And That Happened: Sunday’s scores and highlights

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Angels 4, Tigers 3: Watched most of this one as I painted a couple of rooms in my house. Two highlights of the game for me were (1) overhearing my girlfriend use some really bad language the second or third time the Tigers left the bases loaded; and (2) Tigers color commentator Rod Allen, when describing Prince Fielder’s swing on his homer, say “he lifts, and separates.” So I guess Prince Fielder is now a bra. As for that first part, it happened so often that when Mark Trumbo finally hit the walkoff homer in the 13th it had been three hours since she had written the game off.

Rays 8, Athletics 1: Roberto Hernandez — who, if he had any style, should call himself “Fauxsto Carmona” — got his first win since coming out as Roberto Hernandez. The A’s, like the Braves, were once hot and now are not. From the AP Gamer:

One day after having a DJ play music in the clubhouse to help relax his team, Maddon had a magician doing card tricks Sunday.

“It’s about just keeping the guys ready, keeping the guys loose,” Maddon said. “I want them to be prepared mentally, and not be exhausted mentally whenever they go out on the field. Things like that, I do things to break it up.”

Maddon is like the CEO at a 1999 dotcom startup. “Look, guys! We have a foosball table! And a free soda! It’s not work if it’s fun!

Diamondbacks 5, Rockies 4: Colorado’s eight game winning streak comes to an end.  Didi Gregorius hit a home run and singled to start a two-run rally in the ninth inning. And he still has a name that sounds more like a character from “Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” than a ballplayer, but that’s OK.

Rangers 11, Mariners 3: Leonys Martin, Mitch Moreland and Adrian Beltre each hit homes. Nelson Cruz did too, but his was a grand slam. The sweep.

Indians 5, Astros 4: Drew Stubbs made a slick over-the-shoulder catch in the first inning which turned into a double play, halting any further damage in a rocky start for Ubaldo Jimenez. He later homered. Thinking about creating a marco that writes” ____ take two of three from Houston” with one keystroke.

Twins 5, White Sox 3: Everyone had the Twins at 8-7 through 15 games, right? The White Sox are losers of 9 of 12.

Giants 5, Padres 0: Seven shutout innings for Barry Zito who has apparently chosen to alternate good and bad starts as opposed to go on extended hot and cold streaks. Always keeping us guessing. He won’t be pigeonholed. Buster Posey hit his first homer of the year. And he was still out at second in the 2010 NLDS.

Brewers 4, Cubs 2: Seven wins in a row for the Brewers, who started so poorly. Ryan Braun hit a home run. He was later ejected for tossing his bat. And because Major League Baseball has it in for him, man.

Pirates 4, Braves 2: The Buccos take three of four from the previously-hot Braves, powered by two RBI from the previously-ice cold Clint Barmes because baseball. And because of those yellow caps and pullover jerseys, but I went over that last week.

Royals 4, Red Sox 2; Royals 5, Red Sox 4: The Royals sweep the doubleheader, winning the second game on a bases loaded walk in the 10th. Have a day Greg Holland: saves in both games with five total strikeouts.

Mets 2, Nationals 0: Dillion Gee gets his first win with a nice start and the Mets take two of three from the Nats. They were aided by Jayson Werth not really thinking.

Dodgers 7, Orioles 4: L.A. snaps a six-game skid. Mark Ellis drove in three. Jake Arrieta walked the ballpark and hit a batter.

Reds 10, Marlins 6: Joey Votto started the year slow but he had three hits and a homer on Saturday and did it again on Sunday. Don’t hate the Marlins. They’re performing a fantasy team assistance service here.

Blue Jays 8, Yankees 4: J.P. Arencibia hit his seventh homer of the year, helping the Jays avoid the sweep. Brett Lawrie and Melky Cabrera had good games too. All three of those have been mentioned in HardballTalk posts for either being in trouble or angering people for some reason over the past few years than for baseball stuff. Viva Evil.

Phillies 7, Cardinals 3:  Erik Kratz scored the tying run in the seventh and hit a three-run homer to break things open in the eighth. Michael Young has a 12 game hitting streak. He was also called “a professional hitter” by Dan Shulman once. Now that he’s actually hitting well he’ll probably lose that moniker soon.

