Jonathan Papelbon

And That Happened: Thursday’s scores and highlights

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Giants 2, Phillies 1: A few days ago Jonathan Papelbon watched his team lose another game and said “I definitely didn’t come here for this.” Well, they didn’t show up at the ballpark yesterday expecting Papelbon to give up four singles and blow the lead. Again. Cole Hamels’ eight shutout innings were for naught and the Phillies continue to sink.

Rangers 7, Diamondbacks 1: Yu Darvish was not messing around. He struck out 14 in seven innings — and 10 of the first 13 batters he faced — while shutting out the snakes and allowing only five hits. He has 10 games of double digit strikeouts this season.

Cardinals 13, Pirates 0: Well, I suppose five-game sweeps are hard to come by. The Cardinals scored a baker’s dozen without the aid of a homer. Just a big conga line around the base paths, chasing Charlie Morton and pounding Jeanmar Gomez. Pittsburgh still has the division lead, but the Cards head on to Cincy with at least a bit of pride restored.

Orioles 6, Astros 3: Bud Norris just got traded away from Houston on Wednesday and here he is beating them on Thursday. What a fine how-do-you-do. Chris Davis homered again. “Glad to see he’s back on the ‘roids after a few days off,” said half of the Internet.

Marlins 3, Mets 0: Tom Koehler is not as famous as Matt Harvey but he was better than him on this day. Six shutout innings for the Marlins’ starter. All three of the Marlins runs came in the sixth off a clearly tiring Harvey. Miami has taken 10 of 15 from New York this season.

Indians 6, White Sox 1: Two homers for Ryan Raburn and a continuation of the Tribe’s surge. I called them as a surprise wild card contender before the season began. I had no idea that they’d hang this close to the Tigers into August. After the Marlins this weekend they get four against the Tigers at home. This is gonna be good.

Royals 7, Twins 2: The Royals are just as hot as the Indians, if not hotter. But they’re not gaining ground given how good both Cleveland and Detroit are doing. Still, this is giving hope to Royals fans. Royals fans have had hope before. For the past 25 years or so it’s always been dashed. But I suppose it’s better than nothing. Well, at least if you’re not a big Shawshank fan, then you may disagree.

Red Sox 8, Mariners 7: Whoa. Just your everyday six-run bottom of the ninth to give the home team the win when they started the frame down 7-2. Tom Wilhelmsen and Oliver Perez provided the kerosene and match, respectively. They had better sleep with one eye open for the next few nights as Felix Hernandez — whose one-run in seven innings performance was wasted — would probably like to kill everyone in Seattle’s bullpen these days.

Braves 11, Rockies 2: Well, Atlanta didn’t put up a six-spot in any inning for the first time this series, but they still beat the tar out of the Rockies. Really, this may have  been the biggest beatdown in any series by any team in the majors this year. Colorado was outscored 40-13 in the four-game set. Two homers for Justin Upton. Eleven strikeouts for Julio Teheran.

Dodgers 6, Cubs 4: Junior Lake and Anthony Rizzo each homered twice for the Cubs, but they only had five hits in all and that’s just not enough. Yasiel Puig hit a two-run shot in the ninth. The Dodgers had to be tired as they didn’t get to their hotel in Chicago until 7:30 yesterday morning, but I guess beating the Cubs doesn’t require full energy these days.

Angels 8, Blue Jays 2: Bet a lot of people thought this would be an ALCS matchup. Oh well. The Angels had a four-run first inning, fueled by a Mark Trumbo homer. J.B. Shuck drove in three. On the bright side for Toronto, the loser of this series gets The 2013 Under Achiever Award, so they’re in the lead now. Wondering what that award looks like. Maybe a trophy with a little Christian Slater figurine on top?

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]