And That Happened: Sunday’s scores and highlights

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Orioles 9, Athletics 5: Baltimore salvages one. Which is important for two reasons. Reason 1:  It’s their 82nd win of the year, which means they will finish above .500 for the first time in forever.  More importantly: they really just need to avoid the disaster west coast trip here. If they take care of business against the Mariners this week they can call the trip a success. Or at least a non-calamity. They hold a two and a half game lead over the Angels and trail New York by one. Thirteen pitchers used in this game, by the way.

Cardinals 5, Dodgers 2: It was the ninth pitcher — out of ten total — that let it get away for the Dodgers. John Ely came in for the top of the 12th inning and walked a dude, but then got two outs. Then: Jon Jay doubled in a run, Carlos Beltran was walked intentionally, Matt Holliday was hit by a pitch, Allen Craig singled in a run and Yadier Molina walked to force in another. That was it for Mr. Ely and the Dodgers, who fall out of a tie for the second wild card slot.

Indians 7, Tigers 6: Oh brother. Not only do the Tigers blow this one in the ninth to the Tribe, but Alex Avila got hurt too. Lonnie Chisenhall singled in the winning run off Jose Valverde, who blew a two-run lead, ending the Tigers four-game winning streak.

White Sox 9, Twins 2: The sweep. And a rare instance of one of the two Central contenders taking care of business against inferior division foes lately.

Astros 7, Phillies 6: Philly’s surge came to a crashing halt in Houston, where they dropped three of four to the woeful Astros. It’s a familiar story, though one that hasn’t been a chronic problem in the second half: pathetic middle relief, with Phillip Aumont and Antonio Bastardo blowing Roy Halladay’s lead. Philly is four games back in the wild card now, with four teams ahead of them.

Cubs 13, Pirates 9: Wild card contenders losing to cupcakes is all the rage, apparently. Here the Pirates blew a 6-1 lead. Anthony Rizzo and Pedro Alvarez each had two homers. The Pirates have lost 12 of 15, including two of three to the Cubs.

Brewers 3, Mets 0: Wily Peralta tossed eight, two-hit shutout innings. Oh, and remember everyone who said that Ryan Braun was gonna fall off bigtime this year due to him being caught up in that testosterone business last year? Yeah, as if. Two more homers today. Braun is now hitting .312/.387/.602 with 40 homers and 103 RBI.  He should be a top MVP candidate again. Let’s see if he gets any love.

Braves 5, Nationals 1: The sweep. Still, I won’t be able to read this kind of thing without extreme anxiety until after the season is over:

Atlanta’s sweep solidified its return to the playoffs after a historic collapse in the final month last season. The Braves maintained a seven-game lead over the second wild-card spot, held by St. Louis, and are eight games up on the next club in the race, the Los Angeles Dodgers. It would take a more epic meltdown than even 2011 to squander that lead with only 15 games to go.

And that could never happen!  I’m …I’m almost certain of it.

Diamondbacks 10, Giants 2: Patrick Corbin wins the Helped His Own Cause Award, driving in four runs while tossing eight innings of two-run ball.

Angels 4, Royals 3: Dan Haren gave up three runs while pitching into the sixth and then a parade of relievers — Nick Maronde,Garrett Richards, Scott Downs, Jordan Walden and Kevin Jespen — shut the Royals down for the final three and a third. Mark Trumbo with a three-run homer. They remain two and a half back of the O’s in the wild card.

Reds 5, Marlins 4: Ryan Ludwick hit a go-ahead single in the 11th, capping a day in which the Reds got 17 hits but left a ton of men on base. Cincy avoids the sweep.

Blue Jays 5, Red Sox 0: The Jays avoid a sweep as well. Omar Vizquel had two hits. He’s about to pass Babe Ruth on the all-time hits list, by the way. I shall look no further than that stat and declare him Babe Ruth’s equal.

Yankees 6, Rays 4: Some people say the Yankees are too home-run dependent. Others say that small ball is no way to go. The Yankees compromised, doing both yesterday. Russell Martin hit a three-run homer. During that same inning the Yankees stole bases and Nick Swisher of all people had a sac bunt.

