New York Yankees' Suzuki runs and watches the ball after he hit a walk-off home run to beat the Texas Rangers in their MLB American League game in New York

And That Happened: Tuesday’s scores and highlights

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Yankees 4, Rangers 3: Walkoff homer for Ichiro? Well shut my mouth. Wait, what? Well jeez, Brian, it’s just an expression. You don’t have to agree so emphatically and profanely.

Angels 14, Tigers 8: Well that fifth inning got out of a hand in a hurry. Rick Porcello was beaten around for seven runs on ten hits and his relief Darin Downs didn’t fare much better. J.B. Shuck drove in four. Even Josh Hamilton had a good game, going 3 for 5.

Orioles 6, Indians 3: The O’s snapped a four-game losing streak. Chris Davis hit his 28th homer, which tied it up in the seventh and Alexi Casilla’s three-run homer put Baltimore ahead in the eighth.

Nationals 7, Diamondbacks 5: The Nats jumped out to a 6-0 lead by the fifth inning and then held on, giving Gio Gonzalez his first win since May 5. From the AP gamer:

[Gonzalez] said pitching with the big lead for a change didn’t alter his approach.

“No, you still have to go out there and attack,” Gonzalez said. “The team gives you a big lead like that you want to get them back in there, especially when they’re swinging it real hot.”

Jack Morris just shakes his head.

Marlins 4, Twins 2: The Fish have won four of five. Jose Fernandez allowed one run and four hits in five innings and Marcell Ozuna drove in a pair. It sometimes seems like there’s no future in Miami, but those two are part of one.

Brewers 9, Cubs 3: Two homers for Rickie Weeks, who has a nine-game hitting streak in which he’s 14-for-32 with four homers and seven RBI. Milwuakee has beat the Cubs nine straight times at Miller Park and 19 of 21 times overall.

Dodgers 6, Giants 5: Matt Kemp comes back from the DL. While he only went 1 for 4 at the plate he ended the game with a running, sliding, over the shoulder catch that, one hopes, put to rest any concern about his hamstring. If the Dodgers are going to climb back in the race a healthy and productive Kemp has to be a part of that.

Red Sox 11, Rockies 4: It was 7-1 after the third inning so this one wasn’t exactly suspenseful. Dustin Pedroia drove in four runs on three hits and the Sox tallied 20 safeties in all. BTW: people used to say “safeties” more often as a synonym for hits, but no one does it anymore. I don’t want it to come back because I find it annoying, but I did feel like it was worth pointing this out.

Phillies 6, Padres 2: A homer — his 20th — and four RBI for Domonic Brown. Jason Marquis loses his first game since April 22nd. But he does lead the league in walks and he walked five Phillies in four and a third.

Rays 5, Blue Jays 1: Matt Moore wins his tenth after striking out 11 in six innings. Walked six too, but worked around it. Wil Myers drove in a run. He has eight RBI in nine games since being called up.

White Sox 5, Mets 4: Chris Sale struck out 13 in eight innings and left with a lead but didn’t get the win because he didn’t want it bad enough or something. Or maybe because Addison Reed — who vultured the win —  blew the save with help from a Gordon Beckham error. Alexei Ramirez mooted it all with a walkoff single.

Braves 4, Royals 3: Jason Heyward’s seventh inning homer broke a 3-3 tie and gave the Braves the win. Earlier he hit a two-run double. Even though, in recent years, a lot of Braves have found their way to the Royals, it was the Braves’ first ever trip to Kansas City.

Cardinals 13, Astros 5: Mike Matheny jumbled up the lineup and the Cardinals offense woke up. Correlation? Yes. Causation? I dunno. But Allen Craig went 4 for 5 with a homer and three RBI and Matt Carpenter drove in three of his own after clearing the bases with a triple.

Athletics 7, Reds 3: The fact that I looked at this score and first thought “1972 World Series rematch” instead of “1990 World Series rematch” makes me wonder how my brain works. Though admittedly I have the worst memory of the 1990 World Series than any World Series of my teenage years. I was busy during the week of that Series rehearsing some play I was in in which I got to kiss the amazingly attractive girl who played the female lead and, wouldn’t you know it, I kept needing to rehearse that scene a lot because I couldn’t get it right. Or at least that was my story and I’m sticking to it. Anyway, the A’s pounded Bronson Arroyo.

