And That Happened: Thursday’s scores and hightlights

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Royals 8, Tigers 3: You can try to make Phil Coke a multi-inning reliever all you want, but he’s still going to be a lefty specialist. And when he comes in and has trouble even getting the lefties out, you can’t stick with him. He’s not the one who gave up the grand slam to Alex Gordon, but he set the stage. Well, that and Jim Leyland intentionally walking Jeff Francouer, but the outcome was all but set when that happened. We were just waiting for it to finish playing out.

Pirates 6, Phillies 4: Hey, did you realize that Pittsburgh was 13-9? It’s true. They’re winners of 10 of 13. Gaby Sanchez homered and drove in three. The Phillies dropped their first home series against the Pirates in over a decade.

Red Sox 7, Astros 2: Now witness the firepower of this fully ARMED and OPERATIONAL David Ortiz! The Sox’ DH was 3 for 4 with a homer and an RBI single. He’s 11 for 20 since coming off the DL. Clay Buchholz struck out ten while pitching into the eighth. Daniel Bard made his 2013 debut, striking out one in a scoreless inning. Oh, and alert the media and/or relevant first responders: Rick Ankiel drew a walk. His first of the year.

Dodgers 3, Mets 2: Hyun-Jin Ryu had a nice performance, holding the Mets to one run on three hits in seven innings while striking out eight. Andre Ethier broke a 1-1 tie in the ninth with an RBI single, followed up by Juan Uribe putting the Dodgers ahead with a single of his own.

Yankees 5, Blue Jays 3: Robinson Cano, Vernon Wells and Frankie Cervelli went deep. The Yankees were down 3-0 early, but Hiroki Kuroda settled down after that and waited for the bats to boom. A record low crowd for Yankee Stadium. Which is kind of a shame, actually. This Yankees team isn’t what people are accustomed to, but it’s kinda cool seeing contributions from different faces and names in pinstripes. If nothing else, people should be bearing witness to a resurrection: Vernon Wells is hitting .293/.361/.587 with six homers on the year.

Nationals 8, Reds 1: If the bats are gonna sleep, it’s up to the pitchers. That’s what Gio Gonzalez must’ve figured, as he allowed only one hit — a Joey Votto solo shot — in eight innings. Except the bats did show up, actually, with the Nats rattling off a dozen hits, including a Danny Espinosa two-run homer and RBI double. Denard Span drove in three as well.

White Sox 5, Rays 2: Chris Sale walked four dudes, but allowed only two runs and four hits in seven innings. Adam Dunn homered. Life is more fun when Adam Dunn homers. He’s now hitting a crisp .108 on the year.

Cubs 4, Marlins 3: It’s 2013. Terrorism, war and ecological destruction ravage the planet. Still, I’m gonna offer that a Cubs-Marlins series is the worst thing affecting humankind at the moment. Luis Valbuena hit the go-ahead homer in the ninth. Afterwards he said “Ninth inning, two outs, I tried to hit a home run. I didn’t want to play extra innings.” I don’t think any of us wanted to see it either, Luis. Give that man a humanitarian award.

Rangers 2, Twins 1: Nick Tepesch allowed five hits in six and two-thirds, with a solo homer to Josh Willingham the only blight on the box score. The Twins’ best chance to get even or better ended, however, when Willingham hit into a bases-loaded double play in the eighth. Selah.

Diamondbacks 3, Rockies 2: Paul Goldschmidt with a two-run homer helped a not-great but good enough Trevor Cahill, who notched his first W of the year.

Orioles 10, Athletics 2: Nate McLouth singled, doubled, walked and drove in two. Chris Davis homered. Adam Jones had three hits. All nine starters got a hit and six different O’s drove in a run. The A’s have dropped six of seven.

Mariners 6, Angels 0: The Mariners’ sleepy bats woke up. Including Carlos Peguero’s, whose bat hit a 450+ foot homer, adjudged the third longest in Safeco Field history. Kyle Saeger has a 14 game hitting streak. As for Anaheim, I’m not wishing any ill-happenings for anyone, but I’m still liking my “Mike Scioscia is the first manager fired this year” prediction.

Zack Greinke understands that “the opener” isn’t just about in-game strategy

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Over the weekend, Craig was among those cited as having criticized the Rays by Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Craig wrote about it in Sunday’s And That Happened. Many of the responses from Rays fans to him on Twitter, at least most of what I saw, conflated distaste for ownership’s penny-pinching for a belief that the team is bad. Indeed, the Rays enter Tuesday’s action 64-61 and their position above .500 has something to do with “the opener” strategy, which is when they have a reliever like Sergio Romo start the game before handing the ball off to an actual starter after an inning or two. Other teams, like the Twins, have taken notice of “the opener” and have begun experimenting with it.

On Monday, Bleacher Report’s Scott Miller published a lengthy column discussing how recent changes to the game of baseball have made it a worse product. He quotes a lot of old-timers, which I discussed yesterday. Miller also quoted Diamondbacks starter Zack Greinke on the subject of “the opener.” While quotes from the likes of Goose Gossage and Pete Rose were a bit more eye-popping, Greinke’s thoughts shouldn’t go unnoticed.

Greinke said:

It’s really smart, but it’s also really bad for baseball. It’s just a sideshow. There’s always ways to get a little advantage, but the main problem I have with it is you do it that way, then you’ll end up never paying any player what he’s worth because you’re not going to have guys starting, you’re not going to have guys throwing innings.

You just keep shuffling guys in and out constantly so nobody will ever get paid. Someone’s going to make the money, either the owners or the players. You keep doing it that way, the players won’t make any money.

Back in May, I wrote about how the overarching concept of “bullpenning” creates a serious labor issue in baseball. Greinke touched on exactly those points. An elite starter makes significantly more money than an elite reliever. Compare contracts signed by David Price (seven years, $217 million) and Max Scherzer (seven years, $210 million) to the contract signed by Aroldis Chapman (five years, $86 million), which is currently the most lucrative contract signed by a reliever. It wouldn’t crack the top-85 contracts in baseball.

A starter’s number of starts and his innings pitched total are both cited in arbitration filings and contract negotiations. A pitcher who made 33 starts in a season will have more leverage than a pitcher who made only 15 starts. Meanwhile, Romo and Ryne Stanek‘s innings totals aren’t much different than a normal year of relief. Thus, if you’re Rays president of baseball operations Matt Silverman and GM Erik Neander, spreading the number of starts (and innings) between the “rotation” and bullpen will reduce the cost of pre-arbitration and arbitration-eligible starters. The owners save this money and pocket it instead of reinvesting it into the team. Then they’ll turn around, cry poor, and ask residents of Tampa to foot the billion-dollar bill for a new stadium in Ybor City, roughly 25 minutes from their current digs.

Greinke is right and we should pay attention to what he’s saying. While “the opener” has some strategic merit, particularly for teams with less-than-complete starting rotations, it also conveniently helps save money for stingy and exploitative front offices. We’ve already accepted that a third of the league gave up on the season before it began. Let’s not accept that teams can give up on their pitching staffs as well.