The Phillies, perhaps coincidentally, have started to play better since firing long-time manager Charlie Manuel and replacing him with Ryne Sandberg. With tonight’s walk-off victory, their third consecutive walk-off, they have won five of their last six games.
On Wednesday and Thursday, the Phillies victimized Rockies closer Rafael Betancourt, who we later found out was suffering from a sprained right elbow. Tonight against the D-Backs, the Phillies continued to fight back after falling behind early. Down 3-1 in the bottom of the sixth, catcher Carlos Ruiz doubled with the bases loaded to knock in two runs and tie the game at three apiece.
Diamondbacks closer Heath Bell relieved lefty Joe Thatcher in the eighth inning, recording the final two outs. Manager Kirk Gibson had him come back out in the ninth, but Bell couldn’t get the job done. Cody Asche and Jimmy Rollins both singled to start the frame, putting runners at first and third with no outs. Gibson ordered bell to walk Michael Young — one of the catalysts in the previous two comebacks — intentionally, bringing up Kevin Frandsen with the bases loaded and no outs, the winning run just 90 feet away. Frandsen struck out on a curve, bringing up Chase Utley. Utley worked the count to 2-0, Bell fought back to 2-2, and Utley took two more balls for the walk-off walk as the Phillies won 4-3.
Starters Cole Hamels and Wade Miley more or less matched each other as Hamels allowed three runs in seven innings and Miley allowed three runs in six innings. Hamels remains at 5-13, the 13 losses tied for the National League lead. The Diamondbacks fall to ten games behind the Dodgers in the NL West and 7.5 games out of the second Wild Card. The Phillies improve to 58-70 but their playoff aspirations have long since disappeared. Too little, too late for the Sandberg-led bunch.
When he’s not throwing baseballs, Twins pitcher Trevor May is an active gamer. He streams on Twitch, a very popular video game streaming site, fairly regularly and now he’s officially on an eSports team. Luminosity Gaming announced the organization added May last Friday. It appears he’ll be streaming and commentating on Overwatch, a multiplayer first-person shooter made by Blizzard Entertainment.
May is the only current athlete to be an active member of an eSports team. Former NBA player Rick Fox owns Echo Fox, an eSports team that sports players in games including League of Legends, Super Smash Bros. Melee, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, Street Fighter V, Marvel vs. Capcom 3, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, and Mortal Kombat X. Jazz forward Gordon Hayward is also a known advocate of eSports.
The NBA in particular has been very active on the eSports front. Kings co-owners Andy Miller and Mark Mastrov launched NRG eSports in November 2015. Shortly thereafter, Grizzlies co-owner Stephen Kaplan invested in the Immortals eSports team. Almost a year later, the 76ers acquired controlling stakes in Team Dignitas and Team Apex. The same month, the Wizards’ and Warriors’ owners launched a group called Axiomatic, which purchased a controlling stake in Team Liquid, a long-time Starcraft: Brood War website which has since branched out into other games. And also in September 2016, Celtics forward Jonas Jerebko bought team Renegades, moving them to a group house in Detroit. In December 2016, the Bucks submitted a deal to Riot Games in order to purchase Cloud9’s Challenger league spot for $2.5 million. The Rockets that month hired someone specifically for eSports development, focusing on strategy and investment. Last month, the Heat acquired a controlling stake in team Misfits.
Once an afterthought, eSports has grown considerably in recent years and now it should be considered a competitor to traditional sports. League of Legends, in particular, is quite popular, reaching nearly 15 million concurrent viewers at its peak in the most recent League of Legends World Championship. That championship featured a prize purse of $6.7 million with $2 million of it being split among winner SK Telecom T1’s members.
The Orioles have re-signed outfielder Michael Bourn to a minor league contract with an invitation to major league camp, MASN’s Roch Kubatko reports.
Bourn, 34, joined the Orioles last year in a trade from the Diamondbacks on August 31. Though he compiled a meager .669 OPS with the Diamondbacks, Bourn hit a solid .283/.358/.435 in 55 plate appearances with the O’s through the end of the season.
Bourn, a non-roster invitee to camp, will try to play his way onto the Orioles’ 25-man roster. If he does make the roster, Bourn will receive a $2 million salary, Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports points out.