Mets Marlins Baseball

And That Happened: Wednesday’s scores and highlights


Mets 7, Marlins 6:  Jordany Valdespin hit a pinch-hit three run homer in the sixth to put the Mets up to stay, breaking their six game losing streak. But Terry Collins is on the hot seatNo he isn’t! Yes he is! She’s my daughter! [slap] My sister! [slap!] My daughter …

Nationals 2, Braves 0: The Nats finally break through against the Braves. Biggest reason: the best kept secret in baseball: Jordan Zimmermann’s awesomeness. Why that’s a secret I don’t know, but ask 100 baseball fans to name the Nats rotation I bet his name is listed after Strasburg and Gonzalez by almost everyone, and I bet some folks even forget it. His numbers may be a tad inflated so far this season because four of his six outings have come against the Marlins-Marlins-Cubs-Mets, but he’s a legit stud. Maybe the most underrated starter in the NL.

Twins 6, Tigers 2: Anibal Sanchez was coming off a 17-strikeout performance against the Braves but here he didn’t really have it. “It” being either his best stuff or an opponent that would swing at it if the pitcher putted it up to home plate. Scott Diamond was sharp. The Twins showed when facing Bruce Rondon that you can throw it 100 miles per hour, but it don’t mean nothin’ if it doesn’t have any movement.

Pirates 6, Brewers 4: Pittsburgh finally takes one at Miller Park. Four runs in the eighth thanks to Starling Marte’s two-run homer and RBI singles from Brandon Inge and Pedro Alvarez. John Axford blew up here, giving the Brewers their first loss this season when leading after seven. Shades of 2012.

Angels 5, Athletics 4: Mark Trumbo has been a bright spot at least. Three homers in three days for the big guy. He also leads the league in mixed metaphors:

“It was probably more of a nail-biter than we would have liked. This team hangs around and they’ll find a way to get back in it if you let them. You just have to keep your foot on the gas pedal and try to pound them into submission before they get their second wind.”

I hate it when people hit me with gas pedals when I’m trying to breathe.

Indians 6, Phillies 0: Ryan Raburn went 4 for 5 and is hitting .364/.407/.655. Because that makes sense. The Indians have won four straight, outscoring their opponents 39-5. The Phillies send Halladay and Lee into a two-game series and get outscored 20-2. That’s something that would have made no sense a year ago at this time. Heck, it still makes little sense.

Cardinals 4, Reds 2: Lance Lynn is 5-0 and has won ten straight decisions. He also got a hit and laid down “a perfect bunt” which he said after the game was what he was most happy about. Pitchers batting is adorable.

Yankees 5, Astros 4: Over at IIATMS, Jason is keeping tabs of how big the Yankees’ disabled list-only payroll is right now. It’s up to $95 million. Yet the Yankees are still winning ballgames. Later this year some manager on the hot seat is gonna start whining about all the injuries he’s had to deal with. He’ll say it’s “not an excuse,” but he really will be offering it as an excuse. When he does, I hope Johnny Sportswriter asks him why his injuries have kept him out of contention while the Yankees are still in the thick of the AL East race.

Cubs 6, Padres 2: Scott Feldman goes the distance, striking out 12 and allowing only two runs. Andrew Cashner — the Cubs first round pick back in 2008 — faces his old coworkers and doesn’t make it into the fifth inning.

Red Sox 10, Blue Jays 1: Clay Buchholz tosses seven shutout innings and improves to 6-0. Two homers for Mike Napoli, one which travelled multiple parsecs.

White Sox 5, Rangers 2: Texas had its chances against Chris Sale in the first couple of innings but didn’t take full advantage of all of their baserunners. Slenderman — which if people aren’t calling Sale that now, they really should be — settled down after that and didn’t allow anything after that. Conor Gillaspie and Alejandro De Axa homered in the seventh.

Giants 9, Diamondbacks 6: The comeback kids: the Giants rally against the Arizona bullpen for the third straight game to sweep the Gritties. Brandon Belt had a three-run homer. I haven’t watched many Giants games this year, but it feel like Belt has had a lot of big late hits for a guy whose batting line is rather blah overall.

Rockies 7, Dodgers 3: I suppose it’s possible the Rockies can keep winning despite getting meh performances from their starting pitchers, but I just don’t feel like it’s likely. Juan Nicasio only went four innings, but the bats — and Dexter Fowler’s glove, robbing Adrian Gonzalez of a dinger — picked him up. This game lasted nearly four hours. You won’t be surprised to learn that Josh Beckett was starting for the Dodgers.

