Sad Phillies fans

Expert’s Corner: How to troll fans of all 30 teams

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So it’s not much of a secret that I troll fan bases. Like, a lot. When I do it I almost always do so in a way that, I hope anyway, is obvious. Overstating things or playing up cliches that have a history of aggravating fans of a given team in a tongue-in-cheek, non-serious manner.

Which is key, because the key to good trolling (and the arguments and smack talk which follow) is that it’s not done with real bile and it’s not done to actually make a cogent point. It’s, at the very most, an effort to test whether people are good at separating fan allegiance (an emotional, subjective and often irrational thing) from objective facts and opinions. Mostly, though, it’s just the kind of smack talk you may have with your friends. That’s how I always approach it anyway.

Of course my intent in the matter doesn’t control how everyone else receives that. Some people mistake straightforward criticism with trolling. Some people take even the most obvious and harmless trolling as if it were serious and personally-motivated (these people are the worst). And some people assume that, because I have trolled in the past, anything I say about their team is itself trolling or suspect.

A good example of this came yesterday when, in the course of using the Cardinals as an example of an inefficiency in the Competitive Balance Lottery, many took it as me trolling (there was no intent to get a rise out of people there; it was just criticism), or hating on the Cardinals (If I was hating anything it was the game not the player) or dismissed the entire opinion because it touched on a team that I am perceived to hate (I don’t hate the Cardinals, by the way; I don’t hate any team).

I got a bit miffed at this — no one likes to be misunderstood — but after a spirited but civil Twitter discussion with fellow scribe (and Cardinals fan) Will Leitch, I did agree that being misconstrued is an occupational hazard for the troll. That even if my intent is noble and pure, some folks are going to react negatively when I mention their team if, on some occasion in the past, I trolled them. Personally I still think such reactions are dumb — reading comprehension is important, people — but I have to expect them given what I do and how I do it. This is the business I have chosen, as it were.

But I have decided to make something positive out of all of this. I was inspired to by Sirius/XM’s Mike Ferrin, who watched all of that unfold yesterday (and who himself seems to enjoy a good troll) and suggested that I create a guide of some sort. So here we are. Mostly for fun but, partially, in an effort to let you know that, if these topics are the ones being discussed about your team, it’s almost certainly trolling or smack talk, not some serious, impassioned argument. So:

The Most Trollable Subjects for Each Major League Fan Base

Yankees: Yankees fans may be the hardest to troll. Trolling is rooted most strongly in exploiting a fan’s insecurity, and Yankees fans exhibit very little insecurity. Indeed, they think they and their team are the BEST. Plus, even if you do get a hook in them, they are so invested in that “New Yorkers are tough and can handle anything” pose that they’ll act like you’re not getting to them even if you are. Your best bet is to go into the land of reverse jinxes: overstating how dominant and preeminent the Yankees are as an organization. Talking about how, no matter what is going on now, they will always reign supreme. Eventually, they’ll feel that you respect the classy Yankees enough that it’s safe to let their guard down. They’ll admit to some fear about the team. Then you pounce by saying “yeah, you guys are in pretty deep trouble, huh?” It hurts worse because they brought it up.

Red Sox: If I were blogging pre-2004 I suppose it would be easy, given how insecure the Curse-of-the-Bambino Era fandom is said to be. Now there’s almost a proto-Yankees thing, where some — not all, but some — Sox fans assume that they’ll always win and will spin any development as great news for the franchise. Because that old insecurity is not too far removed, the ju-jitsu thing is not as elaborate. You just have to basically predict bad things or claim any move the team makes is bad to rile up a Sox fan. Because somewhere, deep in their heart, they fear it’s true. For the rest of them: just tell them they’re “the new Yankees” or that they’re just like the Yankees. God they hate that.

Blue Jays: Jays fans are a pricklier lot than you may imagine given that, you know, they’re from Canada and everyone in Canada is nice and passive and agreeable and never gets too intense or animated or passionate about anything. Note: that single sentence just trolled the trollable Jays fans. They really hate being painted with Canada stereotypes. Some get so mad they’ll throw a donut at you, eh.

