What's Ryan Howard's problem?

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Paul Hagen of the Philadelphia Inquirer offers five possible explanations for Ryan Howard’s struggles during the World Series:

(1) He’s putting too much pressure on himself;

(2) That’s just baseball. Slumps happen;

(3) The time off between the NLCS and World Series cost him his “mojo”;

(4) The Yankees pitchers are just executing; and

(5) The Yankees have a better game plan against Howard than anyone else;

Reasons number one and three are basically unquantifiable for us in the peanut gallery. What’s the scientific definition of mojo anyway? Who besides Howard can say if he’s putting too much pressure on himself, and even if he is, might that not be a reaction to his slump as opposed to its cause?

I’m far more partial to reasons two four and five. Partially because they represent phenomena that can actually be observed in the rational universe as opposed to residing inside someone’s head, but also because all three of them go together nicely.  The Yankees have a bunch of good pitchers. They have a pretty sharp pitching coach and a manager who was a pretty spiffy defensive catcher. Slumps happen.  It’s all of a piece, really, and that’s before mentioning the fact that Howard can’t hit lefties to begin with.

Any other possibilities here? Body snatchers? El Nino? An international Communist conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids?

Sean Manaea pitches the first no-hitter of 2018

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Athletics southpaw Sean Manaea delivered his first career no-hitter against the Red Sox in a decisive 3-0 victory on Saturday night. Any thought of a perfect game was banished in the first at-bat, when Mookie Betts drew a leadoff six-pitch walk to open the first inning. From there, Manaea was nearly flawless, holding the Sox to four total baserunners and striking out 10 of 30 batters faced — a career record.

Manaea was gifted a three-run lead thanks to RBI doubles from Jed Lowrie and Stephen Piscotty and Marcus Semien‘s solo shot off of Chris Sale in the fifth inning. While the Red Sox managed to draw two walks off of Manaea, they didn’t come anywhere close to plating a run. Andrew Benintendi tried to break up the no-no in the sixth inning with an infield hit down the first base line, but strayed out of bounds and later saw his hit reversed on a call of batter interference.

Entering the ninth inning, the 26-year-old lefty was sitting at just 95 pitches through eight frames of no-hit ball. He quickly deposed Blake Swihart and Mookie Betts with a groundout and fly out, then walked Benintendi on seven pitches. Any threat the Red Sox might have posed was soon eliminated, however, as Hanley Ramirez ground into a force out to complete the no-hitter.

Manaea is the first A’s pitcher to toss a no-no since Dallas Braden’s perfect game against the Rays eight years ago. The last time the Red Sox were on the losing end of a no-hitter was also against an AL West rival, when the Mariners’ Chris Bosio clinched a 2-0 no-no on April 22, 1993. Manaea’s feat is even more outstanding given how dominant the Red Sox have looked this season: prior to Saturday’s defeat, they boasted a 17-2 record and had yet to be shut out during the regular season.