And That Happened: Monday’s scores and highlights

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Cardinals 8, Rockies 0: Matt Adams had two homers and drove in six. After the game he was asked why he’s been so dialed-in lately and he said “I’m laying off the sliders and the curveballs from the lefties.” One of his homers was off a righty last night, but let him go he’s on a roll.  In other news Lance Lynn allowed only three hits in eight shutout innings. It was the first time the Rockies were shutout at Coors Field since July of last year.

Mariners 12, Red Sox 3: Logan Morrison joined Adams in the two-homer club last night. If they take their ticket stubs to Dairy Queen they are entitled to a free Dilly Bar. Or was it a Mr. Misty? I forget. Probably not important. Anyway, this was the fourth straight win for Seattle and the first winning decision for Felix Hernandez since the beginning of the month, despite the fact that he’s pitched fantastically in his two no-decisions and one loss since then. Amazing what a little run support will do.

Marlins 4, Phillies 0: Nate Eovaldi with six shutout innings and four relievers to finish it off. Eovaldi had been shelled the last few times out and 12 of his 19 outs here were fly balls, so he was kind of dancing with the devil in the pale moonlight (in other news happy birthday Tim Burton’s Batman). But results matter most, so let’s not imagine what might have happened if Eovaldi were facing a team that squared him up a bit more last night.

Orioles 6, White Sox 4: Someone on a radio show asked me yesterday who I thought had an extra gear in the AL East. I said Baltimore, because Chris Davis hasn’t been Chris Davis so far this year and if he turns it around it’s like adding a big time slugger during the season. Yesterday, despite starting the game on the bench because of his general suckitude of late and because Chris Sale was pitching, Davis came in for a pinch-hit, three-run walkoff homer.

Nationals 4, Brewers 0: That “add a big piece by merely fixing one of your previously-existing broken ones” thing works for the Nationals and Gio Gonzalez too. After ineffectiveness and a stint on the DL, Gonzalez was sometimes shaky — he waled four guys in six innings — but otherwise shut the Brewers out while he was in the game. His mates shut them out while they were in the game. Adam LaRoche hit a three-run homer for all the O the curly W’s would need.

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

Blue Jays 8, Yankees 3: The Yankees have given a name to their pain, and it is Adam Lind. A three-run homer and four RBI, to hand the Yankees their third straight loss.

Reds 6, Cubs 1: Tied 1-1 into the ninth and then — bam! — a five-run inning, capped by a Devin Mesoraco grand slam. It was his fourth game in a row in which he hit a homer.

Pirates 8, Rays 1: Pedro Alvarez had a three-run homer in the fourth and Edinson Volquez rebounded from a nightmare start last Wednesday to allow one run over eight. The Rays hit into three double plays behind him.

Padres 6, Giants 0: Odrisamer Despaigne made his big league debut, taking the place of Andrew Cashner, and he did not disappoint. All he did was throw seven scoreless innings. He was signed just a couple months ago by Josh Byrnes, who just got canned. I wonder if he watched the game and if he did, I wonder how he felt.

Royals 5, Dodgers 3: The Royals beat up their old friend Zack Greinke and snapped their four game losing streak. Well, maybe he’s not their old friend. A lot of them didn’t even play with him. Of those who did,, maybe he was a jerk to them. Maybe he was really close friends with, like, Billy Butler but he and Alex Gordon had a falling out over a poker game? You never can know these things.

How not to enjoy what Aaron Judge is doing

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Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge has been one of the biggest and best stories in all of baseball this year. While he held promise entering his rookie season, most experts figured he’d provide some low-average, low-OBP power. That he’d be a guy who, based on his size, could send a pitcher’s mistake 500 feet in the wrong direction, but who would probably be shown to have big holes in his swing once he’d been around the league a little bit.

Judge defied expectations, however, and has put together an amazing rookie season. He broke the rookie home run record yesterday with his 50th blast. He still strikes out a lot but so does everyone. He nonetheless has hit for a great average and has gotten on base at a fantastic clip. He has also showed some uncommon resilience, overcoming a lengthy slump in July and August and returning to the dominant form he showed in the first half while helping a Yankees team not many figured to be a strong contender into the playoffs. Such a great story!

