And That Happened: Tuesday's Scores and Highlights

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Pujols.jpgCardinals 12, Mets 7: Albert’s little slump appears to be over. Big shot in the 8th to bring the Cards closer, much bigger shot in the 10th — grand slam — to put the game out of reach. “I’m human. I’m not a machine,” said Pujols after the game. Sorry dude, I ain’t buyin’ it. Great moments in Mets history: Luis Castillo sprained his ankle after slipping on the dugout steps in the seventh inning. Apparently he was trying to avoid stepping on someone’s glove or something. I’m guessing it was Francoeur’s, mostly because I don’t like him and I want to believe it was his. Also because I don’t like Francoeur, I’ll note that he went 0-5, seeing a grand total of 12 pitches in those at bats.

Dodgers 17, Brewers 4: In a scene out of late-80s WCW, after the game, Prince Fielder ran through the underground tunnels to go put a hurt on Guillermo Mota in retaliation for a ninth-inning plunking. Fortunately for Mota’s health and Fielder’s wallet, he was stopped at the Dodgers’ clubhouse door (though I’m guessing he’s gonna get a fine anyway). No word on whether he had a folding chair with him. Kind of a bush league move on Fielder’s part, though, wasn’t it? I mean, everyone knows that if you’re going to go after a guy, you don’t do it in the clubhouse. You ambush him while he’s doing a standup interview with Tony Schiavone.

Braves 9, Padres 2: Martin Prado homered and drove in three runs and Matt Diaz hit a two-run homer as the Braves broke out the whuppin’ sticks in support of Javier Vazquez. Neither of these guys were the starters at their respective positions for most of the season. Prado certainly has been a marked improvement over Kelly Johnson and Diaz too, over Francoeur. Diaz did, however, perform a tribute to the departed Jeffy last night as, in addition to the homer, he hit into three double plays and struck out. Adam LaRoche was 4 for 4 and Garret Anderson was 3-5, adding to the hit parade. Adrian Gonzalez’s consecutive games streak was ended at 314.

Athletics 6, Rangers 0: Someone should detain the guy who started for the A’s last night and ask him what he has done with the real Gio Gonzalez. Whoever this impostor was, he lowered Gonzalez’s ERA a full run with this 6.2 IP, 3 H, 0 ER performance. The pod people apparently got to Mark Ellis too, as he drove in three.

Orioles 8, Tigers 2: Welcome to the majors, Brian Matusz! The 2008 draftee gave up a run and six hits in five innings, walking three and striking out five. He had some nifty defensive help from Cesar Izturis too, as he dove to pluck a bases loaded grounder in the second to bail the kid out of a jam. Hit a homer too. Jarrod Washburn’s debut — for the Tigers, not in the majors, because he’s been there for a while — was not as nice (5.1 IP, 6 H, 6 ER).

Giants 8, Astros 1: Jonathan Sanchez struck out eight in seven shutout innings, winning his first road game of the season. Freddy Sanchez and Pablo Sandoval hit back-to-back homers in the sixth and Aaron Rowand drove in three runs in an unusually potent Giants offensive attack.

Cubs 6, Reds 3: Pirates’ import Tom Gorzellany shuts down a Reds team that is on the fast track to oblivion. No one — and I mean no one — is playing as pathetically as this Reds team is right now.

Diamondbacks 6, Pirates 0: Yusmeiro Petit threw eight shutout innings and took a no-hitter into the eighth, when it was broken up by Ronny “Buzzkill” Cedeno.




White Sox 5, Angels 4: Scott Podsednik hit a two-out RBI single
in the bottom of the ninth as the Sox — fresh off of takin’ it to the
Yankees over the weekend, beat the red-hot Angels. Not that killing giants like that bodes well or anything.
Oh, and Bobby Jenks was unavailable for the game because he had to be
treated for a kidney stone, which is the kind of thing I wouldn’t wish
on my worst enemy.

Mariners 7, Royals 6: Ichiro started the game with a homer and
ended it with a pretty spiffy sliding catch in right. In between he
walked and got another hit, scoring each time. He’s pretty good, ya
know?

Rays 4, Red Sox 2: Walkoff bomb from Evan Longoria. An all or
nothing kind of night for him, as he hit another homer earlier, and
struck out in his four other times at the plate. Game story: “It was
the Rays’ longest game of the season and tied for the Red Sox’s longest
game in innings.” Which means that the Red Sox played a game longer
than 4:57 in less than 13 innings at some point this season. AL East
baseball: it’s fantastic!

Yankees 5, Blue Jays 3: The Sox loss and the Yankees’ win gives
the bombers some breathing room. A day after I say that you don’t see
many complete game losses anymore, Roy Halladay pitched a complete
game, but lost, giving up five runs on ten hits.

Rockies 8, Phillies 3: Thirty-two of the Rockies’ 59 wins have
come on the road this season. They didn’t used to do that sort of
thing. Game story: “Moyer extended his 10-start pattern of alternating
good starts and bad ones, with a subpar effort.” Maybe Manuel should
skip every other Moyer start. Or does it not work that way?

Nationals 6, Marlins 4: The Nats rallied for six in the eighth
inning, capped off with an Adam Dunn homer, to beat the fish. Dunn
pulled a Longoria in this one, striking out three times before
connecting. Wait, Dunn’s been doing that for years, so I guess Longoria
pulled a Dunn.

