And That Happened: Wednesday's Scores and Highlights

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Dodgers 2, Giants 0: Chad Billingsley puts an end to L.A.’s skid by spinning a five-hit shutout of the Giants.  Good thing he went the distance too, because Don Mattingly was managing last night due to Joe Torre’s suspension and that way he didn’t need to make a mound visit.

Padres 6, Braves 4: Billy Wagner has been outstanding this year, but even he’s gonna get hit once in a while. Atlanta had a two-run lead heading into the ninth, but the Padres rallied and then plated two more in the 12th.  Can’t win ’em all and, hey, with Philly and New York seemingly losing ’em all, no harm, no foul.

Mariners 2, White Sox 1: A hell of a pitchers’ duel, as King Felix shuts out the Sox over eight innings and Gavin Floyd shuts down the M’s over seven.  The pens continued to put up blanks through the tenth innings. But Brandon League gave up an RBI single in the top of the 11th and Bobby Jenks — not to be outdone —  gave up a two-run single in the bottom of the inning.  Oh wait — I guess he was to be outdone.  Looks we’re back to a closer controversy in Chicago too, as Ozzie Gullen said after the game that “all options are open now” when it comes to who will close games for the Sox.

Cardinals 5, Phillies 1: See what I mean? Jaime Garcia shuts down the Phillies, but don’t worry, Philadelphia is totally the best team in the NL. You have to believe that too, because it was written in a newspaper.  As for the Cardinals, if what those irresponsible, rumor-mongering blogger heathens are saying is true, Garcia probably wouldn’t even get a start in the NLDS.

Diamondbacks 4, Mets 3: New York managed only seven runs in three games while getting swept by the lowly Dbacks. Even worse, they went scoreless in eight innings against the Dbacks’ pen last night, and that’s no easy thing to do. But hey, Oliver Perez pitched a scoreless inning and a third in relief!

Pirates 15, Brewers 3: Pedro Alvarez hits two homers for the second straight night. He’s good, no question, but it helps that the Brewers’ staff couldn’t get your momma out.

Marlins 5, Rockies 2: Every few weeks there’s a series that feels like it has lasted 11 days. That is the Florida-Colorado series. I know objectively that they’ve played only three games and have one more scheduled for today, but if you put a gun to my head and asked me how I really felt, I’d say they kicked off this series sometime last September. Florida has won four of five, by the way.

Tigers 4, Rangers 1: Max Scherzer threw seven scoreless innings to help the Tigers break the skid.  Ron Washington got to take a late night flight home from Detroit last night, he faces the division rival Angels tonight, and between now and game time has to schlep over to Fort Worth to testify in the Rangers’ bankruptcy hearing in which his boss Nolan Ryan has a direct personal stake in the outcome. No pressure, Ron.

Nationals 8, Reds 5: Strasburg gives up three runs on seven hits in five and two-thirds, but he struck out seven and that’s what the people came to see. And let’s cut the guy some slack: he was facing the best offense in the NL in that bandbox they call a home park.

Athletics 6, Red Sox 4: Clay Buchholz comes back and the results weren’t pretty: five runs on six hits in four innings and that was that. The Sox are 2-5 since the break.

Royals 5, Blue Jays 2: I know wins don’t matter, but I was getting tired of seeing Zack Greinke get undeserved losses and no-decisions earlier this year, so I am happy to report that yesterday he won for the fourth time in his last five starts.

Twins 6, Indians 0: I tried like hell to find it again and couldn’t, but I swear that yesterday that some writer passed along something he overheard in the Indians’ clubhouse to the effect of “I totally got Liriano’s number” or words to that effect. Whoever it was wasn’t in the lineup yesterday, because no one could touch the guy (7 IP, 6 H, 0 ER).

Yankees 10, Angels 6: Having Twitter up during a daytime Yankees game is kind of like torture. I love the passion in Yankees fans — really I do — but the degree to which they live and die on every pitch is exhausting enough for those disinterested people watching/reading them, so I have no idea how Yankees fans themselves don’t have heart attacks all the time. Javier Vazquez had a bad day and people freaked. Hideki Matsui hit a homer and people pined for him. Colin Curtis hit an improbable home run and people practically weeped with pride and joy.  It’s not good, it’s not bad, it’s just so . . . emotional.

Astros 4, Cubs 3: Ted Lilly and Brett Myers both help their trade stock by giving up a lone run over seven innings (well, Lilly was seven and a third), but neither got any run support so this one went 12. Geovany Soto wins it on a walkoff jack OK, I have no idea where that came from. Sleep deprivation, I guess. For those of you who aren’t paying attention, Soto is at .295/.412/.529 on the year with 13 dingers.

Rays 5, Orioles 4: For the second night in a row the Rays blew a four-run lead, but this time they held the line and went on to score one more in the sixth which proved to be the game winner. For the Orioles, Ty Wigginton hit his second home run in as many days. Yeah, I’m basically writing about the Orioles only insofar as they are the current receptacles of players who could be useful for other teams at the trade deadline. Wanna make something of it?

