Ian Desmond, Wes Helms

And That Happened: Thursday’s scores and highlights

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Nationals 5, Marlins 3: So I decided I needed to get my life in order a couple of weeks ago. I sit in front of a computer all day and, due to the strange circumstance of having a job I actually love, all of the “free time” I thought I’d have to exercise and stuff when I started working at home has just sort of disappeared. I haven’t gained any weight since I started this gig — I’ve actually lost about five pounds because I’m not eating office donuts and restaurant lunches —  but I feel even unhealthier than I did before due to the sloth. I mean, at least at the law firm I used to have to walk a block or three for some reason a couple times a day. Here? Nothing.

So I bought I treadmill. And I figured that I’d do it up right and proper, so I got a TV and a Roku player to sit in front of the thing so I can watch MLB.tv. So far: it’s awesome. I use the treadmill every day and aside from some extra creak in my knees I feel fabulous. And watching baseball has never been better. Last year it was a pain to switch back and forth between the game and what I was doing (i.e. typing up these recaps), but now I pay way more attention to the games. I added a second TV and Roku next to the computer here so I can continue watching whatever game I get into once the jogging is over.

But there are some parts of my dysfunctional self-maintenance that I can’t shake. Like, given a choice of games, I always pick crappy ones, no matter what I do. Last night is a great example. Only two games were going on: the  Tigers vs. the Orioles and the Nats vs. the Marlins. Easy choice, right? Wrong! Something in my addled skull compelled me to watch the Nats-Marlins game.  A National League affinity? Maybe. A dirty, secret love of ugly baseball in front of small crowds, drilled into my psyche by watching, like, 700 horrifyingly bad Braves games between 1985 and 1990? That might be it actually. So I watched several innings of this thing as I, appropriately enough, got nowhere fast on my new treadmill.

And it was kind of ugly. Josh Johnson’s defense betrayed him. He gave up the homer to Werth, but the other two runs that scored on his watch were thanks to Hanley Ramirez and John Buck screwing up. With good defense Johnson and the Fish get the win. Of course, Nats’ pitchers had bad luck too, as the run that tied things up in the bottom of the sixth was helped along by Rick Ankiel muffing one in center, even though it was ruled a double. Eventually this one went extra innings with Adam LaRoche winning it on a two-run jack in the 11th.

Bad D. Low energy. Four miles on the treadmill. My kind of game! It’s gonna be a great season.

Indians 1, Red Sox 0:  I wrote this one up yesterday, and I still maintain that the Sox will be competitive in the AL East sooner rather than later. But let us at least acknowledge that there will come a point — and it could come by Sunday evening if this weekend series against the Yankees is disastrous — where it will not be panicky to write off the Red Sox.  Because yes, “losses at the beginning of the year” is something of an artificial construct. But if the losing streak gets much worse it will become the kind of streak that can kill a season no matter when it happens.

Yankees 4, Twins 3: Chamberlain in the seventh, Soriano in the eighth, Rivera in the ninth and everyone giving postgame quotes afterward. Just like nothin’ ever happened! For Minnesota things were terrible. Tsuyoshi Nishioka’s broken leg is not only bad for his health and playing time, but it likely bummed out his parents, who were flying in from Japan to see his home debut this weekend. Now what? “Look mom, it’s Minnehaha Park! The American Swedish Musuem! Mom! Wait! Don’t go!”

Phillies 11, Mets 0:  The Mets were shut down on offense and beat up on D. The only downside I see in this game for Phillies fans (or Roy Halladay fans, which I am) is if the Cy Young race is close in the fall and someone says “well, Halladay got X runs support a game!” in an effort to discredit his case. Of course, if he keeps shutting people out, I suppose that’s not going to really be a problem.

Rockies 7, Pirates 1: Troy Tulowitzki goes yard again, his third on the season. Not bad considering he only has five hits in all. Esmil Rogers was fantastic on the mound. Putatively a number five starter, he had ace stuff yesterday, allowing hits to the first two batters and retiring 22 of the last 23 he faced while striking out seven.

Brewers 4, Braves 2: Tommy Hanson’s velocity is down in his first couple of starts, so that’s scary. Even more scary is the fact that the Braves can’t score any runs right now and they get to face Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels in the next three games.  This trendy pick in the NL East is not looking so trendy right now, is it?

