Settling the Score: Friday’s results

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The National League playoff picture got a step closer to taking shape last night, as the Cardinals walloped the Nationals 12-2 at Busch Stadium. The Cardinals are three games up on the Dodgers and five ahead of the Brewers for the second Wild Card spot with just five games to play.

Edwin Jackson was hit really hard by his former team, giving up nine runs (eight earned) on six hits and four walks over just 1 1/3 innings. It was his shortest outing of the season.

Allen Craig went 4-for-4 in the victory while Yadier Molina added to his case for National League MVP by hitting his 22nd home run. Adam Wainwright bounced back from some recent shaky efforts to toss six innings of one-run ball. Despite the loss, Bryce Harper went 2-for-3 with a double and a run scored. His OPS is now over .800 (.804) for the first time since July 18.

Because the Braves lost to the Mets last night, the Nationals’ magic number to clinch the National League East is down to two. They could clinch it tonight with a victory and another Braves loss. As for the Cardinals, their magic number to clinch the second Wild Card is at three.

Your Saturday box scores:

Reds 1, Pirates 0

Red Sox 1, Orioles 9

Phillies 1, Marlins 2

Royals 5, Indians 8

Mets 3, Braves 1

Yankees 11, Blue Jays 4

Astros 7, Brewers 6

Angels 7, Rangers 4

Rays 1, White Sox 3

Cubs 3, Diamondbacks 8

Tigers 2, Twins 4

Giants 3, Padres 1

Mariners 2, Athletics 8

Rockies 0, Dodgers 8

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.