Jordan Zimmermann

And That Happened: Sunday’s scores and highlights

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Nationals 6, Padres 0: Jordan Zimmermann struck out 12 Padres in the course of a two-hit shutout. The Nationals have won seven of their past nine and are now tied for first place with both Miami and Atlanta. This is the Washington team we all expected last year. Now we’re getting them this year.

Giants 6, Mets 4: Curtis Granderson hit two homers, but that’s still five wins in a row for the Giants and 14 of 17 overall. Gregor Blanco doubled, singled and drove in three runs. They already have a nine and a half game lead in the NL West and it’s not even Flag Day. What? You’re not aware of the traditional “once Flag Day comes it’s OK to not say ‘it’s early, but . . .'” rule?

Mariners 5, Rays 0: Striking out 15 dudes in seven shutout innings is usually enough to get you the win, but Felix Hernandez is used to no decisions in games like that. The M’s scored all five of their runs off Grant Balfour in the ninth. His ERA is now 6.46. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that stuff about the Orioles flunking him on his physical this past offseason was not as much b.s. as Balfour made it out to be at the time.

Reds 4, Phillies 1: Homer Bailey pitched eight one-run innings and drove in the Reds’ first two runs with an RBI single. Billy Hamilton added an insurance two-run homer. They say you shouldn’t let the other team’s best hitters beat you, and Philly definitely took that to heart.

Athletics 11, Orioles 1: The A’s kicked the O’s butt, with John Jaso and Brandon Moss each driving in four, but Manny Machado’s bat-throwing baloney dominated the day. He’s going to wind up getting a suspension out of this I would presume. And it will be well-deserved.

Angels 4, White Sox 2: C.J. Wilson was battling flu symptoms but still allowed only one run while pitching into the seventh. Josh Hamilton drove in three. Hamilton is 8 for 23 and has driven in five since coming off the DL.

Indians 3, Rangers 2: Lonnie Chisenhall singled and scored in the fifth and sixth innings. Granted he’s got 80+ fewer at bats than most of the league leaders, but Chisenhall is now hitting .365/.413/.538 on the year.

Dodgers 6, Rockies 1: Rain shortened this one to six innings, with Matt Kemp and someone named Jamie Romak — filling in for the injured Puig — each drove in two.

Astros 14, Twins 5:Chris Carter and Jon Singleton each hit grand slams. Bud Norris thinks Singleton should’ve hit a five-run homer instead. Dexter Fowler and George Springer also homered. It’s amazing what power will do to make a joke of a team into a respectable team.

Marlins 4, Cubs 3: Chicago lost for the first time in six games. Henderson Alvarez pitched well for the fish, but left the game early after stepping/reaching/landing awkwardly while covering first base in the sixth. He should be back for his next start, however.

Royals 2, Yankees 1: A passed ball put a runner on third and a groundout scored him. That was the only offense the Yankees could muster against James Shields and the Royals’ pen.

Brewers 1, Pirates 0: Yovani Gallardo outduels Jeff Locke. Both went seven and all that really separated them was the RBI single Locke surrendered.

Editor’s Note: Hardball Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $35,000 Fantasy Baseball league for Monday night’s MLB games. It’s $25 to join and first prize is $6,000. Starts at 7:05pm ET on MondayHere’s the FanDuel link.

Diamondbacks 6, Braves 5: Chase Anderson has five major league starts. He has won all five of them. David Peralta and Paul Goldschmidt each hit two-run homers in the Dbacks’ six-run seventh innings. The Braves have fallen back into a first place tie with the Nats and Marlins.

Cardinals 5, Blue Jays 0: Seven shutout innings for Jaime Garcia led to the Cards shutting out one of the most explosive offenses in baseball for two straight games with identical 5-0 scores. Even in a loss on Friday Cardinals pitchers held the Jays to three runs. Nice effort.

Red Sox 5, Tigers 3: David Ortiz hit a three-run homer in the ninth to put the Sox ahead. The blast came off Joba Chamberlain, not Joe Nathan, so the Tigers’ bullpen woes continue in widespread, as opposed to limited and specific fashion.

Rob Manfred on robot umps: “In general, I would be a keep-the-human-element-in-the-game guy.”

KANSAS CITY, MO - APRIL 5:  Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred talks with media prior to a game between the New York Mets and Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium on April 5, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
Ed Zurga/Getty Images
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Craig covered the bulk of Rob Manfred’s quotes from earlier. The commissioner was asked about robot umpires and he’s not a fan. Via Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports:

Manfred was wrong to blame the player’s union’s “lack of cooperation” on proposed rule changes, but he’s right about robot umps and the strike zone. The obvious point is that robot umps cannot yet call balls and strikes with greater accuracy than umpires. Those strike zone Twitter accounts, such as this, are sometimes hilariously wrong. Even the strike zone graphics used on television are incorrect and unfortunate percentage of the time.

The first issue to consider about robot umps is taking jobs away from people. There are 99 umps and more in the minors. If robot umpiring was adopted in collegiate baseball, as well as the independent leagues, that’s even more umpires out of work. Is it worth it for an extra one or two percent improvement in accuracy?

Personally, the fallibility of the umpires adds more intrigue to baseball games. There’s strategy involved, as each umpire has tendencies which teams can strategize against. For instance, an umpire with a more generous-than-average strike zone on the outer portion of the plate might entice a pitcher to pepper that area with more sliders than he would otherwise throw. Hitters, knowing an umpire with a smaller strike zone is behind the dish, may take more pitches in an attempt to draw a walk. Or, knowing that information, a hitter may swing for the fences on a 3-0 pitch knowing the pitcher has to throw in a very specific area to guarantee a strike call or else give up a walk.

The umpires make their mistakes in random fashion, so it adds a chaotic, unpredictable element to the game as well. It feels bad when one of those calls goes against your team, but fans often forget the myriad calls that previously went in their teams’ favor. The mistakes will mostly even out in the end.

I haven’t had the opportunity to say this often, but Rob Manfred is right in this instance.

Report: MLB approves new rule allowing a dugout signal for an intentional walk

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 29:  MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred laughs during a ceremony naming the 2016 winners of the Mariano Rivera American League Reliever of the Year Award and the Trevor Hoffman National League Reliever of the Year Award before Game Four of the 2016 World Series between the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians at Wrigley Field on October 29, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images
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ESPN’s Howard Bryant is reporting that Major League Baseball has approved a rule allowing for a dugout signal for an intentional walk. In other words, baseball is allowing automatic intentional walks. Bryant adds that this rule will be effective for the 2017 season.

MLB has been trying, particularly this month, to improve the pace of play. Getting rid of the formality of throwing four pitches wide of the strike zone will save a minute or two for each intentional walk. There were 932 of them across 2,428 games last season, an average of one intentional walk every 2.6 games. It’s not the biggest improvement, but it’s something at least.

Earlier, Commissioner Rob Manfred was upset with the players’ union’s “lack of cooperation.” Perhaps his public criticism was the catalyst for getting this rule passed.

Unfortunately, getting rid of the intentional walk formality will eradicate the chance of seeing any more moments like this: