Ender Inciarte

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Dave Stewart says Diamondbacks’ early success is proof he was good as GM

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After the completion of the 2016 regular season, the Diamondbacks fired then-GM Dave Stewart and then-manager Chip Hale. Stewart acted as GM for two seasons. His most controversial move occurred in December 2015 when he acquired pitcher Shelby Miller and minor league pitcher Gabe Speier in exchange for outfielder Ender Inciarte and prospects Dansby Swanson and Aaron Blair. After his firing, Stewart blamed his superiors for the trade and said his gut was telling him not to make the trade.

The D-Backs are now led by new GM Mike Hazen and manager Torey Lovullo. The club had a relatively quiet offseason, as its biggest acquisitions were Taijuan Walker and Fernando Rodney. Defying expectations, though, the Diamondbacks enter Tuesday night’s action with a 13-8 record, just a game and a half behind the first-place Rockies. Stewart spoke to Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY Sports and said that the D’Backs’ success shows that he knew what he was doing all along.

This means a lot to me because this is the same team, or very close to the one that I put on the field. So basically all of those guys and baseball analysts who said I didn’t know what I was doing, it showed I knew exactly what I was doing.

Everybody was just beat up and not living up to expectations. So all of a sudden, it’s my fault. Well, it’s not my fault. I couldn’t prevent injuries or jump in their bodies to make them pitch better in the starting rotation. We put the right people on the field. So I don’t think anybody should be surprised how well those kids are playing. They’re healthy now. I knew this was going to happen.

Everyone should have seen it coming.

Not to rain on Stewart’s parade, but the Diamondbacks are five games over .500 in a relatively tiny 21-game sample size. Had his team valued analytics during his tenure, he might have known that. Additionally, few of the players performing well for the team right now are players Stewart himself was responsible for bringing to Arizona. Furthermore, the team’s success doesn’t retroactively justify what he gave up for Miller nor does it justify practically giving away Touki Toussaint and signing a 32-year-old Zack Greinke to a six-year, $206.5 million contract.

During and after his tumultuous tenure with the D-Backs, Stewart has appeared very insecure. When he was fired, he quipped, “Quite frankly, I’ve got better things to do.” He appeared on MLB Network Radio in February to deflect any blame directed at him for the team’s failure. And then there’s his most recent quotes in which he heaps praise on himself for the team’s success.

Stewart was an All-Star starter who finished in the top-three in AL Cy Young Award voting three times in his career. He’s understandably competitive and has probably built up a very strong distaste for failure. Sometimes, though, one has to make peace with the fact that things didn’t go one’s way. Stewart simply appears to be tilting at windmills to protect his ego.

And That Happened: Thursday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Red Sox 4, Blue Jays 1: Chris Sale was ridiculously dominant, striking out 13 over eight shutout innings. Unfortunately, the Boston offense only managed one run while he was the pitcher of record and Craig Kimbrel gave up a homer in the bottom of the ninth, forcing extras and giving Sale the no-decision. A bases-clearing doubly by Mookie Betts in the 10th gave the game to Boston. Pitcher wins aren’t important, we know that. And his team won the game. But that’s still some tough luck for Sale. Oh, in other news, Jose Bautista went 0-for-4 with four strikeouts and is now hitting .109/.242/.145 on the season. Yikes.

Brewers 7, Cardinals 5Jett Bandy and Eric Thames hit two-run homers and Travis Shaw hit a three-run blast. Milwaukee leads all of baseball with 29 homers on the year — the next closest team has 22 — and that’s putting them in the same company as some blastin’ Brewers teams of the past. Last night their beat writer sought a nickname for this crew:

Naming them after the manager, Craig Counsell, is in keeping with historical Brewers’ nicknames like “Harvey’s Wallbangers,” named after manager Harvey Keunn, and “Bambi’s Bombers” named after manager George Bamburger. Personally, however, I’d go with . . . The Thamesmen. As long as it’s OK with Chris Bosio and John Lackey.

Indians 6, Twins 2:  Trevor Bauer struck out seven and pitched into the seventh and Carlos Santana had two doubles and two RBI. Bauer balked in a run once. That’s probably a funny thing to do if you win and a thing that keeps you up late at night if you lose.

Rays 8, Tigers 1: The Rays sweep Detroit. Steven Souza homered, tripled and doubled, driving in three. Erasmo Ramirez made a rare start and allowed one run and two hits in five innings with five strikeouts. He and a couple of relievers combined to allow only five hits.

