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And That Happened: Saturday’s Scores and Highlights

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Saturday’s games featured Bryce Harper‘s impressive game-winning blast, Brandon Belt‘s first splash hit of the year and the reemergence of the infamous Rally Squirrel. Here are the rest of the day’s scores and highlights:

Blue Jays 7, Mariners 2: The Blue Jays aren’t playing like a last-place team these days. Marcus Stroman led the charge in the team’s sixth win of the week, delivering nine strikeouts and two runs over six solid innings. Jose Bautista came through with the three-run blast in the seventh, powering a five-run lead while the Mariners lost yet another starting pitcher to injury.

Giants 3, Reds 1: Whatever fatigue the Giants may have felt after their 17-inning victory the night before seemed to vanish by Saturday afternoon. Brandon Belt clubbed his first splash hit of the season, sinking a 2-1 pitch from Lisalverto Bonilla into McCovey Cove to get the Giants on the board in the first inning. Bonilla tossed the first complete game of his career, keeping the Giants to a three-run spread over eight innings and recording his first career hit, but was left hanging by a lackluster offense, who couldn’t solve Matt Moore to tie the game.

Cardinals 5, Cubs 3: Neither Jon Lester nor Carlos Martinez escaped with pristine pitching lines in Saturday’s match-up. Lester was dinged with four runs and four walks, falling victim to Jedd Gyorko‘s solo home run, an RBI single by Magneuris Sierra and a two-RBI effort from Tommy Pham. Martinez surrendered a home run to newcomer Ian Happ, who went 1-for-3 in his major league debut.

While the Cardinals eventually prevailed, taking a two-run lead for their 20th win of the season, both Lester and Martinez had another thing in common: they each produced an RBI base hit to get their respective teams on the board.

Twins 4, Indians 1: Jose Berrios cut a commanding figure on the mound during Saturday’s 4-1 win, imposing four strikeouts on the Indians and issuing just two hits, a walk and a run in his first outing of the season. Nearly as impressive: this party-crasher, who took a lap around the infield in the sixth inning and managed to evade capture after dashing into the stands.

Red Sox 6, Rays 3: Behind every great pitcher is a great offense, so the saying goes. Chris Sale‘s 12-strikeout effort was decorated with six runs from the Red Sox’ lineup, including Mookie Betts‘ sixth home run of the year:

Betts combined with Deven Marrero and Xander Bogaerts for an impressive run in the fifth inning, collecting three hits and four runs off of beleaguered Rays’ starter Blake Snell. With the win, the Sox sit 2.5 games above the Rays for third place in the AL East.

Nationals 6, Phillies 4: Bryce Harper is having a pretty remarkable weekend. Hours after inking a one-year, $21.65 million contract extension with the Nationals, Harper smashed a two-run shot off of Philadelphia reliever Edubray Ramos for his second walk-off home run of the season:

In the words of Nationals’ manager Dusty Baker: “Nobody can say he ain’t worth the money.”

Braves 3, Marlins 1: It’s probably nothing more than pure coincidence that the Marlins’ five consecutive losses overlapped with the five games they decided not to close the roof in Marlins Park this week. On Saturday evening, however, the lack of cover cost them an important run when Marcell Ozuna lost track of a ball during the fourth inning, losing it against the light-colored sky and allowing Freddie Freeman to stretch a routine fly ball into a leadoff double. Freeman came home to score two batters later on Nick Markakis‘ RBI single, putting the Braves up 1-0 and setting the stage for their eventual 3-1 win.

Brewers 11, Mets 4: With an injury-riddled rotation and the recent loss of closer Jeurys Familia, the Mets entered Saturday’s match at a clear disadvantage. Not helping matters was starter Robert Gsellman, who took his third loss of the season after the Brewers engineered an eight-run attack in the fifth inning. After dropping three straight games, the Mets sit a full seven games back of the division-leading Nationals with a 16-19 record.

White Sox 5, Padres 4: The Padres technically lost their 24th game of the year on a controversial play at the plate, but defensive miscues from starter Trevor Cahill set up the loss several innings in advance. In the fourth, Jose Abreu reached on a fielding error, then moved to second base when Cahill issued a wild pitch to Avisail Garcia:

That wild pitch was followed by another:

And another:

Not surprisingly, Abreu became the first White Sox player to score on three wild pitches since 1961.

