Bryce Harper

And That Happened: Wednesday’s scores and highlights

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Nationals 8, Marlins 4: Bryce Harper hit two homers, bro. Jacob Turner: not really ready for the major leagues yet, bro.

Mets 3, Phillies 2: Matt Harvey continues to impress (6.1 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 6K). The Phillies pitcher is listed in the box score is named “Tyler Cloyd.” I’m calling b.s.  That’s a name you desperately reach for when you’re trying to pretend to be someone else but didn’t really think ahead.

Royals 1, Tigers 0: Look, it’s pretty simple: if you have pretensions of the playoffs, you beat the Royals when your ace is going like the Tigers didn’t do on Tuesday night. And you don’t get shut the hell out by Bruce Chen for eight innings either.

Pirates 5, Cardinals 0: We’re all sitting around here waiting for the Pirates to keel over and die and then they go and take two of three from the guys they’re chasing. Coming up: a lot of games against the Cubs and Astros. The wild card race is getting wild.

Padres 8, Braves 2: Tuesday night was just a blip, it seems. The Padres win their ninth of ten. Eric Stultz allowed no earned runs over six.

White Sox 8, Orioles 1: Joe Saunders, amazingly, wasn’t an immediate boon to the O’s rotation. Their recent pickup allowed ten hits and seven runs over five and a third.

Reds 6, Diamondbacks 2: Chris Heisey smacked two homers as the NL’s best team sweeps the snakes.

Blues Jays 8, Yankees 5: Yunel Escobar had the big day. The Yankees looked sloppy and stranded runners. I know the real issue here is getting everyone healthy, but really, they’re playing bad baseball at the moment regardless.

Rays 8, Rangers 4: Two homers for Evan Longoria. More like Even Longballia, amirite?

Athletics 8, Indians 4: I spent an hour yesterday telling people that the A’s and Rays’ offenses suck and how they won’t go far in the playoffs because of it. Nothing you can say about baseball lasts more than a day.

Brewers 3, Cubs 1: Sometimes I look at the box score and just can tell that the game was no fun to watch. Like when three of the game’s four runs were scored on two groundouts and a play on which there were two throwing errors.

Dodgers 10, Rockies 8: A.J. Ellis’ grand slam in the eighth seemed like gravy, as it stretched a five-run lead into a nine run lead, but the Dodgers ended up needing it as they withstood a seven run rally by Colorado in the bottom of the inning.

Twins 10, Mariners 0: Trevor Plouffe doubled in a couple and hit a two-run homer. But really, everyone in Minnesota got into the act.

Giants 6, Astros 4: You’d think Hunter Pence would be nice to the Astros seeing as how they gave him his freedom from having to play for them and everything. But no, he’s an ingrate and hit a three-run homer off of them. It was his fourth homer against Houston in the seven games he’s played against them since departing.

Angels 10, Red Sox 3: Kendrys Morales and Chris Iannetta hit homers and C.J. Wilson won for the first time in 11 tries.

The Chicago Cubs: Spring training games, regular season prices

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Craig Calcaterra
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MESA, AZ — I’ve been covering spring training for eight years, and in just those eight years a lot has changed in the Cactus and Grapefruit League experiences. The parks are bigger and fancier and the vibe is far more akin to a regular season major league one than the intimate and laid back atmosphere most people think of when they picture February and March baseball.

Just imagine, however, how much has changed if you’ve been coming to Florida or Arizona for a really long time.

“When we first started coming, you could bring your own beer in,” says Don Harper, a lifelong Cubs fan from Kennewick, Washington who spends his winters in Arizona. “You couldn’t bring a cooler, but you could bring a case of beer and a bag of ice and you just set it down in between you and you just put the ice on it and keep it cold.”

I asked Don if the beer vendors complained.

“They didn’t sell beer,” he said.

That was three decades and two ballparks ago. They certainly sell beer at the Cubs’ gleaming new facility, Sloan Park. Cups of the stuff cost more than a couple of cases did back when Don first started coming to spring training.

The price of beer is not the only thing that has changed, of course. The price of tickets is not what it used to be either. Don told me that when he started coming to Cubs spring training games tickets ran about seven dollars. If that. It’s a bit pricer now. Face value for a single lawn ticket, where you’ll be sitting on a blanker on the outfield berm — can be as high as $47 depending on the day of the week and the opponent. Infield box seats run as high as $85.

The thing is, though, you’re not getting face value seats for Cubs spring training games. Half of the home games sold out within a week of tickets going on sale in January. Since then just about every other game has sold out or soon will. That will force you to get tickets on the secondary market. According to TickPick, the average — average! — Cubs spring training ticket on the secondary market is $106.30. For a single ticket. It’s easily the highest price for spring training tickets in all of baseball, and is $26 higher than secondary market tickets for the next highest team, the Red Sox:

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That may be shocking or even appalling to some, but as the automatic sellouts at Sloan Park and those high secondary market prices suggest, there are at least 15,000 people or so for each Cubs home game who don’t seem to mind. Supply meet demand meet the defending World Series champions.

I spoke with two younger Cubs fans, Corey Hayden and Eleanor Meloul, who traveled here from Salt Lake City. On Sunday they lucked out and got a couple of lawn seats for $28. On Saturday, however, they paid $100 a piece on StubHub to get some seats just beyond third base. I asked them if there is some price point that would keep them from coming.

“There isn’t one,” Hayden said. “I paid $4,500 for a World Series ticket, so . . .”

Don Harper wouldn’t do that, but he doesn’t really mind the higher prices he’s paying for his spring tickets. Of course, he’s a longtime season ticket holder so he gets access to the face value seats. I asked him whether his spring training habit would end if those prices got jacked up higher, as the market would seem to bear, or if he had to resort to the secondary market.

Don paused and sighed, suggesting it was a tough question. As he considered it, I put a hard number on it, asking him if he’d still go if he had to pay $50 per ticket. “Yeah, probably,” he said. “$75?” I asked. He paused again.

“As long as I got enough money.”

Don is a diehard who, one senses, will always find a way to make it work. Corey spent a wad of cash on that once-in-a-lifetime World Series ticket, but he and Eleanor seem content to bargain hunt for the most part and splurge strategically. If you’re a Cubs fan — and if you’re not rich — that’s what you’ll have to do. The ticket it just too hot.

Mets leaning on Jay Bruce, Neil Walker as Lucas Duda insurance

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MAY 12:  Pinch hitter Lucas Duda #21 of the New York Mets walks back to the dugout after striking out for the first out of the ninth inning against Clayton Kershaw #22 of the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on May 12, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  The Dodgers won 5-0.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
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The Mets have begun working outfielder Jay Bruce and second baseman Neil Walker at first base as potential insurance in the event Lucas Duda continues to experience back discomfort, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports. Duda has been sidelined recently due to back spasms and missed all but 47 games last season as a result of a stress fracture in his lower back.

Manager Terry Collins spoke about Bruce’s work at first base on Sunday, saying, “I liked everything I saw today. “It looks like he’s got the athleticism, he’s got the hands, he’s got the arm angle. He made some throws in our drills that you wouldn’t expect an outfielder to be able to make, but yet he does. If that’s where we have to go, I think we’ll be fine.”

Bruce has only three games’ worth of experience at first base at the major league level, but still has high expectations for himself. He said, “I am going to work at it. I want to give myself a chance and the team a chance. I am not going to go over there and be a butcher. It’s just not the way I go about my business on the baseball field and it wouldn’t be fair to the team if I wasn’t capable to do it, so I am going to work at it and we’ll see what happens.”

The Mets made Bruce available via trade over the offseason but didn’t get an offer that whet their appetite. As a result, Michael Conforto appears to be the odd man out in the Mets’ crowded outfield.