And That Happened: Thursday's Scores and Highlights

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Tigers 7, Mariners 6: A game-winning RBI single for Clete Thomas
in the ninth got Jarrod Washburn off the hook after yet another dismal
post-trade performance. Thomas had hit a walk-off homer earlier this
season, and after game said this: “It’s not as good as the homer, but
any walk-off is awesome.” Yeah, just ask Ray Chapman. Sorry. Too soon?

Braves 3, Mets 2: Johan Santana falls to 0-7 against Atlanta. He
gave up nine hits and only struck out two in seven innings. Kenshin
Kawakami pitched well, but man, that’s not much of a Mets lineup he
faced.

Dodgers 7, Cubs 2: Russell Martin has been a millstone for the
Dodgers this year, but his sixth inning grand slam broke the tie and
effectively won the game for big blue. Lots of fun game story stuff:
“The Dodgers improved to 1,015-1,014 all-time against the Cubs.” I
think it would be hilarious if either Piniella or Torre used that as a
motivator in a pre-game speech, totally deadpanning how serious they
were about wanting to leave this series with the all-time lead. Also:
“Penny Marshall was a pregame dugout visitor with Dodgers manager Joe
Torre.” What is this, 1983? We’re reporting Penny Marshall sightings?
Has anyone seen Anson Williams lately? Finally: “Chicago native Jim
Belushi got booed when he was spotted wearing a Cubs cap.” You sure it
was the Cubs hat that set off the booing? It’s Jim Belushi. He’d
probably be booed even if he was riding piggy back on Sandy Koufax
while singing “Hail to the Dodgers.” (note to self: write a song called
“Hail to the Dodgers”).

Red Sox 8, Blue Jays 1: J.D. Drew was 4 for 4 with two homers
and three RBI. Best error of the year so far: Jason Bay is on first
base. Catcher Rod Barajas throws the ball back to Brett Cecil after a
pitch, who drops it. Because no pitcher would ever, ever want to throw
a dirty and possibly scuffed ball, he asks for a new ball from home
plate umpire Greg Gibson. He gets it, and throws the old ball into the
third base dugout. Except he didn’t call time out, which allowed Bay to
move to third on the play. Bay later scored on a single. Heh.

Phillies 12, Diamondbacks 3: Homers from Ryan Howard and Jayson
Werth and eight good innings from Joe Blanton turn this one into a
laugher (Ho-ho-ho, hee-hee-hee, ha-ha-ha . . . see how they smile like
pigs in a sty . . .).

Reds 2, Giants 1: Just-called-up Drew Stubbs hit a walkoff homer
in the tenth to win it. Man, one wonders what would have happened this
year if he had been called up sooner.

Indians 11, Angels 3: Just-called-up Matt LaPorta hit a two-run
double in the sixth that chased John Lackey and busted the game wide
open. Man, one wonders what would have happened this year if he had
been called up sooner.

Astros 4, Marlins 1: Wandy Rodriguez only gave up the one run —
unearned — in eight innings, and added an RBI double in the fifth. The
loss combined with the Braves’ win pulls the Marlins down into a tie
for second in the East with Atlanta, though being 6.5 back makes it all
rather academic. They’re both still four back in the wild card.



Orioles 8, Rays 7: Brian Roberts hit a grand slam and Nolan
Reimold added a three-run shot. Brian Matusz only lastes five and a
third, but he struck out 7 and didn’t walk anybody.

Rockies 4, Nationals 1: Fifth inning, two men on for Colorado,
and Garrett Mock appears to strike out Carlos Gonzalez on a
swing-and-miss. THe Nats walk to the dugout, but then Rockies manager
Jim Tracy comes out to argue that the ball had been tipped, the umps
agree and Gonzalez resumes his at-bat, who proceeds to hit an RBI
double. When was the last time a manager actually got an ump to change
his mind like this? Does Tracy possess the power to perform the Jedi
mind trick?

Cardinals 5, Padres 1: It’s no reason for concern, but Albert
Pujols is 4 for his last 24 with only two extra base hits. Thankfully,
however, he’s getting some help from his teammates these days and the
Cards really didn’t need him against the Pads last night. Joel Pineiro
was strong once again, and Brendan Ryan hit a grand slam. This quote
from Pineiro is troubling, however: “The big grand slam by Ryno kind of
gave me a little bit of extra breathing room to settle down and go out
there and work.” Cardinals players are allowed to be nicknamed “Ryno?”
What if Carlos Zambrano started calling himself Old Hoot and Geovany
Soto started being referred to as “The Man?”

Rangers 11, Twins 1: Marlon Byrd had two homers and had a slick
diving catch in left. Nelson Cruz returned from the DL with a homer of
his own. Cruz’s replacement, Julio Borbon, went 3-for-5 with three RBI,
and is hitting .536 (15-for-28) in seven starts since being called up.
Someone had better check and see if Neftali Feliz is OK, though, as he
only struck out one dude in 1.2 innings instead of the three or four
we’ve come to expect.

Why Ryan Zimmerman skipped spring training

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All spring training there was at least some mild confusion about Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman. He played in almost no regular big league spring training games, instead, staying on the back fields, playing in simulated and minor league contests. When that usually happens, it’s because a player is rehabbing or even hiding an injury, but the Nats insisted that was not the case with Zimmerman. Not everyone believed it. I, for one, was skeptical.

The skepticism was unwarranted, as Zimmerman answered the bell for Opening Day and has played all season. As Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal writes today, it was all by design. He skipped spring training because he doesn’t like it and because he thinks it’ll help him avoid late-season injuries and slowdowns, the likes of which he has suffered over the years.

It’s hard to really judge this now, of course. On the one hand Zimmerman has started really slow this season. What’s more, he has started to show signs of warming up only in the past week, after getting almost as many big league, full-speed plate appearances under his belt as a normal spring training would’ve given him. On the other hand, April is his worst month across his entire 14-year career, so one slow April doesn’t really prove anything and, again, Zimmerman and the Nats will consider this a success if he’s healthy and productive in August and September.

It is sort of a missed opportunity, though. Players hate spring training. They really do. if Zimmerman had made a big deal out of skipping it and came out raking this month, I bet a lot more teams would be amenable to letting a veteran or three take it much more easy next spring. Good ideas can be good ideas even if they don’t produce immediately obvious results, but baseball tends to encourage a copycat culture only when someone can point to a stat line or to standings as justification.

Way to ruin it for everyone, Ryan. 😉