Athletics 2, Blue Jays 1: Oakland salvages one behind a great game from Trevor Cahill. Efficient (105 pitches in eight innings) and effective (one run on three hits with no walks), Cahill talked after the game about how his curve ball — previously just a show-me pitch for him — was key. In his first start he struck out eight guys in four and two-thirds. In this one he struck out seven guys in eight innings. For a guy whose K-rates haven’t been fabulous, this could be a major, major step forward for him.

White Sox 5, Rays 1I hit this one up yesterday too. The Rays have not held a lead all year. They’ve scored 1 run in five of their six games.  Given the decade of futility they endured after the launch of the franchise, it’s amazing that this is their worst start in team history, but yep, it is.

Astros 3, Reds 2: Houston gets its first win — they have more than Boston and Tampa Bay combined! Oh noes! — and Cincinnati gets its first loss. The Astros got the winning run on a Matt Downs double off Nick Masset in the top of the ninth.

Orioles 9, Tigers 5: Just like there must come a time when we consider the Red Sox to be in serious trouble, there must come a time when we acknowledge that maybe — just possibly — the Orioles are for real. Not saying they’re fabulous, but they’re legit. They’ve shown that their young pitchers are capable of good things. In this one they showed that they can bash the ball around a bit.  I sense a very frisky team that, even if it won’t be in it at the end, is going to be a gigantic pain in the ass for a lot of people this year.

Rob Manfred on robot umps: “In general, I would be a keep-the-human-element-in-the-game guy.”

KANSAS CITY, MO - APRIL 5:  Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred talks with media prior to a game between the New York Mets and Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium on April 5, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
Ed Zurga/Getty Images
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Craig covered the bulk of Rob Manfred’s quotes from earlier. The commissioner was asked about robot umpires and he’s not a fan. Via Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports:

Manfred was wrong to blame the player’s union’s “lack of cooperation” on proposed rule changes, but he’s right about robot umps and the strike zone. The obvious point is that robot umps cannot yet call balls and strikes with greater accuracy than umpires. Those strike zone Twitter accounts, such as this, are sometimes hilariously wrong. Even the strike zone graphics used on television are incorrect and unfortunate percentage of the time.

The first issue to consider about robot umps is taking jobs away from people. There are 99 umps and more in the minors. If robot umpiring was adopted in collegiate baseball, as well as the independent leagues, that’s even more umpires out of work. Is it worth it for an extra one or two percent improvement in accuracy?

Personally, the fallibility of the umpires adds more intrigue to baseball games. There’s strategy involved, as each umpire has tendencies which teams can strategize against. For instance, an umpire with a more generous-than-average strike zone on the outer portion of the plate might entice a pitcher to pepper that area with more sliders than he would otherwise throw. Hitters, knowing an umpire with a smaller strike zone is behind the dish, may take more pitches in an attempt to draw a walk. Or, knowing that information, a hitter may swing for the fences on a 3-0 pitch knowing the pitcher has to throw in a very specific area to guarantee a strike call or else give up a walk.

The umpires make their mistakes in random fashion, so it adds a chaotic, unpredictable element to the game as well. It feels bad when one of those calls goes against your team, but fans often forget the myriad calls that previously went in their teams’ favor. The mistakes will mostly even out in the end.

I haven’t had the opportunity to say this often, but Rob Manfred is right in this instance.

Report: MLB approves new rule allowing a dugout signal for an intentional walk

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 29:  MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred laughs during a ceremony naming the 2016 winners of the Mariano Rivera American League Reliever of the Year Award and the Trevor Hoffman National League Reliever of the Year Award before Game Four of the 2016 World Series between the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians at Wrigley Field on October 29, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images
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ESPN’s Howard Bryant is reporting that Major League Baseball has approved a rule allowing for a dugout signal for an intentional walk. In other words, baseball is allowing automatic intentional walks. Bryant adds that this rule will be effective for the 2017 season.

MLB has been trying, particularly this month, to improve the pace of play. Getting rid of the formality of throwing four pitches wide of the strike zone will save a minute or two for each intentional walk. There were 932 of them across 2,428 games last season, an average of one intentional walk every 2.6 games. It’s not the biggest improvement, but it’s something at least.

Earlier, Commissioner Rob Manfred was upset with the players’ union’s “lack of cooperation.” Perhaps his public criticism was the catalyst for getting this rule passed.

Unfortunately, getting rid of the intentional walk formality will eradicate the chance of seeing any more moments like this: