Chris Davis

And That Happened: Sunday’s scores and highlights

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Orioles 9, Red Sox 6: Just your standard seventeen inning affair in which a first baseman is the winning pitcher, after throwing two shutout innings and and outfielder is the losing pitcher after giving up a three-run homer . Chris Davis shut out the Red Sox for the 16th and 17th innings, striking out two. Of course he did. Darnell McDonald gave up a three-run homer to Adam Jones. Of course he did. J.J. Hardy had two homers. The game took six hours and seven minutes. Mercy.

Angels 4, Blue Jays 3: Albert Pujols hit a homer, so we can quit keeping track of that I suppose. Guess now we can see how long it takes for his average to get above the Mendoza Line.

Indians 4, Rangers 2: Yu Darvish struck out eleven Indians but still got the loss because, strikeouts aside, walking four and giving up six hits in six innings while throwing 112 pitches isn’t a study in efficiency. The Indians three-run third inning started when a Johnny Damon popup fell in after getting lost in the sun. Here’s Darvish, after the game through an interpreter:

“If the ball goes into the sun, what can you do?”

I’d like to think that he listened to “A Saucerful of Secrets” right before this game, but I kinda doubt it.

Braves 7, Rockies 2: The sweep. What a nutso series. I thought they had a humidor or something, but by the time yesterday’s game got started I was totally of the mindset that a six run deficit didn’t matter any. Overall the Braves scored 29 runs in this three-game series. On the pitching side, some order was restored in this one with Brandon Beachy allowing only a couple of runs in six and a third.

Marlins 6, Padres 3: Tied at two until the Fish put up a four-run eighth inning. Thankfully, however, the Padres scored one in the bottom of the inning, creating a save situation and allowing us to watch someone besides Heath Bell handle the ninth. Edward Mujica gets the save.

Mariners 5, Twins 2:  Hector Noesi took a shutout into the seventh and Jesus Montero hit a two-run double. If you told this to a Yankees fan a year ago …

Cardinals 8, Astros 1: Tyler Greene hit two homers, the Cardinals salvaged one in the series and, more importantly, Adam Wainwright looked good, with good command for really the first time all season.

Yankees 10, Royals 4: Robinson Cano hit a grand slam, Alex Rodriguez hit a three-run shot and Nick Swisher hit a solo homer, breaking the Yankees offense out of a slump. We knew the offense was going to figure it out soon enough. We were less sure of Phil Hughes, but he turned in his best start of the season, allowing three runs over six and two thirds and striking out seven.

Reds 5, Pirates 3: This is why the Reds traded so much talent for Mat Latos: six innings, two hits, no runs and eleven strikeouts.

Athletics 9, Rays 5: Of course Brandon Inge hit a three-run homer and drove in four. We all know he’d do that against Matt Moore. Who we also predicted would give up eight runs.  We all talked about this during the big pregame show. It was my Master Lock “Lock of the Week.”

Mets 3, Diamondbacks 1: R.A. Dickey was on point (8 IP, 4 H, 1 ER). Assuming knuckleballers have points. I think of them as having weird concave places and a lot of swirly bits.

Giants 4, Brewers 3: Matt Cain struck out ten in seven innings but the bullpen couldn’t hold the one-run lead. Tim Dillard walked two and gave up two hits to blow the game in the 11th. Because — all together now! — you can’t use your closer in a tie game on the road!

Tigers 3, White Sox 1: The Tigers offense still isn’t clicking, but solo homers by Austin Jackson, Prince Fielder and Andy Dirks were all Rick Porcello (6.1 IP, 4 H, 1 ER) and four relievers needed to take care of the Sox.

Cubs 4, Dodgers 3: A walkoff walk to David DeJesus in the 11th. By the way: is it just me, or are there an inordinate number of extra inning games this year? Seems like a lot. Someone who has some research-fu, tell me if I’m nuts.

Phillies 9, Nationals 3: True fact: Natitude is still only 66.6% effective. Hunter Pence had four RBI.  Cole Hamels allowed one run in eight innings and struck out eight. And likely got himself a suspension for admitting that he’s kind of a  jerk.

Joe Blanton signs with the Nationals

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 07:  Joe Blanton #55 of the Los Angeles Dodgers pitches in the sixth inning against the Colorado Rockies at Dodger Stadium on June 7, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)
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Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post reports that the Nationals have signed Joe Blanton to a one-year contract.

