Indians rally late, extend winning streak to 22 games

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The Indians extended their winning streak to 22 games on Thursday night against the Royals, turning a 2-1 ninth-inning deficit into a 3-2, 10-inning, walk-off victory.

The Royals opened the scoring in the top of the second against starter Josh Tomlin when Mike Moustakas grounded into a double play that plated Eric Hosmer. The Indians tied it not long thereafter in the third on a Lonnie Chisenhall RBI single against Jake Junis.

Hosmer broke a 1-1 tie in the sixth with an RBI double and the score would remain 2-1 into the bottom of the ninth inning. Facing closer Kelvin Herrera, Tyler Naquin singled with one out and was erased on a force at second for out number two. Francisco Lindor kept the Indians’ hope alive when he drilled a 96 MPH fastball off of the wall down the left field line to bring Franciso Mejia home and tie the game at two.

Closer Cody Allen pitched a scoreless top of the 10th inning to put things back in the hands of his team’s offense. Jose Ramirez kicked off the bottom half with a line drive to right-center that normally would’ve been a single, but he hustled into second base for a double. Edwin Encarnacion drew a walk to put runners on first and second. Jay Bruce sent the Indians home winners with a line drive down the right field line to plate Ramirez and extend the winning streak to 22 games.

The Indians broke the American League record on Tuesday with their 21st consecutive win, exceeding the 20 in a row the Athletics won in 2002. Win number 21 also matched the 1935 Cubs which was arguably the all-time record, depending on your view of the 1916 Giants. Those Giants won 26 straight games but had a tie in the middle of that streak.

The Royals and Indians will do battle again on Friday evening with the Tribe looking for their 23rd consecutive win. They last lost on August 23, which feels like a lifetime ago. Then, they were a mere 69-56. Now they are 91-56.

Aaron Judge ties the rookie home run record with his 49th blast

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Monday afternoon baseball that isn’t either (a) part of a doubleheader; or (b) on a holiday is always a bit unsettling, but today’s rare Monday tilt gave us a gift in the form of history: Aaron Judge hit his 49th home run, tying the rookie record.

The dinger came in the third inning of this afternoon’s Royals-Yankees tilt. It was the sixth pitch from Jake Junis and left via right field. Mark McGwire also hit 49 with the Athletics in 1987. Judge has the rest of today’s game and five more games after it to hit number 50 and claim the record for himself.

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Major League Baseball wants you to look at a screen while you’re at the ballpark

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During the debate last week involving expanded netting at major league ballparks, the familiar refrain from the anti-netting crowd rung out: “hey, netting wouldn’t be necessary if you simply paid attention!” These folks get particularly upset at the idea of people looking at their phones or other electronic devices during the game, implying — or sometimes explicitly stating — that if you do that you almost deserve to be hit with a 100 mph foul ball.

The problem with that, though, is that Major League Baseball increasingly encourages fans to use their phones during games. You can order your concessions through them now. Fans are encouraged to use the MLB.com Ballpark app for an increasing number of in-game features. And, of course, the video boards — always in the opposite direction of the hitter — are getting larger and larger and contain more and more information that the clubs and the league want you to see.

But it goes farther than that. Or at least it will soon. As this article from TechCrunch makes clear, in the future, Major League Baseball wants you actually watching the game action through your phone or your iPad. It’s an augmented reality feature in which you hold up your tablet and . . .

In essence, it’s a bit like watching TV broadcast in person, with information overlaid on the action as it happens in real-time. The data is gathered from Statcast, MLB’s in-house analytics tool . . . Players on the field, meanwhile, get small, square popups featuring their faces that can be tapped open to offer up personalized player information

Which is kind of cool, actually. Personally I am fascinated with the possibilities of augmented reality. For me it usually comes to mind when I’m out hiking and I want to know what a certain kind of tree is or something (my natural education was sorely lacking as a child), but there are tons of other applications. Even though I probably know more about the players and what’s going on on the field than your average American, I’d still probably use such a product, at least a little bit at a game.

But, of course, there is that safety tradeoff. How can Major League Baseball continue to be hands-off about a netting policy and maintain that fans assume the risk of foul ball injuries while simultaneously encouraging the use of electronic devices that will, necessarily, distract them from directly observing on-field action? Indeed, if they do continue to maintain that paradoxical approach, I’d expect this quote from the article to be used at a trial of an injured fan suing for damages:

“People are already using their phones, and we don’t think this is all that different,” MLB Product VP Chad Evans told us at the event. Of course, in a sport where small spherical objects are regularly projected into the stands at high speeds, it’s a good idea to keep your eye on the field. Perhaps popping up an alert on screen when a ball approaches would be a good start.

That last bit — not the quote, but the article’s suggestion of a warning — is comical given how quickly a ball can make it into the stands. Even fans paying rapt attention can get hurt by fast foul balls. Expecting them to process a warning and then act based on it when instinct often isn’t fast enough is ridiculous.

Cool product, for sure. Like I said, I’d probably even use it on occasion. But the more technology and the more distractions Major League Baseball pours into the game, the more responsibility it will have when those distractions contribute to fan injuries. In light of that, they simply cannot continue to be hands-off with respect to the matter.