And That Happened: Thursday’s scores and highlights

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Athletics 5, Astros 0: Sonny Gray only has a couple of major league starts under his belt, but this one was a spiffy one: eight shutout innings, nine strikeouts. Of course a lot of guys have had spiffy starts against the Astros lately. Rule 5 pick Nate Freiman had himself a nice day too, going 4 for 4 with a homer and four driven in. Saw this guy play in San Antonio last year. He was a beast in Double-A. Obviously the bigs have humbled him a bit, but he is capable of stuff like this from time to time.

Giants 4, Nationals 3: Well that’s not what’s supposed to happen when you lead 3-1 in the ninth, have two outs, a ham and egger like Hector Sanchez up at the plate and your high priced closer on the mound. Sanchez took Rafael Soriano deep with two men on as the Giants shocked the Nats, snapping their winning streak.

Rays 7, Mariners 1: Good game for Alex Cobb and Wil Myers and blah blah blah. I’m more interested in the fact that Joe Maddon had a giant python in the clubhouse before the game and that, on Twitter, he said “A snake is a risk taker and a wellspring of ideas. They fit into the Rays Way.” I wonder if Maddon’s inspirational/new-agey mumbo jumbo is pre-planned or if he comes up with it post-hoc to give everything that happens a sheen of meaning and importance. Like, if next year he goes crazy using replay challenges, will he later say “I challenged Angel Hernandez’s call, not because I thought it was wrong, but because challenges are what show us who we are as a person and I wanted him to grow.” I think I’d like Maddon even more if he was sorta making this up as he went along as opposed to being some Phil Jackson-style guru.

Tigers 4, Royals 1: Prince Fielder hit a homer and the Tigers take the first of a five-game series which could either give those frisky Royals even more friskiness about them or else put an end to the playoff chatter in Kansas City. As for Fielder, the news that came out yesterday that he’s going through a divorce gave everyone license, apparently, to play armchair psychologist in an effort to explain his poor season. As someone who went through a divorce with kids himself not too long ago, allow me to say that people who play that game are full of crap. It affects a person, no doubt, but it probably affects every person differently and you can’t just point to their work and say “ah-ha.” If anything, I look back to what I was writing in the second half of 2011 and it was pretty darn good. Maybe even better than usual. I was probably concentrating more on work than anything then because everything else sucked. Weird thing: I don’t remember writing most of it even when I read it now and baseball happenings are kind of a blur compared to other times. Brains are complex things, folks. Let’s not pretend we know how even ours work, let alone some ballplayer you’ve never met or talked to.

Twins 4, White Sox 3: Big day for backup catchers. Chris Herrmann with a pinch hit RBI single to win it. He copped to not being ready to pinch hit just before Ron Gardenhire called on him. Didn’t have his batting gloves ready, his helmet, none of that. As Todd Snider once said, unprepared people around the world need role models. It’s nice to see them come through now and again.

Reds 2, Brewers 1: Tony Cingrani struck out nine in six and a third and allowed only one run. My HBT Daily partner Kay Adams said the other day that, in fantasy baseball, she is starting whoever pitches against the Brewers, basically every day possible. Seems like a good rule to live by.

Blue Jays 2, Red Sox 1: Mark Buehrle allows ten hits but only one run. In other news, in light of this farkakte challenge system idea the owners have devised for instant replay, I believe signing fast workers like Buehrle will be the new inefficiency going forward. Having him on the mound to start pitching before challenge flags can be thrown will be like having your quarterback run up to the line to quickly start a play before anyone can review that last no-fumble call or whatever.

Angels 8, Yankees 4: Alfonso Soriano kept up his hot streak, getting four hits and another RBI, but that wasn’t enough on a day when Chris Nelson hit two homers and drove in five and the Yankees bullpen decided to give up five runs. Meanwhile, C.J. Wilson pitched in some fantastic luck, allowing 11 hits in six innings but someone only allowing one run to cross the plate.