Orioles: Not very trollable. But not for the same reasons Yankees fans aren’t. With O’s fans it’s just that Peter Angelos has been abusing them for so darn long that they have come to expect and accept abuse. They’re like Mets fans in this regard. Which, by the way, is kind of cool. Fans who expect the worse tend to be happiest when good things happen and generally act like a rational lot. The only time I’ve ever had issues with O’s fans was when they were surprisingly winning in 2012 and they felt like they weren’t being given enough attention. That’s pretty low-level stuff though.

Rays: Pointing out that Joe Maddon is more like that cool dad who tries too hard than he is a legitimately cool person riles ’em up (note: I think Maddon is cool and often delves into self-parody, so there’s a little of both going on). Also, they really hate it when you call them out on their team really not being the sorts of underdogs they claim they are. Or that a decade’s worth of drafting high, and not some special form of genius, had an awful lot to do with their success.

Tigers: Mike Trout in the morning, Mike Trout in the evening, Mike Trout all day long. For a franchise with tons of success and tons of star players, Tigers fans have Mike Trout derangement syndrome. All because a minority of baseball analysts suggested that maybe he was a better choice for MVP the past two years. It’s still happening this year even though Miguel Cabrera is not on an MVP pace. They were mad last week that Trout, and not Miggy, was the All-Star Game MVP. My God, who cares about the All-Star Game MVP? This presumed lack of respect is even crazier when you realize the stranglehold Tigers players have had on the postseason awards the past couple of years. Guys: you’re everyone’s favorite. Stop acting like you’re not.

Indians: Here’s one where trolling and legitimate criticism get blurred. Because it’s totally legitimate to hate Chief Wahoo — I am always serious about that when I bring it up; it’s not trolling — but it is what gets most Indians fans the most riled up. For those who agree that Wahoo is an offensive, racist caricature, it’s best to make references to how great Edgar Renteria and/or Jose Mesa was and to say, with a straight face, that Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine did not get the benefit of a wide strike zone, especially in the 1995 World Series. I mean, obviously they did, but Indians fans are so deluded on that point that some will tell you, with a straight face, that Maddux would’ve been Carl Pavano if he had to pitch to a more narrow zone.

Royals: Another self-flagellating bunch. I honestly can’t think of an instance where I have even attempted to troll them, let alone successfully done so. They’re immune. And trying to do it is like kicking a sickly dog. You wouldn’t even consider it. Some of them do get riled when you tell them that K.C. barbecue is overrated, though. That agitation could just be because they went to Texas once and realize that it’s true.

White Sox: Again, I haven’t had a ton of reason to troll White Sox fans — in both HBT comments and my Twitter feed they may be the least represented fan base of a large city’s team of all — but the ones I do see have a Cubs problem. Also: if you ever forget who won the World Series in 2005, be sure to say so out loud, because some Pale Hose fan will remind you of it in five minutes. Sometimes I do that even though I know damn well who won the 2005 World Series.

Twins: I should defer to Gleeman here. He tweets Joe Mauer Facts on the regs, showing that Mauer is actually a wonderful ballplayer despite the insistence by a huge number of Twins fans that he’s garbage.

Rangers: Until a couple of years ago I gave serious consideration to changing the name of this blog to MichaelYoungIsSelfishAndOverratedTalk. That’s how much action that topic got. Still gets, actually. I happen to think Michael Young was a fine baseball player. Among actual analysts, even somewhat underrated. But since Rangers fans seem to think he’s the bastard son of Roger Staubach, Ozzie Smith and God, well, it doesn’t take much to set ’em off.

Athletics: You’d think that intentionally misinterpreting “Moneyball” would work, but the returns on that are surprisingly low. Probably because they assume Billy Beane is on to some crazy calculus/kung fu/mysticism these days and think your hate is either ignorant or outdated (note: “Moneyball” hate is almost always those things). They are the White Sox West, though, and definitely can be trolled via praise of the Giants as a team or, really San Francisco as a city.

Angels: Another somewhat invisible fan base in the parts of the Internet I inhabit. You’d think they’d rally around Mike Scioscia more than they have, but the really don’t. The most sensitive I’ve ever seen them is when you mock the name “Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim” and claim it’s some sort of glory-grab on the part of Arte Moreno to associate himself with a city that isn’t just bland offices and parking lots like Anaheim is. Which is exactly what that is, but it’s not like any of us care, so bringing it up is still technically trolling.

