And That Happened: Tuesday’s scores and highlights

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Phillies 4, Braves 0Cubs 7, Brewers 1Cardinals 6, Pirates 4Mets 8, Marlins 6: “Hi, we’re the four teams at least plausibly fighting for the second NL Wild Card right now. We all lost last night. We all lost the game we played before, too! Milwaukee, here [step forward, Milwaukee] has lost seven in a row! Atlanta [now you] has only lost two in a row, but they have only scored one run in the past four games. It seems like they haven’t scored a run since Dale Murphy played center field! This may all seem rather dreary, but look on the bright side! We’re freeing up a night in early October for you so you don’t have to watch the NL wild card game. Or, worse, so that you watch it and one of us actually wins it and becomes a bona fide playoff team despite us being really, really horrible.”

Dodgers 4, Nationals 1: At least Clayton Kershaw is a palate-cleanser. And if he keeps this up, he’s the NL MVP. I mean, I still think the favorite is either Andrew McCutchen (if the Pirates win the wild card) or Giancarlo Stanton (if the Marlins stay close until the end) but given how uninspiring their teams are of late, Kershaw may be building up an MVP resume to go with that lock for the Cy Young (8 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 8K).

Giants 12, Rockies 7: San Francisco was going to get lumped in with the “NL Wild Card contenders stunk last night” crew, but they rallied after being down 7-1 through five innings. Buster Posey was a wrecking crew from the sixth inning on, hitting a solo homer and smacking two RBI doubles to finish with four driven in on the night. The Giants have won seven of eight. Imagine where this team would be if they hadn’t punted so much of June and July.

Orioles 5, Reds 4: Bud Norris pitched six shutout inning while navigating around two rain delays. The second one was a lengthy one — one hour and forty-six minutes — which would normally ice a pitcher for the night, but not Norris. Since the rain didn’t come until after the top of the first, Reds starter Mat Latos ended up not throwing his first pitch until after both delays. That did mess with him, apparently, as he allowed four runs in the first and five overall. The O’s have won seven of nine and now have a nine and half game lead in the East.

Tigers 4, Indians 2: J.D. Martinez had a three-run homer in the top of the ninth off closer Cody Allen to put the Tigers ahead for good. A nice redemption for the Tigers who had stranded runners all night before that. The Indians are seeing their claim to contention evaporate almost as soon as it materialized a few days ago. They’re now five and a half out in the Central. The Tigers are a half game behind leaders Kansas City.

Royals 2, Rangers 1: That’s because the Royals kept pace, with Sal Perez driving in the go-ahead run in the eighth. Alex Gordon has been a trendy stealth MVP pick in the American League, but it seems like Perez has big hits every other night. Must be the perfume.

Red Sox 9, Yankees 4: So much of the disappointment for the Red Sox this year came because they were depending on young players who didn’t deliver. Among them, Xander Bogaerts. He delivered last night, knocking four hits including a homer and driving in two. Another youngster — Mookie Betts — had three hits and hit a homer of his own. Daniel Nava hit a three-run homer and Yoenis Cespedes tripled, doubled and singled. Sleep on this Red Sox team in 2015 at your peril.

Editor’s Note: Hardball Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $40,000 Fantasy Baseball league for Wednesday night’s MLB games. It’s just $25 to join and first prize is $5,500. Starts at 7:05pm ET on WednesdayHere’s the FanDuel link.

Blue Jays 8, Rays 2: R.A. Dickey allowed two runs over seven innings, striking out six.The Jays bombed Jeremy Hellickson.

White Sox 6, Twins 3: Two home runs for Tyler Flowers. And then Dayan Viciedo broke a tie in the 10th with a solo shot. Chicago is now three up on Minnesota in the race for cellar avoidance.

