And That Happened: Tuesday's Scores and Highlights

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Nick Blackburn pitches.jpgTwins 4, Tigers 3: Nick Blackburn gave up 11 hits in a complete game. This had me thinking about the concept of “scattering” hits last night. I mean, I wanted to say that Blackburn scattered 11 hits over nine innings, but 11 seemed like too many. I was thinking that scattering applies to eight
hits max, and after that you’re just getting out of jams all night.

But I wasn’t entirely sure, so I asked two extremely smart baseball people: ESPN’s Rob Neyer and Sam Miller of the Orange County Register.  They both basically gave me the same answer: it’s not the hits that determines whether you scattered them, it’s the runs.  Give up less than four runs and you can scatter 20 hits if you want to.

I still can’t say I’m entirely comfortable with this — 11 hits seems like a lot to scatter, and I don’t know that anything more than a 1:1 innings-to-runs ratio can truly be called scattering — but at some point you just have to defer to authority on these things.

Nationals 6, Braves 3: OK, deep breaths. I had let Livan Hernandez off my sh– list because the 1997 NLCS was a long time ago. I had finally moved on and vowed to not let that man aggravate me anymore. I even wrote an ATH entry a week ago wishing for nothing but the best for him as he puts together an improbably good season. Yet I find myself aggravated as all hell that his slow pitches and crappy control still manage to beat the Braves after all these years. More deep breaths.  Ahhh. OK, there. I’m better now. Congratulations on another successful outing, Mr. Hernandez. Kudos on a job well done. [twitch!] [twitch!].

Diamondbacks 1, Astros 0:  That’s the thing about Houston. They’re so versatile! They lose the close ones, they lose the blowouts, they lose on the road, they lose at home. They can do it all!

Mets 5, Reds 4: John Maine has allowed just seven earned runs in his last four starts, which is cool.  Also cool was Rod Barajas’ tiebreaking homer in the ninth. Well, at least if you’re not a Reds fan it was cool. For Reds fans it rather sucked, I suppose.

Giants 9, Marlins 6: Tim Lincecum strikes out 13, but gets a no-decsion as his bullpen can’t hold the lead for his second straight start. Overall the Giants struck out 20 Marlins.

Phillies 2, Cardinals 1: Before last night’s game, Cardinals manager and fellow attorney Tony La Russa said, when asked about the taser incident, that “I just think it’s
acceptable, because it’s a good deterrent.”  I can’t find any comment from him this morning about how damn good a deterrent it was based on the fact that someone ran out onto the field the very next night.  Oh well.  Jackass fans aside, Hamels and Lidge looked like it was 2008 all over again. So Philadelphia has that going for them. Which is nice.

Royals 7, White Sox 2: Zack Greinke should really start following Luke Hochevar around and ask him what he does to get the Royals’ offense to score all those runs for him.

Red Sox 5, Angels 1: Nice win, blah, blah, blah, but it’s time to cut Papi, right?  I mean, Mike Lowell went 4 for 4 with 4 RBI on Monday, and then last night Ortiz goes 0 for 4 with two strikeouts and hit into two double
plays, the second of which came in the eighth with the bases loaded, nobody
out, and the score tied.  This is a fireable offense, right?

Pirates 3, Cubs 2: I can’t recall a team that wins practically all of their close games yet gets the snot kicked out of them in all of their losses quite like the 2010 Pirates do.  Fifth homer in four games for Alfonso Soriano. Two-run jack for Ryan Church despite suffering from the stomach flu. I’m never completely sure what they mean when they say “stomach flu,” but I always assume it’s one of those things you get where you don’t even want to walk down the stairs too fast lest you ruin your trousers. How you hit a ball 380 feet or whatever it was with that preying on your bowels I have no idea, but that’s why Ryan Church is a ballplayer and I wear my pajamas all day.

Yankees 4, Orioles 1: A.J. Burnett could get used to pitching against the Orioles. Last Thursday he dominated them and last night he takes care of the O’s business once again (7 IP, 5 H, 0 ER, 8K). And how about Francisco Cervelli? The catcher hits his first career triple (thanks to an Adam Jones dive that came up short) and makes a nice catch on a foul pop to end the fourth.

Blue Jays 8, Indians 5: Nine walks by Indians pitchers.  Know what? I watched Josh Tomlin pitch for the Columbus Clippers on Monday night and he looked better than most of what Cleveland has been throwing out there each night. Call him up. Can’t hurt.