Royals 4, Orioles 3: Striking out 12 batters in a single outing is a feat for any pitcher, but doing it in just five innings is almost unheard-of. Nate Karns delivered 12 strikeouts over five frames on Saturday, joining Jake Arrieta, Chris Archer, Andrew Cashner, Alex Cobb and Zack Greinke as the only major league hurlers to record 12+ whiffs in five or fewer innings. (Most impressive is the Rays’ Alex Cobb, who struck out 13 batters in just 4 2/3 innings back in 2013.) There was plenty of excitement at the plate, too — the Orioles’ Francisco Pena clubbed his first and second home runs of the year, while Brandon Moss went deep for the go-ahead run in the sixth inning.

Rangers 6, Athletics 5: The A’s wasted another gem from Sonny Gray on Saturday, dropping their second game of the series after the Rangers exploded for four runs in the seventh inning. Yonder Alonso brought the team within one run of tying the game with his 12th home run of the year, but the rest of the offense fell short against Texas right-hander Matt Bush, who needed just 13 pitches to send the A’s packing in the ninth.

Dodgers 4, Rockies 0: Coors Field isn’t exactly what you’d call a pitcher’s park, but its hitter-friendly reputation didn’t seem to faze the Dodgers’ Alex Wood at all. Wood crafted six scoreless innings against the Rockies, allowing five hits and a walk and striking out 10 of 23 batters for his fourth win of the season. Although the left-hander commanded an inflated 7.16 run support average through his first seven outings of 2017, he needed just four runs to clinch Saturday’s shutout, including RBI doubles from Austin Barnes and Justin Turner, Brett Eibner’s first home run of the year, and Wood’s own sacrifice bunt.

Pirates 4, Diamondbacks 3: The Pirates finally caught a break on Saturday after sustaining a six-game skid last week. Right-hander Trevor Williams, whose performance has been inconsistent at best and downright terrible at worst, rebounded to deliver five innings of one-run, four strikeout ball, even generating his own run support after reaching base on a run-scoring error in the fourth inning. The Diamondbacks put up three home runs, including Nick Ahmed’s twin blasts off of Williams and reliever Tony Watson, but stranded the tying run on a game-ending pop-out in the ninth inning.

Tigers 4, Angels 3: J.D. Martinez is back, and boy, are the Tigers glad to see him. Martinez was a welcome, if underwhelming presence in the lineup during his season debut on Friday, but returned on Saturday to go 3-for-4 at the plate with two home runs — including the game-winning shot:

The Angels did cool things, too — Mike Trout hit his longest home run of the season and Albert Pujols tied Carl Yastrzemski with the 11th most career RBI in major league history — but faltered in the ninth inning for their 21st loss of 2017.

Alan Trammell’s Hall of Fame election validates a child’s baseball memories

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla — My great uncle Harry was a boat salesman in Detroit. He had some Tigers front office types as clients so he got a lot of free tickets to Tigers games. and he’d use them to take my brother and me to Tiger Stadium several times a year. We were always right behind home plate.

My parents tell me that I went to my first game in Tiger Stadium on the Fourth of July, 1978. I was too young to remember a thing about that one. The first one I do remember was June 17, 1979. A few years ago I tracked down the box score for that game on Baseball-Reference.com to get all of the details, but before I knew all of the specifics I remembered the important details: it was a day game against the California Angels and Alan Trammell hit a home run. He instantly became my favorite player. I was not quite six years old.

Like any other kid who has a favorite player, I obsessed over him. I collected every one of his baseball cards. I looked for his name in every box score. When I played Little League I begged the coach to let me play shortstop even though I had no business playing shortstop (the coach did let me wear number 3 at least). I made sure that, when a Tigers game was on TV, no one turned it off until Trammell had come to bat at least once.

On one occasion I even sort of stalked him.

My grandparents lived in Detroit and rumor had it that Trammell rented a house just down the street from them during the season. Once, when we were visiting my grandmother, my brother and I walked to the house and knocked on the door. A woman in her 20s answered it. We presumed it to be his wife or girlfriend. We asked if Alan Trammell was there. She said no and shut the door on us. At the time we assumed that, darn our luck, he had already left to go to the ballpark that day. In hindsight I realized that it probably wasn’t his house, and that the woman, while taciturn to the point of being misleading, was technically telling the truth. The point here is that back then I just liked to assume that Alan Trammell lived two doors down from my grandparents. A kid will believe a lot about his hero ballplayer in order to be closer to him.

