And That Happened: Sunday’s scores and highlights

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Reds 3, Cardinals 1:  I spent my Sunday near Cincinnati. Not in Cincinnati, but just north of it, at the Kings Island theme park (i.e. the one the Bradys went to where Greg lost Mike’s plans or whatever it was; it has improved a bit since 1974).  I took Mookie and Carlo and my old man came with us to round out the group. It was about eight hundred degrees and humid and I’m pretty sure my dad and I were the only two grown men in the whole park who decided to keep our shirts on.  Actually, that’s a lie. I noticed some guys wearing shirts. One of them said “I love boobies.” It was not some clever breast cancer awareness thing either. It was just a shirt — apparently custom made at a print shop — exclaiming the wearer’s love of boobies.  There was also a teenager, who was there with his parents. wearing a black t-shirt that simply said “F*ck,” but with no asterisk.  Man, I love theme parks.

Theme park people aside, we had fun. Reds fans had fun this weekend too, watching their hometown nine take two of three from the Cards.  And I imagine the majority of the men in Great American Ballpark kept their shirts on too. Jaime Garcia? Not so much fun. He gave up a run on a wild pitch — actually two wild pitches and a disputed call at second base led to the run — and took his first ever loss to the Reds despite pitching pretty damn well.

Giants 4, Padres 3: The Giants scored what proved to be the winning run in the 11th on a Chris Stewart suicide squeeze.  It was sad to see Stewart commit suicide like that. I mean, no, he’s not likely to be a superstar, but as an experienced catcher there’s no reason he can’t forge a nice coaching career one day. Suicide squeezes: a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

Twins 4, Royals 3: A three-run shot for Jim Thome — his 596th —when the Twins were down 3-1 when the game was tied 1-1 to put them ahead to stay. Jeff Francoeur homered and Melky Cabrera had two hits, increasing the chances of an awesomely hilarious trade sometime in the next two weeks.

Red Sox 1, Rays 0: Just your run-of-the-mill 15 innings of scoreless baseball. And your standard 16-inning three-hitter for Boston pitching, led by Josh Beckett’s eight innings of one-hit ball.  Jeff Niemann deserved better after his own two-hit, eight inning outing. Then again, don’t most people deserve better than they get?

Braves 9, Nationals 8: Walking Brian McCann to get to Freddie Freeman with a man on in the bottom of the ninth is the smart play. Even Freeman knew it, saying after the game that he’d walk McCann to get to him too.  But given how quickly Freeman is growing up this year, that may not be the smart play for too much longer.  A walkoff RBI single for Freeman, helping the Braves take two of three from Washington.  McCann had a three-run homer to tie it at six in the fifth inning.

Athletics 8, Angels 1: Over before it started, with an eight run first inning, highlighted by a Connor Jackson grand slam. The A’s sent Joel Pinero to the showers after he could retire only one guy, and he didn’t even get the one guy until seven runs had scored.

Tigers 4, White Sox 3: Chicago led 3-1 in the sixth but then Victor Martinez hit a two-run single and Carlos Guillen hit an RBI single to break the tie and, ultimately, win the game.

Rangers 3, Mariners 1: Eleven straight wins for Texas, as their pitching continues to look good.  Of course, anyone’s pitching would look good against the M’s.  Remember when the Mariners were a game out? Yeah, now it’s eleven and a half.

Brewers 4, Rockies 3: Shaun Marcum was cruising until he had to leave early with a stiff neck.  The pen maintained, however, and the hits kept falling for Milwaukee.

Diamondbacks 4, Dodgers 0: Daniel Hudson threw a five hit shutout, but he also hit a homer and drove in three. I’d say that he helped his own cause with that, but he did more than help. Between the pitching and the hitting, he was a one man gang. One Man Gang?

Marlins 7, Cubs 5: Greg Dobbs hit a two-run homer. Walked with the bases loaded too. Hanley Ramirez hit a solo homer in the first himself, and it was a monster shot up behind the batter’s eye in center field.

Pirates 7, Astros 5: It was 4-4 in the 11th when the Pirates scored one on a passed-ball, one on an error and one on an RBI single. Pittsburgh takes two of three from Houston and is a half game out of first.

Orioles 8, Indians 3: Adam Jones, Nick Markakis and Matt Wieters hit homers, helping the O’s earn the series split. Now they get to play the Red Sox again, who gave them perhaps their most miserable series of the year just before the break. Let’s see if our Orioles is learning.