Padres 2, Diamondbacks 1: Cory Spangenberg is making his presence felt in a hurry. He had the night off until he punch hit in the bottom of the ninth and then all he did was hit a walkoff homer on the first pitch he saw. Here’s Bud Black on the decision to pinch hit with Spangenberg:

Black said hitting coach Phil Plantier “felt good about the at-bat with Spangy. Cam didn’t have great numbers against Ziegler. Phil through Ziegler’s type of pitching was pretty good for Spangy. Spangy’s sort of a slasher, likes the ball a little bit out, a little bit down and it worked out.”

“Spangy.” Maybe let’s give the guy more than two days in the big leagues before just defaulting to the lame “-y” nickname. Because it’s almost as if he’s the kind of guy who might develop a cool one himself soon.

Astros 8, Angels 3: Jose Altuve has eight hits in the past two nights. He’s hitting .340. Barring an extreme September slump, of which there is no evidence whatsoever, Altuve is going to win the batting title. He’ll be the first Astro to ever do it, too. He had a homer among his four hits last night. Guy is just a player. Tom Lawless is now undefeated as a major league manager. He should think about retiring on top.

Mariners 6, Athletics 5: Seattle made sure the Angels didn’t lost ground to the A’s, though. James Paxton took a shutout into the eighth. And while he and the bullpen bent at that point, they did not break. Oakland has lost 5 of 6.

Must-Click Link: Do the players even care about money anymore?

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Yesterday I wrote about how the union has come to find itself in the extraordinarily weak position it’s in. The upshot: their leadership and their membership, happily wealthy by virtue of gains realized in the 1970s-1990s, has chosen to focus on small, day-to-day, quality of life issues rather than big-picture financial issues. As a result, ownership has cleaned their clock in the past few Collective Bargaining Agreements. If the union is to ever get back the considerable amount of ground it has lost over the past 15 years, it’ll require a ton of hard work and perhaps drastic measures.

A few hours later, Yahoo’s Jeff Passan dropped an absolute must-read that expands on that topic. Through weeks of interviews with league officials, agents and players, he explains why the free agent market is as bad as it is for players right now and why so many of them and so many fans seem not to understand just how bad a spot the players are in, business wise.

Passan keys on the media’s credulousness regarding teams’ stated rationales for not spending in free agency. About how, with even a little bit of scrutiny, the “[Team] wants to get below the luxury tax” argument makes no sense. About how the claim that this is a weak free agent class, however true that may be, does not explain why so few players are being signed.  About how so few teams seem interested in actually competing and how fans, somehow, seem totally OK with it.

Passan makes a compelling argument, backed by multiple sources, that, even if there is a lot of money flowing around, the fundamental financial model of the game is broken. The young players are the most valuable but are paid pennies while players with 6-10 years service time are the least valuable yet are the ones, theoretically anyway, positioned to make the most money. The owners have figured it out. The union has dropped the ball as it has worried about, well, whatever the heck it is worried about. The killer passage on all of this is damning in this regard:

During the negotiations leading to the 2016 basic agreement that governs baseball, officials at MLB left bargaining stupefied almost on a daily basis. Something had changed at the MLBPA, and the league couldn’t help but beam at its good fortune: The core principle that for decades guided the union no longer seemed a priority.

“It was like they didn’t care about money anymore,” one league official said.

Personally, I don’t believe that they don’t care about money anymore. I think the union has simply dropped the ball on educating its membership about the business structure of the game and the stakes involved with any given rule in the CBA. I think that they either so not understand the financial implications of that to which they have agreed or are indifferent to them because they do not understand their scope and long term impact.

It’s a union’s job to educate its membership about the big issues that may escape any one member’s notice — like the long term effects of a decision about the luxury tax or amateur and international salary caps — and convince them that it’s worth fighting for. Does the MLBPA do that? Does it even try? If it hasn’t tried for the past couple of cycles and it suddenly starts to now, will there be a player civil war, with some not caring to jeopardize their short term well-being for the long term gain of the players who follow them?

If you care at all about the business and financial aspects of the game, Passan’s article is essential.