down to the wire

And That Happened: Tuesday’s scores and highlights

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Red Sox 8, Orioles 7: It came down to the last at bat. An epic 10-pitch job to Adam Jones with a runner on second that I watched live even though I didn’t watch the whole game because, hell, how can you not?  Two homers for Ryan Lavarnway. In other news, who in the hell is Ryan Lavarnway?

Rays 5, Yankees 3: Matt Joyce with the three-run homer off Rafael Soriano brought the Rays back from a 3-2 deficit. Russell Martin grounded into a triple play at one point. I assume he did that to screw the Red Sox somehow.

Phillies 7, Braves 1: I would like to offer an apology to Derek Lowe. Yesterday on Twitter, while I was feeling pessimistic, I said that he’d offer up a “4 IP, 6 ER performance.” In fact he offered up a 4 IP, 5 ER performance. Why I doubted my team’s $15 million, 17-loss ace, I have no idea, but I just hope to make it up to him someday.

Cardinals 13, Astros 6: This was a massacre, but it’s worth noting that it was Ryan Theriot’s two-run double that broke the tie and helped open the floodgates. We’ve had a lot of fun at his expense lately, what with all of the “it is what it is” quotes, but good on him for coming up big. Oh, and congrats to Tony La Russa for burning through 139 players in this game. Can’t wait for him to face the Yankees in the World Series. We might be able to catch the end of the games after we wake up for work the next morning.

Diamondbacks 7, Dodgers 6: Wow, talk about wild! Eleven runs were scored between these two in the 10th inning, with Ryan Roberts walking off with a grand slam for the Dbacks. He did the Kirk Gibson fist pump thing as he rounded the bases too. I’m assuming the fact that Roberts lived to talk about after the game means that the successful season has mellowed Gibson a bit.

Brewers 6, Pirates 4: Three homers for Prince Fielder tie him with Matt Kemp at the top of the NL leaderboard. Ryan Braun remains a single point off the batting title lead. Why…?

Reds 5, Mets 4: … Because Jose Reyes hit two homers and singled, raising his average to .336. In a losing effort, however, because the Reds tied it in the ninth and then won it on a squeeze play in the 13th.

Twins 7, Royals 4: Rene Tosoni is about the only Twins player I’ve called by name in a week. Four RBI here is a good enough reason for it, but really I don’t know why he’s on my mind. My mind got bent last night anyway. I gave up on Derek Lowe’s crap-fest early and decided to watch a “Battlestar Galactica” episode. It was the one in which Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower” played a significant part, and that’s messed up for about 15 reasons, the least of which is that these people all come from a planet in which there is no such thing as Bob Dylan. But I’ll let it slide. I’m just going to assume it all makes sense sometime in the next 25 episodes. Hopefully it ends with Bob Dylan being a Cylon. That would be epic.

Giants 7, Rockies 0: Oh, so there’s the offense. Sorry dudes, too late.

Athletics 7, Mariners 0: Oh, so there’s Trevor Cahill’s dominance. Sorry dude, too late.

White Sox 2, Blues Jays 1: Don Cooper now has the best winning percentage in the history of White Sox managers. I’m not sure how you don’t rehire him based on that. If it was Mark Buehrle’s last game for the White Sox, it was very Mark Buehrle-ish. Seven shutout innings in two hours and fifteen minutes.

Marlins 3, Nationals 2:  Bryan Petersen homered with two outs in the bottom of the ninth to win it. Javier Vazquez was awesome again. It may have been the final game of his career. Today will be the last ever game in whatever the hell they’re calling that ballpark now. Good riddance.

Cubs 6, Padres 2: Starlin Castro had a couple of hits. He’ll become the youngest man to ever lead the NL in that category when the season ends today. He has also reached base in 39 consecutive games.

Rangers 10, Angels 3: Texas wins its 95th game. That’s one more than Detroit as it seeks home field advantage in the playoffs. Detroit holds the tiebreaker, however, so thew Rangers need to win today or have the Tigers lose to secure it and a matchup against the wild card winner. Kudos to the game story writer for using the word “penultimate” in the AP recap.

