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.

It’s spring training for groundskeepers too

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Or, I should say, it’s spring training for whatever automated timer thingie turns the sprinklers on and off.

This was the scene at Goodyear on Saturday as the Indians and Reds played in the bottom of the eighth in their spring training opener. Reds manager Bryan Price says that this was probably the second or third time this has happened in the middle of a game there.

Maybe investigate manually operating that bad boy? Just a suggestion!

The Chicago Cubs: Spring training games, regular season prices

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Craig Calcaterra
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MESA, AZ — I’ve been covering spring training for eight years, and in just those eight years a lot has changed in the Cactus and Grapefruit League experiences. The parks are bigger and fancier and the vibe is far more akin to a regular season major league one than the intimate and laid back atmosphere most people think of when they picture February and March baseball.

Just imagine, however, how much has changed if you’ve been coming to Florida or Arizona for a really long time.

“When we first started coming, you could bring your own beer in,” says Don Harper, a lifelong Cubs fan from Kennewick, Washington who spends his winters in Arizona. “You couldn’t bring a cooler, but you could bring a case of beer and a bag of ice and you just set it down in between you and you just put the ice on it and keep it cold.”

I asked Don if the beer vendors complained.

“They didn’t sell beer,” he said.

That was three decades and two ballparks ago. They certainly sell beer at the Cubs’ gleaming new facility, Sloan Park. Cups of the stuff cost more than a couple of cases did back when Don first started coming to spring training.

The price of beer is not the only thing that has changed, of course. The price of tickets is not what it used to be either. Don told me that when he started coming to Cubs spring training games tickets ran about seven dollars. If that. It’s a bit pricer now. Face value for a single lawn ticket, where you’ll be sitting on a blanker on the outfield berm — can be as high as $47 depending on the day of the week and the opponent. Infield box seats run as high as $85.

The thing is, though, you’re not getting face value seats for Cubs spring training games. Half of the home games sold out within a week of tickets going on sale in January. Since then just about every other game has sold out or soon will. That will force you to get tickets on the secondary market. According to TickPick, the average — average! — Cubs spring training ticket on the secondary market is $106.30. For a single ticket. It’s easily the highest price for spring training tickets in all of baseball, and is $26 higher than secondary market tickets for the next highest team, the Red Sox:

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That may be shocking or even appalling to some, but as the automatic sellouts at Sloan Park and those high secondary market prices suggest, there are at least 15,000 people or so for each Cubs home game who don’t seem to mind. Supply meet demand meet the defending World Series champions.

I spoke with two younger Cubs fans, Corey Hayden and Eleanor Meloul, who traveled here from Salt Lake City. On Sunday they lucked out and got a couple of lawn seats for $28. On Saturday, however, they paid $100 a piece on StubHub to get some seats just beyond third base. I asked them if there is some price point that would keep them from coming.

“There isn’t one,” Hayden said. “I paid $4,500 for a World Series ticket, so . . .”

Don Harper wouldn’t do that, but he doesn’t really mind the higher prices he’s paying for his spring tickets. Of course, he’s a longtime season ticket holder so he gets access to the face value seats. I asked him whether his spring training habit would end if those prices got jacked up higher, as the market would seem to bear, or if he had to resort to the secondary market.

Don paused and sighed, suggesting it was a tough question. As he considered it, I put a hard number on it, asking him if he’d still go if he had to pay $50 per ticket. “Yeah, probably,” he said. “$75?” I asked. He paused again.

“As long as I got enough money.”

Don is a diehard who, one senses, will always find a way to make it work. Corey spent a wad of cash on that once-in-a-lifetime World Series ticket, but he and Eleanor seem content to bargain hunt for the most part and splurge strategically. If you’re a Cubs fan — and if you’re not rich — that’s what you’ll have to do. The ticket it just too hot.