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And That Happened: Sunday’s scores and highlights

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Braves 5, Cardinals 2: That was somewhat unexpected. A less-than-dominant Braves team sweeps the best team in the National League. The key was Kris Medlen allowing two runs on eight hits. The key all series was good starting pitching from the Braves. So of course the big talking point everyone has is how Jason Heyward hit leadoff, as if that made all the difference.

Dodgers 1, Reds 0:  I was gonna say “1968 called and wants its game back,” but in 1968 this would have ended with a bunt single, a passed ball, a steal of third and then a sac fly. As it was we had eleven innings of shutout ball for Dodgers pitchers. Ten innings of shutout ball for Reds pitchers and 20 strikeouts too. Then Yasiel Puig ended it with a walkoff homer. A lot of people would call this game a drag. This is something close to ideal for me.

Tigers 12, Phillies 4: Eight run difference, eight unearned runs allowed by the Phillies. All in one inning. Eight losses in a row. At the moment the Phillies are dog poop in a paper bag placed on a doorstep and lit on fire. Someone is stepping on it and its a big mess because it’s dog poop in a bag that’s on fire, see, and that’s what you do and oh my good what a stinky fiery mess these Phillies are.

Marlins 3, Pirates 2: Jose Ferenandez struck out 13. Seventy-four of his 97 pitches were for strikes. Man this kid is good.

Indians 6, Rangers 0: The second straight shutout for the Indians over the Rangers. Ubaldo Jimenez did the heavy lifting here, allowing only two hits over eight innings. The sweep for Cleveland and four straight overall. The Indians were supposed to have a lot of questions marks in the pitching department this year — and they are just below league average in runs allowed per game — but they lead all of baseball with 14 shutouts.

Nationals 14, Mets 1: The first game of that doubleheader on Friday was a disaster, but the next three were pretty spiffy. They held the Mets to three runs in those three games and yesterday saw this offensive explosion. Wilson Ramos with a grand slam.

Yankees 6, Rays 5: Welcome back Derek Jeter. The Captain homered in his first at bat following his time off for the quad injury and five innings of scoreless bullpen work saved Phil Hughes’ bacon.

Cubs 2, Giants 1: Travis Wood did it all. One unearned run over seven and a 2 for 3 day at the plate with a run driven in. The Cubbies sweep the Giants, who are now in last place, ten games back. If it makes anyone feel better they have the second best record of any last place team in baseball. Hmm, that doesn’t make anyone feel better? Welp.

Blue Jays 2, Astros 1: it was a rough day until the ninth inning for Colby Rasmus, but then he drove in Emilio Bonifacio with a game-winning single. Not a bad year for Rasmus. Pretty good one in fact, after it looked like he had hit a developmental dead end these past couple of seasons.

Rockies 6, Brewers 5: Troy Tulowitzki homered and doubled, helping the Rockies come from behind after the bullpen Rockied all over itself. Michael Cuddyer, Dexter Fowler and Corey Dickerson also homered.

Red Sox 5, Orioles 0: David Ortiz went 4 for 4 and managed not to destroy any inanimate objects this time. Jon Lester looked like April-vintage Lester and the Sox win the series and regain first place. It was their first series win over Baltimore in two years.

Padres 1, Diamondbacks 0: One run in the first was all Patrick Corbin allowed, but that was one more than Tyson Ross and Huston Street did. Ross tossed eight shutout innings, allowing only three hits.

Royals 4, White Sox 2: A two-run homer for Alex Gordon in the 12th proved to be the game-winner. That’s six straight for Kansas City, which pulls them up to .500. They are seven games back in the central and five back in the wild card. I don’t personally think they have the mojo to move up more than this, but if they do it would be a humdinger, wouldn’t it?

Athletics 10, Angels 6: Yoenis Cespedes drives in four, shaking off the rust and pain from the All-Star break and the Home Run Derby. Oakland now has a six game lead in the west. That’s their biggest margin of the year. And in years, in fact.

Mariners 6, Twins 4: Nick Franklin with two homers, giving him ten on the year to go along with his line of .277/.340/.492. Not too shabby for a guy who didn’t make his debut until late May.

