And That Happened: Thursday’s scores and highlights

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Nationals 4, Pirates 2: Stephen Strasburg struck out 13 in six innings. The only thing more dominating than he was the Hulk when I went to go see “The Avengers” last night. Upshot: damn fine movie. But the “Dark Night Rises” trailer before it may have been even better. Yes, I realize that I may be reacting emotionally here.

Anyway, a question (and if you haven’t seen the movie yet, move along): why is the Hulk such a malevolent threat when he first transforms on the ship, to the point where Black Widow and everyone in his path is in extreme peril just by being near him, yet during the big battle scene everyone can hang around him and he’s all cool and knows who the bad guys are and stuff? Well, except for Thor that one time.  I’m sure there’s some reason for this besides movie convenience — and I never read the Hulk comics, so if the answer is there, I’m just ignorant about it — but I did think about it.  Oh, and I’m sort of in love with Cobie Smulders now too.  Anyway, enough of that. Other games:

Indians 8, Red Sox 3: The fans booed Josh Beckett off the field. And afterwards he said they were smart fans because he “pitched like sh**.”  That sums it up, no? He gave up seven runs on seven hits and walked two in two and a third innings and ensured that people will make hacky jokes about his golf game for the next five days. (Oh look! They’re here already!)

Orioles 6, Rangers 5: Rangers 7, Orioles 3: Colby Lewis struck out ten but allowed five bombs in Game 1, which is kind of special.  In Game 2, Josh Hamilton hit his 15th homer and drove in two, giving former teammate Tommy Hunter the loss.

Yankees 5, Rays 3: CC Sabathia struck out ten and allowed no earned runs in eight innings, getting his 5th win of the year. Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson hit homers.

Blue Jays 6, Twins 2: Henderson Alvarez continues his fine work, allowing only a single earned run over seven. Jason Marquis, not so much. And talk about symbolic futility: runner on third, popup in front of the plate and neither Maquis, catcher Ryan Doumit nor third basemen Trevor Plouffe caught it. It just hit the ground with a sick thud. There are your 2012 Minnesota Twins, folks.

Tigers 10, Athletics 6: Yes, Detroit won — good job for Miguel Cabrera and Andy Dirks having big games as the Detroit offense awoke from its stupor — but that aside, Brandon Inge hit a grand slam against his old mates, giving him 12 RBI in his last four games. As I said yesterday, the closest thing to chaos we have in baseball right now is the relationship Tigers fans have with Brandon Inge, so to see him have a big game against them is rather fun.

Javier Baez: “This is a game. It’s not as serious as a lot of people take it.”

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Infielder Javier Baez is back in camp with the Cubs after helping Puerto Rico to a second-place finish in the 2017 World Baseball Classic. He was the focal point of what was, to many, the most memorable play of the entire tournament: Baez pointed at catcher Yadier Molina, who was attempting to throw out a would-be base-stealer, before applying the tag for the final out of the eighth inning.

While Baez didn’t receive much criticism for his theatrics, aside from an insignificant handful of spoilsports, he is one of the players who most exemplifies the emotional, celebratory culture that foreign players bring to Major League Baseball. U.S. (and Tigers) second baseman Ian Kinsler is on the other side of that spectrum, as he said prior to the WBC final that he hopes kids mimic the solemn way U.S. players play the game rather than the emotional, passionate way players from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic play the game.

Baez isn’t about to apologize for the way he and his teammates play the game. Via CSN Chicago’s Patrick Mooney, Baez said, “We do a great job playing and having fun out there. That’s what it’s all about. This is a game. It’s not as serious as a lot of people take it. but, you know, everybody’s got their style and their talent. I have a lot of fun.”

He continued, “It’s their choice to look at how we play, how excited we get. To us, it’s really huge what we did, even though we didn’t win. All of Puerto Rico got really together. We were going through a hard time over there and everything got fixed up for at least three weeks. Hopefully, they keep it like that.”

Mike Trout proposes change to spring training umpiring

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Angels outfielder Mike Trout came up with an idea that would allow less experienced umpires an opportunity to call some major league spring training action. As ESPN’s Buster Olney reports, Trout thinks the veteran umpires should only call five or six innings as they get back into regular season shape. The rest of the innings could be called by minor league umpires.

According to Olney, baseball officials loved Trout’s idea when they heard about it last week. One official said, “It makes a lot of sense for a lot of different reasons.” Another said, “That’s Trout — he’s always paying attention to stuff beyond what he’s doing.”

Of course, I have to agree that the suggestion is a great one. As Olney notes, the turnover rate for umpires every year is relatively low, so younger, less-experienced umpires have few opportunities to get a feel for what it’s like calling major league action. Even beyond the actual interpretation of the rules, interacting with big league personalities would also be helpful for minor league umpires.