Allen Craig

And That Happened: Sunday’s scores and highlights

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Cardinals 10, Brewers 1: The four-game sweep of the Brewers. Four RBI for Allen Craig. That’s six straight wins for the Cards, who are in their customary first place position in rather quiet fashion. The six first place teams right now: Boston, Detroit, Texas, Atlanta, St. Louis, San Francisco. Not many surprises there. I guess Boston would be the biggest one, and it’s not like they’re some Cinderella story. Viva Big Team Hegemony.

Braves 9, Mets 4:  A double, a homer and three RBI for Freddie Freeman. Reed Johnson drove in three two. Meanwhile Brian McCann is likely coming back today, and will take at bats away from Evan Gattis. Reed Johnson will continue to come off the bench. B.J. Upton and Dan Uggla, however, will continue to play every single day to no apparently effective purpose.

Twins 4, Indians 2: Mike Pelfrey: stopper. Or something. He pitched well and the Indians’ six-game winning streak comes to an end. Brutal stretch here for the Twins as the came off Detroit to play the hot Indians and now on to Boston. Had to win one in there somewhere lest this become the road trip from Hell which effectively ends the competitive portion of Minnesota’s season.

Nationals 6, Pirates 2: Clint Hurdle intentionally walked Adam LaRoche to get to Tyler Moore. Moore then hit a three run homer. Didn’t watch the game but I’n guessing there was a nice iso camera shot on Hurdle right after that. And that Hurdle knew it and just chewed his gum and stared straight ahead for a few seconds. Man’s a pro. He knows how to handle those situations. Oh, and Bryce Harper’s day ended early because of an Ump Show.

Athletics 5, Yankees 4: Not a great day for Andy Pettitte, giving up a couple of homers and walking four. The Yankees clawed back, however, only to see Josh Donaldson take Boone Logan into the upper deck in the eighth inning. Grant Balfour got into trouble late but held on.

Blue Jays 10, Mariners 2: I guess Toronto is going to win some games. And winning one in a blowout will help that embarrassingly poor run differential get better faster. Mark DeRosa hit a three-run homer. Melky hit a solo shot. Brandon Morrow was on point for eight innings.

Reds 7, Cubs 4: Was at a restaurant last night. In the bar there was some greatest highlights of the year kind of show. They showed Ben Revere’s amazing catch in center at Great American Ballpark against the Reds from earlier this year. I didn’t recognize the show as a past highlights show at first because I wasn’t really paying attention. Thought it was SportsCenter or something. My brain: “wait, the Phillies aren’t in Cincy, whaaaaa ….?”  It took me far longer to reconcile all of that than it should have. In other news, the restaurant I was in last night makes great, great martinis. Maybe that should be “in related news …”

Royals 6, White Sox 5: Late heroics in Kansas City. Billy Butler with a two-out, two-run double in the ninth to tie it on a pitch which, had he missed it, would have ended the game. Alex Gordon hit a bases-loaded single in the 10th to win it. The Royals have come from behind in 11 of their 17 wins this season. Also: the Royals have 17 wins this season. And a lot of people laughed when I picked them to finish ahead of the White Sox back in March.

Marlins 14, Phillies 2: Is this the end for Roy Halladay? Adeiny Hechavarria hit a grand slam and a bases-loaded triple off of him, and now he’s heading to the DL. This is the stuff of long absences and, in some cases, the end of a pitcher’s career. Let’s hope this isn’t a Brandon Webb or Johan Santana situation.

Rangers 4, Red Sox 3: I watched this one until it was 3-0 Red Sox and thought “well, Darvish has some good stuff, but he’s leaving things up, so this probably won’t end well.” It ended well, as the Davids Ortiz and Ross homers were all the damage the Sox would do, while Darvish struck out 14. He’s doing a lot of that striking out hitters thing lately.

Padres 5, Diamondbacks 1: Back to back homers by Jedd Gyorko and Will Venable and a solid outing from Edinson Volquez, as the camo-clad Padres win. The once-struggling Padres have won eight of eleven. Arizona is on a mini-skid.

Orioles 8, Angels 4: I feel like the O’s have been on the west coast for three years. OK, just checked: it was 11 games. And they won seven of them. Not too shabby. The Angels, meanwhile, continue their worst start in franchise history and have dropped seven of nine. Not that Seven of Nine is a bad thing at all.

Tigers 9, Astros 0: This was more of a snuff film than a baseball series. I kept wanting to throw a towel into the ring. The Tigers outscored the Astros 39-8 in the four-game series.

Rays 8, Rockies 3: If you give up three runs in Coors Field you can win as long as there aren’t runners on base. That’s what Alex Cobb did anyway. [Craig randomly looks at the box score, notices James Loney is hitting .398/.444/.532, spits coffee out all over the screen].

Giants 4, Dodgers 3: I have a houseguest from Los Angeles at the moment. We got home and watched some of the Dodgers game last night. It’s a month into the season and this Dodgers fan already has a feeling of inevitable blah, predicting the bad things like first-pitch-swing outs for Juan Uribe and stuff. The Dodgers have a new feel about them, but they also have an old feel about them.

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.