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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:

Dodgers 4, Giants 2: The Dodgers had the NL West title in the bag on Friday, holding the Giants to two runs and taking the lead on Cody Bellinger‘s three-run blast in the third (an NL-best 39th home run, to boot). Feels like the Giants should get some extra credit for a ninth-inning Pablo Sandoval home run off of Kenley Jansen, but alas: they struck out thrice following the homer, leaving the Dodgers with the division title and their 98th win of the year. Next up: the Cubs, whose magic number sits at five heading into Saturday’s contest against the Brewers.

Cardinals 4, Pirates 3: The Cardinals kept things interesting in the NL wild card race, edging the Pirates to take the lead behind the Diamondbacks and Rockies as the first runner-up. Down 3-2 in the ninth, Jedd Gyorko pinch-hit the tying run with a one-out RBI single, while Dexter Fowler put the Cards ahead after Jordy Mercer failed to execute the double play.

Rays 8, Orioles 3: On the heels of Wilson Ramos‘ monster grand slam, Evan Longoria catapulted the Rays past a new milestone with his 19th home run of the season, a 353-foot solo shot that stretched just beyond the warning track in the third:

It marked the Rays’ 216th home run of 2017, tying their 2016 total for the most in club history. That’s a small consolation in light of their ever-dimming playoff chances, however, which haven’t improved at all since last Sunday. Friday’s win kept them five games back of a wild card spot, but the Twins appear to be in no rush to relinquish their playoff berth just yet.

Blue Jays 8, Yankees 1: The Yankees postponed their postseason clinch on Friday, unable to topple the Blue Jays with a single 469-foot swing from slugger Aaron Judge. The Blue Jays responded with an eight-run spread and some heads-up defense, including this tried-and-true trick:

Red Sox 5, Reds 4: David Price may not have entered the 2017 season with a bullpen role in mind, but he’s been nothing but dominant in two appearances so far. He pitched through another scoreless inning on Friday, fanning four batters in 2 2/3 innings as he helped preserve the Red Sox’ narrow lead over the Reds. Even better: he contributed a leadoff single in the seventh, his first hit of any kind since 2010.

“I liked hitting way more [than pitching],” Price told reporters after the game. “That was cool. I was due.”

Twins 7, Tigers 3: The Twins have a death grip on the second AL wild card spot. They chased Daniel Norris with a four-run lead on Friday for their second straight win, banking on home runs from Brian Dozier and Max Kepler and a three-hit performance from Byron Buxton. It all proved too overwhelming for the Tigers, who dropped their fifth straight contest and now carry a 2-8 record over their last 10 games.

Mets 7, Nationals 6: Dusty Baker enjoys home runs, but he likes runs more. The Nationals produced both in mass quantities this season, exiting Friday’s loss with a franchise-best 780 runs scored and 203 home runs. Adam Lind was the only National to go deep against the Mets in their series opener, riding a Robert Gsellman fastball for his 13th dinger of the season and helping set a new single-season club record in the process.

It wasn’t enough to overcome the Mets, however, who surged to a one-run lead after putting up a five-spot in the fifth.

Braves 7, Phillies 2: Sean Newcomb hasn’t had the smoothest transition to the majors, but he intends to finish his rookie season strong. He chipped away at the Phillies for 5 1/3 innings, recording two runs and five strikeouts as the offense built a five-run lead behind him. The Braves had a far easier time against fellow rookie starter Ben Lively, who gave up six consecutive hits to start the game:

White Sox 7, Royals 6: The playoffs are looking further and further away for the Royals, who dropped their series opener following Jason Hammel‘s worst start of the season. Hammel scattered seven runs over 3 1/3 innings — including a five-run spread in the fourth — and the Royals’ offense couldn’t quite recover, producing just five baserunners in six scoreless innings. On the plus side, at least Ned Yost is coming back next year?

Cubs 5, Brewers 4 (10 innings): The Cubs are still the clear favorites to clinch the NL Central, but they’ll need to stay on top of the Cardinals and Brewers this week to take their second consecutive division title. On Friday, they did just that, squeezing past the Brewers with a good old-fashioned go-ahead RBI walk.

The win might have been too close for comfort for Cubs’ skipper Joe Maddon, who told reporters he doesn’t feel like he’s in control of the division just yet. “Let’s go play [Saturday’s] game,” Maddon said. “I’m interested in one-game winning streaks. We’ve had two of them. I want another one-game winning streak [Saturday]. That’s how I look at it.”

Astros 3, Angels 0: For the first six innings, this had all the makings of a bonafide pitcher’s duel. Justin Verlander and Garrett Richards were in lockstep, dealing one hit and six strikeouts apiece as their respective offenses failed to manufacture any run support at the plate. That changed in the seventh, when Yuli Gurriel unloaded a three-run homer off of Yusmeiro Petit for the first and only runs scored of the night. While the Astros already have a guaranteed reservation in the playoffs, the Angels are still hoping to top the Twins and currently trail by 3.5 games.

Athletics 4, Rangers 1: Speaking of wild card contenders, the Rangers are also stalling at 3.5 games back of postseason contention. They couldn’t find a foothold against Kendall Graveman, who held them to a Shin-Soo Choo solo shot through seven solid innings. The A’s, meanwhile, are playing some of their best ball of the year after getting eliminated, and added Friday’s win to their second five-game tear this month.