Mariners: For a team that has sucked as long and as deeply as they M’s have, Seattle fans were really damn quick to jump on the “we don’t get enough respect” card based on a half season’s worth of good play this year. So I suggest continuing to ignore them. For example, earlier today I did a trade deadline preview and accidentally left the Mariners off the “Buyers” list. It was truly a mistake on my part. But I have that one in my back pocket now, so the next time I’m talking about contenders I’ll leave ’em off to see what Mariners fans say.

Astros: We’re in new territory here, as the team truly has had a makeover in every sense of the word. Calling Craig Biggio a “compiler” will snag you some low-hanging fruit. Increasingly, mocking that Sports Illustrated “2017 World Series Champs” cover has caused some folks to come out of the woodwork. They’re a work in progress, though, as it’s been a couple of years since anyone has copped to actually being an Astros fan.

Braves: I am a Braves fan, but I’d say I’ve gotten into more dustups with other Braves fans lately than anyone. Most recently I suggested that maybe, just maybe, Freddie Freeman wouldn’t hit .400. Apparently I am now a traitor to The Cause. Oh well, it’s more fun. In my own experience, I will fully cop to not letting 1991 go, and have found myself getting trolled by Twins fans of all people over things like Kent Hrbek and Jack Morris. It’s humbling to know that even a master troll like me can hooked like that, but it just goes to show you the power of the dark art of trolling.

Nationals: Mocking “Nattitude” is pretty reliable, but most Nats fans are starting to learn that, no, they do not have to sign-on with their team’s marketing efforts to be a good fan, so they are increasingly letting that go. That’s a great trick to trolling, by the way: realizing when a fan base has bought the goods that people in the marketing office or the media have sold. The best example of this is in St. Louis. We’ll get to them soon.

Phillies: Phillies fans need no introduction around here. If anything, they are deserving of my gratitude. For it is via my interaction with them that I learned the most about trolling. Mostly how easy it is. How crazy-defensive and earnest some baseball fans can be even over the smallest perceived slights or bits of criticism. Note something that happened at an Eagles game over 40 years ago and they jump out of their foxholes and start peppering you with invective. Suggest that, perhaps, a fan intentionally puking on a little girl was uncalled-for and they’ll tell you about how Phillies fans have been unfairly maligned for years. It’s gotten to the point now to where they are preemptively outraged. Whenever I write about some bit of fan misbehavior in another city, you can bet one of the first comments in the thread will be some defensive “Hey everyone, note that THIS DIDN”T HAPPEN IN PHILLY!” It’s almost no fun trolling Philly fans anymore. There’s no challenge in it.

Mets: Like I said above: refreshingly untrollable. Some are still touchy about Chipper Jones owning them and leasing them back to New Yorkers at usurious rates, but he’s retired now so it’s not as fun. There is an emerging movement in which some Mets fans are fighting back against the “LoLMets!” meme of the Mets being a laughingstock. But this is probably warranted. Not EVERYTHING the Mets due is mockable, even if people are predisposed to think so. Really, I wish everyone had the Internet in the 80s. I bet Mets fans were really feeling their oats back then. Woulda been a great challenge. It’s something to look forward to for when they’re winning again.

Hahahahahaha. The Mets winning again! I kill me!

Marlins: When there are actual Marlins fans please let me know and I’ll come up with something.

Cardinals: Now we’re talkin’. Generally speaking Cards fans get rabid if they think you don’t appreciate their players to the degree to which they should be appreciated. Specifically Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright, but really anyone will do. And the the humorlessness of it is its most notable trait. They hate it when you disrespect them (even if you don’t) and they hate players on other teams who do well against the Cardinals or in the general space which the Cardinals inhabit. Which, in their mind is the entire planet. Which makes yesterday’s dustup fun because it was all based on a story about St. Louis being a small market. Mostly though, the Best Fans In Baseball is where to go to troll The Best Fans In Baseball. Which is a label the Best Fans In Baseball embraced and bragged about until the exact moment — sometime last year — when people started to note that such a stance was rather pompous and annoying. Now they all claim they never called themselves The Best Fans In Baseball. They claim it’s a total media creation or, in some cases, a fabrication. Uh-huh. We all just imagined that.

