Jake Fox — gasp! — broke an unwritten rule

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I had missed this, but several readers have alerted me to the fact that Jake Fox of the Baltimore Orioles was excoriated by both the opposing manager — Jim Leyland — and his own manager following what they perceived to be a clear violation of one of baseball’s many, many unwritten rules the other day:

The Orioles had runners on second and third and no outs in the eighth inning today when Fox came to the plate against Tigers minor leaguer Chance Ruffin. The most important aspect of this story is the score was 13-3 at the time, and both teams had subbed out most of their regulars. Ruffin started the at-bat with three straight balls, but Fox decided to take a rip at a 3-0 pitch in a clear take situation.

Taking that 3-0 rip in a blowout got both Leyland and Buck Showalter barking at Fox for not playing the game the right way and all of that rebop.

For what it’s worth, I think ‘Duk at Big League Stew nailed it in his post yesterday when he noted how — no matter what you think of Fox’s act on its own terms — it’s rather silly to get worked up about this sort of thing in a spring training game where the last thing anyone usually thinks about is competitive integrity.  And even if you should care about competitive integrity in such a game, it’s worth noting that the the Tigers staged a bit of a comeback in this one, with the score ending up 14-9.

But really: if pitchers are allowed to “work on stuff” in spring training games, why can’t hitters? There will be a time this year when Fox gets a green-light 3-0.  Is he not entitled to practice up on his from-the-heels swings?

Max Scherzer, with broken nose, strikes out 10 Phillies over seven shutout innings

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Nationals starter Max Scherzer bunted a ball into his face during batting practice on Tuesday, breaking his nose in the process. He ended up with a gnarly looking shiner around his right eye, making him appear a bit like Terminator. Scherzer still took the ball to start the second game of Wednesday night’s doubleheader against the Phillies.

Despite the injury, Scherzer was incredibly effective, limiting the Phillies to four hits and two walks across seven shutout innings, striking out 10 batters in the process. He might even have had some extra adrenaline going, as he averaged 96.2 MPH on his fastball, his highest average fastball velocity in a game since September 2012, per MLB.com’s Jamal Collier. The Nationals provided Scherzer with just one run of support, coming on a Brian Dozier solo home run off of Jake Arrieta in the second inning, but it was enough.

Wander Suero worked a scoreless top of the eighth with a pair of strikeouts. Victor Robles added a solo homer off of Pat Neshek in the bottom half. Closer Sean Doolittle took over in the ninth, working a 1-2-3 frame to give the Nats their 2-0 victory.

Over his last six starts, Scherzer now has a 0.88 ERA with a 59/8 K/BB ratio across 41 innings. He has gone six innings, struck out at least nine batters, and held the opposition to two or fewer runs in each of those six starts.