Don Mattingly thinks pace of play can be improved by changing views on strikeouts

Miami Marlins manager Don Mattingly sits in the dugout prior to a baseball game against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Los Angeles, Monday, April 25, 2016. (AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo)
AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo
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Marlins manager Don Mattingly has one potential solution to the pace of play issue: change the way people value strikeouts, the Associated Press reports.

Strikeouts have been rising steadily since 2005. Then, a typical game averaged 6.30 strikeouts. In 2016, there were 8.03 strikeouts per game. There are many explanations for this phenomenon. For one, teams are searching specifically for young pitchers who can throw hard — like triple-digits hard. They figure they can teach them the other pertinent skills in the minors. Second, Sabermetrics has shown that a strikeout is only marginally worse than an out made on a ball put in play. Sometimes, the strikeout is preferable, especially if there’s a runner on first base with less than two outs and a weak hitter at the plate. Sabermetrics has also shown home runs to be the best and most efficient way to contribute on offense. Furthermore, younger players tend to focus more on power in order to get noticed by scouts. Unless it’s paired with other elite skills, a scout isn’t going to remember a player who hit the ball into the hole on the right side, but he will remember the kid who blasted a 450-foot homer.

Here’s what Mattingly had to say:

Analytically, a few years back nobody cared about the strikeout, so it’s OK to strike out 150, 160, 170 times, and that guy’s still valued in a big way. Well, as soon as we start causing that to be a bad value — the strikeouts — guys will put the ball in play more. So once we say strikeouts are bad and it’s going to cost you money the more you strike out, then the strikeouts will go away. Guys will start making adjustments and putting the ball in play more.

[…]

If our game values [say that] strikeouts don’t matter, they are going to keep striking out, hitting homers, trying to hit home runs and striking out.

Simply believing strikeouts are bad won’t magically change its value. However, creating social pressure regarding striking out can change it. Theoretically, anyway. Creating that social pressure is easier said than done.

There is a dichotomy here as well. Home runs are exciting. Strikeouts and walks are not. Often, though, the three go hand-in-hand-in-hand. A player actively trying to cut down on his strikeouts by putting the ball in play will also likely cut down on his strikeout and walk rates. There doesn’t seem to be an elegant solution here. Wishing for fewer strikeouts, walks, and homers doesn’t really seem to give way to a more exciting game.

Sean Doolittle: “Refugees aren’t stealing a slice of the pie from Americans.”

ANAHEIM, CA - JUNE 25:  Sean Doolittle #62 of the Oakland Athletics pitches during the ninth inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on June 25, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images
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In the past, we’ve commented on Athletics reliever Sean Doolittle and his girlfriend Eireann Dolan’s community service. In 2015, the pair hosted Syrian refugee families for Thanksgiving and their other charitable efforts have included LGBTQ outreach and help for veterans.

Athletes and their significant others have typically avoided stepping into political waters, but Doolittle and Dolan have shown that it’s clearly no concern to them. In the time since, the Syrian refugee issue has become even more of a hot-button issue and Doolittle recently discussed it with Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times.

I think America is the best country in the world because we’ve been able to attract the best and brightest people from all over the world. We have the smartest doctors and scientists, the most creative and innovative thinkers. A travel ban like this puts that in serious jeopardy.

I’ve always thought that all boats rise with the tide. Refugees aren’t stealing a slice of the pie from Americans. But if we include them, we can make the pie that much bigger, thus ensuring more opportunities for everyone.

Doolittle, of course, is referring to Executive Order 13769 signed by President Trump which sought to limit incoming travel to the United States from seven countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. A temporary restraining order on the executive order was placed on February 3, a result of State of Washington v. Trump.

Doolittle spoke more about the plight refugees face:

These are people fleeing civil wars, violence and oppression that we can’t even begin to relate to. I think people think refugees just kind of decide to come over. They might not realize it takes 18-24 months while they wait in a refugee camp. They go through more than 20 background checks and meetings with immigration officers. They are being vetted.

They come here, and they want to contribute to society. They’re so grateful to be out of a war zone or whatever they were running from in their country that they get jobs, their kids go to our schools, they’re paying taxes, and in a lot of cases, they join our military.

Around this time last year, Craig wrote about Doolittle and Dolan not sticking to baseball. They’re still not, nor should they be. Hopefully, the duo’s outspokenness inspires other players and their loved ones to speak up for what’s right.

[Hat tip: Deadspin’s Hannah Keyser]