And That Happened: Sunday's Scores and Highlights

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Yankees 5, Red Sox 2: Brutal weekend for Boston. Dropping four straight to the Yankees is bad enough, but doing it on the heels of dropping two to the Rays is something of a tone-setter. Especially considering how ugly a series this was for them: Thursday and Saturday were pathetic. Friday was a stomach punch. Last night started to unravel with a stomach punch (A-Rod, Damon and Teixeira homers) followed by the bullpen just rolling over in the eighth. The Sox are 6.5 out now. They’re tied with Texas for the wild card and only a game in front of the Rays. To suggest that the next seven games — four at home against first-place Detroit followed by three games in Texas — could make or break their season is not hyperbole. As for the Yankees, there’s no denying it: they’re the best team in baseball, and and it strains credulity to think that anyone can stop them. Oh, and after this weekend is anyone anywhere going to say that A-Rod isn’t clutch now? Wait, it’s A-Rod, so of course they’ll say it. They’ll just be wrong.

Reds 5, Giants 2: Aaron Harang: the best 13-loss pitcher in baseball. The Reds took two of three from the Giants over the weekend, beating Lincecum and Cain. Nice trick. The Rockies and Giants are now tied for the wild card lead. Query: how many of you thought that more than one team from the NL West had a shot at the playoffs before the season began? Of those, how many of you felt that one of them wouldn’t be the Dbacks? Anyone who says that they predicted that the Giants and the Rockies would spend August and September locked in combat over a playoff berth can go take a flying leap, because you’re totally lying.

Braves 8, Dodgers 2: After watching Los Angeles beat the tar out of the Braves last Sunday, it’s really nice (for me anyway) to see them take 3 of 4 from the Dodgers this weekend. Was there a better offseason pickup than Javier Vazquez? He has put together one of the quieter awesome seasons in recent memory (10-7, 2.90 ERA, 171 K, 32 BB, 155 IP). If he had any run support in the middle of the season he would be a Cy Young candidate right now. The Dodgers have lost 10 of 15 and stagger into San Francisco. Winning the West once seemed like a foregone conclusion for Los Angeles. I think they’ll still do it. But they’re only 5.5 up on both the Giants and Rockies now.

Marlins 12, Phillies 3: With the Marlins sweeping Philly and the Braves taking three of four in Los Angeles, we may very well have ourselves a race here in the East now. Heck, the Marlins and Braves’ division deficit is only a game greater than their wild card deficit. Jamie Moyer’s bad day (5 IP, 11 H, 3 ER) will have people saying he should make way for Pedro Martinez in the rotation. My solution: given that Moyer has alternated between good and bad starts for 11 turns now, and given that Pedro is certainly no less fragile than he has ever been, why not just alternate between the two of them whenever the fifth start comes up for the rest of the season? You make one or the other one available to be a long man/mop up guy in low leverage situations when he’s several days out from his next scheduled start. That kind of pen work would be less taxing than a start, but would be enough to (a) keep an old man loose; and (b) rest up more valuable members of the pen. And don’t tell me that Moyer can’t warm up like a reliever anymore. Guy throws 80. It doesn’t take much warming up to do that.

Blue Jays 7, Orioles 3: Steve Simmons of Sun Media wrote this yesterday morning about Roy Halladay: “It’s Halladay’s desire to pitch in the post-season, and if that’s the case he’s going to have to toughen up and get used to being swamped by the media (something he detests) and get used to pitching under pressure (the Blue Jays are 1-7 in his past eight starts).” What Simmons didn’t mention is that the Jays only scored 21 runs for Halladay in those eight starts, and that’s not going to help you no matter how you stack up psychologically, no matter how much guts you have, whether or not you have swagger or any of that garbage. Roy Halladay needed some run support. He got some. He won. It’s pretty simple. Simmons can take his pop psychology elsewhere.

