Jon Lester

And That Happened: Tuesday’s scores and highlights


It’s cool and crisp here in America’s Heartland and there were some games last night that felt like the playoffs. Can we please just skip September and move straight on into October? Would anyone object to this?

Red Sox 2, Tigers 1: An ALCS preview? Jon Lester outduels Max Scherzer in a tight game with a decided October feel to it. Especially the moment in the fifth inning when Miguel Cabrera came up with the bases loaded and got ahead of Lester 2-0 before grounding out.  How about we just skip September and fast-forward to the playoffs now? I’d be down for that. Anyone else?

Reds 1, Cardinals 0: Another playoff preview, perhaps. The wild card game, actually, if it happened today. Homer Bailey wouldn’t be the worst choice for the Reds in such a game. He tossed seven shutout innings. Billy Hamilton made his MLB debut as a pinch runner in the seventh, stole second off Yadier Molina and then was doubled in by Todd Frazier for the only run of the game.

Braves 3, Mets 1Dodgers 7, Rockies 4: In Atlanta, Kris Medlen allowed one run over seven and Andrelton Simmons and Evan Gattis each went deep. In Colorado, Ricky Nolasco was solid again and the Dodgers sprung out to a 4-0 lead before it got close and before they once again pulled away. Ho-hum. More wins for Atlanta and L.A. I’d like to fast-forward both the Braves and Dodgers to October too to see them challenged a bit.

Pirates 4, Brewers 3: Travis Snider hit a pinch hit homer in the ninth and with that the Pirates end the streak of losing seasons at 20. They also increase their lead over the Cardinals to two games which, at the moment, is a bit more important right now.

Nationals 9, Phillies 6: Wilson Ramos hit a three-run homer and the Nats won despite a sloppy effort. After the game Davey Johnson said “That was an ugly game, one of the ugliest I’ve seen. That’s not the way to win a pennant, I’ll tell you that.” Don’t worry, Davey. You aren’t winning the pennant.

Indians 4, Orioles 3: What have the Indians done with the real Ubaldo Jimenez and who was the man pitching six shutout innings for them last night? Terry Francona put Chris Perez in the game in the ninth and coughed up three runs but managed to finally set the O’s down. In his defense, Perez’s ERA on days he pleads guilty to criminal drug charges has always been high.

Yankees 6, White Sox 4: Chris Sale outpitched Hiroki Kuroda but the White Sox bullpen was awful, allowing two runners inherited from Sale and three runs of their own doing to score in the eighth. Then Mariano Rivera came in and notched his 40th save. It’s the ninth time he has reached 40 saves in his career. He’s pretty good if you didn’t realize that.

Royals 4, Mariners 3: Sal Perez homered in the fourth and hit the go-ahead single in the eighth. Bruce Chen allowed two runs in six innings. His ERA is 2.81 somehow.

Marlins 6, Cubs 2: The Marlins and Cubs probably would like to fast-forward to October too. Lots of good fishing and hunting and stuff to be done that accomplishes more than these meaningless games. Here the Marlins bullpen tossed four and two-thirds hitless innings.

Twins 9, Astros 6: More meaningless than Marlins-Cubs? I feel like it might be. The go-ahead run scored on a wild pitch in the 12th and then Minnesota added a couple of insurance runs.

Rays 7, Angels 1: Matt Moore returns to the Rays for the first time in over a month and looked OK, tossing five and a third innings. Walked four guys, which isn’t great, but not having him around was kind of a drag for Tampa Bay.

Blue Jays 10, Diamondbacks 4: Homers for Rajai Davis, Edwin Encarnacion, Adam Lind and Moises Sierra. Who I am going to choose to believe is the love child of Moises Alou and Ruben Sierra because the idea of that makes me giggle.

Rangers 5, Athletics 1: Martin Perez allowed one run in seven innings for his sixth straight win and the Rangers take the lead back in the division. Bartolo Colon allowed only one earned run but the unearned ones came via his own error so there’s that.

Padres 3, Giants 2: All kinds of runners stranded for the Giants helping waste a good Madison Bumgarner start. I realize all of those also-ran teams may want the season over but I can’t imagine anyone who wants it over more than the Giants. It’s just been depressing this year.

Kudos to Fox for not going crazy with the curses

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I turned on last night’s Fox broadcast fully expecting them to spend too much time on history and curses and billy goats and black cats and Steve Bartman and 1908 and 1948 and all of that jive while spending too little time on the game and the players at hand. I will admit now that I was pleasantly surprised that that was not, in fact, the case.

To be clear, the pregame show was a friggin’ train wreck in this department. There the narrative framing was basically wall-to-wall. In the first segment, Fox studio host Kevin Burkhardt used the phrase “reverse the curse” within his first thirty seconds of speaking. Then, before much if any actual game stuff was referred to, Burkhardt mentioned all of the following things in the space of a, maybe, 45 second span:

When the montage ended, Alex Rodriguez said that “every player wants to break that curse.” Then they threw it to the first commercial at 7:38 or so. In the second segment they ran a prerecorded thing about championship droughts, making liberal mention of 108 years for the Cubs and 68 years for the Indians, but then got down to some actual game breakdown.