Report: Braves not expected to pursue Bryce Harper

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Thanks in part to a rebuilding effort that got ahead of schedule, the Braves in 2018 had their best season in five years, finishing 90-72 and winning the NL East. They were stopped in the playoffs by the Dodgers, falling in five games in the NLDS. Outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr. won the NL Rookie of the Year Award and Brian Snitker won the NL Manager of the Year Award. Veteran outfielder Nick Markakis even got some down-ballot love in NL MVP voting, finishing 18th behind teammates Freddie Freeman (fourth) and Acuña (12th).

Markakis is now a free agent and there happens to be a very talented and still-young outfielder available in free agency this offseason who could replace him and then some. He goes by the name Bryce Harper. You might have heard of him. David O’Brien of The Athletic initially said to not be surprised if the Braves became players in the Harper sweepstakes, but quickly retracted it as a source he trusts assured him the Braves are not, in fact, in on Harper and added that he thought there would be no way Braves ownership (Liberty Media) would sign off on a 10-year deal.

Since being taken over by Liberty Media in 2007, the Braves’ Opening Day payroll has been in the $60 million to $137 million range, according to USA TODAY Sports. On average over that period of time, the Braves have had the 18th-highest payroll among the 30 major league teams. The Braves increased payroll to a franchise-record $137 million on Opening Day in 2017, but cut that all the way back to $83 million in 2018, dropping their rank in baseball from 13th to 27th. In April, the Braves disingenuously played service time games with Acuña, then an uber-prospect who was undoubtedly major-league ready, in order to cheaply get another year of team control over him.

Jeff Schultz of the Atlanta-Journal Constitution wrote in March this year that Liberty Media has $42 billion in assets. This corporation is not hurting for cash. Yet the Braves cried poor in order to bilk taxpayers of $400 million to fund the totally unnecessary new ballpark that moved the Braves’ home from Atlanta to Cumberland (Cobb County). The stadium is not as easily accessible by way of bus or subway, hurting a lot of the Braves’ poorer fans and those who live in the city, sans car. As Meris Lutz of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported last year, Cobb County found itself in a $30-55 million budget shortfall, even after “raiding $21 million in rainy-day funds to plug a gaping hole in the 2018 budget.” Liberty Media, of course, doesn’t lose anything from this.

The Braves were one of 13 teams in baseball to see an attendance increase from 2017 to ’18, seeing over 50,000 more fans go through the turnstiles. Braves ownership had said that a spike in revenue — from increased attendance as well as from leasing offices and retail space — would lead to increased payroll. Instead, the Braves’ payroll was cut by approximately $54 million and now the organization has reportedly already taken itself out of the running for Harper, unarguably the best free agent outfielder to hit the open market in quite some time. Adding a talent like Harper (or Manny Machado) would solidify the Braves’ legitimacy in the NL East and it would, at minimum, be a show of good faith to Braves fans, whose tax dollars are on constant display during all 81 home games in Cobb County.

This is in stark contrast to Phillies owner John Middleton, who recently said, “We’re going into this [offseason] expecting to spend money. And maybe even be a little bit stupid about it.” He added, “We just prefer not to be completely stupid.” This confirms what everyone already knew: the Phillies are major players for elite free agents Harper and Machado. Heck, they might even get both. Either player could exceed the record for the largest contract in baseball history, currently held by Yankees outfielder Giancarlo Stanton, who signed a 13-year, $325 million contract with the Marlins in 2014.

This past season, the Phillies fell flat on their faces in the second half while the Braves continued to press forward with a better-constructed team. The Phillies didn’t have an Acuña or a Freddie Freeman and their minor league system still doesn’t quite match up with the Braves’. Sniping Harper from the Phillies would seem almost critical, then. Or at least keeping up with the Phillies by signing other free agents to fill the gaps left by Markakis and others.

Sadly for Braves fans, it seems like Liberty Media got what it wanted, largely on the taxpayers’ dime, and is happy to keep the Braves near the bottom-third of the league when it comes to payroll. If the Braves finish behind the Phillies in 2019 and beyond, fans and the players will have only ownership to blame.