Rangers 7, Angels 0: Derek Holland throws one of the more dominant starts of the year (CG, SHO, 3 H, 8K) against the best offense in baseball, and the Rangers take two of three from the division-leading Angels. The part of me that likes to see my preseason predictions borne out wants to see the Rangers overtake Anaheim, but I don’t really think that’s going to happen. The part of me that likes interesting things to happen in baseball would like much more to see the Rangers overtake the Sox for the wild card lead and hold it for the rest of the season. Given that they’re now tied, such a thing seems eminently doable.

Rockies 11, Cubs 5: Chicago out-hits the Rockies 17-14, but gets killed in the column that matters most, and by that I mean the column that reads “facial hair.” From reader Chris Koz: “I felt you should be alerted to Ryan Spilborghs’ new look. I was watching the Cubs-Rocks game and I’m not really sure what he was going for there . . . gay pirate, maybe? It was kind of a bulldog mustache with chops coming all the way out to the stache, coupled with a vertical stripe on the chin.” I’m not sure if that look has a name, but it certainly has power. In other news, I had mentioned several months ago that my four year-old boy wanted a new baseball cap (he was three when I first mentioned it). I let him look at every Major League cap, and stood ready to let him get any one he wanted (though I was going to veto Boston and New York on general principles). He picked the Cubs, probably because his name starts with a “C”. After many delays, he finally got the cap. He looks pretty spiffy in it. I sit here this morning wondering whether having the cap will turn him into a Cubs fan or whether he views it as nothing more than a cap.

Athletics 6, Royals 3: I grew up during the age of the two-division setup. For 25 seasons — 1969-1993 — the A’s and Royals shared the AL West. In 16 of those 25 years, one or the other won the division. In 1971, 1973, 1975, 1976, 1980, and 1989, the Royals and the A’s finished 1-2 (or 2-1). All through my childhood, then, one of those two teams, or both, represented the class of AL West baseball. I know the A’s are no longer a perennial power and I know it’s been a long time since the Royals have done anything, but something in my baseball DNA still twinges when I think of these franchises. Twinges in such a way as to make me take a little more notice of their futility than that of other bad teams. I think that’s why I tend to pick on the Royals and A’s more than a lot of other bad teams, anyway. Like they deserve my scorn more than, say, the Pirates, because once upon a time in my childhood, they used to be something in ways the Pirates (or whoever) never were. No point to this apart from it being more interesting to think about these teams’ pasts than their presents.


Mariners 11, Rays 2: Scott Kazmir’s nightmare season continues
(4.1 IP, 9 H, 7 ER). It was hot here in Columbus yesterday, and for
reasons that aren’t really important, I always make a point to listen
to Jane’s Addiction’s “Nothing Shocking” on the hottest days of the
summer. For that reason, when I looked at this box score and saw “D.
Navarro” I thought that Dave Navarro was catching for the Rays. That
would be cool.

Mets 5, Padres 1: Johan Santana (8 IP, 5 H, 1 ER; 2-3, RBI) was
one of the few bright spots for a Mets team that dropped the first
three of the weekend series to the Padres.

Cardinals 7, Pirates 3: Everything came unraveled for Pittsburgh
in the eighth, when Matt Capps gave up a pinch-hit homer to Schumaker
and then decided to plunk Pujols, got ejected, and then three more runs
scored. Joel Pineiro gave up nine hits, but he doesn’t walk anyone,
like ever, so he got away with it.

Tigers 8, Twins 7: Newly acquired starter Jarrod Washburn got beat
around for the the second time in two starts since the trade (6 IP, 10
H, 5 ER), but Twins’ starter Scott Baker was beat up worse (4.1 IP. 9
H, 6 ER). Michael Cuddyer had two homers. Curtis Granderson swiped a
base and is now in the 20-20 club for the second time. The Twins have
lost seven of nine and are now 5.5 back of Detroit.

Nationals 9, Diamondbacks 2: And that’s eight in a row for the
Nats. It’s really been the offense doing it for them, as their run
totals on this streak are 5-8-6-5-12-7-5-9.

