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And That Happened: Friday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the rest of Friday’s scores and highlights:

Cubs 3, Cardinals 2: A much-needed off day on Thursday appears to have done the Cubs some good. The Cardinals jumped out to an early lead on Dexter Fowler‘s leadoff home run, but were eclipsed by a two-RBI effort from Jason Heyward and Kris Bryant‘s 12th home run of the year. The win snapped a six-game skid for the Cubs, their longest of the season.

Giants 10, Phillies 0: Speaking of clubs who could use a break, the Giants picked up their first win after getting swept by the Nationals this week. Right-hander Ty Blach posted his first career complete game shutout, allowing seven hits and striking out four of 32 batters as the Phillies tried — and failed — to dig in at the plate. Blach’s efforts were backed by an electric offensive drive, propelled in large part by Denard Span‘s five-hit, three-run performance. Notwithstanding the Padres’ 8-5 win over the Rockies later that evening, the Giants are now tied with San Diego for fourth place in the NL West. Progress!

Orioles 3, Red Sox 2: Manny Machado may not have the hardest- or farthest-hit home run of the season, but he certainly has the most 460+ foot homers in 2017. The Orioles’ third baseman went yard again on Friday, recording his 11th blast of the year on a 465-foot whopper off of Boston right-hander Rick Porcello.

Blue Jays 7, Yankees 5: The Blue Jays are one game shy of returning to .500 after defeating the Yankees on Friday night. Josh Donaldson struck twice, recording his first multi-home run game since last August’s record-breaking three-homer outings against the Twins.

Not to be outdone, Yankees’ rookie outfielder Aaron Judge smashed his 18th long ball of the season, proving he hasn’t lost his magic touch after putting up 10 home runs in April.

Marlins 7, Diamondbacks 5: Move over, Mike Lowell… there’s a new RBI leader in town. Giancarlo Stanton mashed his 579th career RBI on Friday, bumping Lowell from the top spot on the franchise leaderboard. In true Giancarlo Stanton fashion, he delivered the record-setting RBI via home run:

The Marlins won handily, helped by a strong showing by the bullpen after starter Jose Ureña was chased out of the fifth inning. With the win, the Marlins are 7-3 over their last 10 games, good for fourth-best in the NL East.

Tigers 15, White Sox 5: The Tigers didn’t look like a third-place team on Friday, overpowering the White Sox with a 15-run spread. It was the second such game of the Tigers’ 2017 season, following a 19-run win against the Mariners in April. The last time they recorded two games with 15+ runs was back in 2013, going 17-2 against the Astros and 16-2 over the Royals.

Highlighting the Tigers’ efforts? Miguel Cabrera‘s 1,000th career extra-base hit, a two-run double that bounced over Melky Cabrera‘s head in the second inning.

Pirates 12, Mets 7: Rookie catcher Elias Diaz treated the Pirates to a game-winning, six-RBI effort during his emergency start on Friday, going 2-for-5 with a three-run double and three-run home run. The home run — a mammoth 419-foot shot crushed to left field — was the first of Diaz’s major league career.

Things still look tense in the Mets’ camp, as Matt Harvey failed to pitch out of the fifth inning yet again. He’s made it through six innings just once in his last seven outings, and pitched to some of his worst results against the Bucs after giving up six runs, four walks and five strikeouts through five frames.

Reds 3, Braves 2 (10 innings): The crowd at Great American Ball Park welcomed Braves’ second baseman Brandon Phillips back for the first time since his trade to Atlanta this offseason, and it was clear that there was great affection on both sides. Following the standing ovation for Phillips, however, the Reds got down to business. Mike Foltynewicz pitched seven innings of two-hit ball, allowing just two walks and striking out a season-high 10 batters. Devin Mesoraco stepped up at the plate, delivering a leadoff home run in the tenth inning for his first career walk-off knock.

Phillips, meanwhile, went 0-for-5 against his former club, striking out twice and extending his hitless streak to three games.