My thing for Trammell continued for a good decade or so. By the end of that decade it seemed plain to me that was the greatest shortstop in the history of baseball and anyone else who didn’t recognize that was simply irrational. With nearly 40 years of hindsight, I now know that Trammell wasn’t the greatest shortstop in baseball history. Probably. He was damn good, though.

After I moved away from Michigan and Trammell’s career began to wind down, Greg Maddux became my favorite player. It was a different thing with him — I was too old for a baseball player to be my hero, exactly — but it’s the case that I thought less about Trammell than I had in the 80s. That probably would’ve happened naturally, but there were other factors which worked to make me think of Trammell less than I did when I was younger.

It’s easy to get jaded if you spend enough time writing about baseball. I’ve never stopped loving or enjoying the game, but if you focus most of your life on it, you end up seeing so many amazing things that you forget some of the other amazing stuff you’ve seen. In my case, I’ve pushed out a lot of the stuff I enjoyed when I was a kid. I didn’t do it on purpose. It just happened. There is only so much baseball you can hold in your head at once and I have a lot of baseball in my head.

Part of me pushing Trammell out of my head was defensive, though. He first made the Hall of Fame ballot in 2002. He didn’t get even 20% of the vote until his ninth year. He never got as much as 37% of the vote. It pained me to see the Hall of Fame voters — many of whom would eventually become my friends and colleagues — fail to recognize him year after year. I get why that happened. Trammell was a bit of an odd duck for his era. After decades of being used to heavy leather, light bat shortstops, Hall of Fame voters weren’t ready for a guy at that position who could play gold glove defense, hit for both average and power and take an occasional walk. At the very least they weren’t ready to process several of them at once. Cal Ripken and Robin Yount, understandably, filled up that space in their heads while Ozzie Smith impressed upon them that the traditional shortstop archetype remained strong. There just wasn’t room for Tram their minds.

But even if his being overlooked was somewhat understandable, it was still painful. It seemed like a rebuke of my childhood memories. I’m not a sentimental guy. I don’t believe in that whole fathers-and-sons-passing-baseball-down-from-generation-to-generation thing. But I did wonder why I’d bother taking my kids to the Hall of Fame if I could not go into the plaque room and see my Hall of Fame-worthy boyhood idol. Why should I care about the Hall of Fame if, as far as it was concerned, Alan Trammell was an invisible man? Alan Trammell happened. I saw it. I saw him do all of those great things and, because of the manner in which baseball history is chronicled and remembered, he was forgotten in some important way. It pissed me off.

I never thought Trammell would make the Hall of Fame. Not for a moment. I knew a couple of years in that the BBWAA wouldn’t vote him in and I had no confidence, until the moment I heard the news of his election last night, that the Veteran’s Committee would ever give him his due. But they did.

It was a shock and a surprise. When I heard he made it I stopped what I was doing and just sat back dumbfounded. Happy. Flooded with memories of watching Trammell play when I was a kid and he was my favorite player. Happy that, after years and years of almost wondering if I was the only person alive who watched him play, my childhood memories were validated. Validated in a way that I never thought was really necessary but, now that it has happened, makes me feel better than I did before. Better about baseball. Better about baseball history. Better about the memories I had that, for a while, I began to even question since no one else seemed to remember Trammell like I did.

This old man’s memories of Alan Trammell aren’t all that important. Baseball memories of old men have had more than their fair share of validation over the years to the point where baseball history is almost distorted as a result. But what of the baseball memories of younger generations?

The Baseball Hall of Fame and its voters have seen fit to shun the baseball greats of the 1990s and 2000s. A host of them — Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, Manny Ramirez and others — are now and likely forever will be kept out of the Hall of Fame. We certainly have not forgotten those players, but we’re not honoring them.

The Hall and its voters will eagerly explain to you why that is. It’s about ethics and morality and authenticity and all of that, they say. I’m not sure, however, why that would matter to a person who, when they were six-year-old, was amazed by their feats and exploits. I’m not sure how an entire generation of people who became baseball fans as a result of those players should be made to feel that their memories are somehow not worth memorializing. Why they should be expected to go to the Hall of Fame with their children if they can’t walk into the plaque room and say “there’s the greatest player I ever saw.”

Until last night I discounted that feeling. I don’t think I’ll discount it anymore.