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.

Report: MLB, union making progress on new slide rule at second base

New York Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada falls after a slide by Los Angeles Dodgers' Chase Utley during the seventh inning of an NL Division Series baseball game Saturday, Oct. 10, 2015, in Los Angeles. (John McCoy/Los Angeles Daily News via AP)
John McCoy/Los Angeles Daily News via AP
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After Ruben Tejada suffered a fractured right fibula on a takeout slide from Chase Utley during the playoffs, there was momentum for a new rule about slides at second base. We haven’t heard much about it since the Owners’ Meetings in November, but ESPN’s Buster Olney reports that talks between MLB and the players’ union are making progress and a change is expected for the 2016 season.

The exact wording of the new rule is still unclear, but Olney hears that there’s a focus toward “ensuring that sliding runners either touch the base or make an effort to touch the base.” Below are some more details:

Sources said that in the union’s internal discussions, players made it clear they had been taught since they first began playing baseball to go into second base with the intent of breaking up double-play attempts. Although the union wants to improve safety for middle infielders, it does not want to eliminate players’ aggressiveness on slides or the ability to break up a double play.

However, there is a desire on both sides to eliminate slides on which a baserunner goes beyond the effort to reach second to make contact with middle infielders.

There’s already a rule in place for a situation like we saw with Utley, but it’s rarely, if ever, enforced. It’s unfortunate that Tejada’s fractured fibula had to be the catalyst for change or clarification with the rules, but hopefully this will result in fewer injuries in the future. Similar to the “Buster Posey Rule” for plays at home plate, get ready for life with the “Chase Utley Rule.”

Here’s the video of the Tejada/Utley play:

And here’s the video of another high-profile play from 2015 which resulted in a torn lateral meniscus and a fractured tibia for Pirates infielder Jung Ho Kang:

Report: Tigers and J.D. Martinez agree to a two-year, $18.5 million deal

J.D. Martinez
Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images
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UPDATE: Jason Beck of MLB.com confirms that it’s a two-year, $18.5 million deal.

8:00 p.m. ET: Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish reports that the Tigers have avoided arbitration with outfielder J.D. Martinez by agreeing to a two-year contract. No word yet on the terms involved, but Robert Murray of Baseball Essential reported earlier today that he was hearing rumblings about a two-year, $18.5 million deal.

Martinez filed for $8 million and was offered $6 million by the Tigers when arbitration figures were exchanged last month. There has been some talk about a long-term extension, but we heard last week that the two sides were discussing both one- and two-year deals. This new deal will buy out Martinez’s final two years of arbitration, so as of now, he’s still on track to go into free agency after 2017.

After a breakout 2014, Martinez batted .282 with 38 home runs and an .879 OPS over 158 games last season.

Free agent reliever Eric O’Flaherty weighing interest from four teams

New York Mets pitcher Eric O'Flaherty throws against the Miami Marlins during the ninth inning of a baseball game in Miami, Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2015. The Mets defeated the Miami Marlins 8-6. (AP Photo/Joe Skipper)
AP Photo/Joe Skipper
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Veteran reliever Eric O'Flaherty is coming off the worst season of his career, but there’s still plenty of interest in a bounceback, as ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports that he’s deciding between four teams and “should sign a deal by the weekend.”

You really can’t sugarcoat O’Flaherty’s 2015. The 31-year-old was flat-out bad, posting an 8.41 ERA and 21/18 K/BB ratio over 30 innings of work between the Athletics and Mets. Opposing batters hit .343/.427/.482 against him. I keep going back to check if that’s a misprint, but nope, it’s real. He also missed some time with shoulder inflammation. On the bright side, Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports reported last month that O’Flaherty feels healthy and believes that he has fixed his mechanics.

O’Flaherty’s career has veered off track since Tommy John surgery in 2013, but he has enjoyed plenty of success in the past and throws from the left side. He’s the kind of guy who will continue to get chances.

Mets sign outfielder Roger Bernadina

Cincinnati Reds v Arizona Diamondbacks
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Veteran outfielder Roger Bernadina has agreed to a minor-league contract with the Mets that includes an invitation to spring training.

Bernadina was a semi-regular for the Nationals from 2010-2012, but never developed as much as hoped offensively and didn’t play in the majors at all last season.

At age 32 he’s a career .236 hitter with a .661 OPS in 548 games as a big leaguer and given the Mets’ outfield depth–they already have Alejandro De Aza and Juan Lagares in bench/part-time roles–Bernadina seems likely to begin the season in the minors.