And That Happened: Monday’s scores and highlights

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Nationals 8, Padres 5: Bryce Harper golfed one more than 400 feet to straightaway center for his first ever major league homer. He also struck out on four pitches to Joe Thatcher and launched a really loud f-bomb. I love him for both reasons, frankly. And I love how the back end of the Nats bullpen continues to struggle. Henry Rodriguez came in with a three-run lead in the ninth and walked the bases loaded. Sean Burnett came in and induced a 1-2-3 double play to end it, but man, Davey has to figure out what to do about Rodriguez. Guy throws a billion miles per hour but he has no idea where it’s going half the time.

Reds 3, Braves 1: Jonny Venters: a lot closer to mortal this year than last. Brandon Phillips knocked a double off him as the Reds plated two in the eighth to break a 1-1 tie. Then Chris Heisey drove in Phillips with a double of his own. I was blacked out from watching this one and didn’t know what was going on until the ninth when I saw on the scoreboard that Livan Hernandez entered the game. He’s the Braves’ living white flag.

Rays 7, Blues Jays 1: Good news: the Rays win. Bad news: Jeff Niemann was knocked out in the first inning after taking a grounder to his ankle. Cesar Ramos and the bullpen brigade came to the rescue.

Mets 3, Brewers 1: Milwaukee mustered only four hits off Miguel Batista, who threw seven shutout innings. No offense to Batista, but the Brewers need to take a long look in the mirror after getting stifled like that by a pitcher like that.

Red Sox 6, Mariners 1: Jon Lester pitched a complete game, allowing only one run. Four in a row for Boston.

Pirates 3, Marlins 2: My daddy said “son you’re gonna drive me to drinkin’ if you don’t start games with old Brad Lincoln.” Um, let’s forget I said that. Anyway: Lincoln allowed two runs in six innings after switching from starting to the pen.

Phillies 5, Astros 1: Placido Polanco is in a season-long funk, but a homer gave him his 2000th career hit. One of the more under-the-radar 2000-hit players in big league history, I’d reckon. Joe Blanton continues his nice recent work, allowing one run on six hits in seven innings.

Indians 5, Twins 4: Jeanmar Gomez pitched seven strong innings but his bullpen betrayed him. Shin-Soo Choo came through in the ninth with the go-ahead single.

Cubs 6, Cardinals 4: The Cards have cooled off big time, dropping their fourth straight. The Cubs finally scored some runs in a Ryan Dempster start, but not all when he was in the game. Meanwhile Dempster himself allowed four. Bryan LaHair went 3 for 4 and hit a two-run homer.

Royals 3, Rangers 1: Bruce Chen and four relievers douse the scorching Rangers lineup. A Nelson Cruz homer was all that was doin’ for Texas.

Yankees 8, Orioles 5: Ivan Nova was first ineffective and then injured, spraining his right ankle while fielding a tapper back to the mound. the Yankees pen hurled three and two-thirds innings of shutout ball, however, while a Mark Teixeira homer led the late Yankees charge. A-Rod, Robinson Cano and Teixeira were a combined 7 for 14 with two RBI and seven runs scored. That’s the sort of middle-of-the-order production New York hadn’t been getting in the early going.

White Sox 7, Tigers 5: Detroit had a 5-2 lead but then starter Drew Smyly ran out of gas and reliever Luke Putkonen — who if you asked me before I saw this box score, I would have said wasn’t a real person — unraveled. Detroit is now under .500. Dayan Vicido drove in four on a two-run homer and a two-run single. Adam Dunn homered again too and is slugging over .600 on the season.

Giants 3, Rockies 2:  Buster Posey and Brett Pill RBI singles in the eighth bring the Giants back after Christian Friedrich shut them down bigtime in his seven innings, in which he struck out ten.

Dodgers 3, Diamondbacks 1: No Matt Kemp? No problem, as with Clayton all things are possible (7 IP, 4 H, 0 ER).

Athletics 5, Angels 0: Anaheim’s nightmare season continues, as Tyson Ross shuts them out for six and the pen shuts them out for three. Oakland has won eight of 12.

Neal Huntington thinks players should be allowed to re-enter games after concussion testing

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Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli, who has suffered many concussions throughout his 12-year career, was hit on the back of the helmet on a Joc Pederson backswing Saturday against the Dodgers. Through Cervelli remained in the game initially, he took himself out of the game shortly thereafter and went on the seven-day concussion injured list on Sunday.

Perhaps inspired by Saturday’s event, Pirates GM Neal Huntington suggested that players should be allowed to re-enter games once they have passed concussion tests, the Associated Press reports. Huntington said, “Any player that had an obvious concussion risk incident should be allowed to be removed from the game, taken off the field, taken into the locker room, assessed by a doctor, assessed by a trainer, go through an extended period of time and then re-enter the game. Because right now, all of this has to happen on the field.”

Huntington added, “The player has to feel pressure as he’s standing there with 30,000 or 10,000 or 50,000 eyes on him. He has to feel pressure to make a decision whether (he’s) in or (he’s) out of this game. He knows if he takes himself out and he’s the catcher, there’s only one other catcher, and the game becomes a fiasco if that other catcher gets hurt.”

Huntington, who has been forward-thinking on a number of other issues, has it wrong here. The concussion protocols were created because players frequently hid or under-reported their injuries in order to remain in the game. Especially for younger or otherwise less-proven players, there is pressure to have to constantly perform in order to keep one’s job. Furthermore, there is an overarching sentiment across sports that taking time off due to injury makes one weak. Similarly, playing while injured is seen as tough and masculine. Creating protocols that take the decision-making out of players’ hands keeps them from making decisions that aren’t in their own best interests. Removing them would bring back that pressure for players to hide or minimize their ailments. If anything, MLB’s concussion protocols should become more stringent, not more relaxed.

The powers that be with Major League Baseball have no doubt followed the concussion scandal surrounding the National Football League. In January, the NFL settled for over $1 billion with retired players dealing with traumatic brain injuries, including dementia, Lou Gehrig’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease. For years, the league refused to acknowledge the link between playing football and CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy), which is a neurodegenerative disease that can lead to dementia and has many negative effects, such as increasing the risk of suicide. Since baseball isn’t often a contact sport, MLB doesn’t have to worry about brain injuries to this degree, but it still needs to take preventative measures in order to avoid billion-dollar lawsuits as well as avoiding P.R. damage. In December 2012, former major league outfielder Ryan Freel committed suicide. Freel, who claimed to have suffered as many as 10 concussions, suffered from CTE. MLB players can suffer brain injuries just like football players.

Huntington seems to be worried about not having enough rostered catchers in the event one or two catchers get injured. That is really an issue of roster management. Carrying only two catchers on the roster is a calculated risk, often justified. Huntington can ensure his team never has to be put in the position of not having a catcher in an emergency by rostering a third catcher. Rosters are expanding to 26 players next year, by the way.