And That Happened: Tuesday's Scores and Highlights

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Reds 3, Astros 2: If you’re gonna clinch the division, do it on a walkoff jack. Way to go Jay Bruce. Way to go Cincinnati Reds. Cincinnati was a great baseball town. Maybe still is a great baseball town. Definitely can be a great baseball town going forward. But it needed this division title to cleanse itself of the negativity that has pervaded Reds baseball for so many years. Not so much the team itself, but the fans and their relationship to it. It needed guys like Joey Votto and Jay Bruce and Brandon Phillips and, yes, Dusty Baker, to remind the town of how fun baseball really is.

Yankees 6, Blue Jays 1; Rays 5, Orioles 0: With these wins the Yankees and the Rays clinched playoff spots of their own. Both CC Sabathia (8.1 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 8K) and David Price (8 IP, 6 H, 0 ER, 8K) pitched gems. Lots of people will no doubt look at these games and decide that nice lines in clinching games = big money and put more steam behind what had been flagging Cy Young cases for each of them.

Mariners 3, Rangers 1: But anyone tempted to do so had best take heed: Felix Hernandez is still awesome: 8 IP, 5H, 1 ER, 5K). Will he start on Sunday, or was this it? Justin Smoak with a two-run homer that put the M’s up for good. Here’s hoping — for M’s fans’ sake — that this is a harbinger of thing to come, not just some weird spite thing against the Rangers.

Braves 3, Marlins 2: Eric Hinske’s pinch hit, two-run jack keeps the Braves on top in the wild card race. It was a another skin-of-their-teeth win, with Brooks Conrad (big RBI triple late in the game) and Melky Cabrera and Rick Ankiel (big defensive blunder, striking out with a runner on third with less than two outs) doing those things they do best.

Cubs 5, Padres 2: Alfonso Soriano hit two homers and the Padres bats continued to slumber. San Diego is now a game and a half back of the Braves in the wild card and are two back of the Giants with five to play.

Giants 4, Diamondbacks 2: Juan Uribe had a homer and Pablo Sandoval got a couple of hits, as the Giants moved one game closer to the playoffs. Sandoval: “Five more games. We have to play hard. Don’t get comfortable.” Nothin’ personal, but I have this feeling that Sandoval spends a large portion of his day trying to get comfortable.

Dodgers 9, Rockies 7: And so it ends for Colorado. All of these losses to the not-so-good teams in the last week — the Dbacks and Dodgers — may have put the final nail in the coffin, but their overall lack of consistency over the course of 162 games is the real cause of death. You can’t depend on a month’s worth of great play and do very well in this game.

Mets 4, Brewers 3: A two-run homer for David Wright and a two-run, game-winning double for Ruben Tejada. And Prince Fielder made a great defensive play in this one. That’s the first time I’ve ever written that. Now watch: per the Jayson Werth thing, Boras will start touting him as a centerfielder.

Nationals 2, Phillies 1: A walkoff homer for Adam Dunn against a Phillies lineup that I would have expected to have more bench players than it did a day after clinching. Howard, Utley, Rollins and Ibanez all got the start. Roy Osawalt did too, but he was yanked after 66 pitches, so this was clearly a less-than-100% outing for him, by design.

Royals 10, Twins 1: OK, I made a bit of fun of Ron Gardenhire for worrying about the Twins’ effort lately, but this is probably a legitimate concern at this point. Kila Ka’aihue hit two homers and had four RBI.

Pirates 7, Cardinals 2: The Cards were eliminated before this game was over thanks to Jay Bruce’s heroics in Cincinnati. Not that Cardinals fans knew it. According to several Cardinals writers who were tweeting during the game, the Cards out of town scoreboard wasn’t updated to show the Reds score for some time after it happened. The first sign to the crowd that the season had become a formality was the PA system blasting R.E.M.’s “It’s the End of the World As We Know It.”  Classic.

White Sox 5, Red Sox 4: Boston no doubt learned of their elimination in mid-game as well. Dayan Viciedo won it for the Chisox on a pinch-hit walkoff RBI single. Oh, and Daniel Bard blew a save in this one, so put that in your back pocket as you start gearing up for Boston’s hot stove season.

Angels 4, Athletics 2: I hope Peter Bourjos can hit in this league, because I’d sure like to see him do this sort of thing for a long time.

Tigers vs. Indians: Postponed: Let us keep our feet in wool slippers and mix hot punches–and talk about
mail carriers and messenger boys slipping along the icy sidewalks. Let
us write of olden, golden days and hunters of the Holy Grail and men
called “knights” riding horses in the rain, in the cold frozen rain for
ladies they loved.

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]