Cardinals 6, Pirates 5: Matt Holliday is banged up but he hit a walkoff RBI single in the 12th and Matt Carpenter had four hits. The Cards take two of three from the division-leading Buccos and cut their lead to two games.

Mets 4, Padres 1: Zack Wheeler struck out 12 while allowing only one run on seven hits and a walk over six innings. No win, though, because the Mets couldn’t provide a winning margin until late.

Aaron Judge ties the rookie home run record with his 49th blast

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Monday afternoon baseball that isn’t either (a) part of a doubleheader; or (b) on a holiday is always a bit unsettling, but today’s rare Monday tilt gave us a gift in the form of history: Aaron Judge hit his 49th home run, tying the rookie record.

The dinger came in the third inning of this afternoon’s Royals-Yankees tilt. It was the sixth pitch from Jake Junis and left via right field. Mark McGwire also hit 49 with the Athletics in 1987. Judge has the rest of today’s game and five more games after it to hit number 50 and claim the record for himself.

Watch:

Major League Baseball wants you to look at a screen while you’re at the ballpark

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During the debate last week involving expanded netting at major league ballparks, the familiar refrain from the anti-netting crowd rung out: “hey, netting wouldn’t be necessary if you simply paid attention!” These folks get particularly upset at the idea of people looking at their phones or other electronic devices during the game, implying — or sometimes explicitly stating — that if you do that you almost deserve to be hit with a 100 mph foul ball.

The problem with that, though, is that Major League Baseball increasingly encourages fans to use their phones during games. You can order your concessions through them now. Fans are encouraged to use the MLB.com Ballpark app for an increasing number of in-game features. And, of course, the video boards — always in the opposite direction of the hitter — are getting larger and larger and contain more and more information that the clubs and the league want you to see.

But it goes farther than that. Or at least it will soon. As this article from TechCrunch makes clear, in the future, Major League Baseball wants you actually watching the game action through your phone or your iPad. It’s an augmented reality feature in which you hold up your tablet and . . .

In essence, it’s a bit like watching TV broadcast in person, with information overlaid on the action as it happens in real-time. The data is gathered from Statcast, MLB’s in-house analytics tool . . . Players on the field, meanwhile, get small, square popups featuring their faces that can be tapped open to offer up personalized player information

Which is kind of cool, actually. Personally I am fascinated with the possibilities of augmented reality. For me it usually comes to mind when I’m out hiking and I want to know what a certain kind of tree is or something (my natural education was sorely lacking as a child), but there are tons of other applications. Even though I probably know more about the players and what’s going on on the field than your average American, I’d still probably use such a product, at least a little bit at a game.

But, of course, there is that safety tradeoff. How can Major League Baseball continue to be hands-off about a netting policy and maintain that fans assume the risk of foul ball injuries while simultaneously encouraging the use of electronic devices that will, necessarily, distract them from directly observing on-field action? Indeed, if they do continue to maintain that paradoxical approach, I’d expect this quote from the article to be used at a trial of an injured fan suing for damages:

“People are already using their phones, and we don’t think this is all that different,” MLB Product VP Chad Evans told us at the event. Of course, in a sport where small spherical objects are regularly projected into the stands at high speeds, it’s a good idea to keep your eye on the field. Perhaps popping up an alert on screen when a ball approaches would be a good start.

That last bit — not the quote, but the article’s suggestion of a warning — is comical given how quickly a ball can make it into the stands. Even fans paying rapt attention can get hurt by fast foul balls. Expecting them to process a warning and then act based on it when instinct often isn’t fast enough is ridiculous.

Cool product, for sure. Like I said, I’d probably even use it on occasion. But the more technology and the more distractions Major League Baseball pours into the game, the more responsibility it will have when those distractions contribute to fan injuries. In light of that, they simply cannot continue to be hands-off with respect to the matter.