Brewers 11, Dodgers 6: Clayton Kershaw turns in his worst performance ever (1.1 IP, 5H, 7 ER, 2BB, 2 HBP). The only highlight for Dodgers fans was a knuckleballer turning in four solid innings of mopup duty. Prince Fielder and Gregg Zaun each homered in the nine-run second inning. Zaun finished a triple short of the cycle. Hey, we can’t all be as fast as Francisco Cervelli.

Padres 3, Rockies 2: Chase Headley singled in a run in the bottom of the ninth after the Rockies walked Adrian Gonzalez to get to him. Maybe the lesson here is that intentional walks suck, but I’d probably have walked AG to get to Headley too. What I would have tried not to do was to walk leadoff hitter Lance Zadawzki before Gonzalez which, after a sacrifice, allowed the winning run to reach second.

Athletics 7, Rangers 6: Ryan Sweeney was 3 for 5 with a homer and 5 RBI for the A’s. Vlad Guerrero hit a grand slam and had five RBI for the Rangers. Scott Feldman got lit up early, though, and when you spot the other guys five runs, you don’t make life easy on yourself.

Rays 5, Mariners 2: James Shields allowed only two runs on eight hits and struck out 10. Four errors for the Mariners, who are supposed to be pretty good on defense. On offense the Mariners looked like they weren’t even trying. Take the seventh inning. The M’s, having no luck against Shields, figure to have one chance, and that’s to get him out of the game and into the Rays’ bullpen.  Take some pitches then, right? Work the count?  Nope: they go down on four pitches. Four. Jose Lopez takes a strike and then he, Casey Kotchman and Jack Wilson swing at the next three pitches for two groundouts and a fly out.  Mercy.

Settling the Scores: Memorial Day edition

ARLINGTON, VA - MAY 21:  American flags are shown after being placed by members of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment at the graves of U.S. soldiers buried at Arlington National Cemetery, in preparation for Memorial Day May 21, 2015 in Arlington, Virginia. "Flags-In" has become an annual ceremony since the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) was designated to be an Army's official ceremonial unit in 1948  (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
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Memorial Day commemorates the men and women who died in military service. At some point in the past couple of decades, however, it has become an all-purpose flag-waving, patriotism-declaring, civilians-in-camouflage holiday. It’s understandable why this is the case. We, as a country, haven’t always done mourning well. I think it’s part of our national cultural DNA that we don’t and it’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it does make days like this difficult.

I feel like the flag-waving and troop-supporting stuff is some sort of subconscious reaction to death. It’s our way of instantly trying to justify those deaths or to explain how they were not in vain, much the same way we might tell someone upon the death of a loved one that they’re in a better place or that they had a full life. Feeling the pain of loss is hard. We want to soften it in any way we can and make our pain serve a larger, better purpose. And so we get today, when Major League Baseball puts its players in camouflage caps and in jerseys with camouflage logos. They’ll sell them too, with proceeds going to good and noble veterans charities. The intent is noble and the ultimate effect of it all is beneficial. But it’s also a little beside the point. Maybe not beside the point as much as mattress sales or big celebratory barbecues which have come to characterize Memorial Day for so many, but still not exactly the purpose of the holiday.

I don’t condemn it. As I wrote last year, the men and women who actually fought and died in wars were hoping that they were, ultimately, making a better and happier world for those they left behind. And they no doubt hoped, among everything else they hoped, that others didn’t have to face what they were facing. They wanted our lives to be happy and our country to be safe and part of a happy and safe country involves 300 million people doing whatever it is they damn please, even if it’s just having barbecues and wearing camo at the ballpark.

I won’t say have a happy Memorial Day because that seems odd. Have any kind of Memorial Day you want, really, even if it includes barbecuing, drinking beer and wearing a cam ballcap. But as you do, please make sure you take some time to think about those who died in military service. And remember that they didn’t get to have as many days like the one you’re having as they were meant to have. And make at least some effort to offset your happy, patriotic or silly pursuits with some mourning and reflectiveness. It’s OK for that to stand on its own.

The scores:

Red Sox 5, Blue Jays 3
Orioles 6, Indians 4
Yankees 2, Rays 1
Nationals 10, Cardinals 2
Brewers 5, Reds 4
Royals 5, White Sox 4
Cubs 7, Phillies 2
Rangers 6, Pirates 2
Astros 8, Angels 6
Athletics 4, Tigers 2
Twins 5, Mariners 4
Giants 8, Rockies 3
Diamondbacks 6, Padres 3
Marlins 7, Braves 3
Dodgers 4, Mets 2

 

Should Dave Roberts have taken Clayton Kershaw out of Sunday’s game?