Astros 7, Rangers 1: Carlos Correa doesn’t need to keep proving why he was named AL Player of the Month in May, but he seemed happy to do so against the Rangers this weekend. He broke through in the fifth inning and scored the first run of the game with a mammoth three-run homer off of Rangers’ right-hander Yu Darvish. The Astros returned for another big inning in the eighth, putting up a four-spot to secure their 39th win of the year and handing Dallas Keuchel his ninth win of 2017.

Dodgers 2, Brewers 1 (12 innings): The Dodgers set all kinds of strikeout records during their extra-inning victory over the Brewers on Friday. Clayton Kershaw racked up a season-high 14 strikeouts, whiffing Cody Bellinger in the second inning for his 2,000th career strikeout.

Behind their ace, the Dodgers’ bullpen fanned another eight batters, bringing the club to a franchise-leading 26 strikeouts on the night. After striking out four of eight batters to record the win, closer Kenley Jansen now has 39 whiffs and zero walks in 22 innings — a major league record to start the season.

Royals 4, Indians 0: It’s been a long time since Jason Vargas has looked anything close to dominant on the mound, making his seventh career shutout all the sweeter during Friday’s opener against the Indians. Vargas crafted a complete game shutout for the first time since 2014, issuing seven hits, one walk and three strikeouts with a four-run backing from the Royals’ lineup. Fueling his win, too, were four double plays — the most he’d induced in a single start since 2012.

Nationals 13, Athletics 3: The Nationals are showing no signs of slowing down after earning their ninth win in 11 games. Stephen Strasburg led the charge through seven innings, holding the A’s to two runs and four hits and striking out seven of 28 batters. Opposing starter Andrew Triggs wasn’t so lucky. The right-hander was dinged for nine hits and six runs against a league-best offensive drive and exited in the fourth after expending 81 pitches.

Twins 11, Angels 5: The Twins had themselves a home run party on Friday, and Albert Pujols was definitely not invited. Joe Mauer got Minnesota on the board in the first inning with a two-run shot to left field, followed by a pair of two-RBI homers from Robbie Grossman and Max Kepler in the third. Pujols, on the other hand, is still marching down that #RoadTo600 after going 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and a run-scoring double play.

Padres 8, Rockies 5: The last-place Padres have a five-game win streak now, thanks in part to their 13-14 record at home. They vaulted over the Rockies during Friday’s series opener, hammering Colorado starter German Marquez with a six-run comeback through the first five innings. Wil Myers sealed the win with a home run in the seventh, his 12th of the year. Put simply, baseball is weird.

Mariners 12, Rays 4: After taking an 89 MPH pitch to his left hand on Thursday, Nelson Cruz returned to the Mariners’ lineup in full force on Friday evening, going 2-for-3 with a pair of base hits and a walk. The rest of the Mariners followed suit, tagging the Rays’ Jake Odorizzi with five runs in the first inning on a bases-loaded walk and Taylor Motter‘s grand slam.

First baseman Danny Valencia was the star of the show, however, posting five RBI and coming one triple shy of the cycle en route to the Mariners’ 12-run finish.

Pete Mackanin doesn’t know if he’ll be back as Phillies manager next year

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Back in May the Phillies gave Pete Mackanin a contract extension covering the remainder of 2017, all of 2018 and created a team option for 2019. Yesterday, however, Mackanin said he had no idea if the Phillies were going to bring him back as manager next season:

“I assume I’ll be here, but you never know. You never know what they’re going to do. So you just keep moving on. I just take it a day at a time and manage the way I think I should manage and handle players the way I think I should handle them. That’s all I can do. If it’s not good enough then … fine. I hope it’s good enough. I hope he thinks it’s good enough.”

Maybe that’s just cautious talk, though, as there doesn’t seem to be any signals coming from the Phillies front office that Mackanin is in trouble. If anything things have looked up in the second half of the season with the callups of Rhys Hoskins and Nick Williams each of whom have shown that they belong in the bigs. The team is 33-37 since the All-Star break and is certainly a better team now than the one Mackanin started with in April. And it’s not his fault that they don’t have any pitching.