Diamondbacks 13, Marlins 11: Zack Greinke doesn’t implode often, but when he does, Chris Iannetta is there to bail him out. At least, that’s how the narrative unfolded on Friday night, when Greinke was tagged for a season-high eight runs in four innings and Iannetta helped power the Dbacks’ comeback with three hits (including a three-run homer and a grand slam) and eight RBI. Fernando Rodney fended off a late-game rally from the Marlins in the ninth, closing the door with a game-ending force out to collect his 300th career save. The club’s magic number is two.

Mariners 3, Indians 1: It’s been exactly a week since the Indians lost their historic 22-win streak to the Royals, and on Friday, they commemorated that anniversary with another fumble. This time, the loss only snapped Cleveland’s modest five-win streak, but the Mariners still found a way to inject some ninth-inning drama:

Rockies 4, Padres 1: The Rockies aren’t taking any chances when it comes to the NL wild card race — and for good reason, as they’re clinging to a 1.5-game lead with eight still left to play. Jon Gray padded their wild card advantage with his third quality start of the month, going six strong as Nolan Arenado, Ian Desmond and Trevor Story backed his efforts with a handful of homers.

Derek Jeter: no longer the media’s darling

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There was a time, not too long ago, where the baseball press practically gave Derek Jeter awards for providing them no information whatsoever. As a player, he turned not answering questions into an art form. To the point where, eventually, the press just stopped asking him substantive questions almost entirely.

Unlike a lot of players who shut out the media, Jeter did it rather politely, so he did not get that passive aggressive treatment — or, occasionally, the aggressive-aggressive treatment — the press often gives uncommunicative players. To the contrary. He was positively lauded for his lack of communication. Lionized, even.

Take this column from Jeff Peralman at CNN.com from 2014, under the headline “Derek Jeter: Baseball’s Humble Hero”:

Throughout the first 18 seasons of his career, Jeter has often been labeled “dull” by the media. His answers to questions are unimaginative and full of cliché baseball nothingness blather. In hindsight, however, such lameness is almost to be admired. We live in an era where too many athletes feel as if they need to draw attention to themselves — for confidence, for commercials. If you’re not tweeting trash talk, you’re texting trash talk. Or making bold promises. Or demanding money or respect . . . he’s a guy who merely wanted to be a guy.

How about this from the New York Times around the time of his retirement:

Jeter’s ability to maintain a posture of sustained inscrutability — or, if you must, dignified comportment — has extended especially to the spoken word . . . he has played his best defense in front of his locker: catching every controversial question thrown to him and tossing it aside as if it were a scuffed ball unsuitable for play.

In a major league career that dates to the Clinton administration’s first term — he is the only Yankees shortstop a generation of fans has known — inquiring reporters have gathered around Jeter in the clubhouse thousands of times. He has maintained eye contact, answered nearly every question posed to him — and said nothing. This is not a complaint, but rather an expression of awe; of admiration, even. His batting average and fielding percentage aside, this kid from Kalamazoo, Mich., entered the New York meat grinder two decades ago and came out the other end looking as sharp as Joe DiMaggio’s suit.

This opinion of Jeter was pervasive throughout his career, but especially pronounced at its end of it. Jeter was deified by the press for saying nothing to the press. Praised for making the media’s job harder by the media itself. That’s pretty amazing when you think about it.

Times, however, have changed.

Some minor grumbling about Jeter’s non-answers to media questions began soon after he took over as Marlins co-owner. Ken Davidoff of the New York Post wrote a column about it all back in October, saying Jeter’s “Crash Davis Rules of Media Relations don’t apply anymore.” Not too many people echoed that at the time, probably because it came in the wake of a pretty boring introductory press conference and the stakes were pretty low. I did wonder at the time, though, if the media was waiting to turn on Jeter once he actually started making moves in his new role.

I think we can now say the answer to that is yes.

In the wake of the Giancarlo Stanton trade, a lot of baseball writers had a lot of questions for Derek Jeter. Jeter, however, decided that he didn’t even need to show up here at the Winter Meetings to answer them, despite the fact that he lives just a couple of hours away.

On Monday morning Buster Olney of ESPN made conspicuous note of it:

Later in the day Jeter deigned to talk to the media via a conference call. As usual, he said mostly nothing, but unlike 1997, 2007 or 2014 (a) he got testy about it; and (b) the press made a note of it:

They likewise noted when he passed the buck to someone below him on the org chart:

Last night I think a dam broke, and I don’t think Jeter will ever be able to sweet non-talk his way out criticism again. It all happened at a football game:

To sum up:

  • Jeter is now bad for not talking to the press;
  • Jeter is not lauded for his composure anymore; and
  • Jeter is being called out as a poor leader who does not face the music.

What a difference a few years and a change of role makes.

All of which, one would think, would make me at least a little happy. I mean, I’ll totally own up to rolling my eyes at the kid glove treatment Jeter got back when he played. About how his attributes, however great, were elevated even above their actual greatness and how his faults were, perversely, spun into attributes. You’d expect that, in light of that, I’d be sorta pleased that the tables have turned.

I’m not happy, though. Indeed, I have something approaching sympathy for Captian Jeets.

Why? Because, while I’d like to see him face the press, defend his moves as owner and explain his vision to Marlins fans everywhere, I know that he cannot. I know that he has no good answers to any of the questions he might be asked because the real answer to all of them is “hey, we need to make money for the ownership group and everything flows from that” and that’s not an answer he’s prepared to give.

Have some sympathy for Derek Jeter. He’s really in a tough, tough spot. Even if he put himself into it.