And That Happened: Wednesday’s scores and highlights

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Royals 8, Indians 2: I keep hitting refresh on the scoreboard but nothing changes so, apparently, this is correct and the Royals actually won a game.  Billy Butler hit two homers as Kansas City beat up on Ubaldo Jimenez.

Mets 5, Marlins 1: David Wright hit a two-run homer, giving him 735 RBI in his career, which pushes him past Darryl Strawberry for the all-time Mets RBI crown. Strawberry needed around 300 fewer plate appearances to do it. Wright, however, was not coked out of his mind, so this is really an apples-oranges comparison.

Rangers 7, Yankees 3: Phil Hughes is a wreck. He gave up four runs in two and two-thirds, bringing his year to 1-3 with a 7.88 ERA while allowing 26 hits and six walks in 16 innings.  That is … not acceptable. Adrian Beltre seems to be feeling just fine: 3 for 5 with a homer and 3 RBI.

Reds 4, Giants 2: Barry Zito had a shutout going through six, but then Scott Rolen hit a homer, the bullpen came into play again, bad defense went down and the Giants laid another egg in Great American Ballpark, where they have dropped seven straight.

Nationals 7, Padres 2: Washington continues to cruise behind great starting pitching. The Nats, overall, are 14-4. The starters are 8-2 with a 1.71 ERA with 103 strikeouts and only 22 walks.

Mariners 9, Tigers 1: Felix Hernandez was Felix Hernandez (7 IP, 4 H, 1 ER), but for once he got run support. Imagine. Detroit has lost five of six.

Rockies 2, Pirates 1; Pirates 5, Rockies 1: I wrote up the first game yesterday (short version: tough luck for James McDonald). In the nightcap, the Bucs rode a five-run fifth inning — complete with Pedro Alvarez’s second homer of the day — to earn the split. I guess the Rockies earned the split too by losing the second game, but we tend not to ever say that for some reason.

Phillies 7, Diamondbacks 2: Cole Hamels drove in two runs with an RBI single. Oh, and he also pitched a little (8 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 7K).

Cardinals 5, Cubs 1: Lance Lynn — who wasn’t even gonna be in the rotation before Chris Carpenter’s shoulder went wonky — now leads all of baseball with four wins following yet another strong outing. David Freese hit a two-run homer and an RBI double. The Cards avoid the sweep.

Orioles 3, Blue Jays 0: Jason Hammel, who came over from Colorado in the Jeremy Guthrie deal, said after the game “I am still learning a new league and seeing what everybody else is doing.” Mostly they’re busy not hitting Jason Hammel. Hammel tossed seven four-hit shutout innings. He’s 3-0 with a 1.73 ERA on the season. Matt Lindstrom worked a perfect eight inning and has still yet to give up a run on the year. He too came over in the Guthrie deal.

Astros 7, Brewers 5: His name is Jose Altuve.  And he’s the man whose big day helped Houston beat the Brewers for the first time in 12 tries.

Rays 3, Angels 2: I am the conductor of the Don’t Worry About Albert Pujols Because He’s Gonna Be Just Fine Orchestra, but it is probably still worth noting that he’s 0 for his last 19. C.J. Wilson struck out 11 in seven innings. But dude, when your offense goes 0 for 10 with runners in scoring position, good is not good enough.

Athletics 5, White Sox 4: Someone tweeted at me yesterday and asked why I don’t have many funny or insightful things to say in White Sox recaps. Well, when the team in question goes 13 innings in a 2-2 game, takes a two run lead in the 14th and still end up losing, well, that sort of limits my options. Yoenis Cespedes hit a two-run homer in the 14th and Kila Ka’aihue hit the game-winning single a few minutes later. That erased Alexei Ramirez’s go-ahead two-run double in the top of the 14th. It also rendered Paul Konerko’s 400th career homer a mere footnote.

Red Sox 7, Twins 6: Not news: Clay Buchholz stunk (5.1 IP, 10 H, 1 ER). News: The Sox’ bullpen shut the opposition down. And they did it by committee: six relievers combined to throw the last three and two-thirds, allowing no runs. Although the ninth inning did get dicey, as Alfredo Aceves loaded the bases on a walk, a single and a hit batsman before striking out Denard Span to end it.

Braves 4, Dodgers 2: L.A. took a 2-1 lead into the ninth but then the Braves hit five straight singles — including those of the RBI variety by Dan Uggla, Chipper Jones and Jason Heyward — to rally Atlanta.  Jones, in addition to the go-ahead RBI — made a couple of solid plays at third base and didn’t seem at all like a creaky 40 year-old on a retirement tour. He said:

“I was like a school kid out there. I mean, that’s what you play the game for — moments like that.”

Great. Now he’s Brett Favre. See you in spring training next year, Chipper.

CC Sabathia won’t visit the White House if the Yankees win the World Series

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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 expression worried about government overreach and freedom of speech. 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.

 

Bruce Maxwell first MLB player to kneel during National Anthem

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Athletics’ rookie catcher Bruce Maxwell did not stand for the National Anthem on Saturday night. He’s the first MLB player to do so and, like other professional athletes before him, used the moment to send a message — not just to shed light on the lack of racial equality in the United States, but to specifically protest President Donald Trump’s suggestion that NFL owners fire any of their players who elect to protest the anthem by sitting or kneeling.

“Bruce’s father is a proud military lifer. Anyone who knows Bruce or his parents is well aware that the Maxwells’ love and appreciation for our country is indisputable,” Maxwell’s agent, Matt Sosnick, relayed to the San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser on Friday. He continued:

Bruce has made it clear that he is taking a stand about what he perceives as racial injustices in this country, and his personal disappointment with President Trump’s response to a number of professional athletes’ totally peaceful, non-violent protests.

Bruce has shared with both me and his teammates that his feelings have nothing to do with a lack of patriotism or a hatred of any man, but rather everything to do with equality for men, women and children regardless of race or religion.

While Maxwell didn’t make his own statement to the media, he took to Instagram earlier in the day to express his frustration against the recent opposition to the protests, criticizing the President for endorsing “division of man and rights.”

Despite Trump’s profanity-laced directive to NFL owners on Friday, however, it’s clear the Athletics don’t share his sentiments. “The Oakland A’s pride ourselves on being inclusive,” the team said in a statement released after Maxwell’s demonstration. “We respect and support all of our players’ constitutional rights and freedom of expression.”

Whatever the fallout, kudos to Maxwell for taking a stand. He may be the first to do so in this particular arena, but he likely won’t be the last.