Rangers 2, Mariners 1: Texas is probably not too happy hearing all of that “The A’s are gunning for the division title, not just the wild card” talk. Their win and the A’s loss helps put that off a bit. Adrian Beltre hit a homer. Matt Harrison gave up one run over eight and two-thirds.

Padres 12, Rockies 11: Twenty-three runs on 27 hits is not unusual when Colorado is involved. It is unusual, however, when the game is played in San Diego.  Of course there is a BIG difference between day games at Petco and night games. Yonder Alonso wins it with a walkoff single.

The Astros continue to refuse to take responsibility for the Taubman Affair

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I’m calling it the “Taubman Affair” because writing “the incident in which a top front office executive — Astros Assistant General Manager Brandon Taubman — taunted a reporter for her past opposition to the team acquiring a domestic abuser, after which the team lied, aggressively about it, accusing another reporter of fabricating a story, then admitted that they lied but made no apology for smearing the reporter” is too unwieldy for a headline.

If you need catching up on it, though, you can read this, this or this.

The latest on it all: yesterday, after walking back their angry denial that the incident ever occurred and admitting that, yes, Taubman did in fact gleefully and profanely target a reporter for taunting, the team basically went silent and let Game 1 unfold.

Today General Manager Jeff Luhnow went on a team-friendly radio station (i.e. the station that broadcasts Astros games). In the entire segment he was asked only one question about it: “Your thoughts on the SI article, Jeff.” Luhnow said that he would withhold comment, but apologized to “everybody involved,” including the fans and the players, saying “this situation should have never happened.” You can listen to the entire segment here.

He did not, however, make any specific mention of what “this situation” was. Nor did he acknowledge that, actually, it’s at least two “situations:” (1) the initial behavior of Taubman; and (2) Monday night’s team-sanctioned attack of Sports Illustrated’s Stephanie Apstein, who reported it. Indeed, at no time in the team’s now multiple comments has anyone acknowledged that, as an organization, the Houston Astros’s first impulse in all of this was to attempt to bully and discredit a reporter for what has now been established as a truthful report to which the Astros have admitted. And they certainly have not voiced any specific regret or offered any form of accountability for it.

Major League Baseball is apparently investigating Taubman’s conduct. But it is not, presumably, investigating the Astros’ disingenuous smear of Apstein. A smear that the Astros likely undertook because they figured they could intimidate Apstein and, what may even be worse, because they assumed that the rest of the press — many of whom were witnesses to Taubman’s act — would go along or remain silent. If they did not think that, of course, releasing the statement they did would’ve been nonsensical. It speaks of an organization that believes it can either bully or manipulate the media into doing its bidding or covering for the teams’ transgressions. That part of this has gone wholly uncommented on by the Astros and apparently will for the foreseeable future. No matter how this shakes out for Taubman, if the Astros do not talk about how and why they decided to baselessly attack Apstein on Monday night, nothing they ever say should be trusted again.

More broadly, everything the Astros are doing now is the same as when they traded for Roberto Osuna in the first place.

In 2018 they wanted to do an unpopular thing — arbitrage a player’s domestic violence suspension into the acquisition of cheap relief help — while wanting to appear as though they were good actors who had a “zero tolerance for domestic violence” policy. To solve that problem they shoveled a lot of malarkey about how “zero tolerance” actually includes a fair amount of tolerance and hoped that everyone would go along. When not everyone did — when fans brought signs of protest to the ballpark or expressed their displeasure with Osuna’s presence on the roster — they confiscated them then hoped it’d all blow over and, eventually, via Taubman’s rant on Saturday night, lashed out at their critics.

Here, again, they want to do something unpopular: retain a boorish and insensitive executive in Taubman without him or the team suffering any consequences for it, be they actual consequences or mere P.R. fallout. Again, it’s kind of hard to pull that off, so to do so they falsely accused a reporter of lying and then circled the wagons when they caught heat for it.

I have no idea how long they plan to keep this up. Maybe they are calculating that people will forget and that forgetting is the same as forgiveness. Maybe they simply don’t care. All I do know is that folks will be teaching the Astros’ response to all of this as a counterexample in crisis management courses for years.