Astros 2, Angels 1: We talked a lot about Dallas Keuchel yesterday, but Lance McCullers is just as important for the Astros’ chances this year. With him pitching like this, their chances look good. McCullers shut the Angels out into the seventh. Carlos Beltran and Jake Marisnick hit solo homers for Houston’s two runs. A ninth inning Mike Trout solo shot was the only run for the Halos.

Orioles 2, Reds 1: Wade Miley allowed only one run on two hits, striking out 11. It was like a mini-Chris Sale performance, as he got the no-decision as well. In the 10th J.J. Hardy singled in Mark Trumbo for what would prove to be the winning run.

Phillies 6, Mets 4: Maikel Franco homered and doubled, ending an 0-for-22 streak as the Phillies take two of three from the Mets. It was their first series win against New York in a dog’s age. Bad news for the Mets: Yoenis Cespedes limped off the field with pain in his left hamstring. He’ll be reevaluated today, but he’s gonna miss some time.

Nationals 3, Braves 2: Washington sweeps Atlanta. R.A. Dickey was doing pretty well until the sixth when Ryan Zimmerman hit one of his flutterballs for a a two-run homer. Stephen Strasburg struck out 10 while allowing two runs on six hits in seven innings. Worth watching, again, is the back end of the Nats’ pen. Shawn Kelley, now apparently closing for Dusty Baker, retired the first two batters he faced but then allowed two runners to reach before the game ended with an Ender Inciarte flyout. There will be bullpen adventures for Washington aplenty this season.

Rangers 1, Royals 0: A 0-0 tie into the 13th inning as Andrew Cashner and Danny Duffy traded zeroes. Eight relievers between the two teams also put up goose eggs, but in the 13th Travis Wood retired one batter before Joey Gallo doubled to right Delino DeShields singled him in for the walkoff win.

Padres 4, Diamondbacks 1: Clayton Richard allowed one run while scattering nine hits in six and two-thirds. Wil Myers and Austin Hedges homered and Erick Aybar doubled in two.

Athletics 9, Mariners 6: Ten pitchers used and 15 runs scored yet the game took just over three hours. I feel like that many pitching changes and runs scored would usually lead to a much longer game elsewhere. There have been a lot of short games in the Coliseum so far this year. I wonder if they do something different there than they do everyplace else. Some psychological thing that makes pitchers want to work faster or batters stay in the box longer.

And That Happened: Friday’s Scores and Highlights

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The White Sox debut a historic outfield combo, the Braves have a new ballpark and Miguel Cabrera has beef with Terry Francona. Catch Friday’s scores here, and the rest of the highlights below:

Pirates 4, Cubs 2: The Pirates caught a break on Friday, snapping a four-game losing streak with a decisive 4-2 victory over the Cubs. Right-hander Gerrit Cole looked like he had finally found his footing, and limited the Cubs to just six hits and two runs over six frames. The Bucs’ offense came alive in the sixth inning with David Freese‘s RBI single and a game-winning two-run double from Francisco Cervelli.

Nationals 3, Phillies 2 (10 innings): Extra inning games are so often remembered for their dénouements, their walk-off home runs and last-minute sacrifice flies. Well before Daniel Murphy‘s dramatic game-winning double, however, there were nine innings of solid pitching, from Aaron Nola‘s five innings of one-run ball to the three scoreless innings from Washington’s bullpen that stifled the Phillies’ best attempts at a comeback.

Yankees 4, Cardinals 3: It’s been an uncharacteristically painful start to the year for 28-year-old Masahiro Tanaka, who came into Friday’s game with an overblown 11.74 ERA after allowing 14 hits, 10 runs runs and six walks and striking out just eight batters through his first 7 2/3 innings. A first-inning two-run homer by Matt Carpenter did little to allay concerns about Tanaka’s performance, but the right-hander quickly settled into a groove, allowing just three runs, two walks and striking out five batters before calling it a night.

Orioles 6, Blue Jays 4: It wasn’t a good night for the Blue Jays, who were handed their ninth loss of the season after the Orioles went yard four times. It was an even worse night for home plate umpire Dale Scott, who was carted off the field in a stretcher after taking a foul tip off the mask in the eighth inning. Scott will not facilitate any remaining games this weekend after sustaining a concussion, though he was released from the hospital early Saturday morning after a CT scan failed to reveal any significant damage. The Blue Jays, on the other hand, will need to make a concerted effort to revive their offense after losing their eighth game by a difference of two or fewer runs.

Tigers 7, Indians 6: Both benches received a warning on Friday after Miguel Cabrera exchanged heated words with Indians’ manager Terry Francona in the first inning. According to Cabrera, Francona had some unwelcome advice for the slugger following a brushback pitch from Trevor Bauer, which Cabrera felt was both disrespectful and unwarranted. No ejections were issued, though, and Cabrera silenced most of Francona’s criticism after unleashing a three-run home run off of Bauer in the fifth inning.

