Here are the rest of Saturday’s scores and highlights:
Athletics 1, Rangers 0: The Athletics extended their win streak to six games on Saturday, taking a decisive 1-0 victory on the back of Raul Alcantara’s quality start and Khris Davis‘ 40th home run of the season.
Nothing the A’s did during the game garnered as much interest as their actions preceding it, however. After being placed on the concussion DL earlier in the day, rookie catcher Bruce Maxwell joined the team for the National Anthem, where he became the first MLB player to take a knee in protest of the inflammatory comments made by President Donald Trump on Friday.
By all accounts, it wasn’t a spur-of-the-moment decision — nor was it intended to be a one-time demonstration. Maxwell addressed Trump’s comments on Twitter and Instagram and held an open forum to discuss the issue with his teammates prior to the game (though not everyone appeared to be on board with his choice to kneel). He further explained his intentions in a statement to the press after the game, explaining his desire to show respect to his country while also taking a stand against “a racial divide”:
Maxwell announced his intent to kneel after Saturday’s demonstration, even before Trump’s latest Twitter rant called for a fan-led boycott of professional athletes who refuse to stand for the anthem. Whether his convictions will catch fire throughout the rest of the league (or the roster, for that matter) remains to be seen.
Yankees 5, Blue Jays 1: Until the division standings shake out next week, it’s unclear whether the Yankees will begin the playoffs as division champs or wild card holders. Either way, they’re heading toward their second postseason appearance in three years and sixth in the last 10. Sonny Gray led the charge on Saturday, spinning six solid innings against the Blue Jays while Greg Bird put the Bronx Bombers ahead with a three-run homer, his sixth of the year.
Brewers 4, Cubs 3 (10 innings): The Brewers perfected the slow burn and dramatic finish of a true thriller on Saturday, taking a 1-1 tie through seven innings before Kris Bryant took the lead with a sac fly in the eighth. Orlando Arcia led off the ninth with a solo home run, but the Brewers failed to build on the rally and forced the game to extras.
Jon Jay drew first blood in the top of the 10th, lashing an RBI single up the middle to score Ian Happ, while Milwaukee recovered their missing mojo in the bottom of the inning and walked off with a smooth two-run homer from Travis Shaw:
Astros 6, Angels 2: Ah, how the mighty have fallen. After weeks of hovering within one or two games of a wild card spot, the Angels slipped to a 4.5-game deficit following an unusual six-game skid. The Astros were no help there on Saturday, holding the Angels to just five hits and a pair of Justin Upton homers in the loss.
Red Sox 5, Reds 0: For a second, right before he tossed his first 0-1 slider to Sam Travis, Reds’ rookie Luke Farrell had his eye on the Red Sox’ dugout. It was the first time he was going up against his father’s club, the first time a major-league player had faced a team managed by his father since 2004, and the first time a major-league pitcher had done so in MLB history.
It was also one of the reliever’s more polished outings of the season; entering Saturday’s contest, he held a 7.45 ERA, 7.4 BB/9 and 6.5 SO/9 in 9 2/3 innings. He fanned Travis on five pitches, then issued back-to-back walks to Xander Bogaerts and Brock Holt. A throwing error advanced Bogaerts to third base, but Farrell quickly recovered, inducing a fly ball from Mitch Moreland to end the threat. The rest of the Reds failed to capitalize on the momentum, however, and dropped their first shutout since September 2.
Indians 11, Mariners 4: The Indians were back at it again on Saturday, proving Friday’s defeat an anomaly after Carlos Carrasco drove the team to an AL-best 97th win. After five scoreless innings, the Mariners finally emerged with their first run in the sixth — a Kyle Seager double — but there was no recovering from the Indians’ five-run outburst in the ninth, giving them an insurmountable seven-run lead. With the win, Cleveland is clinging to home field advantage through the ALCS, though they’ll need to top the Dodgers’ 98-win record to extend their advantage through the World Series as well.
Twins 10, Tigers 4: What’s there to say? The Tigers had a rubbish day. Jeimer Candelario botched a routine pop-up bunt from Brian Dozier that eventually went for a Little League home run. Miguel Cabrera exited in the first inning with his 20th bout of back stiffness this month. Candelario exited in the eighth inning with a knee contusion. The Twins plated eight runs in that same inning, just after Alex Wilson broke his leg on a 103.8-MPH comebacker. The team is playing .400 ball. Check back with them again in the spring.
