And That Happened: Wednesday's Scores and Highlights

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Yankees 9, Tigers 5: The play in this one was defined by the six home
runs that were hit (two by Miguel Cabrera), but the game was defined by
chin music. Or at least leg and back music.  After last night’s hard slide
by Brett Gardner knocked Carlos Guillen out indefinitely, Gardner was
plunked in the first. Warnings issued. Fine. But then Chad Gaudin hit
Cabrera in the eighth. No ejections, though, because umpires have a lot
on their minds and can’t be bothered with remembering warnings they
issued a mere two hours earlier. Leyland got ejected complaining about
that. Then Jeter got one thrown behind his back by Enrique Gonzalez and
both Cano and Teixeira got some inside pitches. Still no ejections.

Depending on how you value inside pitches (does three of them = one
plunking?) the Tigers and Yankees are either even on the Great Manhood Ledger or else the Yankees are up 2-1 (slide into Guillen + Cabrera
plunking vs.the Gardner plunking).  Of course, given that the umps
aren’t going to do anything to anyone over all of this I fully expect the scores to
be settled via someone swinging a pillow case full of soda cans at an opposing player, “Bad Boys”-style. I’ll call it now: Ryan Raburn will play the Sean Penn role and Nick Swisher’s will be Esai Morales.

Twins 7, White Sox 6: Gavin Floyd vs. Francisco Liriano was just the latest cracker jack on-paper pitching matchup that fizzled out when both guys proved mortal. Floyd was mortaler, though, allowing all seven Twins runs on ten hits. Bright side for the Sox: the bullpen didn’t blow this one! The Sox are now five games back.

Braves 3, Nationals 2: Once again Atlanta hitters couldn’t do anything against a Nats’ starter for the first few innings, but once again they came through late. They didn’t come through as big as they did on Tuesday night, though, so this one was tied heading into the bottom of the ninth, when Jason Heyward won it for Atlanta with an RBI single. I haven’t mentioned my man crush on Heyward for some time, but I assure you, it still burns.

Marlins 3, Pirates 2: Josh Johnson goes eight, striking out six and allowing only two runs to snag his first win in six starts. Meanwhile, Dan Uggla continues to chug along in what is turning out to be the best season of his career. He hit another bomb in this one, and now has 28 on the season and a quite spiffy .294/.381/.532 line, all three of which would be career highs if the season ended today.

Red Sox 7, Angels 5: The Sox are now 9-0 against the Angels this year. I guess that atones for the 3-0 sweep in last year’s ALDS, huh?

Phillies 8, Giants 2: Can I go back and re-declare the Giants dead? I won’t claim I was 100% right the first time I did it. I’ll just say that I was ahead of my time.

Padres 5, Cubs 1: A double and a couple of RBI for Matt Stairs who, no matter who he plays for and no matter how he’s doing, always makes me happy. Dude has worked for 12 teams in 18 years. Until this year he’s just about always hit pretty well. He’s never complained or been a problem that I can recall. He’s always just taken his suitcase wherever he was wanted and has done what was asked of him. This is probably his last year. This could have been one of his last starts. Glad to see him going out and gettin’ it.

Mariners 6, Orioles 5: Matt Tuiasosopo homers again. Then he scored on a keeper from the four yard line, putting the Huskies up for good. If they hold on here and then beat the Cougars next week, there’s a potential Sun Bowl birth in it for them.

Brewers 3, Cardinals 2: As Aaron noted, the Brewers were lucky to hold on, but Trevor Hoffman still has enough fumes in the tank to make it a few more miles. Adam Wainwright certainly did enough to win on most days, but the Cards just couldn’t break through against Randy Wolf. Four straight losses for St. Louis.

Royals 9, Indians 7: Cleveland attempted a bit of a late comeback, but it fell short. Let’s face it, though: if you knock 11 hits off Bruce Chen, you should probably win that game. The Tribe, alas, did not.

Athletics 5, Blue Jays 4: Gio Gonzalez was robbed. He gave up only one run on two hits in seven innings, but his pen let him down, allowing Toronto to tie it up in the ninth. In the bottom half the A’s strung together a Steve Tolleson single, a passed ball allowing him to make it to second and then a Cliff Pennington single to knock him in for the game winner.

Rays 8, Rangers 6: As far as playoff previews go, this one was pretty yawn-inducing. Evan Longoria was a stud: his 3 for 4 day, with two doubles, a homer and four RBI led the charge for the Rays.

Mets 3, Astros 2: R.A. Dickey and Brett Myers pitched well, but Dickey ran out of gas in the ninth, allowing the Astros to tie it on a Geoff Blum bomb. The pens each pitched well too, pushing this one into the fourteenth inning when Jose Reyes walked, advanced to second on a sacrifice, stole third and then came in on a sac fly for what what proved to be the winning run. And they say the manufacturing sector is dead in this country.