Brewers 10, Reds 4: Every streak has to come to an end at some point, and for the Reds’ bullpen, April 14 was that point. Their league-leading 1.13 ERA ballooned to an eighth-best mark of 2.68 after two disastrous innings against the Brewers’ offense, during which Cincinnati relievers combined to give up seven hits and eight runs. Poor location and shaky command created a deficit much too large to overcome, and by the time the Reds managed to procure another run, the ninth inning had drawn to a close on a swinging strikeout from pinch-hitter Jesse Winkler.

Marlins 3, Mets 2: Between Noah Syndergaard‘s torn fingernail and J.T. Realmuto‘s walk-off double in the ninth, there was little for the Mets fan to enjoy on Friday. Little, that is, save for a laser bream fired from right field to catch Miguel Rojas at home plate:

Rays 10, Red Sox 5: Two career firsts were inked during the Rays-Red Sox series opener this weekend. Logan Morrison recorded his first grand slam, a moonshot into the right field bleachers:

Rick Porcello, on the other hand, recorded his first four-home run game, allowing the Rays to go yard four times between the second and fifth innings of their 10-5 win.

Braves 5, Padres 2: Ender Inciarte may have stolen the show during the Braves’ home opener at SunTrust Park, but partial credit for the win also goes to right-hander Julio Teheran, who labored through six innings of two-run ball and kicked in his own tie-breaking run with an RBI single in the fourth inning. Atlanta’s bullpen was instrumental in cementing the win, too, delivering three scoreless frames that had the Padres flummoxed through the end of their 5-2 loss.

White Sox 2, Twins 1: How did the White Sox’ three-Garcia outfield prevail against the Twins, you might wonder? Avisail Garcia went 2-for-4 at the plate,Leury Garcia represented the Sox’ first run of the night on an RBI force out from Jose Abreu, and Willy Garcia doubled in his first major league at-bat, then was promptly thrown out when he tried for a triple.

Royals 7, Angels 1: It’s too early in the season to judge teams on their rankings and statistics, but in case you’re wondering, the Royals’ rotation currently holds the second-best ERA in the league, at 2.70, and the Angels hold the second-worst, with a 6.27 mark. Danny Duffy and JC Ramirez only confirmed those rankings on Friday, with Duffy’s turning in seven frames of three-hit ball and Ramirez taking his first loss of the year after giving up four hits and five runs through five innings.

Astros 7, Athletics 2: Jose Altuve is good at baseball. Sure, it’s early in the season and that .420 OBP probably isn’t here to stay, but he showed no signs of slowing down on Friday, reaching base for the 11th consecutive at-bat after a three-hit, two-walk performance against the Athletics. Enjoy it while it lasts.

Dodgers 7, Diamondbacks 1: Baseball is a wildly unpredictable game, but sometimes, it unfolds exactly as you expect it to. That was the case for the Dodgers on Friday, who watched Clayton Kershaw unfurl a four-hit, one-run, eight-strikeout gem against the Diamondbacks. The Dodgers’ lineup turned in a seven-run effort, Will Ferrell showed up, and everyone went home happy (except, presumably, the Diamondbacks).

Mariners 2, Rangers 1: The Mariners are fresh out of grasshoppers, and people are not happy about it. The demand for Safeco Field’s newest ballpark snack, bowls of toasted grasshoppers called chapulines, has brought in sales of over 18,000 of the salty insects. According to ESPN’s Darren Rovell, that’s more grasshoppers than the owners of the stand sell in an entire year at their Seattle-based restaurant, Poquitos, and they’ll need to place emergency orders of grasshoppers to meet customer demand through the rest of the weekend. Fortunately, for the 41,855 fans who showed up to the park on Friday night, their bowls of chili-lime chapulines were served with a side of dominant pitching from Felix Hernandez. The King delivered 7 1/3 innings of one-run ball, backed by a scoreless run from the bullpen and two RBI singles that decided the game in the Mariners’ favor, 2-1.

Giants 8, Rockies 2: Chris Marrero‘s first career home run highlighted an impressive run from the Giants, who put up eight runs behind a lights-out performance from Johnny Cueto. If only things had worked out so well for the Rockies. Tyler Anderson was pulled after issuing four runs in four innings, while manager Bud Black received his first ejection of the season when he disputed several balk calls with home plate umpire Mike Everett and first base umpire Bill Welke. The most emotional moment in the game did not concern the Rockies, however, but San Francisco shortstop Brandon Crawford, whose fourth inning home run followed the sudden and tragic loss of his sister-in-law on Wednesday.