Surprised it took this long given that Blanton was excellent out of the pen for the Dodgers last year, posting a 2.48 ERA and 80/26 K/BB ratio over 80 innings. But even if it’s a late signing, it’s not a terrible one: Blanton will receive a $4 million salary and will have the chance to make an additional $1 million in performance bonuses. UPDATE: The salary structure is kind of odd. Barry Svrluga of the Washington Post reports that Blanton will get only $1 million in 2017, plus some incentives, and will have $1 million deferred to 2018 and $2 million deferred to 2019.

And he got two weeks off work. Bonus!

Baseball doesn’t need gimmicks to draw in young fans. It just needs to be baseball.

MESA, AZ - MARCH 6: Chicago Cubs ball and bat bags are seen prior to the game between the Chicago Cubs and Cincinnati Reds on March 6, 2015 at Sloan Park in Mesa, Arizona. The Reds defeated the Cubs 5-2. (Photo by Rich Pilling/Getty Images)
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MESA, AZ — I didn’t set out to ask Robin Mitchell about pace of play, rules changes, how to best execute an intentional walk or how to turn kids into baseball fans. I was interviewing her about other stuff. She brought those topics up on her own.

“I heard them saying that they were not going to throw four pitches for intentional walks anymore,” Mitchell said. “I’d prefer that they throw the pitches because anything can happen. There can be wild pitches. And that’s the exciting part of baseball. That you don’t know what’s going to happen. I don’t think we need to speed the game along.”

For most baseball fans such sentiments are tied up with a devotion to baseball purism, tradition or their distaste for change. But such is not the case for Mitchell. While the lifelong Chicago resident went to Cubs games as a child, baseball has not been a lifelong obsession. Rather, it’s something she has become reacquainted with via her two baseball-obsessed boys, Jake, 11, and Bennett, 9.

Mitchell and her boys live on the north side of Chicago and, over the past two years, her sons have developed a huge affinity for the Cubs, almost by osmosis. It was certainly a good time for it, as the Cubs have become winners, and Mitchell allows that since Jake and Bennett didn’t “have to suffer through some of the more challenging times,” their attraction to the game became easier. It’s clear to her, however, that they are not going to be fair weather fans.

“They love baseball,” she said, implying that it’s not just homerism for the current World Series champions at work. They love the sport itself and began to play it too. It’s not easy for Mitchell to say whether their playing led to their fandom or vice-versa. It all sort of happened at once, with each reinforcing the other.

I asked her what about baseball, specifically, appeals to them. What, at a time when Rob Manfred and everyone connected to the game is worried about the sport’s seeming inability to attract and hold on to young fans, keeps Mitchell’s sons engaged.

For them, it seems to be all about accessibility and engagement. Being in Chicago and living close to a park is important, as is having all of the games available on TV. Also important to them: appealing young stars.

“It helps that the Cubs have some really nice players who seem like really nice guys,” Mitchell said. “Sometimes we see them in the neighborhood even. Ben Zobrist. Anthony Rizzo. David Ross. Whenever we’ve seen them out or at an event they’re always kind and polite and give the boys encouraging words.”

But isn’t baseball . . . boring? And slow? Don’t kids like video games and kinetic action? Doesn’t a 19th century pastime with a sometimes turgid pace turn off 21st century kids?

“No, are you kidding?!” Mitchell said. “We don’t leave the game before it’s over. That’s what we do. It doesn’t matter what the score is. We love the pace of baseball. In the world of electronics, with everything moving really fast and being gimmicky, there’s something I think that my boys and I find appealing about baseball. I can share it with them and we all just slow down.”

As we talked, Jake and Bennett ran around a field just outside the Cubs clubhouse, playing catch and practicing rundowns with a couple of other boys they just met. Mitchell and I spoke for nearly a half hour. They played the whole time and looked like they wouldn’t stop unless or until their mother dragged them away.

We have spent a lot of time lately talking about how to fix baseball. I don’t know that anyone has made a compelling case that, despite the challenges the game faces, it is actually broken. Robin Mitchell doesn’t think it is. Neither do Jake and Bennett. While Rob Manfred and Joe Torre propose increasingly unorthodox methods for speeding things up, some pretty basic and longstanding factors are continuing to attract young fans:

  • The availability of games almost every day;
  • An exciting and successful local team;
  • The charisma of baseball’s biggest stars;
  • The ability for kids to play the game themselves and to emulate those stars on a little league field; and
  • The chance for parents to share their love of baseball with their children.

These are the factors which have always made up baseball’s appeal. Perhaps Major League Baseball should concentrate on ensuring that those factors, which are proven to draw in fans, persist and flourish. Perhaps they should concentrate less on chasing hypothetical fans via gimmicks aimed at fixing problems which are far-from-established.