CC Sabathia won’t visit the White House if the Yankees win the World Series

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Over the past couple of days the subject of athlete activism, always present to some degree in American sports, but recently revived by Colin Kaepernick and a few other football players in the form of silent protests during the National Anthem, exploded into a headline dominating news story. Lighting the fuse: President Trump directly inserting himself into the controversy.

He did so during a speech on Friday night and during a series of tweets Saturday and continuing into this morning in which he urged NFL owners to “fire” or suspend players who do not stand for the national anthem. He also attempted to disinvite the NBA champion Golden State Warriors from their traditional White House visit because of their star player Stephen Curry’s public opposition to him, though Curry had already said he wouldn’t go.

As Ashley wrote last night, the silent anthem protests have now come to baseball, with A’s catcher Bruce Maxwell becoming the fist player to kneel during the National Anthem. Before that, at least one baseball executive, Orioles Vice President John P. Angelos, came out strongly on the side of players and against Trump. Joe Maddon said some less-than-enlightened words on the matter. Major League Baseball issued a statement on the matter. It was, not surprisingly, somewhat empty, taking something of a both-sides-have-good-points tack. It’s understandable, I suppose. I suspect Major League Baseball and its owners would prefer to not have to comment on this at all. The league does not do this sort of controversy well.

Ballplayers, however, will likely continue to speak up. The latest: Yankees starter CC Sabathia, who was asked yesterday whether he would visit the White House if the playoff-bound Yankees won the World Series. From the Daily News:

“Never. I just don’t believe in anything that is Trump. So there wouldn’t be any reason for me to go at all. I just think it’s stupid. I just think it’s dumb that he’s addressing players and stuff that he shouldn’t be. But it is what it is, and that’s the country we live in these days . . . I’m proud of the way that everybody has Steph’s back and just athletes in general these days, the way everybody has been stepping up has been great.”

Baseball players, as we’ve noted many times over the years, tend to be a more conservative bunch than football or basketball players. There are a lot more white players and a lot more players from southern, suburban and exurban areas. A significant number of racial-ethnic minority players were not born in the United States, so U.S. politics may not necessarily preoccupy them the way it may players from the United States. As such, political protest like we’ve seen in the NFL and NBA was never going to start in baseball in 2017.

But that does not mean that it was not going to come to baseball. Contrary to what so many fans seem to think, sports do not exist inside some bubble into which the real world does not intrude. Athletes are citizens just like you and me with social, political and personal concerns just like you and me. And, at the moment, a government official is demanding that they lose their jobs because he does not agree with their political views and the manner in which they are expressed. I suspect most of us would get upset by that if it happened to us. Certainly a lot of people I know on the conservative side of the political expression worried about government overreach and freedom of speech. At least before January of this year.

So I am not at all surprised that baseball players like Sabathia are beginning to speak out. He will not be the last. Others will join him. Others, as is their right, will push back and say they disagree with him. If and when people feel inspired to tell them to “stick to sports,” or “stay in their lane,” perhaps they should ask why the President of the United States decided not to do so himself. And ask why he thinks it’s appropriate for athletes to lose their jobs for their political views and why private entities like the NFL should be patriotic institutions rather than businesses which put on sporting events.

 

Bruce Maxwell first MLB player to kneel during National Anthem

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Athletics’ rookie catcher Bruce Maxwell did not stand for the National Anthem on Saturday night. He’s the first MLB player to do so and, like other professional athletes before him, used the moment to send a message — not just to shed light on the lack of racial equality in the United States, but to specifically protest President Donald Trump’s suggestion that NFL owners fire any of their players who elect to protest the anthem by sitting or kneeling.

“Bruce’s father is a proud military lifer. Anyone who knows Bruce or his parents is well aware that the Maxwells’ love and appreciation for our country is indisputable,” Maxwell’s agent, Matt Sosnick, relayed to the San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser on Friday. He continued:

Bruce has made it clear that he is taking a stand about what he perceives as racial injustices in this country, and his personal disappointment with President Trump’s response to a number of professional athletes’ totally peaceful, non-violent protests.

Bruce has shared with both me and his teammates that his feelings have nothing to do with a lack of patriotism or a hatred of any man, but rather everything to do with equality for men, women and children regardless of race or religion.

While Maxwell didn’t make his own statement to the media, he took to Instagram earlier in the day to express his frustration against the recent opposition to the protests, criticizing the President for endorsing “division of man and rights.”

Despite Trump’s profanity-laced directive to NFL owners on Friday, however, it’s clear the Athletics don’t share his sentiments. “The Oakland A’s pride ourselves on being inclusive,” the team said in a statement released after Maxwell’s demonstration. “We respect and support all of our players’ constitutional rights and freedom of expression.”

Whatever the fallout, kudos to Maxwell for taking a stand. He may be the first to do so in this particular arena, but he likely won’t be the last.