Reds: Pete Rose is pretty reliable. Brandon Phillips too. Reds fans aren’t uniformly delusional about the talents of their players — they, for some reason, underrate many of their biggest stars, both now and through history — but they often pick a favorite on which they become fixated. Poke at that guy a little bit and Reds fans will swarm.

Pirates: Sort of like the Royals until recently. You wouldn’t really think to troll them. Some are starting to react pretty negatively to people who don’t agree that PNC Park is the best, but it’s pretty low level. Give ’em time to develop as an outraged fan base.

Brewers: They are pretty sensitive about Ryan Braun up there. They make Barry Bonds defenders in San Francisco step back and say “whoa, dudes, chill.” This is hard for me to judge given that I spend a lot of time fighting against the notion that Ryan Braun is Satan incarnate myself, but if I waver even a little bit in that, some Brewers fans will turn on me. Pretty rough stuff. If this were wrestling right now it’d be easier than anything for me to make a heel-turn. For now I’ll just note that, hmm, Braun’s power numbers are down  . . .

Cubs: They are too busy drinking beer and socializing with their post-college friends out in the bleachers and accepting losing as if it were totally cool to get trolled by anyone. When the Cubs win the World Series, they will all claim to be “lifelong Cubs fans,” downplaying the fact that, until three years ago, they were business students at some Big Ten university somewhere and only moved to Chicago because their fraternity/sorority mates did.

Dodgers: A difficult but potentially bountiful trolling source would be Vin Scully. I’ve said too many good things about Scully over the years to be believable here, but if someone were to offer a full-throated “Vin Scully is overrated” argument, they’d get approximately ten billion haters on their case. It’d be horrible to watch — they’d be ripped to shreds — but their sacrifice would be a noble one. We trollers would hoist our glasses to their memory and sing their glories in the great dining hall in Trollhala.

Giants: You can get Giants fans mad by calling them bandwagon fans. Which, to be honest, many of them are. I walked up to AT&T Park many times in the early-to-mid 2000s and had no problem getting tickets, but you can’t do that easily now. But even though this is true, it’s still a troll because, personally, I don’t believe anyone being a bandwagon fan is actually a bad thing (contrast this with being a lying fan like I described in the Cubs entry). Fans are fans and fan-shaming or attendance-shaming is stupid. But when you’re trolling, remember, the point is to get a rise out of people, not to actually try to make real points.

Padres: I sat in Petco Park last September in Dodgers gear for a Dodgers game and applauded the “home team” for selling out the park. Padres fans don’t much like that. But last week’s “Tony Gwynn did not get a memorial tribute at the All-Star Game” thing has opened new territory. I’m holding on to that one for a bit, but the “[event] really disrespects the memory of Tony Gwynn, it’s a slap in the face” arrow is in my quiver, waiting to be fired.

Diamondbacks: I think we reached peak outrage at the “grit” thing last year, but you can still get a rise out of some of the six Dbacks fans out there about it.

Rockies: Have you ever once felt an imperative to troll a Rockies fan? I can’t say I have. It’s not out of pity. They’ve had success. It’s not a sad sack organization. They just don’t register yet. Which makes me happy. Because some days I worry I have spent all of my trolling fuel and will burn out like some red dwarf star. But then I think of things like “some day it’ll be fun to troll Rockies fans” and I get all excited again.

I have gone on too long now, but let me sum up by saying I hate all of your favorite teams and I hate you all. Very, very much.

And That Happened: Monday’s scores and highlights

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 30:  Matt Harvey #33 of the New York Mets celebrates after retiring the side in the seventh inning against the Chicago White Sox  during their game at Citi Field on May 30, 2016 in New York City.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
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There were a lot of complete games and a lot of non-complete games that nonetheless saved tired bullpens yesterday. It’s not like it was 1973 all over again or anything, but it was pretty notable all the same. Anyway, here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Mets 1, White Sox 0: Matt Harvey is 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA and a K/BB ratio of 6/1 since deciding to not talk to the media. Clearly avoiding the press is a good move for him and he should continue to do so.