Astros 2, Brewers 0: Wandy Rodriguez continues his fantasticness
(7 IP, 5 H, 0 ER). Houston is now tied with the Brewers for third in
the division, six back of St. Louis, though I don’t think that either
they or Milwaukee looks like they have the oomph to hold on and make
this a three or four team race.

Indians 8, White Sox 4: Cleveland has won 12 of 18. I guess they
should have ejected the core earlier. Jamey Carroll — Jamey Carroll?!
— went 2-5 with a double, a homer and three RBI.

Mets closer Jeurys Familia receives a 15-game suspension for domestic violence

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Mets closer Jeurys Familia has received a 15-game suspension for domestic violence.

Familia was arrested in October following an incident at his home. Criminal charges were dropped in December. As we know, however, MLB’s domestic violence policy does not require criminal proceedings to be commenced, let alone completed, before the leveling of league punishment. MLB has been investigating the incident for the past several months.

Familia saved 51 games for the Mets last year while posting a 2.55 ERA. The Mets are expecting Addison Reed to fill in at closer until he returns.

Familia has released a statement:

Today, I accepted a 15-game suspension from Major League Baseball resulting from my inappropriate behavior on October 31, 2016. With all that has been written and discussed regarding this matter, it is important that it be known that I never physically touched, harmed or threatened my wife that evening. I did,however, act in an unacceptable manner and am terribly disappointed in myself. I am alone to blame for the problems of that evening.

My wife and I cooperated fully with Major League Baseball’s investigation, and I’ve taken meaningful steps to assure that nothing like this will ever happen again. I have learned from this experience, and have grown as a husband, a father, and a man.

I apologize to the Mets’ organization, my teammates, and all my fans. I look forward to rejoining the Mets and being part of another World Series run. Out of respect for my teammates and my family, I will have no further comment.

Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred has a statement as well:

My office has completed its investigation into the events leading up to Jeurys Familia’s arrest on October 31, 2016.  Mr. Familia and his wife cooperated fully throughout the investigation, including submitting to in-person interviews with MLB’s Department of Investigations.  My office also received cooperation from the Fort Lee Municipal Prosecutor.  The evidence reviewed by my office does not support a determination that Mr. Familia physically assaulted his wife, or threatened her or others with physical force or harm, on October 31, 2016.  Nevertheless, I have concluded that Mr. Familia’s overall conduct that night was inappropriate, violated the Policy, and warrants discipline.

It is clear that Mr. Familia regrets what transpired that night and takes full responsibility for his actions.  Mr. Familia already has undergone 12 ninety-minute counseling sessions with an approved counselor specializing in the area of domestic violence, and received a favorable evaluation from the counselor regarding his willingness to take concrete steps to ensure that he is not involved in another incident of this type.  Further, he has agreed to speak to other players about what he has learned through this process, and to donate time and money to local organizations aimed at the prevention of, and the treatment of victims of, domestic violence.

2017 Preview: Milwaukee Brewers

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Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2017 season. Next up: The Milwaukee Brewers.

Every year, Major League Baseball plays host to two casts of characters: the contenders and the rebuilders. You might find slight variations — the rebuilders who stand a chance of contending, the contenders on the verge of rebuilding, or those stuck somewhere in between — but by and large, the lines are clearly drawn.

The 2017 Brewers, for better or worse, are rebuilders. Sure, you won’t find them at the bottom of the NL Central come October (that place is unequivocally reserved for the Reds), but neither will you see them snag a Wild Card berth or run away with the division title. This is the year of cultivating a fertile farm system, giving their big league prospects room to stretch and grow and figuring out whether Ryan Braun has a future in Milwaukee beyond 2017.

If the Brewers did anything right this winter, it was deepening their reserves at nearly every position. Behind the plate, Andrew Susac, Manny Pina and newly-acquired Jett Bandy bandied for the spot. Susac injured his back during camp, and while the MRI results didn’t reveal any significant damage, it doesn’t look like he’ll be healthy in time for Opening Day. Milwaukee skipper Craig Counsell has yet to identify a full-time catcher and could start the year with Pina and Bandy in a hybrid role after both backstops impressed during spring training.