Pirates 11, Cardinals 6: So much for closing that gap in the NL Central. An eight-run first inning was the first and last nail in the Cardinals’ coffin on Saturday. Lance Lynn couldn’t make heads or tails of the Pirates’ offense and departed after just 2/3 of an inning, marking his shortest (and worst) career start to date. That didn’t appear to faze manager Mike Matheny, who told reporters he’d “have to let that one go” given Lynn’s otherwise outstanding performance this season, but it also didn’t help the club advance in either the division or wild card standings. The team entered Sunday a full five games back of the division-leading Cubs and 1.5 back of a wild card spot.
Rays 9, Orioles 6: Speaking of postseason odds, the Orioles have, well, none. They were officially eliminated on Saturday following wins from the Rays and Twins. To their credit, they battled until the very last out of the loss, mounting a five-run rally in the bottom of the ninth inning before Alex Colome induced a two-pitch fly out from Trey Mancini to end the game. Better luck next year, guys.
Royals 8, White Sox 2: The White Sox’ season is all but over, but that didn’t stop Jose Abreu from making history on Saturday. The designated hitter plated Yoan Moncada with an RBI single in the first inning of the Sox’ loss, becoming just the third player in MLB history to begin a career with 25+ home runs and 100+ RBI in each of his first four seasons. Only Albert Pujols (2001-2004) and Joe DiMaggio (1936-1939) have replicated the feat.
Braves 4, Phillies 2: Entering Saturday, Henderson Alvarez had not won a major-league game since September 23, 2014. After tanking his final season with the Marlins and undergoing two major shoulder surgeries and finally working his way back to a major-league role with the Phillies, getting a win exactly three years later would have been some kind of poetic finale for his comeback in 2017.
Alas, it was not to be:
“That’s the way baseball is sometimes. You have to make every single out. There are things you cannot control,” Alvarez said after the game.
Nationals 4, Mets 3 (10 innings): Noah Syndergaard only tossed five pitches on Saturday, but it was exactly the kind of outing the Mets were hoping to see from their star right-hander. It’s been a slow path back to the mound after Syndergaard sustained a partial lat tear back in April, and his one-inning performance proved that he still has the velocity and stuff to make a full return next spring.
Things didn’t go as smoothly for the Mets during the rest of the afternoon. Adam Lind and Matt Wieters clubbed a pair of home runs, pushing the game to extras until Daniel Murphy broke the 3-3 tie with his 23rd blast of the season.
Marlins 12, Diamondbacks 6: If the D-backs want to clinch a postseason spot, they’ll have to go through Giancarlo Stanton first. The Marlins’ masher held Arizona at bay on Saturday, plating four runs and collecting his 57th home run of the year:
A two-run double, solo shot and run-scoring fielder’s choice brought his season RBI total to 125, the most in franchise history. The rest of the Marlins combined for another eight runs, delaying the D-backs’ playoff berth for at least one more day. Arizona could cement their wild card status with a win, a Cubs’ win over the Brewers or a Cardinals’ loss to the Pirates on Sunday.
Padres 5, Rockies 0: The Padres played spoiler to the Rockies’ wild card hopes again on Saturday, dominating in their third shutout of the month. Jhoulys Chacin fended off Colorado’s efforts with six innings of one-hit ball, whiffing six batters en route to his 13th win of the season. The Rockies now sit just one game above the Brewers and Cardinals, and with the Diamondbacks on the verge of wrapping up a wild card spot on Sunday, it’s shaping up to be a tense final week in the National League.
Giants 2, Dodgers 1: The Dodgers won’t get the opportunity to surpass their all-time win record this year, but they could still tie the 1953 Dodgers with 105 wins if they go 7-0 through the end of the season. On Saturday, the Giants got the upper hand against the NL West leaders, producing the go-ahead run with Denard Span‘s RBI single in the fifth and handing Madison Bumgarner his first win since August 15.
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 spectrum have worried about government overreach and freedom of speech in the past. 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.