Tigers 9, Indians 6: Wilson Betemit had been suffering from a sore knee and Jim Leyland had said just yeasterday that he’s worried about him. No worries: Betemit hit a 423-foot homer.

Joe Mauer reveals he’s had blurred vision since 2013 concussion

Joe Mauer
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After a decade as the best all-around catcher in baseball Joe Mauer suffered a concussion in August of 2013 that forced him to change positions and marked the end of his time as a great hitter.

Mauer was doing his usual thing at the time of the concussion, hitting .324 with a .404 on-base percentage and .880 OPS. Since returning from the brain injury he’s hit .270 with a .348 on-base percentage and .725 OPS while seeing his numbers decline across the board.

Mauer revealed today to Brian Murphy of the St. Paul Pioneer Press that “lingering symptoms occasionally blurred his vision at the plate the past two seasons” and “he will experiment hitting with sunglasses for the first time to improve his pitch tracking” this season.

Here’s more from Murphy:

Bright sunshine sometimes triggered blurred vision that Mauer links to the concussion with which he was diagnosed in August 2013 after absorbing at least “two significant blows” from foul tips while he was still catching.

“I don’t want that to be kind of an excuse. If I’m out there, I’m out there. That’s just the way I am,” Mauer said. “There are times I’ve gone up to the plate and I just couldn’t pick up the ball. That’s part of the frustration because I’m trying to do everything I can to get back. It just takes time.”

There are more quotes along those same lines and Mauer’s numbers in night games were much better than his numbers in day games last season.

I live in Minnesota and it has been incredibly frustrating to see such a large (or at least vocal) segment of the Twins fan base treat Mauer’s steep decline as if it has nothing to do with the significant brain trauma he suffered. I’m hopeful that Mauer going public about literally struggling to see the baseball while at the plate will convince people to treat him more humanely, but that’s probably wishful thinking at this point.

What a shame, on every level.

Masahiro Tanaka can’t say for sure if he’ll be ready by Opening Day

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Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka said today that he “can’t say for sure” whether he’ll be ready for Opening Day.

Tanaka underwent arthroscopic surgery in late November to remove a bone spur from his right elbow. Tanaka threw off a bullpen mound Tuesday for the first time since undergoing a cleanup procedure on his right elbow last October and, while healthy, may be behind other pitchers.

Tanaka posted a 3.51 ERA and a 139/27 K/BB ratio across 154 innings last season. He also has a partially torn UCL he’s been pitching through for some time which is always something the Yankees have on their mind when it comes to schedules and workouts for their ace.

Denard Span, not Angel Pagan, will be Giants’ center fielder and leadoff hitter

Denard Span
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Making official what was assumed when the Giants signed Denard Span to a three-year, $31 million contract last month, manager Bruce Bochy announced that Span will start in center field and bat leadoff.

That means 34-year-old Angel Pagan, who’s been the Giants’ starting center fielder and primary leadoff hitter for the past four seasons, will slide to left field and bat further down in the lineup. About a month before the Span signing Bochy said Pagan would remain in the center fielder/leadoff role, but the situation obviously changed.

It’s a move that makes sense, because Span–if healthy following hip surgery–is a superior defensive center fielder with better on-base skills. And if Pagan doesn’t bounce back following a rough 2015 season then having him in left field will make it easier for the Giants to platoon him or bench him in favor of, say, Gregor Blanco or a bigger bat.

Pitchers to receive new visor-like protective headgear

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MLB/MLBPA
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For the past few years MLB, the MLBPA and cap and helmet manufacturers have been working on various models of protective headgear for pitchers. Some of the models have been unworkable, some of them have not met the satisfaction of pitchers and others have, well, looked a little odd. At present the only pitcher who routinely wears any headgear is Alex Torres, who wears the bulky isoBLOX helmet.

Now, however, there is a new option. And, as you can see above it’s a bit different than what we’ve seen before. It’s more or less like a visor, which will have a nylon top on them to give a full cap-like appearance. The ear flaps will be lefty and righty-specific, given that righties are more likely to be hit on the right and lefties on the left given their follow-throughs.

The new caps will be given out to players this spring and, like the old ones, will be used or not used at the choice of the players. You can read more about the new helmet at ESPN’s Outside the Lines report.