And That Happened: Sunday's Scores and Highlights

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Phillies 7, Nationals 6: The Phillies are white hot and may very well be the best team in baseball at the moment. They were down 6-3 in the ninth but, hey, no problem: They got a two-run single by Ryan Howard and a two-run homer by Jayson Werth and with that they won their seventh in a row. Philly has only dropped three games in September, and now they have their number one, number one-A and number one-B starters going against the Braves at home this week.

Giants 9, Brewers 2: The NL West has been tighter than a duck’s butt lately (note: I think Dan Rather said that one once about an election. I’m not
really sure), but the Giants take over the top spot. Jose Guillen hit a grand slam in the first and the
Giants never looked back. Thanks to the run support — which he has not
had a hell of a lot of recently — Barry Zito got his first win since
July 16th.

Cardinals 4, Padres 1: Adam Wainwright shut the Padres down to win his
19th. San Diego falls into second place, a half game behind San Francisco and 2.5 back of the
Braves in the wild card.

Dodgers 7, Rockies 6: The Rockies jumped all over Clayton Kershaw,
grabbing a 6-1 lead after two innings. That’s all they’d get, though, as
L.A. chipped away at the lead, tying it on a Matt Kemp double in the
ninth and winning it on an A.J. Ellis — A.J. Ellis? — yes, A.J. Ellis
RBI single in the 11th. This one ended in a brisk four hours and
twenty-one minutes.

Angels 6, Rays 3: A couple of homers from Bobby Abreu and a win for Scott Kazmir give the Angels a series win. Not exactly the way Tampa Bay wanted to enter the Yankees series.

Orioles 4, Yankees 3: Luke Scott hits the tying homer off Mariano Rivera in the ninth and comes around to score the winning run on an RBI single in the 11th. Not exactly the way New York wanted to enter the Rays series.

Braves 6, Mets 3: The Mets took a 2-0 lead in the first inning and then decided to go to sleep or watch football games on their iPhones or something. Derrek Lee smacked a grand slam off double-agent Manny Acosta to help the Braves complete the sweep.

Astros 4, Reds 3: Who ever would have guessed that Brett Myers would be having the season he’s having? Another sharp outing: 7 IP, 6 H, 0 ER. He lowered his ERA to 2.76 on the season. He’s 8-0 with a 2.01 ERA at home.

Pirates 4, Diamondbacks 3: I don’t know that Kirk Gibson is managing for the permanent gig right now or if the front office has already made up its mind on the matter. But to the extent his destiny is in his own hands, getting swept by the Pirates ain’t gonna help him.

Mariners 2, Rangers 1: The Mariners have lost a ton of games this year due to their failure to score runs. This past weekend they won two of three despite only scoring five times.

Athletics 6, Twins 2: Losing the game sucks, but losing Joe Mauer to “a jammed knee,” whatever the hell that is, sucks worse. Ron Gardenhire was ejected in the fourth after Jim Thome flew out to center and Delmon Young was called out at second for failing to tag up at first. Gardenhire’s argument was that the centerfielder dropped the ball — which he did — but the ump said it was after the catch and on the transfer, not a drop of the fly itself. Which seems right based on the replay. Just the latest bit of evidence for the need for an outfield fly rule.

Royals 6, Indians 4: This one was alright — Yuniesky Betancourt stole home on a double steal — but Saturday night’s game was the real gem: Time of game: 2:57. Time of rain delays: 3:40.

Cubs 13, Marlins 3: Tyler Colvin’s injury is nothing short of horrific — the bat shard punctured his chest wall and required a chest tube to keep his lung from collapsing.  It was also nothing short of avoidable. Ban maple bats now.

Red Sox 6, Blues Jays 0: Jon Lester won his fifth straight and upped his win total to 18 on the year. Jose Bautista homered on Friday and Saturday — he’s at 49 on the season now — but he grounded out with the sacks jacked twice in this one. The loss officially eliminated the Jays from playoff contention.

Tigers 9, White Sox 7: The Tigers had a 7-3 lead as late as the seventh but blew it, only to win it in extras. Brandon Inge scored the winning run, but he probably shouldn’t have been in a position to do so: he ran to first on a wild pitch on strike three, A.J. Pierzynski threw down to try and nail him and actually did — on the foot — and the ball went flying, sending Inge to third. Oh, and Manny struck out with the bases loaded to end the game. I have this feeling some Chicago writers (and maybe some Boston and L.A. writers) will consider that symbolic of something.