Braves 5, Giants 3: Mike Foltynewicz gave up an early homer to Brandon Belt but then buckled down and allowed only one run over six innings. Mallex Smith hit a three-run triple. If you squint a little you can imagine those two starring in games that actually matter for Atlanta one day.

Red Sox 7, Orioles 2: Steven Wright allowed two runs on four hits in tossing a complete game. It was his third of those on the year. In 2015 the league leaders in complete games in both the NL and the AL notched four each. Will White had 75 of them in 1879. People always talk about Joe DiMaggio’s hitting streak as being baseball’s ultimate unbreakable record. I got my money on Will White’s CG mark. If you insist on going post-deadball era I’ll take Bob Feller’s 36 in 1946, which I’m pretty sure is equally unbreakable.

Cardinals 6, Brewers 0: Carlos Martinez struck out eight in eight shutout innings — he needed that — and Matt Carpenter had four hits. Martinez has owned the Brewers so far in his career. He should be getting quarterly reports and have his own parking space at Miller Park.

Athletics 3, Twins 2: Kendall Graveman had an uncharacteristically solid start. Coco Crisp led off the game with a homer. He also added to the difficulty of a nice Chris Coghlan catch on a sac fly in the fifth, providing a body block of sorts. We’ve still never seen a heel-turn in a major league baseball game, but this is how one would start. They’re more creative now, but back in the 80s all the good heel turns started with some minor accident or miscommunication during a tag team match or something, causing the newly formed heel to believe his friend had turned on him when he really just made a mistake. If Coghlan was getting a push as a new heel, this is how it’d go. I doubt it will happen because MLB’s bookers really aren’t on top of things, but I’m gonna watch the next A’s game anyway to see if he hits Crisp with a metal chair during a standup interview with whoever the A’s version of Gordon Solie is.

Mariners 9, Padres 3Kyle Seager and Dae-Ho Lee homered. It wasn’t too long ago that the two teams combined in a Mariners-Padres game might not score nine runs in a whole three-game series. Or at least it felt like that. Seattle has come a long way.

Reds 11, Rockies 8: An 11-8 game with 28 hits and seven home runs that featured a big lead blown and a big rally that had its momentum maintained by a walk to a pitcher? Let me guess: Coors Field? *checks* Yes, I guessed correctly. Two homers from Adam Duvall who has 11 on the year somehow.

Astros 8, Diamondbacks 3: The offense was nice for Houston but a big game from Collin McHugh, going the distance the day after the Astros bullpen got sapped, was huge for them too. Jason Castro drove in three. Houston has won six of seven. I told y’all they’d come around eventually.

Cubs 2, Dodgers 0: Jason Hammel had to leave the game after two shutout innings with hamstring cramps. All the Cubs bullpen did was toss seven perfect innings. Not seven shutout innings. Seven perfect innings. Dang. One hit and one walk in the game for the Dodgers, each off of Hammel.

Rangers 9, Indians 2: Nomar Mazara’s hit a homer — a long homer —  in the fourth innins. He now has five home runs and 12 RBI in his last 11 games. The Astros may be turning it around, but the first place Rangers have won eight of 10 so it’s not like they’re gaining much ground.

Nationals 4, Phillies 3: Daniel Murphy hit a solo homer, singled, doubled and drove in three. He’s at .395/.426/.621 on the year. That’ll play. Bryce Harper had to leave after getting hit on the knee with a pitch, but he shouldn’t miss much time.

Blue Jays 4, Yankees 2: The Jays have taken five of six. Marco Estrada allowed three hits and struck out six in eight shutout innings. Just a ton of strong pitching performances yesterday. Not crazy Kershaw-style things, but a lot of “the bullpen was tired after the weekend and we need you to eat innings” kind of gutsy performances, this one being no exception.

Pirates 10, Marlins 0: OK, I take that back. Jeff Locke had a dominant performance with a three-hit shutout. Although he only struck out one dude, so that may or may not qualify depending on your definition of dominance. 105 pitches and no walks is pretty dang spiffy either way, though. Gregory Polanco hit a grand slam. Guy is hitting .315/.393/.565 from the 7-hole.

Royals 6, Rays 2: Eric Hosmer hit a three-run bomb in the Royals’ four-run eighth inning. Four wins in a row for the champs.