In the third segment, Burkhardt threw it to the P.A. announcer at Progressive Field for player introductions, once again mentioning 108/68 years as he did so. After that, they ran a montage, set to Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers’ “The Waiting,” in which centenarians and other older folks talked about how long they’ve been — wait for it — waiting for an Indians or a Cubs championship. Lots of them mentioned billy goats and curses and stuff.

When that was over Fox finally threw it to Joe Buck and John Smoltz up in the booth. Buck added a punctuative “the waiting is the hardest part,” and soon after they ran a Buck-narrated pre-produced montage about what was going on in 1908 and 1948, saying who was president, noting when Model-Ts were invented and all of that, all set to “Time has come today” by the Chambers Brothers. So, yes, that was a lot to take in in the space of a half hour.

But that’s on me, right? Who in the heck needs to watch a pregame show? No one, really. Alex Rodriguez and Pete Rose are proving to be a nice combination for Fox — getting rid of C.J. Nitkowski has cleared the congestion a bit and both A-Rod and Rose are proving to be naturals after a 2015 in which they were somewhat clunky — but a pregame show is pretty superfluous. The actual baseball breakdown those guys provide can be accomplished in less than ten minutes. The rest of it practically begs for those narrative-servicing montages, and frankly, no one needs ’em.

Most notably, though: the curse and weight of history talk basically ended once the game got going. Indeed, Buck and Smoltz were shockingly and refreshingly narrative-free for most if not all of the contest. They talked about Jon Lester and his issues holding runners. Corey Kluber‘s slider. Andrew Miller being Andrew Miller. Kyle Schwarber being there at all. They did a really nice job of handling all of the Xs and Os the way you want your broadcast booth to handle it.

Smoltz in particular was outstanding, showing that Fox’s decision to make him their number one color guy while reassigning Harold Reynolds and Tom Verducci to be a fantastic one. A two-man booth is superior to a three-man booth in almost every instance, but the second man in Fox’s booth now mixes his insight and his regular conversation seamlessly. You never feel like Smoltz is talking down to you or speaking from his obviously superior place of baseball authority. His tone is as if he’s letting you in on stuff he thinks and hopes you’ll really appreciate knowing and he never plays the “I USED TO PLAY BASEBALL” card in the obnoxious ways some ex-player commentators do. And he’s right: we do appreciate what he tells us.

Beating up on Fox’s baseball broadcasts has been its own sport for many of us for several years, but there was nothing to really beat them up about last night. Sure, we could do without in-game interviews, but after the pregame show Fox showed remarkable restraint with respect to pushing history and narrative and curses and all of that baloney that has little if anything to do with the 2016 Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians. They kept it focused on the baseball game that was going on before us in ways they haven’t always done in the past. It was refreshing and, dare I say, downright enjoyable.

More of this please.

Republicans accuse Hillary Clinton of being a bandwagon Cubs fan

CHICAGO - APRIL 4:  Hillary Rodham Clinton throws out the first pitch before the Chicago Cubs Opening Day game against the New York Mets at Wrigley Field on April 4, 1994 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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This was inevitable: The Republican National Committee published a ridiculously detailed and self-serious opposition-research report accusing Hillary Clinton of being a “bandwagon” Cubs fan.

If you’re of a certain age you’ll recall that Clinton, who grew up in the Chicago suburbs, spoke about being a Cubs fan as a kid. You’ll also recall that when she was running for her senate seat in New York, she gave shoutouts to a heretofore unheard of Yankees fandom. A lot of people have had fun with this at various times — we’ve mentioned it here on multiple occasions — but I wasn’t aware that anyone considered it an actually substantive political issue as opposed to an amusing “politicians, man” kind of thing.

The Republicans think it’s serious, though. Indeed, there’s more detail to this oppo-hit than there is any of the party’s candidate’s position papers. And while someone could, theoretically, have a lot of fun with this kind of material, the opposition report is not even remotely tongue-in-cheek. It reads like a poisition paper on nuclear proliferation. If the GOP had been this serious about vetting its own candidate, I suspect they wouldn’t be in the position they’re in today.

As for the substance: eh, who cares? Sports is entertainment and cultural glue. As a kid in Chicago, being a Cubs fan is both fun and makes some sense. As a senator from New York in the early 2000s, you’re gonna get to go to some Yankees games and sit in some good seats and that’s fun too. And, of course, politicians are going to say opportunistic things in order to attempt to connect with their constituents. Think of that what you will, but if you think of that as something which reveals something deep and dark within their soul about what kind of person they are, you probably need to step away from the cable news for a while and get some fresh air. Or you probably need to admit that you already believed the worse about her and that this is just an exercise in confirmation bias.

Heck, at this point I almost hope she finds a third or fourth team to root for. Indeed, I hope she makes a comic heel turn, puts on a Chief Wahoo hat for tonight’s game and claims that, deep, deep down, she had always rooted for the Indians. Then even I could get on her case about it. And we could all talk about how, in her own way, Hillary was really bringing the nation together.