Craig Calcaterra

Blogger at NBC Sport.com's HardballTalk. Recovering litigator. Rake. Scoundrel. Notorious Man-About-Town.
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Must-Click Link: David Freese and his battle with depression and anxiety

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David Freese became a St. Louis legend in Game 6 of the 2011 World Series. That night, in the bottom of the ninth, with the Cardinals one strike from elimination and the Rangers one strike from glory, Freese hit a two-run triple that eluded Nelson Cruz and sent the game into extra innings. Then, in the 11th, he hit a walkoff homer, giving the Cardinals a Game 7 which they’d go on to win and become World Series champions. It’s virtually impossible to script baseball heroics greater than that.

But despite it all, Freese was not in a good place. He had suffered from depression and anxiety his entire life and, to compensate for that, he abused alcohol. All of it was exacerbated by the expectations of being the hometown hero and feeling he had to be a certain sort of person to the people in St. Louis who either knew him all of his life or were introduced to him as a conquering hero. His life spun out of control.

Today Bob Nightengale of USA Today has an interview with Freese about all of that. He talks about his struggles with depression, anxiety and the bottle and how (a) getting traded away from the Cardinals; and (b) meeting and marrying a woman who was not a baseball fan who helped him bring balance to his life helped lift him out of the fog and into a healthier, more balanced life.

Some must-read material for Cardinals fans, Pirates fans, Freese fans and anyone who has struggled with the issues he has.

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.

Cuban outfielder Luis Robert cleared to sign with a major league club

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Nineteen-year-old outfield prospect Luis Robert left his native Cuba last November, and began the process of being cleared to be signed as a free agent. That process is over now, and the bidding war for Robert can commence.

That he’s cleared now is a boon to him and a handful of teams as there was some speculation at the time he left Cuba that he might not be cleared until after the new Collective Bargaining Agreement provisions regarding international free agents went into effect in July. If that had happened, it would’ve imposed greater penalties on teams which had already spent a lot on international players. Now, however, Robert’s market will be more wide open. To date, there have been reports that the A’s, Astros, Cardinals, White Sox, Padres and Reds are among the teams with the strongest interest in signing him.

Just about any team can sign Robert before July 2, and whoever signs him will be subject to various penalties if they have already exceeded their international bonus pool. If he signs after July 2, however, teams which have exceeded their bonus pools will only be able to offer him a $300,000 bonus, effectively taking them out of the running. This will create a big, big incentive for teams which have exceeded their pools to offer big money now, pay the penalty but get their man.

Robert has been described by one talent evaluator as “the best player on the planet, and that’s no exaggeration.” Well, OK, but having hit .393 with 12 home runs and 11 stolen bases in Cuba’s Serie Nacional last season, he’s been compared favorably to Yoenis Cespedes. And he’s only 19, which means his ceiling could be way, way higher.