Eric Thames replaced Chris Carter at first base, and while he’s expected to split duties with Jesus Aguilar, appears to be an unconventional acquisition for the Brewers. On paper, the two look miles apart. Carter slashed .222/.321/.499 with 41 home runs and an .821 OPS for the club in 2016, pairing his league-leading homers with a league-leading 206 strikeouts. Thames, meanwhile, flamed out in the majors in 2012 and has not returned to the major league stage since. Never mind that he has only ever played the outfield or that he’s technically made only 181 big league appearances in the last five years, though. Over the past three seasons, he mashed an incredible .349/.457/.721 with 124 home runs and a 1.178 OPS for the NC Dinos of the Korean Baseball Organization, and the three-year, $16 million contract he signed with Milwaukee will look like a steal if he can replicate those numbers in the United States.

The outfield posed another set of questions for the team, who was looking to fill right and center field with a combination of Keon Broxton, Hernan Perez, Domingo Santana, Lewis Brinson, Ryan Cordell, Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Kyle Wren. Broxton and Santana claimed spots in center and right, respectively, with Nieuwenhuis beating out the rest of the backup candidates to secure his position as the team’s fourth outfielder. Braun will resume his station in left field after a quiet spring training, during which he declined to participate in the World Baseball Classic or most of the Cactus League competition in order to stay healthy for the upcoming season. (At least, that’s one plausible reason. He also told the Milwaukee Sentinel-Journal’s Todd Rosiak, “I just don’t feel like I need at-bats to feel ready for games.”)

Of course, every team in the throes of rebuilding has at least one weak spot, and the Brewers are no exception. The starting rotation lacks clarity and talent outside of Junior Guerra and Zach Davies, both of whom flourished in their sophomore campaigns with Milwaukee in 2016. The club acquired left-hander Tommy Milone on the cheap, adding him to a lengthy list of candidates that included right-handers Chase Anderson, Wily Peralta, Matt Garza and Jimmy Nelson. Spring training did little to illuminate a clear path for the rotation: Garza imploded, Peralta shone, and Nelson and Anderson proved inconsistent at best.

The bullpen doesn’t look much better beyond newly-minted closer Neftali Feliz, who signed a one-year, $5.35 million deal with the Brewers after polishing off a healthy, productive season with the Pirates in 2016. While his bounce-back season looked like a good omen for Milwaukee, Feliz struggled through a rough spring, working 10 hits, six runs, three walks and seven strikeouts through nine innings in camp. He appears to be fully recovered from the “biceps fatigue” that curtailed his last season in Pittsburgh, and Counsell believes that he’ll improve with more reps this spring.

Elsewhere in the bullpen, the club is hurting for left-handed relief after optioning their only lefty candidate, Brent Suter, to Triple-A Colorado Springs last week. A suitable replacement for Suter has yet to be named, but there’s some chatter that Milone could assume a position in the bullpen if necessary.

Overall, the Brewers didn’t improve their major league roster as much as they stabilized it, opting for low-cost stopgaps while they condition younger, less-seasoned players waiting to break through to the bigs. A plethora of high-caliber prospects crowd the upper rungs of their farm system, so much so that the club has had difficulty trying to find enough room for all of them to develop at the appropriate level. Just take Triple-A Colorado Springs, which boasts a talented outfield of Lewis Brinson, Ryan Cordell and Brett Phillips and rotation battles among Hiram Burgos, Josh Hader, Paolo Espino, Wilkerson, Taylor Jungmann, Wei-Chung Wang and the aforementioned Brent Suter, among others.

Milwaukee is looking at a bright future, to be sure, but that future won’t be fully realized right now. The Brewers’ 2017 season will undoubtedly be more satisfying for its front office than its fans, unless those fans also have a ticket to Security Service Field. Given a few more years to develop their prospects and build out their farm system, however, these rebuilders could begin to look something like contenders.

Prediction: 4th place in NL Central.