Pirates 9, Mariners 4: Five homers for the Buccos. Starling Marte had two of them plus a triple. When people ask me, as the have an awful lot lately, if the Pirates are going to collapse like they did the past couple of years I’ve been saying no. Why? For the simple reason that I often write other offensive contributors’ names in the Pirates recaps besides Andrew McCutchen. It’s a team this year. Not one star and a lot of smoke and mirrors.

What’s on Tap: Previewing Thursday’s action

Chicago Cubs' Anthony Rizzo, left, and Kris Bryant celebrate a 7-1 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates in a baseball game in Pittsburgh, Tuesday, May 3, 2016. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar
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The Phillies and Cardinals got started a little early, finishing up their four-game series on Thursday afternoon. In the evening, we have 10 games on our slate, including Cubs-Nationals.

The Cubs have jumped out to a 20-6 start, looking like baseball’s best — and scariest — team. Entering Thursday’s action, the Cubs have a +93 run differential (runs scored minus runs allowed). That’s by far the best in baseball. The next best are the Nationals at +50, the Mets at +44, and the Cardinals at +41. In fact, the Cubs’ run differential is so good that they have under-performed relative to their expected won-lost record of 22-4.

This is without Kyle Schwarber. This is with Jason Heyward hitting a miserable .211/.317/.256, Jorge Soler hitting .185/.276/.292, and Addison Russell hitting .224/.356/.329. It’s with John Lackey pitching to a 4.32 ERA.

What makes the Cubs so good? They’re on-base machines. The club’s aggregate .364 on-base percentage is second best in the majors behind the Pirates. Dexter Fowler has an outstanding .470 OBP and Anthony Rizzo is at an elite .403. In fact, of their regulars with 100-plus plate appearances, Heyward is the only one with a sub-.350 OBP. The league average is .319. The Cubs steal bases, too, as they’re 17-for-24 (~71 percent) in that department.

The Cubs have baseball’s best pitching staff, which has yielded a major league-best 2.54 runs per game. Only four teams are below 3.00 runs allowed per game. Of course, reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta is the big contributor to that with a sterling 0.84 ERA, but Jon Lester has put up a 1.58 mark and Jason Hammel 1.24. Closer Hector Rondon has found himself in only four save situations but has converted each of them with an even 1.00 ERA and a 15/0 K/BB ratio in nine innings. The Cubs’ aggregate bullpen ERA of 2.66 is fifth-best in the majors.

It’s too early to use defensive statistics with any degree of certainty, but even the eye test shows the Cubs to be elite defenders at the important positions, particularly shortstop (Russell), right field (Heyward), and third base (Kris Bryant).

The Cubs’ success isn’t exactly surprising. The club rode five consecutive fifth-place finishes into some high draft picks and that talent is starting to establish itself in the majors. Whether it was fans, writers, or Vegas oddsmakers, the Cubs were preseason darlings.

Kyle Hendricks starts for the Cubs opposite the Nationals’ Joe Ross at Wrigley Field tonight at 8:05 PM EDT.

The rest of Thursday’s action…

Detroit Tigers (Michael Fulmer) @ Cleveland Indians (Trevor Bauer), 6:10 PM EDT

New York Yankees (Masahiro Tanaka) @ Baltimore Orioles (Kevin Gausman), 7:05 PM EDT

Texas Rangers (Derek Holland) @ Toronto Blue Jays (J.A. Happ), 7:07 PM EDT

Arizona Diamondbacks (Robbie Ray) @ Miami Marlins (Adam Conley), 7:10 PM EDT

Milwaukee Brewers (Chase Anderson) @ Cincinnati Reds (Alfredo Simon), 7:10 PM EDT

Boston Red Sox (Henry Owens) @ Chicago White Sox (Erik Johnson), 8:10 PM EDT

Seattle Mariners (Wade Miley) @ Houston Astros (Chris Devenski), 8:10 PM EDT

New York Mets (Jacob deGrom) @ San Diego Padres (Colin Rea), 10:10 PM EDT

Colorado Rockies (Chris Rusin) @ San Francisco Giants (Matt Cain), 10:15 PM EDT

The Phillies are seeing to it that their minor leaguers eat well

Crop of vegetables. Potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and other vegetables.
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For years we’ve talked about how odd it is that baseball teams are in the extraordinarily competitive business of developing highly-trained athletes yet, for whatever reason, it pays minor leaguers virtually nothing and all but forces them to subsist on junk food and other cheap options.

As Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports, however, the Phillies are changing that. Indeed, they’re plowing serious money into nutritious food options for their minor league players:

The Phillies are teaching their minor leaguers how to play baseball, so why not teach them how to eat well, too?

“We want them to not have to worry about anything other than baseball,” assistant general manager Ned Rice said. “When they’re playing for the Phillies, they’ll have that stuff taken care of for them.”

 

That this is a news story — and it is a good and novel one — is kind of sad in some ways. How teams haven’t been on board with this approach for decades is beyond me.

Tracking baseball’s “Naturals”

The Natural
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Rob Neyer has a great column in today’s New York Times in which he tracks the real life players who, at one time or another, were dubbed “The Natural.” A la Roy Hobbs in the book and movie of the same name.

There are some that a lot of people probably remember: Jeff Francoeur and Ken Griffey, Jr. as “The Natural” come to mind easily. There are some who I don’t ever recall being called “The Natural” but were, apparently, like Terry Pendelton and Karim Garcia. There are also some whose stories were far odder and far more tragic than any version of Hobbs’ tale (oh man, a Toe Nash sighting!). Then there’s Rick Ankiel, whose path may be the closest one to Hobbs’ of them all, at least broadly speaking.

Fun stuff that, in addition to being a walk down memory lane, is also an instructive lesson about how the power of narrative works in sports.

 

Sure, Carlos Gomez is the problem in Houston

Houston Astros' Carlos Gomez (30) reacts after hitting a double in the second inning of a baseball game against the Minnesota Twins, Tuesday, May 3, 2016, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)
Associated Press
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No one will claim that Carlos Gomez is playing up to his ability. He’s got a .634 OPS in the 65 games he’s played for the Astros between last year and this year. Not good at all.

Still, he seems to be taking an outsized amount of the blame for the Astros’ slow start to this year. I do a weekly radio hit on a Texas station and Gomez has been the talk for three weeks when the Astros’ troubles are mentioned. Today Brian T. Smith of the Houston Chronicle spends a whole column going at Gomez, with the usual dash of “you can’t be flamboyant if you can’t back it up” sentiment often given to players like Gomez when they struggle but which is seemingly never given to players whose act is more “tough guy.” Funny that.

More notable: nowhere in the column is it mentioned that, overall, the Astros’ offense is above league average and that, in reality, it’s the pitching that’s killing them. Gomez may not be carrying his weight, but his teammates in the lineup are for now, as teammates do for every hitter at one time of the year or another. Meanwhile, Smith doesn’t seem to be writing columns about how three of the Astros’ five starters have ERAs above 5.00 and how the bullpen has been a disaster. Gomez, however, gets a “Rally Killer” subheading in reference to his performance in a game his team actually won, primarily due to the offense.

There’s also an unfortunate quote in the article. Specifically, Smith quotes Gomez as saying “For the last year and this year, I not really do much for this team. The fans be angry. They be disappointed.”

I’m sure that’s what he said, but it’s hard to escape the conclusion that the quote’s imperfect English fits satisfyingly into a column designed to rip Gomez and that it’s going to play right into stereotyping a certain sort of reader who has just HAD it with those allegedly lazy, entitled Latino players likes to engage in. For the record, its not uncommon for other players whose grammar is less than perfect to get [the bracket treatment] to make the mistakes less noticeable. Or, if the quote is less than clear or enlightening, to get the paraphrasing treatment and have his sentiment conveyed in keeping with the intent of the sentiment. I guess Gomez doesn’t get that treatment. He gets to be portrayed in such a way that a certain sort of reader will unfortunately interpret as him being too dumb or too lazy to learn proper English or something.

And no, it’s not just sensitive old Craig noticing that:

Empathy is the key word here, I think. Smith as no interest in portraying Gomez as a player who, like all players, struggles from time to time. He has to be the bad guy who is responsible for all of the Astros’ woes, it seems.