when Nats pitcher Sean Burnett was booed upon entering the game. He was the one who had the nerve to call the Pirates the “laughingstock of baseball.”

Burnett said he’d never been booed before, which seems unlikely.

 

 

How not to enjoy what Aaron Judge is doing

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Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge has been one of the biggest and best stories in all of baseball this year. While he held promise entering his rookie season, most experts figured he’d provide some low-average, low-OBP power. That he’d be a guy who, based on his size, could send a pitcher’s mistake 500 feet in the wrong direction, but who would probably be shown to have big holes in his swing once he’d been around the league a little bit.

Judge defied expectations, however, and has put together an amazing rookie season. He broke the rookie home run record yesterday with his 50th blast. He still strikes out a lot but so does everyone. He nonetheless has hit for a great average and has gotten on base at a fantastic clip. He has also showed some uncommon resilience, overcoming a lengthy slump in July and August and returning to the dominant form he showed in the first half while helping a Yankees team not many figured to be a strong contender into the playoffs. Such a great story!

Sadly, however, this sentiment, which appeared from a commenter on my Facebook page yesterday, has become increasingly common:

I’ve seen it in a lot of comments sections and message boards around the Internet too, including our own comment section. From yesterday:

This is not exactly the same thing we’ve seen in the past with other breakout home run hitters such as Jose Bautista a few years back. This is not an accusation that Judge is taking drugs or anything. It’s more of a preemptive and defensive diminishment of excitement. And I find it rather sad.

Yes, I understand that past PED users have made fans wonder whether the players they watch are using something to get an extra edge, but it really does not need to be this way. We’ve had drug testing in baseball for over a decade and, while no drug testing regime is perfect, it just seems bizarre, several years after Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa did their thing — and a few years after Alex Rodriguez and others were caught and disciplined for trying to do more — to assume, out of hand, that great baseball performances are the product of undetected cheating. Yes, it’s possible, but such assumptions should not be the default stance, only to be disproved (somehow) at a later date.

The same goes for the juiced baseball, right? Yes, there is strong evidence that the baseball was changed a couple of years back leading to a home run spike, but aren’t all players using the same baseball? It’s also worth remembering that the season Mark McGwire hit 49 homers — 1987 — is strongly suspected of being a juiced ball year as well. It’s a concern that may be based in fact, but it’s a large concern over a fact thrown out with little regard for context to sketch out a threat that is either remote or without consequence.

The point here is not to argue that Aaron Judge is undeniably clean or that the baseball isn’t different. The former is unknown and the latter is likely false. The point is that it’s super sad and self-defeating to qualify every amazing feat you see with preemptive concern about such things. Years and years of sports writers writing McCarthy-esque “Yes, but is he clean?” articles does not require you, as a fan, to do the same. You can enjoy a cool thing in the moment. If it’s found out later to have been tainted, fine, we have a lot of practice in contextualizing such things and we’ll do so pretty quickly, but what’s the harm in going with it in real time?

I suspect the answer to that is rooted in some desire not to look like a sucker or something. Not to find oneself like many did, in the mid-2000s, being told by sportswriters and politicians that they were dupes for enjoying Sosa and McGwire in 1998. But that’s idiotic, in my view. I enjoyed 1998 and all of the baseball I saw on either side of it, as did most baseball fans. When the PEDs stuff exploded in the 2000s I reassessed it somewhat as far as the magnitude of the accomplishments compared to other eras in history, but it didn’t mean I enjoyed what I had seen any less.

Likewise, I’ve enjoyed the hell out of watching Aaron Judge this year. Why can’t everyone? Why is it so hard? Why have we been conditioned to be skeptical of something that is supposed to be entertaining? When your personal stakes are low like they are with respect to any sporting event or form of entertainment, it’s OK to enjoy things while they’re enjoyable and worry about them being problematic if and when they ever become so. And hey, they may not!

I promise you: if Aaron Judge walks into the postseason awards banquet this winter carrying a briefcase that unexpectedly opens and 200 syringes full of nandrolone fall out, no one is going to say you were dumb for cheering for him yesterday. It will really be OK.

Yadier Molina leaves game after taking two foul balls to the mask

Associated Press
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The St. Louis Cardinals have been eliminated from contention for the NL Central crown and are hanging on by the thinnest of threads in the race for the second NL Wild Card, two and a half games back of the Rockies with the Brewers in between. Last night those dim playoff hopes took what may have been a fatal blow thanks to a couple of foul balls that knocked Yadier Molina out of the game and, possibly, out for the season.

In the seventh inning of last night’s Cubs-Cardinals game Molina took a Kris Bryant foul ball off of his mask. It sent him to his knees. He gathered himself, set back up and, on the very next pitch, took a second foul ball, right to the mask. He was much slower in rising that time and Cardinals manager Mike Matheny immediately — and wisely — pulled Molina from the game.

Molina is being monitored for a concussion. Whether he has one or not, prudence would dictate sitting him down for the rest of what are likely the Cardinals final six games of 2017.