Max Scherzer unsuccessful in fourth attempt to get his 20th win

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After shutting out the Mets over six innings on August 24, it seemed like even 25 wins was possible for the Tigers’ right-hander. But in four starts since, Max Scherzer has lost twice and earned two no-decisions, failing to reach the 20-win threshold. As MLB Network’s Brian Kenny will be quick to point out, this by no means indicates that Scherzer has pitched poorly.

This afternoon, Scherzer held the Royals to one run on five hits and a walk while striking out 12 in seven innings of work. Scherzer left with a 2-1 lead. In the eighth against reliever Drew Smyly, Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar doubled to lead off the inning, stole third with one out, then came around to score on a wild pitch to tie the game and take Scherzer out of the running for the W.

In the bottom of the eighth, Alex Avila smacked his 11th homer of the year to right-center, putting the Tigers up 3-2. Joaquin Benoit pitched a perfect ninth to wrap up the victory, his 20th save of the year. Smyly got the win, bumping his record up to 6-0.

With the loss, the Royals drop to 78-71, 3.5 games behind the second AL Wild Card. The Tigers improve to 86-63, 5.5 games ahead of the second-place Indians in the AL Central.

Giants closer Mark Melancon is heading to the disabled list once again

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The Giants have placed closer Mark Melancon on the 10-day disabled list with a right pronator strain.

This is the same injury that sent him to the disabled list last month. He came back from that quickly, but it can’t be great that this is happening again. You have to assume he’ll miss more time given the recurrence of trouble. He’s going to get an MRI too. Sam Dyson is expected to serve as the Giants’ closer while Melancon is sidelined.

Melancon has a 4.35 ERA and 11 saves in 22 appearances this year. He signed a four-year, $62 million deal with San Francisco last December.

The Cubs visited the White House. Again.

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Last January, the World Champion Chicago Cubs visited the White House. It was a bit unorthodox, as World Series winners typically wait until the following summer and make the trip during a road series in Washington or Baltimore.

They did it, however, because when the Cubs won the Series, then-President Obama asked the Cubs to visit before he left office. He’s a White Sox fan but a Chicago guy and said he was rooting for the Cubs. So the Cubs visited.

Today they’re back again. It’s been characterized as an “informal” visit. No suits and ties or big official photo-ops in front of the White House. It was even unclear until this afternoon if they’d even meet with President Trump. The visit was inspired in part by Maddon’s longtime friend, U.S. Congressman Lou Barletta, and partially by the Ricketts family’s ties to the Trump administration. The Ricketts are significant Republican donors and one of the Cubs’ co-owners, Todd Ricketts, is Trump’s deputy commerce secretary.

So to the White House the Cubs went. At least some of them. Many decided not to go for a number of reasons, ranging from “no-comment” to game preparation considerations (the visit just happened, much later in the day than usual White House visits). At least one vocal Trump supporter, Jake Arrieta, did not go. Another, John Lackey, did go, but declined to give any comment on it, expressing concern that his quote would be used for political purposes. I’ve yet to see anyone say they weren’t going specifically because they do not support Trump, though I presume some felt that way. The man isn’t exactly popular at the moment.

Nevertheless, the political overtones of all of this are hard to ignore. The Cubs already had their official White House visit, so a second one has to mean something, right? Teams don’t just get invited to the White House whenever they happen to be passing through town. Some of this is probably about the Trump administration smarting a bit over Obama swooping in for that visit in January. Some of it is probably about the Ricketts family either wanting to send the team for a non-Obama visit, to do a favor for Trump or some combination of those things.

Joe Maddon was defensive about it all yesterday, saying it wasn’t political. Trump obviously didn’t hear him as he used the time when the Cubs were standing next to him for photos to take questions about the health care legislation and slag on Obamacare:

Maybe Maddon and the Cubs wanted to keep out of politics, but politics makes no such agreement with anyone.