And That Happened: Sunday's Scores and Highlights

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White Sox 12, Royals 6: K.C. had a 6-0 lead in the first and, thanks in part to Paul Konerko hitting a couple of two-run bombs . . . lost. I guess we have to just keep on trusting The Process.  Oh, and speaking of the process:  I make a religious point of not watching NFL football on Sundays when competitive baseball is being played (and a philosophical point of not watching NFL football on Sundays after baseball is over), but reader Levi Stahl alerted me to something that happened on the football field yesterday. Take it away Levi:

Fourth quarter, Lions-Bears: the Lions threw a heck of a touchdown pass from about midfield, the
receiver made a strong, leaping catch, was pulled down and rolled over,
in control of the ball the whole way, then, as he hit the ground, let
the ball go. It was obviously, in every way, from every angle, a
dramatic, game-winning TD 

But then it wasn’t. Apparently there’s new emphasis this
year on what the commentators (and a former head of officials back in
the studio) kept calling and calling and calling “the process.” The
receiver apparently has to maintain control of the ball throughout “the
process,” which, apparently now means not letting it go once you’re
down, successfully, in the end zone. It was bizarre: the announcers
weren’t horrified by this travesty of sports justice: they just kept
talking about “the process” and the fact that this was how the NFL was
going to be officiating this year, and that they’d warned everybody.
Very few bad calls in baseball that I’ve seen have
been anything like as bad as this was, and usually when we see a bad
call in baseball, it’s acknowledged as such, eventually. Here the
emphasis wasn’t on the way that fans had been robbed of what they’d seen
on the field, it was on the all-knowing, all-seeing NFL rulekeepers.

I don’t know enough about that rule or NFL officiating in general these days to say anything beyond what Levi said, but I totally buy the credulous announcers thing. Baseball can be messy sometimes, but I think of it as messy in the way democracy is messy. The NFL is like some authoritarian regime, in which fans and a healthy portion of the overly-compliant media just say “well, the NFL has decided it should be so, so it is.” Screw it. I’d rather argue all day over dumb baseball stuff than calmly accept dumb football stuff, and I don’t care how good the TV ratings are.

Oh, and if you think I mentioned all of that simply so I can take a potshot at the NFL on its opening weekend, let me be absolutely clear: you’re damn right. Being a baseball fan these past several days has been like belonging to some tiny religious sect that worships and exalts austerity at Christmas time. Everyone in America is celebrating the return of their gambling, beer drinking and fantasy sports pretext, and I couldn’t care less.

Giants 6, Padres 1: San Francisco takes three of four from the Padres in Petco and are now (kinda) tied for the NL West lead. They’re a game behind in the loss column. Lincecum allowed one run in seven with nine strikeouts. Sandoval had a great leaping catch. Buster Posey drove in a couple. Mat Latos had his worst start since April. The Padres and the Giants meet one more time: October 1st-3rd — closing weekend — at AT&T Park. Can we make it a round robin and throw the Rockies in too?

Rockies 4, Diamondbacks 2: Ten straight for the Rockies who, even if they don’t end up making the playoffs, have bought another two or three years of “well, we all know the Rockies are capable of going on amazing runs!” talk. Jason Giambi won it for Colorado on a two-run walkoff home run. Anyone who thought a couple of years ago that Jason Giambi would be hitting game-winning home runs in pennant races in 2010, raise your hand. You — with the hand up? I know you’re lyin’.

Blue Jays 5, Rays 4: I see my kiss-of-death endorsements continue to do their magic. Just the other day on HBT Daily I said that Rafael Soriano is the best closer pitching for a contender (non-Mariano Rivera division) and that I’d trust him with my life. I guess even the best ones blow a save once in a while. This one was blown in only five pitches: strike, single, strike, strike, Adam Lind home run, ballgame.

Tigers 6, Orioles 2: The Tigers scored five runs in the eighth, with the big blow being Miguel Cabrera’s bases loaded double. MVP! MVP! MVP! You can still chant that when your team is .500, can’t you?

Pirates 3, Reds 1: It’s been quite a sight to see Reds relievers not named Aroldis Chapman blowing games recently. Francisco Cordero allowed three runs in the ninth and it could have been more, actually, but for some dumb luck like comebackers with the bases loaded.

Twins 6, Indians 2: The Twins won their 4,000th game.  Not this season, though. That would be, like, a record or something. Since the franchise moved to Minnesota from Washington. The combined win total of the Twins and Senators is (I think) 4,080. The White Sox are all but put away at this point, but the Twins can put the stake in their heart this week, as they have a three-game series. Mmmmm . . . stake.

Angels 3, Mariners 0: Someone the other day — I think it was Keith Law — mentioned that the Mariners are on pace to have the worst AL offense since the advent of the DH. I haven’t looked at the numbers myself, but I’d buy it. Ray Oyler could probably DH for this team. And he’s been dead for nearly 30 years!