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 29:  Clayton Kershaw #22 of the Los Angeles Dodgers delivers a pitch in the first inning against the New York Mets at Citi Field on May 29, 2016 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Dodgers manager Dave Roberts will likely be second-guessed heavily during tomorrow’s news cycle. Starter Clayton Kershaw had pitched a terrific ballgame, as is his tendency, but with 114 pitches to his name, Roberts decided to pull him from the game in the eighth inning with two outs and a runner on first base.

Roberts opted not for closer Kenley Jansen, who hasn’t pitched since Wednesday, but for another lefty in Adam Liberatore. He was playing the numbers, with the left-handed-hitting Curtis Granderson coming up. Liberatore, much to Roberts’ chagrin, served up what turned out to be a game-tying triple to Granderson, hitting a rocket to right-center just out of the reach of a leaping Yasiel Puig.

Jansen has, for six years, been one of the game’s elite relievers. Kershaw, though at a high pitch count, doesn’t seem to suffer from the times through the order penalty like most pitchers. Kershaw’s opponents’ OPS facing him for the first time was .525 coming into Sunday. Twice, .597. Three times, .587. Four times, .526 (but this suffers from survivorship bias so it’s not exactly representative).

Furthermore, Kershaw held lefties to a .546 OPS over his career. Liberatore, in 99 plate appearances against lefty hitters, gave up a .575 OPS. Jansen? .560. It seems that, faced with three decisions, Roberts arguably made the worst one. Playing conservative with Kershaw at 114 pitches is defensible, but only if Jansen comes in. If Roberts wanted the platoon advantage, Kershaw should have stayed in.

Luckily for the Dodgers, Mets closer Jeurys Familia didn’t have his best stuff. He loaded the bases with one out in the top of the ninth on a single and two walks, then gave up a two-run single to Adrian Gonzalez, giving the Dodgers a 4-2 lead. Jansen came on in the bottom half of the ninth and retired the side in order to pick up his 15th save of the season.

Royals sweep White Sox over the weekend on three late rallies

KANSAS CITY, MO - MAY 28:  Brett Eibner #12 of the Kansas City Royals celebrates his game-winning RBI single with teammates in the ninth inning against the Chicago White Sox at Kauffman Stadium on May 28, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. The Royals won 8-7. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
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The Royals had themselves a pretty good weekend. The quickly fading White Sox, not so much.

On Friday, the Royals fell behind 5-1 after the top of the sixth. They would score once in the bottom of the sixth, four times in the seventh, and once in the eighth to steal a 7-5 win facing pitchers Miguel Gonzalez Dan Jennings, Matt Albers, Zach Duke and Nate Jones.

On Saturday, the Royals entered the bottom of the ninth down 7-1. They scored seven runs on closer David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle to win 8-7.

On Sunday, the Royals were down 4-2 after the top of the eighth. They plated three runs in the bottom half of the eighth against Jones and Albers, going on to win 5-4.

Coming into the weekend, the Royals were 24-22 in third place. The White Sox were 27-21, a half-game up in first place. Now the Royals are in first place by a game and a half, and the White Sox are in third place, two games out of first.

Here’s video of the Royals’ comeback on Saturday, since it was so unlikely:

Report: Ryan Braun is “the hot name out there”

ATLANTA, GA - MAY 24: Ryan Braun #8 of the Milwaukee Brewers waits to hit during the first inning against the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field on May 24, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
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In Saturday’s column for The Boston Globe, Nick Cafardo notes that, according to a scout, Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun is “the hot name out there.” Braun has been bothered by neck and back issues this year, missing on Sunday his eighth start out of the Brewers’ last 14 games, but he has still put up a quality .351/.424/.583 triple-slash line in 170 plate appearances this year.

More importantly for an acquiring team, Braun is in the first year of a five-year, $105 million contract. He’s earning $19 million this season and in the ensuing two seasons, and then his salary decreases slightly to $18 million in 2019, $16 million in 2020, and $15 million if both sides pick up his mutual option (else a $4 million buyout would be exercised).

Per Cafardo, the Astros, Cardinals, Red Sox, Phillies, Mets, Giants, and White Sox are potential landing spots for Braun.