And That Happened: Thursday's Scores and Highlights

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Pirates foam fingers.jpgBrewers 20, Pirates 0: I think the most remarkable thing about this game is that the Brewers were set down 1-2-3 in the first inning.

Phillies 8, Braves 3: This series began with the Phillies bullpen breaking down, but that ended up being a fluke. The real story of the series was that the Phillies got great starting pitching in all three games, and between that, their patience at the plate and their excellent defense they clearly showed that they are the better team right now. And Derek Lowe showed something too: he has nothing left.

Rockies 2, Nationals 0: When Ubaldo Jiminez gave up the double to Willie Harris in the first inning, Johnny Vander Meer — as has become his tradition — opened up the bottle of champagne he’s been saving, celebrating and savoring the fact that he remains the only man to pitch back-to-back no hitters. Wait, what? Johnny Vander Meer died in 1997? Oh, never mind.

Athletics 4, Yankees 2: The Yankees turned a triple play and pissed off Dallas Braden something fierce, but they lost the game. My thought on the Braden thing: I’ve never heard of the unwritten rule about not walking on the mound, but I want to think less of A-Rod for it all the same if that makes any sense. Mostly I just want someone to recut the video of Braden jawing at Rodriguez with the audio from the “get off my f—— obstacle” scene from “Full Metal Jacket” because that would be cool.

Reds 8, Dodgers 5: Manny left in the sixth after straining his right calf.  When the season started I thought oblique injuries would be all the rage, but it turns out that calf injuries are really where it’s at. Just goes to show that you can’t predict fashion.

Mets 5, Cubs 2: Johan Santana blanked the Cubs for six innings and ended up giving up only one run, Ike Davis had three hits and K-Rod came into a jam in the 8th and put out the fire, earning his first save of the year. Those things together make this a very satisfying win for Mets fans.

Indians 8, Twins 1: A nice win for the Indians, but the big story coming out of Cleveland yesterday is that the Indians have invited me to the Tribe Social Deck for the game against the Tigers on May 7th. This gesture of taste and goodwill no doubt led to their fine performance.

Rangers 3, Red Sox 0: C.J. Wilson gets his first career win as a starter. He was matched by Clay Buchholz for most of the game, but things unraveled in the 7th as, after one run was already in, a stolen base put Nelson Cruz into position to score on a David Murphy double and a throwing error by Buchholz allowed Murphy to score.

Rays 10, White Sox 2: The rays outscored the White Sox 22-2 over the past two games to take the series. Tampa Bay completed a 9-1 road trip. Given the home field advantage they’ve come to expect in the Trop, this bodes well. Seven walks, seven hits and seven earned runs for Jake Peavy who, even if he can’t be happy about his game, has to at least appreciate the symmetry of his performance on an aesthetic level.

Tigers 5, Angels 4: Great moments in efficiency: Justin Verlander threw 125 pitches in five innings. He got the win, however, after he was bailed out by a Tigers’ bullpen which has thrown 15.2 consecutive scoreless innings. And here I thought that would be the team’s weakness this year.  In other news, Torri Hunter was presented with his Gold Glove before the game. He then proceeded to bat from the DH slot. There’s got to be some kind of lesson in there somewhere, but I just can’t tease it out.

Marlins 5, Astros 1: Jorge Cantu extends his hitting streak to 20 games.  Know what? I think baseball history needs a little shaking up and something as random as Jorge Cantu hitting in 57 straight games would totally do the trick. Viva chaos and all of that.

Joe Mauer reveals he’s had blurred vision since 2013 concussion

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After a decade as the best all-around catcher in baseball Joe Mauer suffered a concussion in August of 2013 that forced him to change positions and marked the end of his time as a great hitter.

Mauer was doing his usual thing at the time of the concussion, hitting .324 with a .404 on-base percentage and .880 OPS. Since returning from the brain injury he’s hit .270 with a .348 on-base percentage and .725 OPS while seeing his numbers decline across the board.

Mauer revealed today to Brian Murphy of the St. Paul Pioneer Press that “lingering symptoms occasionally blurred his vision at the plate the past two seasons” and “he will experiment hitting with sunglasses for the first time to improve his pitch tracking” this season.

Here’s more from Murphy:

Bright sunshine sometimes triggered blurred vision that Mauer links to the concussion with which he was diagnosed in August 2013 after absorbing at least “two significant blows” from foul tips while he was still catching.

“I don’t want that to be kind of an excuse. If I’m out there, I’m out there. That’s just the way I am,” Mauer said. “There are times I’ve gone up to the plate and I just couldn’t pick up the ball. That’s part of the frustration because I’m trying to do everything I can to get back. It just takes time.”

There are more quotes along those same lines and Mauer’s numbers in night games were much better than his numbers in day games last season.

I live in Minnesota and it has been incredibly frustrating to see such a large (or at least vocal) segment of the Twins fan base treat Mauer’s steep decline as if it has nothing to do with the significant brain trauma he suffered. I’m hopeful that Mauer going public about literally struggling to see the baseball while at the plate will convince fans to treat him more humanely, but that’s probably wishful thinking at this point.

What a shame, on every level.

Masahiro Tanaka can’t say for sure if he’ll be ready by Opening Day

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Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka said today that he “can’t say for sure” whether he’ll be ready for Opening Day.

Tanaka underwent arthroscopic surgery in late November to remove a bone spur from his right elbow. Tanaka threw off a bullpen mound Tuesday for the first time since undergoing a cleanup procedure on his right elbow last October and, while healthy, may be behind other pitchers.

Tanaka posted a 3.51 ERA and a 139/27 K/BB ratio across 154 innings last season. He also has a partially torn UCL he’s been pitching through for some time which is always something the Yankees have on their mind when it comes to schedules and workouts for their ace.

Denard Span, not Angel Pagan, will be Giants’ center fielder and leadoff hitter

Denard Span
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Making official what was assumed when the Giants signed Denard Span to a three-year, $31 million contract last month, manager Bruce Bochy announced that Span will start in center field and bat leadoff.

That means 34-year-old Angel Pagan, who’s been the Giants’ starting center fielder and primary leadoff hitter for the past four seasons, will slide to left field and bat further down in the lineup. About a month before the Span signing Bochy said Pagan would remain in the center fielder/leadoff role, but the situation obviously changed.

It’s a move that makes sense, because Span–if healthy following hip surgery–is a superior defensive center fielder with better on-base skills. And if Pagan doesn’t bounce back following a rough 2015 season then having him in left field will make it easier for the Giants to platoon him or bench him in favor of, say, Gregor Blanco or a bigger bat.

Pitchers to receive new visor-like protective headgear

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For the past few years MLB, the MLBPA and cap and helmet manufacturers have been working on various models of protective headgear for pitchers. Some of the models have been unworkable, some of them have not met the satisfaction of pitchers and others have, well, looked a little odd. At present the only pitcher who routinely wears any headgear is Alex Torres, who wears the bulky isoBLOX helmet.

Now, however, there is a new option. And, as you can see above it’s a bit different than what we’ve seen before. It’s more or less like a visor, which will have a nylon top on them to give a full cap-like appearance. The ear flaps will be lefty and righty-specific, given that righties are more likely to be hit on the right and lefties on the left given their follow-throughs.

The new caps will be given out to players this spring and, like the old ones, will be used or not used at the choice of the players. You can read more about the new helmet at ESPN’s Outside the Lines report.