Phillies 3, Mets 0: Oswalt dominated the Mets, shutting them out on 113 pitches. Given that everyone on the Mets knows that they’re basically playing for nothing the rest of the way you can probably expect to see more of this sort of thing between now and October 3rd.

Brewers
2, Cubs 0
: Yovani Gallardo shut the Cubbies out for seven and the pen
took it the rest of the way in another listless performance from the
losing team. Maybe the Mets and Cubs really just wanted to watch the late NFL games?

Rangers 4, Yankees 1: Cliff Lee just sent a message to the Yankees that (a) they don’t want any part of him in a short playoff series; and (b) they’re going to have to unload the Brinks truck to sign him this winter. 8 IP, 2 H, 1 ER. The Rangers swept the Yankees, though New York somehow continues to hold on to their lead in the East. I reserve the right to change my mind between now and this afternoon, but I think for the first time this year we’re going to have our first non-AL East team leading the Power Rankings when they come out today.

Red Sox 5, Athletics 3: Beckett beats Braden, in a matchup of two guys who haven’t mattered a whole heck of a lot this season since, oh, mid-May.

Astros 7, Dodgers 4: Houston and L.A. split four. Oh, and John Lindsey got his first major league hit. A single to left, pinch hitting for Ronald Belisario. He’s the only reason to root for the Dodgers as the season winds down.

Marlins 6, Nationals 5: Mike Stanton bangs two out the yard as the Feesh sweep the Gnats. Their season series is over too, with Florida beating Washington 13-5.

Cardinals 7, Braves 3: This Pujols fella? Yeah, he can play a little bit (2 for 5, 2 HR). But hey, at least with dumb old football on opposite this one at least no one was watching it, right?

Major League Baseball needs to make an example out of José Ureña

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We’re about an hour and a half separated from the first pitch of Wednesday night’s Marlins/Braves game that featured Marlins starter José Ureña hitting Braves outfielder Ronald Acuña on the elbow with a first-pitch, 97.5 MPH fastball. The benches emptied, Ureña was ejected, and the game went on. Acuña left the game not long after to tend to his injured elbow.

After the game, when the Marlins speak to the media, they will almost certainly deny any ill intent towards Acuña, who had hit leadoff home runs in three consecutive games against them. When they do so, they will be lying. Watch how catcher J.T. Realmuto sets up on the first pitch.

ESPN Stats & Info notes that Ureña’s 97.5 MPH fastball was in the 99th percentile in terms of velocity of the 2,125 pitches he has thrown this season. It was also the fastest pitch Ureña has ever thrown to begin a game. Ureña put a little extra mustard on this pitch, for some reason.

Ureña has a 6.8 percent walk rate, which ranks 37th out of 95 starters with at least 100 innings of work this season. The major league average is eight percent. Control isn’t typically something with which he struggles.

Furthermore, Acuña isn’t the only player who has drawn Ureña’s ire:

Ureña wanted nothing to do with Hoskins — even though Hoskins has yet to get a hit off of him — in his August 4 start at home against the Phillies, walking him twice which included a few up-and-in pitches.

Ureña will almost certainly be fined and suspended for his actions on Wednesday night against Acuña. But will his punishment be enough to deter him and others from wielding a baseball as a weapon? Probably not. On June 19, when Marlins starter Dan Straily intentionally threw at Buster Posey, he received a five-game suspension and manager Don Mattingly was suspended one game. If you look at Straily’s game logs, you can’t even tell he was suspended. He started six days later on June 25 against the Diamondbacks and again on July 1 and 6. Because starters only pitch once every five days, it was like he wasn’t even suspended at all.

Major League Baseball needs to levy harsher punishments on players who attempt to injure other players. A 15-game suspension, for example, would force Ureña to miss at least two starts and it would inconvenience the Marlins enough to more seriously weigh the pros and cons of exacting revenge. The Marlins couldn’t work around it the way they did Straily by pushing back his scheduled start one day.

Major League Baseball also needs to make a legitimate effort to do away with this culture of revenge against players who are just a little bit too happy. Batters get thrown at when they flip their bats, when they yell at themselves in frustration, and even when they’re just hitting well. Baseball’s stagnating audience is very old, very white, and very male. It is not going to bring in fans from diverse backgrounds by keeping this antiquated culture that prevents baseball players from showing their personalities and being emotive. In the event Acuña needs to go on the disabled list for a couple weeks, that’s two weeks that Acuña isn’t on SportsCenter’s top-10, isn’t on the front page of MLB.com, and isn’t in articles like this. The culture of revenge is actively harming MLB’s ability to market its bright, young stars. If ending this culture of revenge doesn’t hit MLB from a moral angle, it should absolutely hit home from a business angle.