And That Happened: Sunday’s scores and highlights

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Yankees 5, Tigers 1: If I were to tell you that one of this game’s starting pitchers — Justin Verlander or Phil Hughes — was going to toss a complete game, I’m guessing none of you would have guessed it would be Hughes.  But that he did, allowing one run on four hits. Verlander loses his third in a row. Him pitching lights-out had been the last preseason expectation being met for the Tigers. Now they seem utterly lost.

Mets 6, Cardinals 1: Well, it took them 26 innings of a 27 inning series to actually score a run, but the Cards got on the board in this one at least. But, yeah, just a trainwreck of a weekend for St. Louis. Or, if you prefer, a buzzsaw of a weekend for Mets pitching. I mean, not often that the six innings of ten-strikeout, shutout ball that Jon Niese posted last night would be the third best pitching performance in a given series, but there you are.

Blue Jays 5, Red Sox 1: Quick, what’s this?  Answer: a plot of where the pitches Daniel Bard threw in Toronto yesterday ended up.  The Jays had a 5-0 lead after two innings with Bard having given up only one hit. Jose Bautista hit a three-run homer and was walked to force in a run. But really, I think Bard walked almost everyone in Ontario yesterday, so it’s not like it was that big a deal.

Diamondbacks 6, Padres 0: Trevor Cahill added to the parade of excellent pitching performances yesterday, twirling a six-hit shutout. Paul Goldschmidt homered and ran his hitting streak to 12 games. Note: you can’t really “twirl” many other things than a shutout. And using “ran” as a verb like I did there, while not exclusive to sports streaks, has a very high correlation with them.

Giants 2, Cubs 0: Barry Zito: does he (all together now) finally have it together, or is he merely a barometer of how bad the Cubs are? (8 .1 IP, 4 H, 0 ER).

Braves 3, Nationals 2: Halley’s Comet. The McRib. A Braves victory over the Nationals.  You savor them when the come because they are just so damn rare.

Royals 2, Athletics 0: Oakland was shutout again, this time by former A Vin Mazzaro who, with all due respect, shouldn’t be shutting out anyone for that long.  Of course it was the third time in the past four games the A’s have been blanked, so your Aunt Tilly could probably pitch six innings of shutout ball against them. They’ve lost 10 of 11.

Marlins 5, Phillies 1: Carlos Zambrano gave up one run over seven and two thirds and hit a homer.  Even before the homer, on paper, I think Zambrano was a bigger threat than the Phillies cleanup hitter: Hector Luna.

White Sox 4, Mariners 2: Chris Sale went the distance, allowing two runs against what has, recently anyway, been a pretty potent Mariners attack. He leads the AL with a 2.29 ERA. From the AP gamer: “Kevin Millwood was beset by control problems.” This is not a repeat of, well, most games since 2006 or so.

Rangers 7, Angels 3: the Rangers snap their four-game skid behind a couple RBI a piece from Nelson Cruz and Elvis Andrus and a decent showing from Matt Harrison.

Pirates 6, Brewers 5: James McDonald continues his fine work, striking out eight in six innings while allowing a single earned run. Brooks Conrad played a little shortstop in this one for Milwaukee. Which is an interesting choice.

Twins 6, Indians 3: Break up the Twinkies! They’ve won five of six. Since their tone-setting sweep of the Tigers, Cleveland is 2-7. So, so much for tone-setting.

Astros 5, Reds 3: Houston wins for the first time in nine tries. Jordan Lyles gave up only two earned runs over seven innings.

Rockies 3, Dodgers 2: Alex White shuts out the Dodgers into the seventh inning before running out of gas, but it was enough to give L.A. its sixth loss in seven games.

Rays 8, Orioles 4: Productive weekend as the Rays put the Orioles in the rear-view mirror in the AL East. It’s been a nice run for the O’s, but it’s probably over.

Former outfielder Anthony Gose is throwing 99 m.p.h. fastballs in the minors

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Anthony Gose played for five seasons as an outfielder in the big leagues. He never hit well enough to be a regular, and a series of altercations with his minor league managers and coaches didn’t do too much for his future either.

His fastball, however, may eventually make up for all of that.

Toward the end of spring training it was reported that Gose would begin work as a pitcher. Given that he was a highly regarded high school pitching prospect with a plus fastball, it wasn’t a crazy notion. When Tigers camp broke, Gose stayed in Lakeland in extended spring training, throwing bullpen sessions and stuff.

Now he’s seeing game action. As the Detroit Free Press reports, Gose threw an inning for the Class-A Lakeland Flying Tigers against the Palm Beach Cardinals last night. He allowed one run on one hit with one strikeout and one walk, lighting up the radar gun at 99 m.p.h. This is the tweet from Lakeland’s assistant general manager:

The Free Press says that the Tigers’ vice president of player development, Dave Littlefield, is “very optimistic” about Gose’s progress.

Given that he’s still only 26 and he’s a lefty it wouldn’t shock me at all if he makes his way back to the bigs someday soon.

There is no need to lament the loss of “The Great Hollywood Baseball Movie”

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Today in the New York Times Jay Caspian Kang writes about what he calls the loss of “The Great Hollywood Baseball Movie.” About how there are few if any big baseball movies anymore. Movies which traffic in baseball-as-metaphor-for-America with Jimmy Stewart (or Kevin Costner)-types playing characters which seem to transcend time, elevate our emotions and rack up the dollars at the box office.

It’s a bit of meandering column, with just as much time spent on Kang’s seeming dissatisfaction with modern baseball and baseball telecasts as his dissatisfaction with baseball cinema, but he winds it up with this, which sums his argument up well enough:

Baseball’s cinematic vision of Middle America no longer means what it once did. The failing family enterprise and the old, forbearing white — or Negro Leagues — ballplayer now remind us of an extinct vision of the country and the growing distance between Middle America and the coasts. The attempts to update the archival, sun-kissed, Midwestern vision — whether on last year’s “Pitch,” the Fox TV show about a woman pitching in the majors, or “Million Dollar Arm,” the 2014 Disney movie in which Jon Hamm goes to India to convert cricket bowlers into pitchers — are canceled or bomb at the box office.

You won’t be surprised that I take a great deal of issue with all of this.

Mostly because it only talks about one specific kind of baseball movie being AWOL from cinemas: the broad works which appeal to the masses and which speak to both the past, present and future, often with a hazy nostalgia in which love of baseball and love of America are portrayed as one and the same.

It’s worth noting, though, that such films are extraordinarily rare. There was a brief time when such things existed and did well at the box office — the 1980s had “The Natural,” “Field of Dreams,” “Bull Durham” and “Major League” in a relatively short period of time — but that’s the exception, not the rule.

Baseball movies are almost always niche flicks. Biopics made of recently deceased stars like Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. Weird slices of life like “The Bad News Bears” or “The Sandlot.” Quirky comedies that are baseball offshoots of larger cinematic trends like “Little Big League,” which was just the latest in a series of “kids doing adult things” movies popular at the time. Or “Rookie of the Year” which is essentially baseball’s version of one of those body-switch movies that come and go. Or “Mr. Baseball” which was just a fish-out-of-water comedy like any other.

We still get those kinds of smaller baseball movies fairly often. They’re still pretty decent and still do pretty decently at the box office, even if they’re no one’s idea of a blockbuster.

“Moneyball” was done well and did well, not as a mass appeal movie, but as one of many business/Silicon Valley flicks that have popped over the past few years. “Sugar” was a great movie, but a small movie, exploring a culture about which most people aren’t aware and basically serving as a character study. “42” is just an updated (and much better) version of those old biopics of baseball stars. “Everybody Wants Some” may be the quintessential niche baseball movie in that it’s a story about characters which just happen to have a lot of baseball in their lives. “Bull Durham” was like that too, but it just came along at the right time to become a massive hit. As many have noted, baseball was more background than plot in that movie, even if the background was amazingly well done. I’d argue that most good baseball movies use baseball like that rather than put it squarely in the foreground.

There will likely always be baseball movies, but they will almost always be smaller ones, not large blockbusters or Oscar bait with an epic sweep. Most baseball movies are like baseball itself in that they lack a grand consensus. Baseball is not The National Pastime anymore — it’s just one of many forms of sports and entertainment available to the masses — so it follows that the movies which deal with it will likewise not have that massive cross-market appeal.

I think that’s a good thing. Smaller baseball movies more accurately reflect the sport’s place in the culture. To portray baseball as something larger than what it actually is opens the door to a lot of artistic and cultural dishonesty and runs the risk of creating some really bad art.

I mean, have you seen “Field of Dreams?” Bleech.