Phillies 8, Mets 5: Michael Martinez — a Rule 5 pick from the Nats — hit a three-run homer.  The Phillies had an 8-1 lead int the 8th, but withstood a late charge from New York, who beat up on Juan Perez, Ryan Madson and Antonio Bastardo to make things interesting.

Yankees 7, Blues Jays 2: Phil Hughes picks up a win. Hey, three months later that anyone thought it would come is better than never. Curtis Granderson drove in three.

Bryce Harper is really just a tiny bit better Adam Lind when you think about it

Associated Press
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Tom Boswell of the Washington Post writes about an important matter facing the Washington Nationals over the next year: what to do about Bryce Harper, who is entering his walk year and will be a free agent a little over 12 months from now.

That’s a fine and important question. The Nats do need to decide whether to offer Harper a long term deal, when to offer it and, above all else, how big that deal should be. Should it be $300 million? $400 million? Should it be conventional or unconventional, with opt-outs and such? It’s not every day that a generational talent comes along and it’s even more rare that the generational talent hits free agency at the age of 26, so the decisions facing the Nationals are not easy ones.

Boswell acknowledges that bit of trickiness, but he also, strangely, spends a whole lot of time trying to portray Harper as an ordinary talent. He starts with health, comparing him poorly with Stephen Strasburg, who is ranked 30th in games started over the past five years. In contrast . . .

In those same five years, Harper ranks 90th in games played, just 126 a season, and now he says he should have skipped quite a few more games in 2016 when he had a balky shoulder. That’s almost six weeks out per season.

Nowhere in the column is it mentioned that the several weeks he missed in 2017 was the result of a freak injury in wet conditions and that, despite that, Harper worked his tail off to come back and be ready for the postseason. Not that Boswell doesn’t mention the postseason of course . . .

Harper, for the fourth time, failed to lead his team out of the first round and has career playoff batting average and OPS marks of .215 and .801. By the high standards of right fielders, he’s Mr. Average in October.

I suppose it’s not Boswell’s job to refrain from insulting a player on the team he covers, but he certainly seems hellbent on insulting not only Harper, but our own intelligence via comparisons like this:

In the past five years, in those 126 games, Harper averaged 26 homers, 72 RBI and a .288 average. Over the last nine years, Adam Lind averaged 128 games, 20 homers, 70 RBI and hit .273. That’s selective stat mining. Harper is much better, in part because he walks so much. But Harper and Lind in the same sentence?

“A person can eat delicious chocolate cake or lead paint chips. The chocolate cake is much better, but chocolate cake and lead paint in the same sentence?” I guess Boswell gets points for acknowledging that it was a misleading comparison, but if he thinks it is, why make it in the first place? If you want to eliminate this one as an outlier, cool, because he makes a lot of other comparisons like that in the piece.

This is not necessarily new for Boswell. Here’s something he wrote about Harper in 2014:

Harper has not driven in 60 runs in either of his two seasons. He has only five RBI this year. He’s never had more than 157 runs-plus-RBI. Ryan Zimmerman has had between 163 and 216 six times. Adam LaRoche, no big star, has had 175 or more three times. Fourth outfielder Nate McLouth once had 207. Can we get a grip? Counting their three top starting pitchers, Harper may be the Nats’ seventh-best player. If forced to choose whether Harper or Anthony Rendon would have the better career, I’d think twice. Harper is in a self-conscious, fierce scowl-off with baseball. Rendon dances with it and grins. Baseball loves relaxed.

That was written 16 games into his age-22 season.

I’m not sure what Boswell’s beef with Harper is. I’m not sure why he’s contorting himself to portray him as an ordinary player when he is fairly extraordinary and, most certainly, a special case when it comes to his impending free agency. In his career he already has 26.1 career bWAR, 150 homers, an MVP Award under his belt and, if it wasn’t for that freak injury in August, would have a strong case for a second one. Guy has a career line of .285/.386/.515 and he turned 26 four days ago. He’s younger than Aaron Judge.

My view of things is that players should ignore the media for the most part, but they don’t always do that. Sometimes the hostility or criticism of the local press — especially from the most respected portions of the local press who have the ability to shape fan sentiment — gets to them.

Which is to say that, if this kind of noise keeps up, I wouldn’t be shocked if Harper puts up a line of .340/.480/.650 in 2018 and then walked the hell out of D.C. for New York or Chicago or L.A. or something. Would anyone blame him?