And That Happened: Wednesday’s scores and highlights

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Braves 3, Marlins 0:  Kris Medlen continues his astounding second half, shutting out the Marlins for eight innings. The Braves have won his last 21 starts, which is the most any team has won any one pitcher’s starts since the Yankees and Whitey Ford from 1950-53. Is there any doubt who will be starting the wild card game for the Braves?

Brewers 3, Pirates 1: Nietzsche once said that hope is the worst of evils, for it prolongs the torments of man. That kind of describes the Pirates season as they sink to .500 and look to sink farther still.  After how much hope there was in the middle of the summer, is this season’s now-likely less-than-.500 finish more depressing than the last 20? Kinda feels like it. Meanwhile, Marco Estrada has been like Kris Medlen north. He improves to 4-1 with a 1..23 ERA in his last six starts.

Phillies 3, Mets 2: Ryan Howard drove in the tying and winning runs with a two-run bomb in the ninth off Josh Edgin. Who is a left hander.  Meaning that Ryan Howard actually got a hit off a left hander. Is this real life?

Rays 13, Red Sox 3: A shame that a team can’t spread its runs over multiple games, because the nine extra ones here woulda helped the Rays elsewhere. The Red Sox used four pitchers in the sixth inning who walked six batters as the Rays scored seven runs.

Nationals 3, Dodgers 1Dodgers 7, Nationals 6: Day game: Jordan Zimmermann allowed one run over six innings and the bats eked out a couple of runs on sac flies and groundouts. In the nightcap, L.A. blew a 6-0 lead in the eighth but Matt Kemp hit a homer in the ninth to win it. And since everyone made a big deal out of it when he pitched well, it’s worth noting that Stephen Strasburg’s stand-in John Lannan pitched here too and gave up six runs on eight hits in three and two-thirds.

Royals 3, White Sox 0: The AL Central leaders were shut out by Bruce Chen for six and two-thirds. Meanwhile …

Tigers 6, Athletics 2: Detroit beats the A’s again, with yet another homer from Miguel Cabrera.  Bad news for Oakland, though, as the lose Brett Anderson, who strained his oblique. That’s a big, big blow. Third straight loss for the A’s, who need to find a way to survive this road trip of death lest the Angels knock down the door.

Yankees 4, Blue Jays 2; Yankees 2, Blue Jays 1: Andy Pettitte came back and pitched effectively in game one and Ichiro had seven hits across both games of the doubleheader to pace the Bombers.  Derek Jeter got his 200th hit of the season to lead off the nightcap.

Cardinals 5, Astros 0: Lance Lynn has his second straight excellent start since coming back to the rotation. Maybe he just needed some time to clear his head.

Twins 6, Indians 4: Josh Willingham continues his outstanding year, smacking his 35th homer and driving in four. Those 35 bombs are the most any Minnesota Twin player has had since Harmon Killebrew hit 41 in 1970.

Rangers 6, Angels 2: Reader Lewp was so kind to me that he recapped this one himself for me and sent it in:

Rangers top Halos with pair of three-run frames

No Josh Hamilton. No Adrian Beltre. No worries.

Missing their big guns, the Rangers were faced with the challenge on Wednesday night of replacing 75 home runs and 216 RBIs. They didn’t bat an eye.

Thanks, Lewp!  Four game lead in the division for Texas. And no, it doesn’t look like the Angels are knocking down any doors.

Giants 7, Rockies 1: Matt Cain went eight and won his 15th. Pablo Sandoval homered. Seems like the Rockies stopped playing two months ago.

Orioles 3, Mariners 1: Another extra innings game, another win for Baltimore.  And don’t look to dumb luck here, look to (a) Adam Jones hitting a two-run homer in the 11th to once again bring home to Seattle how bad that trade was for them; and (b) look to dumb Mariners. Michael Saunders, specifically, who ended the game by getting caught stealing second when there were runners on the corners in the bottom of the 11th. Good effort, dude.

Diamondbacks 6, Padres 2: Weird passage from the AP game story: “The Diamondbacks are .500 since they were 64-64 on August 26.” I’m not sure if that’s supposed to be significant or not. Then again, the AP was confusing me a  lot yesterday. In my general news AP feed, the 10th story listed in the daily top ten was “Ben Vereen files for divorce.”  I’m not even sure if that was news in the 70s.  Heck, I wasn’t even sure Ben Vereen was still alive. Then I remembered, nope, it was Flip Wilson who was dead.

Reds 6, Cubs 5: Drew Stubbs hit an RBI single in the 11th after Brandon Phillips reached second on a popup that David DeJesus misplayed. The Reds played without Dusty Baker, who was in the hospital for an irregular heartbeat.  More on that later this morning on HBT.

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.

The Yankees set up “The Judge’s Chambers” cheering section for Aaron Judge

New York Yankees
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The Yankees aren’t well-known for going all-in on goofy, fan-friendly fun. While some organizations are happy to jump on new and even silly or ephemeral trends for the yuks of it, the Yankees have tended to keep things rather businesslike when it comes to promotions and things. They’ve always played the long game, assuming — not always unreasonably — that their brand is best defined by the club’s history and greatness and quiet dignity and stuff.

Aaron Judge and his breakout rookie season is changing things. His fast start has caused fans to dress up in judge’s robes and stuff, so the team is having fun with it. They’ve set up a special section called “The Judge’s Chambers,” complete with a jury box vibe:

 

Fans will be selected to sit in the special section, which is in section 104 in right field, right behind where Judge plays, and will be handed foam gavels with “All Rise” written on them. To be selected at the moment it’d help if you wear one of those judicial robes with Judge’s number 99 on the back or his jersey or an English judge-style powdered wig. Going forward, the Yankees will also use the section for groups and charity events and stuff.

Judge is on a 58-homer pace right now. It’s unlikely he’ll keep that up, but he certainly looks like the real deal. And, for the Yankees and their fans, he’s giving them the chance for some real fun.