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And That Happened: Thursday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Reds 7, Phillies 4: Going with a zillion pitchers and a short bench is always lame, but it’s especially lame early in the season when everyone’s pretty fresh and there are some days off built in. You can negate that self-inflicted disadvantage, however, if you send up a pitcher as a pinch hitter with orders to hit a homer. Here Bryan Price, I’m sure, explained to Michael Lorenzen that a homer was preferable and Lorenzen obliged him. The Reds pitcher hit the first pinch-hit homer by a big league pitcher in eight years, putting the Reds ahead for good. Daniel Nava hit two homers for Philly in a winning effort in a losing cause.

Twins 5, Royals 3: The Twins drew seven walks yesterday. In three games against the Royals they notched 25 hits and 23 walks. That’s quite a thing, both for the Twins and for the Royals. Anyway: a sweep for Minnesota.

Rockies 2, Brewers 1Nolan Arenado led off the ninth with his first homer of the year, breaking a 1-1 tie. Earlier Mark Reynolds homered for the Rockies’ first run. Antonio Senzatela, making the jump from Double-A, made his big league debut for Colorado, tossing five shutout innings and striking out six. Not too shabby.

Cubs 6, Cardinals 4Kyle Schwarber hit a go-ahead, three-run homer, with the rally being kicked off by that ball that stuck to Yadier Molina‘s chest protector, allowing leadoff hitter Matt Szczur to reach base. Here it is again in case you missed it:

I imagine we’ll have a discussion about doctored baseballs and stuff over the next few days. It’s a pretty dreary and silly conversation at this point. Mostly because baseball itself doesn’t care about pitchers doctoring baseballs. Unless it’s “obvious” in a Michael Pineda way. Which is a dumb standard, meaning there is practically no standard about the doctoring as much as there is one about decorum. And lord knows how dumb baseball decorum conversations can be.

One thing I can predict, though: a lotta people, reasonably for the most part, will believe that either the ball or Yadi’s chest protector or both had some goo on it. They will generally not be Cardinals fans. A lot of people — almost 100% Cardinals fans — will say this was not goo at all but rather [insert some JFK-style magic bullet theory here].

If you introduce irrational standards regarding player behavior, you’re inviting irrational explanations, and those go very will with fandom, which is itself irrational, generally speaking. So have fun with the debate, folks. I’m mostly gonna sit it out.

White Sox 11, Tigers 2: New White Sox Geovany Soto hit two homers and James Shields allowed one run on two hits and struck out five in five and a third. As for the Tigers, there was a lot of talk about the back of the rotation this spring and questions as to whether Matthew Boyd or Anibal Sanchez belonged there. Here they both pitched with Boyd giving up five runs in the start and Sanchez giving up five runs in relief, so all that debate was for nothing!

Dodgers 10, Padres 2: Yasiel Puig went deep twice. He also drew two walks. So far on the year he’s at .416/.563/1.250 with three homers, 5 RBI and 4 walks. Is that good?

Athletics 5, Angels 1: Triggs beats Skaggs. Andrew over Tyler. One run, unearned, over five and two thirds vs. five runs on five hits over five and one third. The A’s and Angels split their four-game series.

Marlins 4, Nationals 3: The Marlins scored all four of their runs from the eighth inning on, coming from behind twice, and winning this one in the 10th via a Justin Bour go-ahead double. The Nats looked for bullpen help all winter after Mark Melancon left. They didn’t find much of it, but they put a happy face on things all spring. All teams do this with their shortcomings, of course. There are optimistic fluff pieces all February and March in which weaknesses are dismissed and a rosy picture is painted about how great The Grand Plan is. Then, in the first week or two of every season, I think of this, one of my favorite sports-related quotes of all time:

Mets 6, Braves 2: Matt Harvey allowed two runs over six and two-thirds in his season debut, allowing every Mets partisan to breathe a sigh of relief. It’s hard to overstate how bad Harvey was last year before going down and how much better the Mets will be if he’s healthy and even close to his old form in 2017. Otherwise, Travis d'Arnaud hit a go-ahead, two-run double and Wilmer Flores a two-run homer as the Mets cruised.

Blue Jays 5, Rays 2: Kendrys Morales hit a grand slam in the third inning and the Jays never looked back. Marcus Stroman allowed one run while pitching into the seventh, aided by three double plays behind him and a fourth double play that allowed Joe Biagini to get out of a jam Stroman himself created before leaving in the seventh.

Mariners 4, Astros 2: Tied 2-2 in the ninth, Jarrod Dyson hit a tiebreaking RBI single. Then Jean Segura added some insurance with an RBI single of his own. Mitch Haniger homered as well, as Seattle gets its first win of the year.