Joe Mauer reveals he’s had blurred vision since 2013 concussion

Joe Mauer
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After a decade as the best all-around catcher in baseball Joe Mauer suffered a concussion in August of 2013 that forced him to change positions and marked the end of his time as a great hitter.

Mauer was doing his usual thing at the time of the concussion, hitting .324 with a .404 on-base percentage and .880 OPS. Since returning from the brain injury he’s hit .270 with a .348 on-base percentage and .725 OPS while seeing his numbers decline across the board.

Mauer revealed today to Brian Murphy of the St. Paul Pioneer Press that “lingering symptoms occasionally blurred his vision at the plate the past two seasons” and “he will experiment hitting with sunglasses for the first time to improve his pitch tracking” this season.

Here’s more from Murphy:

Bright sunshine sometimes triggered blurred vision that Mauer links to the concussion with which he was diagnosed in August 2013 after absorbing at least “two significant blows” from foul tips while he was still catching.

“I don’t want that to be kind of an excuse. If I’m out there, I’m out there. That’s just the way I am,” Mauer said. “There are times I’ve gone up to the plate and I just couldn’t pick up the ball. That’s part of the frustration because I’m trying to do everything I can to get back. It just takes time.”

There are more quotes along those same lines and Mauer’s numbers in night games were much better than his numbers in day games last season.

I live in Minnesota and it has been incredibly frustrating to see such a large (or at least vocal) segment of the Twins fan base treat Mauer’s steep decline as if it has nothing to do with the significant brain trauma he suffered. I’m hopeful that Mauer going public about literally struggling to see the baseball while at the plate will convince fans to treat him more humanely, but that’s probably wishful thinking at this point.

What a shame, on every level.

Masahiro Tanaka can’t say for sure if he’ll be ready by Opening Day

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Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka said today that he “can’t say for sure” whether he’ll be ready for Opening Day.

Tanaka underwent arthroscopic surgery in late November to remove a bone spur from his right elbow. Tanaka threw off a bullpen mound Tuesday for the first time since undergoing a cleanup procedure on his right elbow last October and, while healthy, may be behind other pitchers.

Tanaka posted a 3.51 ERA and a 139/27 K/BB ratio across 154 innings last season. He also has a partially torn UCL he’s been pitching through for some time which is always something the Yankees have on their mind when it comes to schedules and workouts for their ace.

Denard Span, not Angel Pagan, will be Giants’ center fielder and leadoff hitter

Denard Span
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Making official what was assumed when the Giants signed Denard Span to a three-year, $31 million contract last month, manager Bruce Bochy announced that Span will start in center field and bat leadoff.

That means 34-year-old Angel Pagan, who’s been the Giants’ starting center fielder and primary leadoff hitter for the past four seasons, will slide to left field and bat further down in the lineup. About a month before the Span signing Bochy said Pagan would remain in the center fielder/leadoff role, but the situation obviously changed.

It’s a move that makes sense, because Span–if healthy following hip surgery–is a superior defensive center fielder with better on-base skills. And if Pagan doesn’t bounce back following a rough 2015 season then having him in left field will make it easier for the Giants to platoon him or bench him in favor of, say, Gregor Blanco or a bigger bat.

Pitchers to receive new visor-like protective headgear

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MLB/MLBPA
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For the past few years MLB, the MLBPA and cap and helmet manufacturers have been working on various models of protective headgear for pitchers. Some of the models have been unworkable, some of them have not met the satisfaction of pitchers and others have, well, looked a little odd. At present the only pitcher who routinely wears any headgear is Alex Torres, who wears the bulky isoBLOX helmet.

Now, however, there is a new option. And, as you can see above it’s a bit different than what we’ve seen before. It’s more or less like a visor, which will have a nylon top on them to give a full cap-like appearance. The ear flaps will be lefty and righty-specific, given that righties are more likely to be hit on the right and lefties on the left given their follow-throughs.

The new caps will be given out to players this spring and, like the old ones, will be used or not used at the choice of the players. You can read more about the new helmet at ESPN’s Outside the Lines report.