Royals 9, Rays 8: The Rays led 6-1 after three and a half, but Kansas City scored one in the fourth, two in the fifth and five in the sixth. After the game, Jeff Francoeur explained why the Royals feel like they can always come back from deficits:

“Our goal is to get the first one or two guys on every inning and then let whatever is going to happen, happen,” Francoeur said. “Tonight, we were able to do that.”

Jeff Francoeur: on base percentage guru.

Mariners 8, Orioles 3: Seattle has taken five of seven. Michael Morse hit his third homer in four games. After the game Eric Wedge provided his bosses with a baseline which can help them better decide if he needs to be fired later:

“I feel like our guys have taken significant steps and what you are seeing now is more the norm in regard to what our guys are capable of.”

Awfully courteous of him.

Leave Steve Bartman Alone

CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 16: A general view on June 16,  2015 at Wrigley Field during the fifth inning of a game between the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)
Getty Images

The Cubs are up 3-2 in the NLCS and are heading back to Wrigley Field in an effort to punch their first World Series ticket since 1945. For Cubs fans it’s a dream come true. For Dodgers fans it’s nail-biting time. For most of the players involved it’s the biggest test of their professional lives.

For many in the baseball media, however, it’ll be an opportunity to throw gleeful, thoughtless punches at a man who doesn’t want or deserve the attention:

We all know the story of Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS which, yes, began with the Cubs leading the series 3-2 and needing only one win in two games at home to go to the World Series. Bartman, like many other fans in his section that night and like countless other fans at countless other baseball games before and since, went for a foul ball coming his way. The fielder — Moises Alou — probably had a chance to catch it (I say “probably” because Alou himself has changed his stance at that on numerous occasions over the past 13 years). Either way, the ball was not caught, the Florida Marlins mounted a huge eighth inning rally, went on to win Game 7 and, eventually, the World Series.

The game was played on a Tuesday night. It became known forever as “the Steve Bartman Game” before the sun rose on Wednesday morning. It could’ve been called “The Mike Everitt Game” after the umpire who didn’t call fan interference on the play. It could’ve been called “The Alex Gonzalez Game” after the would-be inning-ending double play the Cubs shortstop booted, prolonging the Marlins’ rally. Or “The Mark Prior Game” for Prior’s subsequent walk of Luis Castillo or “The Dusty Baker Game” for Baker leaving Prior in too long. When a team blows a huge lead in fantastic fashion they NEVER blame it on one single player or one single play, but the entire 2003 NLCS and the Cubs’ subsequent struggles after that have always, to greater or lesser degrees, been hung on Bartman.

This despite the fact that, the next morning, he apologized. In doing so, he noted that he was already feeling the heat of an entire fan base’s blowback:

To Moises Alou, the Chicago Cubs organization, Ron Santo, Ernie Banks, and Cub fans everywhere I am so truly sorry from the bottom of this Cubs fan’s broken heart. I ask that Cub fans everywhere redirect the negative energy that has been vented towards my family, my friends, and myself into the usual positive support for our beloved team on their way to being National League champs.

That didn’t happen, of course. The blowback continued and continues to this day. Just this week ESPN did a segment lumping Bartman in with fans who have thrown beer cans at players or who have otherwise interfered with games with malice.

For the most part, though, it’s less rancorous now than it used to be. It’s occasionally tinged with humor. As demonstrated in those tweets above it’s often just rote. When the Cubs are on the brink of anything one is apparently obligated to mention it, just like one mentions Billy Goats or the Curse of the Bambino or any number of other bits of baseball lore. Bartman references are, at turns, laments of futility or signaling of one’s grasp of baseball history. Before those tweets were composed, the author’s synapses fired: “hey, this is like that one time that thing happened so I am obligated to mention that thing.” Joe Buck and John Smoltz will likely have a discussion about it on Saturday night. Fox’s production team is likely splicing together the video as we speak. Some deep-thinking longform writer is probably composing yet another turgid “Searching for Bartman” piece, the sort of which we get every few years.

But there’s a difference between Steve Bartman on the one hand and Billy Goats and curses on the other. Steve Bartman is a human being. One who was jeered and who had his friends and family attacked. One who, apparently, has felt it necessary to disappear from public view in order to protect his privacy and identity so as to not be scapegoated anew every time the Cubs threaten to do anything in the postseason. In this day and age even the justifiably infamous will make great efforts to capitalize on their infamy. They’ll give interviews or print up t-shirts or write a quickie book or any number of other things to prolong their 15 minutes of fame. Then we, as a society, tend to leave them alone. Bartman has done everything he can to be left alone, but we simply cannot do that, apparently. No one wants to leave him alone, his wishes to be left alone be damned.

