And That Happened: Sunday's Scores and Highlights

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Torrealba dropping popup.jpgDodgers 1, Padres 0: The Dodgers sweep the West-leading Padres despite being two-hit. Maybe
I’m being overly pessimistic, but I’m starting to get the feeling that
you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look west, and with the
right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark — that
place where the Padres’ wave finally broke and rolled back.

Reds 7, Cardinals 2: “Their hitters were on, their pitcher was on. They just beat us,” Tony La Russa said after the game, declining to offer some lame, hair-splitting excuse or citation to some obscure rule or custom following a loss for the first time since anyone can recall. The Reds win for the eighth time in ten games and are now in first place
in the NL Central. It’s the first time a team other than the Cardinals
has held that slot since last July.

Giants 4, Astros 3: According to the game story, several Astros’ players
walked the two miles from their team hotel to AT&T Park when taxis
refused to drive around the hubub caused by the annual Bay to Breakers foot
race
. He’ll deny it until the cows come home, but I have it on
pretty good authority that Brett Myers joined in with the runners for
three-quarters of a mile wearing buttless leather pants, as is the
custom for many of the race’s participants.

Twins 6, Yankees 3: You don’t see the Yankees suffer a bullpen implosion like this very often, as Joba loaded the bases and Rivera walked one in and then allowed a grand slam to Jason Kubel. Thank God Javier Vazquez is being sent down to the pen to help those amateurs out.

Tigers 5, Red Sox 1: Neither John Lackey nor the Boston bats were very sharp yesterday, with the former allowing nine hits and walking four, and the latter mustering only seven hits of their own. A two-run homer for Ramon Santiago may be even more rare than that Yankees bullpen implosion.

Angels 4, Athletics 0: Remember over the winter when everyone was not signing Joel Piniero because, um, well, I can’t really remember why, but I’m sure they were very good reasons (CG, SHO, 1 BB, 5K).

Rockies 2, Nationals 1: Jeff Francis didn’t get the win but he was the man of the day, allowing one run on seven hits over seven. Most of the seven hits weren’t all that hard, either. If Colorado is going to shake off the cobwebs and jump into this race, Francis’ return to form will be necessary.

Royals 5, White Sox 3: Brian Bannister after his win: “It was a good enough outing, not a great outing. I
was savvy. I always try to be savvy.”  I can’t decide if that quote is awesome or lame.

Cubs 4, Pirates 3: The Pirates bullpen has actually done a pretty spiffy job of protecting the late leads they have had, but they didn’t do it yesterday, walking dudes and throwing pitches in the dirt and stuff. Xavier Nady had the game winning hit.

Rays 2, Mariners 1: Cliff Lee took a 1-0 lead into the seventh having allowed only two hits, but then doubles by B.J. Upton and Sean Rodriguez tied it and an eighth inning Carl Crawford triple + sac fly gave the Rays the win. Tough luck loss for Lee, who struck out ten.

Braves 13, Diamondbacks 1: Martin Prado went crazy, going 4 for 6 with two homers, as the Braves offense continues to wake up from its season-long slumber. Nice day for Tim Hudson who, while he’s been doing OK, hadn’t been striking out too many fellas. I’ll take six Ks in eight innings against one walk, though.

Indians 5, Orioles 1: Jake Westbrook has won two in a row, allowing only two runs in fifteen innings. Sure, those were against the Royals and Orioles, but you figure a couple of the GMs to whom the Indians will be offering Westbrook this summer will fail to realize that.

Marlins 10, Mets 8: A day on which good fundamental baseball laid down and died for the Mets results in their fifth straight loss and seventh of eight. Chris Coghlan pinch hit in the seventh inning and fouled off six two-strike pitches before hitting a three-run jack which is always fun. Jonathan Niese hurt his hamstring, which is scary considering he needed surgery on it last year. 

Blue Jays 5, Rangers 2: Brandon Morrow on the mechanical flaw he fixed prior to this game: “When I’m really bad mechanically, like I was in Boston, I have a
tendency to break down on my back side and become really rotational and
spin open.”  I hate it when that happens.

Phillies 4, Brewers 2: Six straight losses at home for the Brew Crew. On the bright side, this is the only one of those six losses that was even remotely close.

Rob Manfred on robot umps: “In general, I would be a keep-the-human-element-in-the-game guy.”

KANSAS CITY, MO - APRIL 5:  Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred talks with media prior to a game between the New York Mets and Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium on April 5, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
Ed Zurga/Getty Images
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Craig covered the bulk of Rob Manfred’s quotes from earlier. The commissioner was asked about robot umpires and he’s not a fan. Via Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports:

Manfred was wrong to blame the player’s union’s “lack of cooperation” on proposed rule changes, but he’s right about robot umps and the strike zone. The obvious point is that robot umps cannot yet call balls and strikes with greater accuracy than umpires. Those strike zone Twitter accounts, such as this, are sometimes hilariously wrong. Even the strike zone graphics used on television are incorrect and unfortunate percentage of the time.

The first issue to consider about robot umps is taking jobs away from people. There are 99 umps and more in the minors. If robot umpiring was adopted in collegiate baseball, as well as the independent leagues, that’s even more umpires out of work. Is it worth it for an extra one or two percent improvement in accuracy?

Personally, the fallibility of the umpires adds more intrigue to baseball games. There’s strategy involved, as each umpire has tendencies which teams can strategize against. For instance, an umpire with a more generous-than-average strike zone on the outer portion of the plate might entice a pitcher to pepper that area with more sliders than he would otherwise throw. Hitters, knowing an umpire with a smaller strike zone is behind the dish, may take more pitches in an attempt to draw a walk. Or, knowing that information, a hitter may swing for the fences on a 3-0 pitch knowing the pitcher has to throw in a very specific area to guarantee a strike call or else give up a walk.

The umpires make their mistakes in random fashion, so it adds a chaotic, unpredictable element to the game as well. It feels bad when one of those calls goes against your team, but fans often forget the myriad calls that previously went in their teams’ favor. The mistakes will mostly even out in the end.

I haven’t had the opportunity to say this often, but Rob Manfred is right in this instance.

Report: MLB approves new rule allowing a dugout signal for an intentional walk

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 29:  MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred laughs during a ceremony naming the 2016 winners of the Mariano Rivera American League Reliever of the Year Award and the Trevor Hoffman National League Reliever of the Year Award before Game Four of the 2016 World Series between the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians at Wrigley Field on October 29, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images
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ESPN’s Howard Bryant is reporting that Major League Baseball has approved a rule allowing for a dugout signal for an intentional walk. In other words, baseball is allowing automatic intentional walks. Bryant adds that this rule will be effective for the 2017 season.

MLB has been trying, particularly this month, to improve the pace of play. Getting rid of the formality of throwing four pitches wide of the strike zone will save a minute or two for each intentional walk. There were 932 of them across 2,428 games last season, an average of one intentional walk every 2.6 games. It’s not the biggest improvement, but it’s something at least.

Earlier, Commissioner Rob Manfred was upset with the players’ union’s “lack of cooperation.” Perhaps his public criticism was the catalyst for getting this rule passed.

Unfortunately, getting rid of the intentional walk formality will eradicate the chance of seeing any more moments like this: