Jon Lester

And That Happened: Tuesday’s scores and highlights

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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.

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]