We should let it go. Not because it’s not a genuinely interesting bit of baseball history — it is — but because there’s a human being at the center of it who had his life negatively altered as a result. He can’t go to the games of his favorite team anymore. If he still lives in or visits Chicago he likely worries about being recognized. His name is pretty distinct. How many job interviews or customer service telephone calls or exchanges of credit cards and checks at a restaurant have resulted in an awkward conversation in which he is immediately presumed to be infamous? Think of how bad you feel on those rare occasions when someone, rightly or wrongly, assumes the ethical high ground over you. Then realize that every single person with even a moderate knowledge of baseball does that, intentionally or otherwise, with Steve Bartman every time he ventures out into the world. The only way he could avoid that would be to change his name. Imagine if you were forced to change your name because people won’t stop reminding you of your unwarranted infamy.

I’ve seen some people suggest that, should the Cubs win one of the next two games, the club or someone representing it and/or its fans should make a public proclamation of forgiveness to Bartman. Maybe Bill Murray takes a microphone and says something Bill Murray-esque about how “Cubs Nation forgives you, ya knucklehead, come on home!” I wouldn’t be terribly impressed if that happened. Forgiveness, if any was even warranted in this case, should’ve come on October 15, 2003 when Bartman offered a sincere and heartfelt apology. Forgiveness should always be contingent on one’s sincere remorse. It should not be contingent on the Cubs finally getting their act together after long stretches of futility. To be honest, if there is any forgiveness to be granted here it’s Bartman forgiving everyone responsible for turning him into a punchline, not the other way around.

Let it go, baseball fans. Let it go, baseball media. Let’s try to spend today’s off day, tomorrow’s Game 6 and, if necessary, Sunday’s Game 7 without forcing the Steve Bartman narrative. Given the storylines of the 2016 NLCS — two interesting teams, several interesting players and the great starting pitchers the Cubs and Dodgers are going to feature in the next one or two games — it’d be superfluous as it is. But given that, at the heart of that narrative, is a man who has done nothing to deserve either the attention or the scorn he has received over the years, pushing it is even less justifiable than it would be if all things were equal.

Leave Steve Bartman alone. We’ve put him through enough already.

Concerns over Jon Lester’s throwing ability much ado about nothing

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 20: Jon Lester #34 of the Chicago Cubs pitches against the Los Angeles Dodgers in game five of the National League Division Series at Dodger Stadium on October 20, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Josh Lefkowitz/Getty Images)
Josh Lefkowitz/Getty Images

Going into Thursday night’s NLCS Game 5, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts planned to have his team be annoying and distracting on the base paths for Cubs starter Jon Lester. Lester, you see, has a hard time making throws when he’s not pitching from the rubber, as seen here.

The Dodgers got an immediate opportunity to test their strategy, as Enrique Hernandez drew a four-pitch walk to start the game in the bottom of the first inning. Hernandez was taking leads between 15 and 25 feet, just taunting Lester to throw over to first base. Lester never did. And despite being given the luxury of such a large lead, Hernandez never attempted to steal second base.

It ended up costing the Dodgers a run. After Justin Turner struck out, Corey Seager lined a single to center field. Hernandez, large lead and all, should’ve been well on his way to third base, but he settled for staying at second base. Carlos Ruiz then flied out to right field on what should’ve been a sacrifice fly. Hernandez instead just advanced to third. Howie Kendrick grounded out to end the inning with the Dodgers having scored no runs.

In the bottom of the second inning with two outs, Joc Pederson dropped down a bunt, but Lester was able to field it and make a bounce-throw to Anthony Rizzo at first base to end the inning. Lester stared angrily into the Dodgers’ dugout as he walked off the field. If it were me, I’d have been glaring angrily not because the opposing team was attempting to exploit my weakness, but because the strategy is so poor.

The bunting would continue in the seventh inning as first baseman and noted power hitter Adrian Gonzalez tried to sneak a bunt past Lester on the right side of the infield. Second baseman Javier Baez was able to scoop it up and fire to first. Gonzalez was initially ruled safe, but the call was overturned upon replay review.

Lester countered the Dodgers’ bunting and greedy lead-taking by just pitching his game. He went seven innings, allowing just one run on five hits and a walk with six strikeouts on 108 pitches. The Cubs went on to win 8-4, taking a 3-2 lead in the NLCS. A worthy consideration for the National League Cy Young Award based on his regular season performance, Lester now has a 0.86 ERA in 21 innings spanning three starts this postseason. Turns out, the yips isn’t debilitating if you’re really good at your main job.