Sadly, however, this sentiment, which appeared from a commenter on my Facebook page yesterday, has become increasingly common:

I’ve seen it in a lot of comments sections and message boards around the Internet too, including our own comment section. From yesterday:

This is not exactly the same thing we’ve seen in the past with other breakout home run hitters such as Jose Bautista a few years back. This is not an accusation that Judge is taking drugs or anything. It’s more of a preemptive and defensive diminishment of excitement. And I find it rather sad.

Yes, I understand that past PED users have made fans wonder whether the players they watch are using something to get an extra edge, but it really does not need to be this way. We’ve had drug testing in baseball for over a decade and, while no drug testing regime is perfect, it just seems bizarre, several years after Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa did their thing — and a few years after Alex Rodriguez and others were caught and disciplined for trying to do more — to assume, out of hand, that great baseball performances are the product of undetected cheating. Yes, it’s possible, but such assumptions should not be the default stance, only to be disproved (somehow) at a later date.

The same goes for the juiced baseball, right? Yes, there is strong evidence that the baseball was changed a couple of years back leading to a home run spike, but aren’t all players using the same baseball? It’s also worth remembering that the season Mark McGwire hit 49 homers — 1987 — is strongly suspected of being a juiced ball year as well. It’s a concern that may be based in fact, but it’s a large concern over a fact thrown out with little regard for context to sketch out a threat that is either remote or without consequence.

The point here is not to argue that Aaron Judge is undeniably clean or that the baseball isn’t different. The former is unknown and the latter is likely false. The point is that it’s super sad and self-defeating to qualify every amazing feat you see with preemptive concern about such things. Years and years of sports writers writing McCarthy-esque “Yes, but is he clean?” articles does not require you, as a fan, to do the same. You can enjoy a cool thing in the moment. If it’s found out later to have been tainted, fine, we have a lot of practice in contextualizing such things and we’ll do so pretty quickly, but what’s the harm in going with it in real time?

I suspect the answer to that is rooted in some desire not to look like a sucker or something. Not to find oneself like many did, in the mid-2000s, being told by sportswriters and politicians that they were dupes for enjoying Sosa and McGwire in 1998. But that’s idiotic, in my view. I enjoyed 1998 and all of the baseball I saw on either side of it, as did most baseball fans. When the PEDs stuff exploded in the 2000s I reassessed it somewhat as far as the magnitude of the accomplishments compared to other eras in history, but it didn’t mean I enjoyed what I had seen any less.

Likewise, I’ve enjoyed the hell out of watching Aaron Judge this year. Why can’t everyone? Why is it so hard? Why have we been conditioned to be skeptical of something that is supposed to be entertaining? When your personal stakes are low like they are with respect to any sporting event or form of entertainment, it’s OK to enjoy things while they’re enjoyable and worry about them being problematic if and when they ever become so. And hey, they may not!

I promise you: if Aaron Judge walks into the postseason awards banquet this winter carrying a briefcase that unexpectedly opens and 200 syringes full of nandrolone fall out, no one is going to say you were dumb for cheering for him yesterday. It will really be OK.

Yadier Molina leaves game after taking two foul balls to the mask

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The St. Louis Cardinals have been eliminated from contention for the NL Central crown and are hanging on by the thinnest of threads in the race for the second NL Wild Card, two and a half games back of the Rockies with the Brewers in between. Last night those dim playoff hopes took what may have been a fatal blow thanks to a couple of foul balls that knocked Yadier Molina out of the game and, possibly, out for the season.

In the seventh inning of last night’s Cubs-Cardinals game Molina took a Kris Bryant foul ball off of his mask. It sent him to his knees. He gathered himself, set back up and, on the very next pitch, took a second foul ball, right to the mask. He was much slower in rising that time and Cardinals manager Mike Matheny immediately — and wisely — pulled Molina from the game.

Molina is being monitored for a concussion. Whether he has one or not, prudence would dictate sitting him down for the rest of what are likely the Cardinals final six games of 2017.