And That Happened: Wednesday's scores and highlights

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Tigers 4, Royals 3:

The crowd began to rise, and clap, waiting for Michigan’s most iconic sports broadcaster to walk out to home plate to say good-bye. Slowly, the applause floated out onto the field, peaking as Harwell strode out from the tunnel behind home plate, walked past the gates and out onto the grass.

He thrust his arms into the sky as the noise washed over him. Standing before a solitary microphone with no one on the diamond but the umpires, the old voice of the Tigers raised his arms once more and quieted the crowd . . .

. . . “You Tiger fans are the greatest fans of them all,” he finished. “Thank you for your support, your loyalty and your love.”

Then he strolled back off the field. His ears filled with chanting:

“Ernie! Ernie! Ernie!”

Rockies 4, Giants 3: I’ll leave this one to Neyer, who got to watch this one from the press box: “. . . in the Hierarchy of Horribles, if you’re a Giants fan, losing to Jorge de la Rosa — being practically shut out by Jorge de la Rosa, then coming oh so close in the ninth inning — and having to play that schedule, and having a lineup full of struggling hitters … well, that’s gotta be pretty close to the top.”

Orioles 4, Rays 2: Losing all of these games isn’t ugly enough for you Rays fans? How about a nice shouting match between your left fielder and DH in the clubhouse before the game? And lo, Matt Wieters hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth to win the game, making it clear now that the last four months have merely been a test of our faith. I never doubted you, Matt! And I’d like to remind you, that as a trusted Internet personality, I can be helpful in rounding up others to toil in your underground sugar caves.

Athletics 4, Rangers 0: This is the way the Rangers’ playoff hopes end. This is the way the Rangers’ playoff hopes end. This is the way the Rangers’ playoff hopes end. Not with a bang but a whimper (sorry, T.S.).

Yankees 5, Blue Jays 4: One HBP — Shawn Camp on Melky Cano — but everyone kept their powder dry. Francisco Cervelli — who probably isn’t in this game if Posada didn’t get suspended — hit the game winning RBI in the ninth.

Phillies 6, Nationals 1: Ryan Howard stole second base on the front end of a double steal in which Chase Utley stole home. As for Howard: Whoa. Nice wheels, big guy. As for Utley: There should probably be some sort of fielder’s choice kind of scoring decision for that kind of thing, because that’s just really not a steal of home as far as I’m concerned. Jayson Werth hit a grand slam. The Phillies actually allowed a run.

Dodgers 3, Pirates 1: Man, Pittsburgh will cure what ailes you, won’t they? Ronnie Belliard was 3 for 3 with a homer and two runs scored for cryin’ out loud. A Wednesday day-game sellout for L.A. FYI: it wasn’t the Pirates that spiked the fan interest.

Red Sox 9, Angels 8: The Angels led by one entering the ninth. Boston loads the bases and Nick Green comes in to pinch hit for Casey Kotchman. Fuentes gets two strikes on him, and then Green checks his swing on what would have been strike three. At least the umps say he did — Mike Scioscia disagreed. Fuentes and Green battle until the count is full. The payoff: low, ball four, tying run walks in. Adam Kilgore at the Globe said “If it really was low, it was low by half a millimeter. Scioscia is enraged.” Alex Gonzalez comes up, hits a bloop single to win the game.

Reds 6, Astros 5: How on Earth can you give up eleven hits, five of which were home runs, and not lose the game? Ask Justin Lehr. I imagine he’d start by telling you to only walk one dude. His next idea would be to tell you to make sure you’ve got a good bullpen like the Reds have so they can bail your tater givin’ up butt with four innings of shutout relief. Hal McCoy was honored before the game, which was a nice move by the Reds.

Padres 6, Diamondbacks 5: Luis Durango, who was making his first big league start, hit an infield single to lead off the 10th inning, then stole second, and then beat the throw home on a single to win it. In other news, “Luis Durango” is a fabulous ballplayer name.

Brewers 9, Cubs 5: Alcides Escobar went 4 for 5 with three RBI. Brewers fans may want to turn their attention to the Packers these days, but watching this guy come up and work to figure it out is the kind of thing that they should really take the time to savor in the waning days of 2009.

Marlins 5, Cardinals 2: Josh Johnson gave up nine hits but allowed just one run and struck out nine in six innings. The Marlins somehow continue to hang around, sitting four back of Colorado.

Twins 7, Indians 3: The Twins win, they’re four and a half back, and they face a Tigers team this weekend that can be had. Really early in the season I talked about how the Twins always seem to hang around. This is what I meant.

Mariners 4, White Sox 1: Mike Carp hit his first major league home run. Then: “When the game ended, Carp was given a beer shower and had an ice cream pie shoved in his face by a couple of the veterans.” Ice cream? Original, I guess. Question: why is that there are always pie plates hanging around major league clubhouses? Are they seriously making pie part of the standard post game spread? These are the kind of things that keep me up all night obsessing.

Braves 6, Mets 5: The Braves come from behind and win the game on a Daniel “I have no business playing any defensive position” Murphy error in the ninth.  That’s six straight.  Derek Lowe left the game with a blister on his finger after playing the 18th take of “Helter Skelter.” 

Don Mattingly thinks pace of play can be improved by changing views on strikeouts

Miami Marlins manager Don Mattingly sits in the dugout prior to a baseball game against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Los Angeles, Monday, April 25, 2016. (AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo)
AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo
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Marlins manager Don Mattingly has one potential solution to the pace of play issue: change the way people value strikeouts, the Associated Press reports.

Strikeouts have been rising steadily since 2005. Then, a typical game averaged 6.30 strikeouts. In 2016, there were 8.03 strikeouts per game. There are many explanations for this phenomenon. For one, teams are searching specifically for young pitchers who can throw hard — like triple-digits hard. They figure they can teach them the other pertinent skills in the minors. Second, Sabermetrics has shown that a strikeout is only marginally worse than an out made on a ball put in play. Sometimes, the strikeout is preferable, especially if there’s a runner on first base with less than two outs and a weak hitter at the plate. Sabermetrics has also shown home runs to be the best and most efficient way to contribute on offense. Furthermore, younger players tend to focus more on power in order to get noticed by scouts. Unless it’s paired with other elite skills, a scout isn’t going to remember a player who hit the ball into the hole on the right side, but he will remember the kid who blasted a 450-foot homer.

Here’s what Mattingly had to say:

Analytically, a few years back nobody cared about the strikeout, so it’s OK to strike out 150, 160, 170 times, and that guy’s still valued in a big way. Well, as soon as we start causing that to be a bad value — the strikeouts — guys will put the ball in play more. So once we say strikeouts are bad and it’s going to cost you money the more you strike out, then the strikeouts will go away. Guys will start making adjustments and putting the ball in play more.

[…]

If our game values [say that] strikeouts don’t matter, they are going to keep striking out, hitting homers, trying to hit home runs and striking out.

Simply believing strikeouts are bad won’t magically change its value. However, creating social pressure regarding striking out can change it. Theoretically, anyway. Creating that social pressure is easier said than done.

There is a dichotomy here as well. Home runs are exciting. Strikeouts and walks are not. Often, though, the three go hand-in-hand-in-hand. A player actively trying to cut down on his strikeouts by putting the ball in play will also likely cut down on his strikeout and walk rates. There doesn’t seem to be an elegant solution here. Wishing for fewer strikeouts, walks, and homers doesn’t really seem to give way to a more exciting game.

Sean Doolittle: “Refugees aren’t stealing a slice of the pie from Americans.”

ANAHEIM, CA - JUNE 25:  Sean Doolittle #62 of the Oakland Athletics pitches during the ninth inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on June 25, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images
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In the past, we’ve commented on Athletics reliever Sean Doolittle and his girlfriend Eireann Dolan’s community service. In 2015, the pair hosted Syrian refugee families for Thanksgiving and their other charitable efforts have included LGBTQ outreach and help for veterans.

Athletes and their significant others have typically avoided stepping into political waters, but Doolittle and Dolan have shown that it’s clearly no concern to them. In the time since, the Syrian refugee issue has become even more of a hot-button issue and Doolittle recently discussed it with Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times.

I think America is the best country in the world because we’ve been able to attract the best and brightest people from all over the world. We have the smartest doctors and scientists, the most creative and innovative thinkers. A travel ban like this puts that in serious jeopardy.

I’ve always thought that all boats rise with the tide. Refugees aren’t stealing a slice of the pie from Americans. But if we include them, we can make the pie that much bigger, thus ensuring more opportunities for everyone.

Doolittle, of course, is referring to Executive Order 13769 signed by President Trump which sought to limit incoming travel to the United States from seven countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. A temporary restraining order on the executive order was placed on February 3, a result of State of Washington v. Trump.

Doolittle spoke more about the plight refugees face:

These are people fleeing civil wars, violence and oppression that we can’t even begin to relate to. I think people think refugees just kind of decide to come over. They might not realize it takes 18-24 months while they wait in a refugee camp. They go through more than 20 background checks and meetings with immigration officers. They are being vetted.

They come here, and they want to contribute to society. They’re so grateful to be out of a war zone or whatever they were running from in their country that they get jobs, their kids go to our schools, they’re paying taxes, and in a lot of cases, they join our military.

Around this time last year, Craig wrote about Doolittle and Dolan not sticking to baseball. They’re still not, nor should they be. Hopefully, the duo’s outspokenness inspires other players and their loved ones to speak up for what’s right.

[Hat tip: Deadspin’s Hannah Keyser]