And That Happened: Monday's scores and highlights

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Dunn.jpgAll law and no blogs makes Craig a dull boy. Let’s try to remedy that today, shall we?

Nationals 8, Pirates 4: The Laughingstock Series went four games, and nothing was decided. Adam Dunn went 3-for-4 and was a triple short of the cycle. He may as well have been eight unicorns, cold fusion and a perpetual motion machine short, because you were just as likely to see that stuff as an Adan Dunn triple.

Tigers 6, Orioles 5: I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that not many teams have tagged Justin Verlander for five runs right out the box and have gone on to lose the game. Heck, the Os had five hits in that first frame and only had three the rest of the night. I haven’t seen anyone start so fast and peter out so quickly since Christopher Cross won all those Grammy awards back in ’81.

Padres 4, Braves 2: Can someone explain to me why the Braves had to play the Sunday night game right before flying across the damn country and playing on the west coast without an off day? Twelve teams had friggin’ off days yesterday, but not the team who played the late game and had to fly to California? Sure, that’s fair. And tired or not tired, I couldn’t be more proud of my Bravos here, losing to perhaps the worst team in baseball on a night when they did not even play Adrian Gonzalez.

Brewers 6, Dodgers 5: And lest you think that previous bit is my Braves’ homerism coming out, it stunk that the Dodgers had to fly home and play without a day off too. Totally weak scheduling, here. At least the Dodgers had a chance here. Down 6-2 entering the ninth, the Dodgers came back to within one, loaded the bases and Manny Ramirez came to the plate . . . and flew out, alas.

Diamondbacks 6, Mets 5: The Dbacks teed off on Nelson Figueroa (1.2 IP, 10 H, 6 ER) and could have turned it into a laugher. Instead, New York clawed back, though just not quite enough. You’ll all be shocked to learn that Jeff Francoeur made the third out in the eighth inning with a bouncer to third to end a potential rally. Mark Reynolds took Sunday off, but still finished the series 5-for-12 with four homers and five RBIs.

Cubs 4, Reds 2: Thank goodness for Kevin Gregg’s tired arm, or else Lou might have been tempted to use him in this one. As it stood, Carlos Marmol just didn’t have it in him to cough this one away, instead only allowing one late run. Mike Fontenot’s three-run homer in the second was the big blow here. The Cubs are now 13-5 since the break. Paid attendance: 22,222. This means something. This is important.

Astros 4, Giants 3: You don’t see a ton of complete game losses anymore, but Matt Cain had one (8 IP, 8 H, 4 ER, 5K).

Rays 10, Royals 4: Zack Greinke has his worst start of the year. He hasn’t won since June 28th, though apart from last night he hasn’t pitched too terribly. Eventually you just sort of get dragged down by the folks around you, I guess. More surprising than Greinke getting roughed up — and maybe even more surprising than an Adam Dunn triple would be — was Yunieksy Betancourt hitting a homer. As for the Rays, Willy Aybar hit two homers and Scott Kazmir got his second straight win.

A’s 3, Rangers 2: Just a thought, but if you’re going to use Neftali Feliz out of the pen, maybe you want to think about using him as the closer. Dude pitched two innings, retired all six batters he faced in order, struck out the first four, in fact, with several pitches registering at 100 miles per hour. In the ninth, C.J. Wilson gave up three singles and a pinch hit triple to Rajai Davis, blowing a 2-0 lead.

Kudos to Fox for not going crazy with the curses

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I turned on last night’s Fox broadcast fully expecting them to spend too much time on history and curses and billy goats and black cats and Steve Bartman and 1908 and 1948 and all of that jive while spending too little time on the game and the players at hand. I will admit now that I was pleasantly surprised that that was not, in fact, the case.

To be clear, the pregame show was a friggin’ train wreck in this department. There the narrative framing was basically wall-to-wall. In the first segment, Fox studio host Kevin Burkhardt used the phrase “reverse the curse” within his first thirty seconds of speaking. Then, before much if any actual game stuff was referred to, Burkhardt mentioned all of the following things in the space of a, maybe, 45 second span:

When the montage ended, Alex Rodriguez said that “every player wants to break that curse.” Then they threw it to the first commercial at 7:38 or so. In the second segment they ran a prerecorded thing about championship droughts, making liberal mention of 108 years for the Cubs and 68 years for the Indians, but then got down to some actual game breakdown.

In the third segment, Burkhardt threw it to the P.A. announcer at Progressive Field for player introductions, once again mentioning 108/68 years as he did so. After that, they ran a montage, set to Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers’ “The Waiting,” in which centenarians and other older folks talked about how long they’ve been — wait for it — waiting for an Indians or a Cubs championship. Lots of them mentioned billy goats and curses and stuff.

When that was over Fox finally threw it to Joe Buck and John Smoltz up in the booth. Buck added a punctuative “the waiting is the hardest part,” and soon after they ran a Buck-narrated pre-produced montage about what was going on in 1908 and 1948, saying who was president, noting when Model-Ts were invented and all of that, all set to “Time has come today” by the Chambers Brothers. So, yes, that was a lot to take in in the space of a half hour.

But that’s on me, right? Who in the heck needs to watch a pregame show? No one, really. Alex Rodriguez and Pete Rose are proving to be a nice combination for Fox — getting rid of C.J. Nitkowski has cleared the congestion a bit and both A-Rod and Rose are proving to be naturals after a 2015 in which they were somewhat clunky — but a pregame show is pretty superfluous. The actual baseball breakdown those guys provide can be accomplished in less than ten minutes. The rest of it practically begs for those narrative-servicing montages, and frankly, no one needs ’em.

Most notably, though: the curse and weight of history talk basically ended once the game got going. Indeed, Buck and Smoltz were shockingly and refreshingly narrative-free for most if not all of the contest. They talked about Jon Lester and his issues holding runners. Corey Kluber‘s slider. Andrew Miller being Andrew Miller. Kyle Schwarber being there at all. They did a really nice job of handling all of the Xs and Os the way you want your broadcast booth to handle it.

Smoltz in particular was outstanding, showing that Fox’s decision to make him their number one color guy while reassigning Harold Reynolds and Tom Verducci to be a fantastic one. A two-man booth is superior to a three-man booth in almost every instance, but the second man in Fox’s booth now mixes his insight and his regular conversation seamlessly. You never feel like Smoltz is talking down to you or speaking from his obviously superior place of baseball authority. His tone is as if he’s letting you in on stuff he thinks and hopes you’ll really appreciate knowing and he never plays the “I USED TO PLAY BASEBALL” card in the obnoxious ways some ex-player commentators do. And he’s right: we do appreciate what he tells us.

Beating up on Fox’s baseball broadcasts has been its own sport for many of us for several years, but there was nothing to really beat them up about last night. Sure, we could do without in-game interviews, but after the pregame show Fox showed remarkable restraint with respect to pushing history and narrative and curses and all of that baloney that has little if anything to do with the 2016 Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians. They kept it focused on the baseball game that was going on before us in ways they haven’t always done in the past. It was refreshing and, dare I say, downright enjoyable.

More of this please.

Republicans accuse Hillary Clinton of being a bandwagon Cubs fan

CHICAGO - APRIL 4:  Hillary Rodham Clinton throws out the first pitch before the Chicago Cubs Opening Day game against the New York Mets at Wrigley Field on April 4, 1994 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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This was inevitable: The Republican National Committee published a ridiculously detailed and self-serious opposition-research report accusing Hillary Clinton of being a “bandwagon” Cubs fan.

If you’re of a certain age you’ll recall that Clinton, who grew up in the Chicago suburbs, spoke about being a Cubs fan as a kid. You’ll also recall that when she was running for her senate seat in New York, she gave shoutouts to a heretofore unheard of Yankees fandom. A lot of people have had fun with this at various times — we’ve mentioned it here on multiple occasions — but I wasn’t aware that anyone considered it an actually substantive political issue as opposed to an amusing “politicians, man” kind of thing.

The Republicans think it’s serious, though. Indeed, there’s more detail to this oppo-hit than there is any of the party’s candidate’s position papers. And while someone could, theoretically, have a lot of fun with this kind of material, the opposition report is not even remotely tongue-in-cheek. It reads like a poisition paper on nuclear proliferation. If the GOP had been this serious about vetting its own candidate, I suspect they wouldn’t be in the position they’re in today.

As for the substance: eh, who cares? Sports is entertainment and cultural glue. As a kid in Chicago, being a Cubs fan is both fun and makes some sense. As a senator from New York in the early 2000s, you’re gonna get to go to some Yankees games and sit in some good seats and that’s fun too. And, of course, politicians are going to say opportunistic things in order to attempt to connect with their constituents. Think of that what you will, but if you think of that as something which reveals something deep and dark within their soul about what kind of person they are, you probably need to step away from the cable news for a while and get some fresh air. Or you probably need to admit that you already believed the worse about her and that this is just an exercise in confirmation bias.

Heck, at this point I almost hope she finds a third or fourth team to root for. Indeed, I hope she makes a comic heel turn, puts on a Chief Wahoo hat for tonight’s game and claims that, deep, deep down, she had always rooted for the Indians. Then even I could get on her case about it. And we could all talk about how, in her own way, Hillary was really bringing the nation together.