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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.

Yordano Ventura represented the best and worst of baseball’s culture

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 28:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers in the first inning during a game against the Boston Red Sox on August 28, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
Adam Glanzman/Getty Images
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It was reported this morning that Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura was killed in a car accident in the Dominican Republic. Former prospect Andy Marte was also killed in a separate car accident. Along with Jose Fernandez and Oscar Taveras, the baseball world has lost a lot of young, exciting talent in a very short amount of time.

Ventura was, like all of us, a complex human being. At his best, he was an exciting, talented, emotive pitcher who featured an electric fastball which sat in the mid-90’s and occasionally touched 100 MPH. At his worst, he was an immature, impressionable kid trying to fit in by exacting revenge against batters he felt had wronged him by slinging those electric fastballs at vulnerable areas of their bodies.

Baseball needed Ventura when he was at his best. It is players like him and Fernandez, not Mike Trout, that bring in new fans to the sport. To baseball die-hards, Angels outfielder Mike Trout is the pinnacle of entertainment because we know he’s an otherworldly talent. But to the average fan, Trout is just another player who hits a couple of homers and doesn’t do anything particularly interesting otherwise. Trout is milquetoast. Ventura was never an All-Star, but fans knew who he was because he made his presence felt every time he made a start. He was fun, if sometimes vengeful.

Ventura’s baseball rap sheet is rather lengthy for someone who only pitched parts of four seasons in the big leagues. Early in the 2015 season, Ventura found himself in a handful of benches-clearing incidents in quick succession. On April 12, he jawed with Trout, apparently misunderstanding the motivation behind Trout yelling, “Let’s go!” Though catcher Salvador Perez intervened, Trout’s teammate Albert Pujols ran in from second base and the benches cleared shortly thereafter. On the 18th, some drama between the Athletics and Royals continued. Ventura fired a 99 MPH fastball at Brett Lawrie, resulting in his immediate ejection from the game. More beanball wars ensued in the series finale the following day. Finally, on the 23rd, Ventura hit White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu with a 99 MPH fastball in the fourth inning. Ventura was not ejected… until after the completion of the seventh inning. Walking back to the dugout, Ventura barked at White Sox outfielder Adam Eaton and — you guessed it — the benches cleared. All told, Ventura was fined for his behavior with the Athletics and suspended seven games for the White Sox incident.

In August 2015, Ventura called Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista a “nobody” and accused him of stealing signs. He apologized shortly thereafter. Two months later, during his start in Game 6 of the ALCS against the Blue Jays, Ventura got into it with Jays first base coach Tim Leiper. Nothing happened beyond that, but apparently it was part of the Jays’ plan to try to put Ventura “on tilt.”

Most recently, in June this past season, Ventura hit Orioles third baseman Manny Machado with a pitch. Machado charged the mound and got in at least one punch before the players spilled out onto the field in a blob of royal blue and orange. Ventura was suspended for eight games.

Ventura was by no means a model of civility, but he was a product of baseball’s intransigent culture forcing players to assimilate or be ostracized. The old culture taught players to never show emotion. Hit a home run? Put your head down and circle the bases in a timely fashion or risk taking a fastball to the ribs. Players like Fernandez and Bautista — typically players from Latin countries — challenged those old cultural norms and are, as a result, the vanguard of the new culture. Ventura displayed aspects of each, the worst of the old culture and the best of the new. He was not a one-dimensional person; he was strikingly complex. At one moment willing to use a fastball as a weapon, the next stopping by some kids’ lemonade stand and giving out fist bumps. Baseball is made more entertaining and more interesting by its personalities and Ventura’s was a behemoth, for better or worse. His absence from the sport will be felt.

MLB remembers Yordano Ventura and Andy Marte

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 28:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers in the first inning during a game against the Boston Red Sox on August 28, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
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Following the tragic passing of 25-year-old Yordano Ventura and 33-year-old Andy Marte, both of whom were killed in separate car crashes on Sunday morning, players and executives from around Major League Baseball expressed an outpouring of grief and support for the players’ families and former teams.

Fans have gathered at Kauffman Stadium in memory of the former pitcher.