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Rob Manfred wants to boost pace of play with shorter commercial breaks

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As part of his attempts to curb the “dead time” that unnecessarily lengthens baseball games, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said that long commercial breaks could be the next thing to go. Shortening commercial breaks wouldn’t be as easy as eliminating the four-pitch walk or even installing pitch clocks in major league ballparks; as Manfred relayed to Forbes’ Maury Brown, there are “contractural limitations” that would prevent the league from cutting down on ads too much between innings.

Still, it’s an interesting idea, and one that’s more palatable than the myriad ways Manfred has suggested tampering with the game itself. According to Brown’s report, Red Sox’ owner Tom Werner is also in favor of the idea, though neither he nor Manfred have devised any concrete ways to shorten commercial breaks without taking a hit in revenue first. Tony Clark, head of the Players Association, reminds the league that any measures taken to shorten games have to benefit the players first, including those who might need the extra time to warm up during pitching changes and inning breaks (via the Boston Herald’s Evan Drellich):

Of more pressing concern is how the league would compensate for lost ad revenue. Brown, among others, suggests that shorter commercial breaks could force teams to install advertisements in the parks themselves or add sponsored logos to players’ uniforms. Neither option seems ideal, but the added distractions could be worth the trade-off of shorter television commercials — at least for the fans watching at home, if no one else.

The driving force behind this proposed change is Manfred’s desire to streamline the average baseball game. He said that while he’s not focused on cutting down the length of games, he wants to ensure that each minute is action-packed, while the “dead periods” between balls put in play get reduced as much as is reasonable. At least on the television front, however, any significant changes to MLB’s regularly scheduled programming are likely still several years away.

Sean Manaea pitches the first no-hitter of 2018

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Athletics southpaw Sean Manaea delivered his first career no-hitter against the Red Sox in a decisive 3-0 victory on Saturday night. Any thought of a perfect game was banished in the first at-bat, when Mookie Betts drew a leadoff six-pitch walk to open the first inning. From there, Manaea was nearly flawless, holding the Sox to four total baserunners and striking out 10 of 30 batters faced — a career record.

Manaea was gifted a three-run lead thanks to RBI doubles from Jed Lowrie and Stephen Piscotty and Marcus Semien‘s solo shot off of Chris Sale in the fifth inning. While the Red Sox managed to draw two walks off of Manaea, they didn’t come anywhere close to plating a run. Andrew Benintendi tried to break up the no-no in the sixth inning with an infield hit down the first base line, but strayed out of bounds and later saw his hit reversed on a call of batter interference.

Entering the ninth inning, the 26-year-old lefty was sitting at just 95 pitches through eight frames of no-hit ball. He quickly deposed Blake Swihart and Mookie Betts with a groundout and fly out, then walked Benintendi on seven pitches. Any threat the Red Sox might have posed was soon eliminated, however, as Hanley Ramirez ground into a force out to complete the no-hitter.

Manaea is the first A’s pitcher to toss a no-no since Dallas Braden’s perfect game against the Rays eight years ago. The last time the Red Sox were on the losing end of a no-hitter was also against an AL West rival, when the Mariners’ Chris Bosio clinched a 2-0 no-no on April 22, 1993. Manaea’s feat is even more outstanding given how dominant the Red Sox have looked this season: prior to Saturday’s defeat, they boasted a 17-2 record and had yet to be shut out during the regular season.