Carl Crawford, Mike Napoli

And That Happened: Wednesday’s scores and highlights

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Red Sox 13, Rangers 2: I would like to thank the Rangers’ pitchers for providing us with a pennant race in the AL West that we didn’t think we’d have. Carl Crawford was reanimated for this one and drove in five.

Angels 8, White Sox 0: It’s not just about Texas’ pitching sucking though. It’s a pennant race that the Angels are forcing due to their hot play since allegedly being knocked out of things by Texas in last week’s series. Guess not, because that’s six straight wins. Jered Weaver with eight strikeouts in seven shutout innings. Anaheim is only 2.5 back.

Athletics 6, Yankees 4: Coco Crisp made the Yankees people I follow on Twitter use a lot of bad words last night. Two homers including a three-run shot in the 10th inning. He drove in five overall. Nick Swisher had two homers also, but since he only cares about padding his statistics and not winning, they don’t count. This is the first series victory for Oakland over New York in eleven tries.

Rockies 7, Astros 6: Troy Tulowitzki scored on a wild pitch in the bottom of the 10th as the Rockies won their fifth straight. It feels like the Rockies have been out of contention forever and I wouldn’t bet a dime on their chances to get back into it, but it’s not against the laws of physics for there to be at least some sort of Rocktober — or is it Rocktember? — run in them that will at least give us something to talk about. I mean, it’s like either Arizona or San Francisco seems interested in taking the division by the throat.

Marlins 6, Reds 5Reds 3, Marlins 2: A homer for Logan Morrison in his first game back after being sent to his room for his impudence, er, I mean after being sent down to the minors to work on his hitting. In the nightcap Bronson Arroyo threw eight scoreless and Joey Votto homered. He actually homered in the day game too.

Mariners 9, Indians 2: Wily Mo Pena went 3 for 3 with four driven in, falling a triple short of the cycle. Would like to have seen him leg out a triple, but he also walked in this one, and you can only ask for so many once-in-a-lifetime occurrences. Kyle Seager went 4 for 4 and hit three doubles.

Dodgers 9, Cardinals 4: L.A. sweeps the reeling Cardinals. The reeling Cardinals who are ten games back of Milwaukee now, which is the biggest deficit for any second place team in baseball.

Mets 7, Phillies 4: Mike Pelfrey threw 125 pitches in only six innings and seemed like he tried to pick a fight with Placido Polanco. Sort of glad I didn’t watch this one because inefficiency and belligerence don’t make for good baseball in my book.  Whatever. The Mets avoid the sweep.

Pirates 2, Brewers 0:  Aaron Thompson made his big league debut and shut out the hottest team in baseball for nearly five innings. If it wasn’t for the hard pitch count he was on he would have got the win, but that’s life for a youngin.’ The pen finished the shutout and two sac flies was all the offense that anyone needed.

Diamondbacks 4, Nationals 2: Daniel Hudson allowed nothin’ but zeroes for eight and two-thirds and then gave up back-to-back homers. Not a shutout but ….

Blue Jays 4, Royals 3: I, for one, welcome our new Brett Lawrie overlords. He hit what proved to be the game-winning homer and also plated a run with a triple. The kid is now hitting .328/.379/.656 in 18 games.

Rays 3, Tigers 2: Elliot Johnson had the game-winning fielder’s choice. It came with two outs and the bases loaded, and the run scored because Sean Rodriguez booked it like no one’s business from first to second and avoided the force out. If he lollygags there, the game goes into the 11th.

Giants 2, Padres 1: Tim Lincecum allowed only one run in eight innings and drove one in himself, giving himself a 0 NLP — crap, I can’t remember the name of the phony statistic I came up with the other day. Carlos Beltran had a homer.

Cubs 3, Braves 2: Randy Wells more or less tied the Braves’ bats up into the seventh inning, allowing one run. He also drove one in.  Alfonso Soriano hit a two-run bob. Jason Heyward was 0 for 4 with a strikeout, so I guess my reverse jinx thing isn’t working anymore. Enjoy the bench today, big guy.

Orioles 6, Twins 1: A five run fifth makes this a laugher for Baltimore. The death of Mike Flanagan, however, takes all of the laughs away.

A study showed “grit” isn’t always a great attribute

Washington Nationals left fielder Bryce Harper slides into third with a three RBI triple during the third inning of a baseball game against the San Diego Padres, Friday, April 25, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
AP Photo/Nick Wass
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This popped up in my Twitter feed and I felt it had some applicability to baseball. This past October, Olga Khazan of The Atlantic highlighted a study in which researchers from the University of Southern California and Northeastern University performed three separate but related experiments to determine how “gritty” their subjects were.

One experiment had them solve anagrams. The second, a computer game. Finally, the third test had them solve math problems. Those who were deemed “grittier” attempted to solve fewer anagrams, which means they were sticking too long with difficult words rather than skipping and moving onto easier ones. The “grittier” crowd worked harder when losing at the computer game, but worked only as hard as the less-gritty when winning. With the math problems, the subjects when stuck were given a choice to take $1 and quit or keep going for a potential reward of $2 but $0 if they failed. The study showed that the “grittier” people weren’t any more productive but were more willing to risk the $1 for the doubled prize.