Angels 5, Tigers 1: Justin Verlander and Jhoulys Chacin traded zeroes until the eighth inning when Verlander ran out of zeros. The Angels rallied four five runs that inning, four charged to JV, and Chacin kept cruising, finishing the game with 10 strikeouts and allowing only one run in a complete game.

Chacin wins duel with Verlander, Angels top Tigers 5-1

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ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) Over the first 4 1/2 innings at Angel Stadium, Jhoulys Chacin and Justin Verlander retired all 27 batters they faced. They kept trading zeros deep into the eighth inning of a scintillating pitchers’ duel.

After the Los Angeles Angels finally cracked Verlander, Chacin kept pushing all the way to a breakthrough victory for his new team.

Chacin threw a four-hitter, and Cliff Pennington‘s tiebreaking RBI single during a five-run eighth propelled the Angels to a 5-1 victory over the Detroit Tigers on Monday night.

With shadows on the field for an early holiday start at Angel Stadium, nobody could get a hit off Chacin (1-1) or Verlander (4-5) until C.J. Cron‘s single leading off the fifth for Los Angeles.

Chacin lost his own perfect game bid on Andrew Romine‘s two-out single in the sixth, but the veteran Venezuelan right-hander persevered all the way to his third career complete game in his fourth start for the Angels.

“It felt great, and I’m really happy,” Chacin said. “I feel like my arm is just getting stronger, and hopefully it can stay like that the whole season.”

Los Angeles acquired Chacin from Atlanta earlier this month to bolster their injury-battered rotation. In his fourth start on the West Coast, he struck out 10 while throwing the Angels’ first complete game of the season.

“There’s no doubt he was hitting his spots,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “He got a lot of called strikes and some ugly swings from some really good hitters. His command was terrific. I don’t even think he threw 20 pitches (while) behind in the count. It was unbelievable.”

Chacin’s dominance was invaluable after the Angels’ bullpen was taxed in a 13-inning loss to Houston on Sunday, their fourth defeat in five games. Facing Detroit for the first time, the veteran right-hander threw his first complete game since 2011.

He fell just shy of the second shutout of his career when J.D. Martinez doubled and scored on Victor Martinez‘s long fly in the ninth, but Los Angeles had already given him plenty of room for error after eight nail-biting innings.

Chacin’s satisfaction was likely as large as the frustration felt by the Tigers, who wasted a gem from Verlander.

“When we don’t do anything offensively, it seems like it’s a lineup epidemic,” Detroit manager Brad Ausmus said. “When you’re in a 0-0 game, there’s no room for error, as you saw.”

Verlander, who threw eight scoreless innings last week against Philadelphia, gave up only one hit in the first seven innings while retiring the first 12 Angels he faced. He got no support from his teammates in Detroit’s fourth loss in five games.

“It’s tough for everybody here,” Verlander said. “You never know with our lineup. We can put up runs in a hurry, so you just kind of keep waiting for the big hit. Just keep going out there and plugging along, and hoping that it happens.”

BIG RALLY

Verlander sat down eight straight Angels shortly after Cron’s hit, but the bottom of their order finally beat him. After Johnny Giavotella and Rafael Ortega opened the eighth with back-to-back singles, Pennington failed on two bunt attempts before confidently lining a single to left.

Gregorio Petit then grounded to short, but Romine’s throw home was too late to get Ortega, and James McCann‘s subsequent throw to first skipped into right field, scoring Pennington.

HOLIDAY PAY

Albert Pujols and Cron added RBI singles off Buck Farmer in the eighth. Pujols has 20 career RBIs on Memorial Day, the most among active big leaguers. He is batting .363 with 32 RBIs against Detroit in his career.

FIELD OF SCREAMS

Detroit has lost 18 of its last 22 games in Anaheim since 2009, including eight straight and 14 of the last 15.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Tigers: Right-hander Jordan Zimmermann went through a pregame workout at Angel Stadium, and he’ll throw a bullpen session Tuesday in hopes of returning later this week from a groin strain.

Angels: Closer Huston Street was activated from the disabled list before the game. He hadn’t pitched since April 23 due to a strained oblique muscle.

UP NEXT

Tigers: Anibal Sanchez (3-6, 6.04 ERA) is winless in four career starts at Angel Stadium.