I suspect Mackanin will be back next year, but Mackanin has been around the block enough times to know that nothing is guaranteed for a big league manager. Even one under contract.

How not to enjoy what Aaron Judge is doing

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Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge has been one of the biggest and best stories in all of baseball this year. While he held promise entering his rookie season, most experts figured he’d provide some low-average, low-OBP power. That he’d be a guy who, based on his size, could send a pitcher’s mistake 500 feet in the wrong direction, but who would probably be shown to have big holes in his swing once he’d been around the league a little bit.

Judge defied expectations, however, and has put together an amazing rookie season. He broke the rookie home run record yesterday with his 50th blast. He still strikes out a lot but so does everyone. He nonetheless has hit for a great average and has gotten on base at a fantastic clip. He has also showed some uncommon resilience, overcoming a lengthy slump in July and August and returning to the dominant form he showed in the first half while helping a Yankees team not many figured to be a strong contender into the playoffs. Such a great story!

Sadly, however, this sentiment, which appeared from a commenter on my Facebook page yesterday, has become increasingly common:

I’ve seen it in a lot of comments sections and message boards around the Internet too, including our own comment section. From yesterday:

This is not exactly the same thing we’ve seen in the past with other breakout home run hitters such as Jose Bautista a few years back. This is not an accusation that Judge is taking drugs or anything. It’s more of a preemptive and defensive diminishment of excitement. And I find it rather sad.

Yes, I understand that past PED users have made fans wonder whether the players they watch are using something to get an extra edge, but it really does not need to be this way. We’ve had drug testing in baseball for over a decade and, while no drug testing regime is perfect, it just seems bizarre, several years after Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa did their thing — and a few years after Alex Rodriguez and others were caught and disciplined for trying to do more — to assume, out of hand, that great baseball performances are the product of undetected cheating. Yes, it’s possible, but such assumptions should not be the default stance, only to be disproved (somehow) at a later date.

The same goes for the juiced baseball, right? Yes, there is strong evidence that the baseball was changed a couple of years back leading to a home run spike, but aren’t all players using the same baseball? It’s also worth remembering that the season Mark McGwire hit 49 homers — 1987 — is strongly suspected of being a juiced ball year as well. It’s a concern that may be based in fact, but it’s a large concern over a fact thrown out with little regard for context to sketch out a threat that is either remote or without consequence.

The point here is not to argue that Aaron Judge is undeniably clean or that the baseball isn’t different. The former is unknown and the latter is likely false. The point is that it’s super sad and self-defeating to qualify every amazing feat you see with preemptive concern about such things. Years and years of sports writers writing McCarthy-esque “Yes, but is he clean?” articles does not require you, as a fan, to do the same. You can enjoy a cool thing in the moment. If it’s found out later to have been tainted, fine, we have a lot of practice in contextualizing such things and we’ll do so pretty quickly, but what’s the harm in going with it in real time?

I suspect the answer to that is rooted in some desire not to look like a sucker or something. Not to find oneself like many did, in the mid-2000s, being told by sportswriters and politicians that they were dupes for enjoying Sosa and McGwire in 1998. But that’s idiotic, in my view. I enjoyed 1998 and all of the baseball I saw on either side of it, as did most baseball fans. When the PEDs stuff exploded in the 2000s I reassessed it somewhat as far as the magnitude of the accomplishments compared to other eras in history, but it didn’t mean I enjoyed what I had seen any less.

Likewise, I’ve enjoyed the hell out of watching Aaron Judge this year. Why can’t everyone? Why is it so hard? Why have we been conditioned to be skeptical of something that is supposed to be entertaining? When your personal stakes are low like they are with respect to any sporting event or form of entertainment, it’s OK to enjoy things while they’re enjoyable and worry about them being problematic if and when they ever become so. And hey, they may not!

I promise you: if Aaron Judge walks into the postseason awards banquet this winter carrying a briefcase that unexpectedly opens and 200 syringes full of nandrolone fall out, no one is going to say you were dumb for cheering for him yesterday. It will really be OK.