Diamondbacks 9, Giants 3Jake Lamb hit a three-run homer, David Peralta and Paul Goldschmidt each hit solo shots, and the Snakes took three of four from their division rivals to start the year. The Giants won 9 of the 10 games played by these two clubs at Chase Field last year and hadn’t dropped a four-game series against the Dbacks in Arizona in nine years.

Pirates vs. Boston — POSTPONED:

Oh, where have you been, my blue-eyed son?
Oh, where have you been, my darling young one?
I’ve stumbled on the side of twelve misty mountains
I’ve walked and I’ve crawled on six crooked highways
I’ve stepped in the middle of seven sad forests
I’ve been out in front of a dozen dead oceans
I’ve been ten thousand miles in the mouth of a graveyard
And it’s a hard, and it’s a hard, it’s a hard, and it’s a hard
And it’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

MLB managers weigh in on anthem protests

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No other Major League Baseball player has taken a knee during the National Anthem since Athletics’ catcher Bruce Maxwell‘s protest on Saturday night. The demonstration was sparked by President Donald Trump’s call for the boycott of the National Football League and the firing of any player who chose not to stand during the anthem. The comments drew harsh criticism from many NFL players, coaches and owners and more than a few in MLB have also lended their support. There is still one game left to play on Sunday, but it’s unclear whether any of Maxwell’s league-mates will show their solidarity by refusing to stand as well.

Given a baseball culture that tends toward conformity more often than not, it seems unlikely. But it’s something league managers are prepared for — even if they don’t all agree with the demonstrations themselves.

White Sox’ skipper Rick Renteria specifically addressed Maxwell’s protest on Sunday, speaking to the league’s policy of inclusivity:

None of the White Sox knelt prior to their series finale against the Royals. Neither did members of the Pirates or the Cardinals, though St. Louis manager Mike Matheny and Pittsburgh GM Neal Huntington both weighed in on the situation.

Matheny called the president’s comments “hurtful” and, like the Cubs’ Joe Maddon, appeared content to leave the decision to protest up to each player.

The Pirates, meanwhile, took a firmer tone. “We appreciate our players’ desire and ability to express their opinions respectfully and when done properly,” GM Huntington told Elizabeth Bloom of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “When done appropriately and properly, we certainly have respect for our players’ ability to voice their opinion.”

Just what the Pirates consider “appropriate and proper” protocol was left up in the air, and club president Frank Coonelly offered no further insights in a separate statement to the press. Setting strict parameters for players to voice their opinions kind of puts them in a gray area, one they’ll have to clear up should someone elect to protest in the days to come, either with a bent knee and a hand over their heart or in some other fashion.

Equally ambiguous were comments from Dodgers’ manager Dave Roberts, who claimed to oppose the movement for personal, if misguided reasons, but also respected the right of his players to make an “educated” statement in protest.

The Indians’ Terry Francona took what was perhaps the most balanced approach of the entire group:

“It’s easy for me to sit here and say, ‘Well, I think this is the greatest country in the world,’ because I do,” Francona told MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian. “But, I also haven’t walked in other people’s shoes. So, until I think, not just our country, but our world, until we realize that, hey, people are actually equal — it shouldn’t be a revelation — and the different doesn’t mean less. It’s just different. We’ve got work to do.”

These may all be moot points. Maxwell may be the only player to formally protest Trump’s comments, despite the good intentions of his teammates and fellow players around the league. Others may feel too ambivalent, threatened or uncomfortable to protest what the A’s catcher referred to as a “racial divide,” especially in a way that is routinely perceived as unpatriotic.

Even if the protests made by NFL players and Bruce Maxwell fail to gain momentum, however, the underlying issues they speak to are not going away anytime soon. Here, then, is where MLB managers can help foster a more inclusive environment throughout the league, not only showing respect for a player’s decision to stand against racism but actively partnering with those who do so. It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s a start.

Nationals plan to activate Bryce Harper on Monday

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The Nationals are planning to activate Bryce Harper from the 10-day disabled list on Monday, Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post reports. Janes adds that Harper has been taking his knee injury on a day-to-day basis, so if he experiences pain ahead of tomorrow’s series opener in Philadelphia, then the Nationals won’t activate him.

Harper, 24, suffered a knee injury running out a grounder last month against the Giants. The Nationals hope to get him into some game action before the end of the regular season just so he can get acclimated in time for the playoffs.

When Harper returns, he’ll look to improve on his .326/.419/.614 slash line with 29 home runs, 87 RBI, and 92 runs scored in 472 plate appearances.