Angels: Hector Santiago (3-3, 4.58 ERA) got ejected in the third inning of his last start in Texas.

Cubs ‘pen perfect for 7 innings in 1-hit win over Dodgers

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CHICAGO (AP) Travis Wood and three other relievers combined for seven perfect innings after starter Jason Hammel left with cramps, and the Chicago Cubs held the Los Angeles Dodgers to one hit in a 2-0 victory Monday.

Hammel exited after his right hamstring cramped while warming up for the third inning. Wood (3-0) pitched four perfect innings in his longest stint of the season.

Justin Grimm, Pedro Strop and Hector Rondon pitched one inning each for the Cubs, with Rondon getting his ninth save. He has converted 20 straight save opportunities dating back to Aug. 14.

Ben Zobrist extended his hitting streak to a career-high-tying 16 games. He singled leading off the fifth and reached third when right fielder Yasiel Puig misplayed the ball. He scored on Jason Heyward‘s infield single.

Anthony Rizzo drove home Heyward with a double to right.

Zobrist has reached base in his last 35 starts, the longest streak by a Cub since Starlin Castro‘s 40 in 2011.

The Cubs (35-14) have the best record in baseball and are a season-high 21 games over .500. They have won six straight since dropping eight of 12.

They entered Monday 6 1/2 games in front of the second-place Pittsburgh Pirates in the NL Central.

The Dodgers had won six of seven entering this Memorial Day matinee. The Dodgers arrived at their Chicago hotel at 3:30 a.m. following a 4-2 win over Mets on Sunday in New York, but manager Dave Roberts said before the game that his team had no problem with the quick turnaround.

“It makes it a lot easier after you win a game like we did last night,” he said. “To be here (at Wrigley Field) in this environment, it’s pretty exciting. But it’s kind of business as usual.”

Dodgers starting pitcher Alex Wood (1-4) gave up two runs on seven hits in five innings, striking out seven and walking three. His normal turn would have been last Friday, but he injured his left triceps swinging a bat in his previous start, May 21 in San Diego. Nineteen-year-old Julio Urias started in his place Friday.

MEMORIAL DAY LAMENT

Cubs manager Joe Maddon said his father, uncles and grandparents served in the military – and that his Uncle Buzz was a POW.

“The one regret I have in my own personal life is the fact that I never did serve,” Maddon said. “At the time, it was very unpopular. The Vietnam War was going on, and I was in college. At the time, you really thought you were very fortunate not to have to do that. But retrospectively, that would be the one life experience that I missed out on. I wish I hadn’t.”

TRAINER’S ROOM

Dodgers: OF Trayce Thompson, who left Saturday’s game in New York with lower back soreness, was 100 percent and available off the bench, according to Roberts. He’s expected to start in left field on Tuesday. … OF Carl Crawford, pulled from Saturday’s game with a hamstring injury, started in left Monday. “I just wanted to give him (Thompson) another day and give C.C. an opportunity,” Roberts said. “C.C. is a quick healer. I like the matchup of him and Hammel.” … RHP Brandon McCarthy (Tommy John surgery) was scheduled to throw to hitters at Dodger Stadium on Monday.

CUBS: Maddon did not start center fielder Dexter Fowler, who has a sore heel. Maddon said he hoped Fowler would return to the lineup Tuesday. Maddon moved Jason Heyward from right to center, shifted Ben Zobrist from second to right, and inserted Javier Baez at second. Zobrist also took Fowler’s leadoff spot. Fowler entered Monday’s game with a six-game hitting streak.

UP NEXT

CUBS: RHP Jake Arrieta (9-0, 1.72 ERA) will try to become the major league’s first 10-game winner. He is the first Cubs starter to win his first nine decisions in a season since Kenny Holtzman in 1967. The only Cubs starter with a longer season-opening streak was Jim McCormick, who started 16-0 in 1886. Arrieta is 20-0 with a 0.98 ERA in 22 starts since Aug. 1, 2015.

DODGERS: LHP Scott Kazmir (4-3, 4.84) pitched for then-Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon’s 2008 World Series team. He has a 1-0 career record and 2.53 ERA in two games against the Cubs. Kazmir is 3-1 in May with a 4.13 ERA.