Twins 10, Indians 1: “Doubles are nice,” Minnesota manager Ron
Gardenhire said after the game. The Twins hit seven on them — three
from Joe Mauer — as the pound the Tribe. Scott Baker was on (7 IP, 3
H, 0 ER). David Huff was not (4.2 IP, 11 H, 7 ER). Makes me wish that I
hadn’t already burned my “minute and a Huff” joke a couple of weeks
ago.

Joe Blanton signs with the Nationals

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 07:  Joe Blanton #55 of the Los Angeles Dodgers pitches in the sixth inning against the Colorado Rockies at Dodger Stadium on June 7, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)
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Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post reports that the Nationals have signed Joe Blanton to a one-year contract.

Surprised it took this long given that Blanton was excellent out of the pen for the Dodgers last year, posting a 2.48 ERA and 80/26 K/BB ratio over 80 innings. But even if it’s a late signing, it’s not a terrible one: Blanton will receive a $4 million salary and will have the chance to make an additional $1 million in performance bonuses. UPDATE: The salary structure is kind of odd. Barry Svrluga of the Washington Post reports that Blanton will get only $1 million in 2017, plus some incentives, and will have $1 million deferred to 2018 and $2 million deferred to 2019.

And he got two weeks off work. Bonus!

Baseball doesn’t need gimmicks to draw in young fans. It just needs to be baseball.

MESA, AZ - MARCH 6: Chicago Cubs ball and bat bags are seen prior to the game between the Chicago Cubs and Cincinnati Reds on March 6, 2015 at Sloan Park in Mesa, Arizona. The Reds defeated the Cubs 5-2. (Photo by Rich Pilling/Getty Images)
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MESA, AZ — I didn’t set out to ask Robin Mitchell about pace of play, rules changes, how to best execute an intentional walk or how to turn kids into baseball fans. I was interviewing her about other stuff. She brought those topics up on her own.

“I heard them saying that they were not going to throw four pitches for intentional walks anymore,” Mitchell said. “I’d prefer that they throw the pitches because anything can happen. There can be wild pitches. And that’s the exciting part of baseball. That you don’t know what’s going to happen. I don’t think we need to speed the game along.”

For most baseball fans such sentiments are tied up with a devotion to baseball purism, tradition or their distaste for change. But such is not the case for Mitchell. While the lifelong Chicago resident went to Cubs games as a child, baseball has not been a lifelong obsession. Rather, it’s something she has become reacquainted with via her two baseball-obsessed boys, Jake, 11, and Bennett, 9.

Mitchell and her boys live on the north side of Chicago and, over the past two years, her sons have developed a huge affinity for the Cubs, almost by osmosis. It was certainly a good time for it, as the Cubs have become winners, and Mitchell allows that since Jake and Bennett didn’t “have to suffer through some of the more challenging times,” their attraction to the game became easier. It’s clear to her, however, that they are not going to be fair weather fans.

“They love baseball,” she said, implying that it’s not just homerism for the current World Series champions at work. They love the sport itself and began to play it too. It’s not easy for Mitchell to say whether their playing led to their fandom or vice-versa. It all sort of happened at once, with each reinforcing the other.

I asked her what about baseball, specifically, appeals to them. What, at a time when Rob Manfred and everyone connected to the game is worried about the sport’s seeming inability to attract and hold on to young fans, keeps Mitchell’s sons engaged.

For them, it seems to be all about accessibility and engagement. Being in Chicago and living close to a park is important, as is having all of the games available on TV. Also important to them: appealing young stars.

“It helps that the Cubs have some really nice players who seem like really nice guys,” Mitchell said. “Sometimes we see them in the neighborhood even. Ben Zobrist. Anthony Rizzo. David Ross. Whenever we’ve seen them out or at an event they’re always kind and polite and give the boys encouraging words.”

But isn’t baseball . . . boring? And slow? Don’t kids like video games and kinetic action? Doesn’t a 19th century pastime with a sometimes turgid pace turn off 21st century kids?

“No, are you kidding?!” Mitchell said. “We don’t leave the game before it’s over. That’s what we do. It doesn’t matter what the score is. We love the pace of baseball. In the world of electronics, with everything moving really fast and being gimmicky, there’s something I think that my boys and I find appealing about baseball. I can share it with them and we all just slow down.”

As we talked, Jake and Bennett ran around a field just outside the Cubs clubhouse, playing catch and practicing rundowns with a couple of other boys they just met. Mitchell and I spoke for nearly a half hour. They played the whole time and looked like they wouldn’t stop unless or until their mother dragged them away.

We have spent a lot of time lately talking about how to fix baseball. I don’t know that anyone has made a compelling case that, despite the challenges the game faces, it is actually broken. Robin Mitchell doesn’t think it is. Neither do Jake and Bennett. While Rob Manfred and Joe Torre propose increasingly unorthodox methods for speeding things up, some pretty basic and longstanding factors are continuing to attract young fans:

  • The availability of games almost every day;
  • An exciting and successful local team;
  • The charisma of baseball’s biggest stars;
  • The ability for kids to play the game themselves and to emulate those stars on a little league field; and
  • The chance for parents to share their love of baseball with their children.

These are the factors which have always made up baseball’s appeal. Perhaps Major League Baseball should concentrate on ensuring that those factors, which are proven to draw in fans, persist and flourish. Perhaps they should concentrate less on chasing hypothetical fans via gimmicks aimed at fixing problems which are far-from-established.