“Grit” is also a common colloquialism in baseball circles, used to refer to players who always run out a routine ground ball or pop-up. Other common characteristics include a willingness to dive for fly balls, slide into players to break up double plays, and to stick up for their teammates when there’s a disagreement between members of two teams. Often, those deemed “gritty” are in many other ways subpar players, but their perceived “grit” gives them value.

Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper is a rare superstar player who has earned the “grit” descriptor. There are many examples showing why he has earned it, but the most famous incident occurred on May 13, 2013 at Dodger Stadium. Harper turned his back to the field to chase an A.J. Ellis fly ball but went face-first into the wall, suffering abrasions on his face and a jammed left shoulder. This was during a game the Nationals were comfortably winning 6-0 in the sixth inning. At the time, the Nationals were 95 percent favorites to win the game, according to FanGraphs. Is the risk of suffering an injury — which could keep Harper out only a game or two, or cause him to miss the rest of the season — worth potentially turning a double or triple into an out?

Famously, Philadelphia fans and talking heads got on outfielder Bobby Abreu’s case in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s because he appeared gun-shy when approaching the outfield fence on fly balls. He was under a lot of pressure to sacrifice his body for the supposed good of the team, and developed a reputation as “soft”. As a more recent example, former Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins caught flack from fans when he didn’t run out a routine pop-up against the Mets on August 30, 2012. Then-manager Charlie Manuel benched the veteran. At the time, the Phillies were 62-69 and 17.5 games back of first place in the NL East and 8.5 games behind the second Wild Card. Freak injuries can happen, as Rollins’ teammate Ryan Howard showed when making the final out of the 2011 NLDS against the Cardinals. Is that non-zero injury risk worth the tiny chance that the infielder drops the pop-up and Rollins gets a single (or, in rarer cases, a double) in a game that is essentially meaningless?

The aforementioned study shows that maybe Abreu and Rollins had it right after all. Statistically, a freak injury that occurs on a “hustle” play is bound to happen. Maybe that’s what it will take to stop expecting athletes to put their bodies on the line for no realistic gain.

Zach Britton settles with the Orioles for $6.75 million

Baltimore Orioles relief pitcher Zach Britton delivers a pitch against the Boston Red Sox in the ninth inning of a baseball game at Fenway Park, Tuesday, June 23, 2015, in Boston. The Orioles won 6-4. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
AP Photo/Steven Senne
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The Orioles and closer Zach Britton avoided an arbitration hearing, agreeing to a $6.75 million salary for the 2016 season, Jon Heyman reports. The club has now handled all of its remaining arbitration cases and won’t have to go to a hearing with any players.

Britton, in his second of four years of arbitration eligibility, filed for $7.9 million while the Orioles countered at $5.6 million. $6.75 million is exactly the midpoint between the two submitted figures.

The 28-year-old lefty saved 36 games in 40 chances last season for the O’s while putting up a 1.92 ERA with a 79/14 K/BB ratio over 65 2/3 innings.

The Blue Jays will also try to sign Josh Donaldson to a multi-year deal

Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson gets up after being unable to handle an infield single by Boston Red Sox's Mookie Betts during the fourth inning of a baseball game at Fenway Park in Boston Monday, Sept. 7, 2015. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)
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Tacking onto Friday’s report that the Blue Jays will attempt to sign Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion to multi-year deals, Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reports that the club will try to do the same with third baseman and defending American League Most Valuable Player Josh Donaldson. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports notes that Donaldson’s arbitration hearing is scheduled for February 15, so the two sides will have 10 days to hammer out a contract.

Donaldson, 30, is entering his second of four years of arbitration eligibility. After earning $4.3 million last season, Donaldson filed for $11.8 million and the Blue Jays countered at $11.35 million. The $450,000 difference isn’t much compared to some of the other disparities among arbitration-eligible players and their respective clubs. Jake Arrieta and the Cubs, for example, had a gap of $6.5 million.

This past season, Donaldson let the league in runs scored and RBI with 122 and 123, respectively, while batting .297.371/.568 with 41 home runs and 41 doubles. He earned 23 of 30 first place votes in AL MVP balloting, with runner-up Mike Trout of the Angels grabbing the other seven votes.

Reds prospect Juan Duran suspended 80 games

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Juan Duran, a minor-league outfielder in the Reds’ farm system, has been suspended 80 games following positive tests for the performance-enhancing drugs Drostanolone, Stanozolol, and Nandrolone.

Duran is 6-foot-7 with big-time power, averaging 23 homers per 150 games since 2011, but he also strikes out a ton and struggles to control the strike zone. He spent last season at Double-A, missing a lot of time with injuries and hitting .256 with six homers and a .728 OPS in 59 games as a 23-year-old.

Duran is on the 40-man roster and is considered a quasi-prospect, but he’ll be ineligible to play until July and figures to head back to Double-A once reinstated.