Bogaerts hit streak at 23 as Red Sox beat Orioles 7-2

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BALTIMORE (AP) Xander Bogaerts did the damage early, extending his hitting streak to 23 games and driving in two runs.

From there, Boston used the long ball to pull away from the Baltimore Orioles in a matchup between the top two teams in the AL East.

Jackie Bradley put the first-place Red Sox ahead for good with a sixth-inning homer, and David Ortiz and Marco Hernandez connected in the eighth to seal a 7-2 victory Monday.

Knuckleballer Steven Wright (5-4) pitched a four-hitter, striking out seven and walking five in his third straight complete game.

Mookie Betts scored twice, courtesy of Bogaerts, before Bradley connected off Tyler Wilson (2-4) leading off the sixth. Bradley’s 29-game hitting streak, which ended last week, is the only one this season longer than Bogaerts’ career-best run.

“I’m just trying to go up there and get hits, you know? If it happens, it happens,” Bogaerts said. “Just trying to be me, and not trying to be someone who I’m not.”

Ortiz led off the eighth with his 14th home run and Hernandez added a three-run shot to send many in the crowd of 43,926 up the exit ramps. Hernandez’s first major league homer came in his 10th game.

Wright, meanwhile, threw a 122-pitch masterpiece by mixing a fluttering knuckler with a vastly contrasting fastball.

“It was a challenge,” Baltimore’s Mark Trumbo said. “He had great stuff today. It never ended up where it started. You can’t really predict where to swing. You just hope that you get one that maybe doesn’t move quite as much.”

Ryan Flaherty doubled in a run and scored one for the Orioles, who have lost six of eight.

Wilson gave up three runs and eight hits over 6 2-3 innings in losing his third straight start.

Limited to an infield hit over the first four innings, Baltimore temporarily solved Wright’s knuckler in the fifth. Nolan Reimold tripled, Flaherty doubled, Caleb Joseph snapped an 0-for-19 skid with a single and Adam Jones delivered a sacrifice fly to tie the game at 2.

“They’re a very aggressive team. They’re all really good hitters,” Wright said. “In that inning they scored the two runs, I think I kind of got caught up in the same speed.”

The deadlock lasted only until Bradley crushed Wilson’s third pitch of the following inning.

Boston got a first-inning run when Betts scored from second base on Bogaerts’ dribbler down the third-base line. Bogaerts was thrown out, but neither Wilson nor Joseph, the catcher, got back to cover the plate. Replays indicated the ball bounced off Bogaerts’ foot in foul ground, but such plays are not reviewable.

Bogaerts knew the ball should have been called foul, but learned from experience to run it out.

“We had a play back at home, same play. I stood at home, the ball hit me, and they threw to first, out,” he said. “I told the umpire the ball hit me, and he said, `No, you’re out.’ This time I’m running, you know. And it worked out for RBI.”

Bogaerts hit an RBI double in the third following singles by Betts and Dustin Pedroia.

DOUBLE DOWN

Red Sox: Bogaerts’ two doubles increased Boston’s major-league leading total to 133, but Ortiz’s career-high run of six straight games with a double came to an end.

Orioles: Flaherty’s fifth-inning double was his second in 61 at-bats this season and produced his second RBI.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Red Sox: Placed on the concussion list May 20, utility man Brock Holt has ramped up his baseball-related activities. But there is no timetable for his return, manager John Farrell said. … Ortiz returned after sitting out Sunday’s game in Toronto with a sore left foot.

Orioles: RHP Yovani Gallardo (shoulder tendinitis) will begin his rehabilitation assignment on Thursday and with 40-60 pitches in a minor league game. … SS J.J. Hardy (broken foot) will have a CT scan Friday. He hopes to be cleared to begin baseball-related activities. Joseph was taken to the hospital for observation after getting struck in the groin by a foul ball.

UP NEXT

Red Sox: Eduardo Rodriguez (right knee) comes off the disabled list to make his season debut, starting on the mound Tuesday night against the organization that drafted him. Rodriquez went 0-3 in five rehab starts with Triple-A Pawtucket. After the game, Boston sent reliever Heath Hembree to the minors to make room for Rodriguez.

Orioles: Starting for the eighth time this season, Kevin Gausman (0-2, 3.24 ERA) makes another run at his first win.