Reds 11, Diamondbacks 7: Just yesterday I read something about how Arizona’s bullpen had finally settled down a bit under Kirk Gibson’s deft management. Guess they’re still working out the kinks, because Cincy put up eight runs between the eighth and ninth innings, coming back from being down 7-3 to win it going away. The run that put them over the top came on a squeeze play with Jim Edmonds running at third base. I’ll admit it: if I was the Dbacks, I wouldn’t have been expecting that one.

Rockies 3, Dodgers 2: A wild one! Wait, make that a wild three! Octavio Dotel got two strikeouts in the tenth inning, but he allowed Melvin Mora to advance to second on a wild pitch and then come home on a second wild pitch with the winning run. He had a third wild pitch that inning, but it ended up not doing him any additional harm. For what it’s worth, the Dodgers scored their first run of the game on a wild pitch too.

Don Mattingly thinks pace of play can be improved by changing views on strikeouts

Miami Marlins manager Don Mattingly sits in the dugout prior to a baseball game against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Los Angeles, Monday, April 25, 2016. (AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo)
AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo
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Marlins manager Don Mattingly has one potential solution to the pace of play issue: change the way people value strikeouts, the Associated Press reports.

Strikeouts have been rising steadily since 2005. Then, a typical game averaged 6.30 strikeouts. In 2016, there were 8.03 strikeouts per game. There are many explanations for this phenomenon. For one, teams are searching specifically for young pitchers who can throw hard — like triple-digits hard. They figure they can teach them the other pertinent skills in the minors. Second, Sabermetrics has shown that a strikeout is only marginally worse than an out made on a ball put in play. Sometimes, the strikeout is preferable, especially if there’s a runner on first base with less than two outs and a weak hitter at the plate. Sabermetrics has also shown home runs to be the best and most efficient way to contribute on offense. Furthermore, younger players tend to focus more on power in order to get noticed by scouts. Unless it’s paired with other elite skills, a scout isn’t going to remember a player who hit the ball into the hole on the right side, but he will remember the kid who blasted a 450-foot homer.

Here’s what Mattingly had to say:

Analytically, a few years back nobody cared about the strikeout, so it’s OK to strike out 150, 160, 170 times, and that guy’s still valued in a big way. Well, as soon as we start causing that to be a bad value — the strikeouts — guys will put the ball in play more. So once we say strikeouts are bad and it’s going to cost you money the more you strike out, then the strikeouts will go away. Guys will start making adjustments and putting the ball in play more.

[…]

If our game values [say that] strikeouts don’t matter, they are going to keep striking out, hitting homers, trying to hit home runs and striking out.

Simply believing strikeouts are bad won’t magically change its value. However, creating social pressure regarding striking out can change it. Theoretically, anyway. Creating that social pressure is easier said than done.

There is a dichotomy here as well. Home runs are exciting. Strikeouts and walks are not. Often, though, the three go hand-in-hand-in-hand. A player actively trying to cut down on his strikeouts by putting the ball in play will also likely cut down on his strikeout and walk rates. There doesn’t seem to be an elegant solution here. Wishing for fewer strikeouts, walks, and homers doesn’t really seem to give way to a more exciting game.

Sean Doolittle: “Refugees aren’t stealing a slice of the pie from Americans.”

ANAHEIM, CA - JUNE 25:  Sean Doolittle #62 of the Oakland Athletics pitches during the ninth inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on June 25, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images
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In the past, we’ve commented on Athletics reliever Sean Doolittle and his girlfriend Eireann Dolan’s community service. In 2015, the pair hosted Syrian refugee families for Thanksgiving and their other charitable efforts have included LGBTQ outreach and help for veterans.

Athletes and their significant others have typically avoided stepping into political waters, but Doolittle and Dolan have shown that it’s clearly no concern to them. In the time since, the Syrian refugee issue has become even more of a hot-button issue and Doolittle recently discussed it with Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times.

I think America is the best country in the world because we’ve been able to attract the best and brightest people from all over the world. We have the smartest doctors and scientists, the most creative and innovative thinkers. A travel ban like this puts that in serious jeopardy.

I’ve always thought that all boats rise with the tide. Refugees aren’t stealing a slice of the pie from Americans. But if we include them, we can make the pie that much bigger, thus ensuring more opportunities for everyone.

Doolittle, of course, is referring to Executive Order 13769 signed by President Trump which sought to limit incoming travel to the United States from seven countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. A temporary restraining order on the executive order was placed on February 3, a result of State of Washington v. Trump.

Doolittle spoke more about the plight refugees face:

These are people fleeing civil wars, violence and oppression that we can’t even begin to relate to. I think people think refugees just kind of decide to come over. They might not realize it takes 18-24 months while they wait in a refugee camp. They go through more than 20 background checks and meetings with immigration officers. They are being vetted.

They come here, and they want to contribute to society. They’re so grateful to be out of a war zone or whatever they were running from in their country that they get jobs, their kids go to our schools, they’re paying taxes, and in a lot of cases, they join our military.

Around this time last year, Craig wrote about Doolittle and Dolan not sticking to baseball. They’re still not, nor should they be. Hopefully, the duo’s outspokenness inspires other players and their loved ones to speak up for what’s right.

[Hat tip: Deadspin’s Hannah Keyser]