And That Happened: Wednesday’s scores and highlights

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Phillies 6, Rockies 3: Chase Utley tied it on an RBI single in the ninth and then Ryan Howard hit a walkoff three-run bomb. Thing is, LaTroy Hawkins should’ve had the game closed out before either of those guys came to the plate, but Josh Rutledge had a throwing error which allowed both Utley and Howard to bat with two outs.

Athletics 3, Tigers 1: Another game, another wakoff three-run home run. This one from Josh Donaldson off Joe Nathan, who was trying to preserve a 1-0 lead handed to him by a dominant-until-the-ninth Anibal Sanchez. That threw the win to the equally deserving Scott Kazmir, who allowed only one run while going the distance.

White Sox 3, Indians 2: Moises Sierra drove in the winning run with a walkoff single. Both T.J. House for the Indians and Hector Noesi for the Sox pitched some pretty spiffy baseball, but neither factored in to the decision. Jason Giambi hit his 440th home run. Then he and his mule went back into the canyon, ready to scare off any other snoopers who come nosing around to jump his claim.

Mets 5, Pirates 0: Bartolo Colon tossed a shutout into the eighth and was at the plate for the wild pitch that scored the first Mets run. And he looked like this as he swung at it:

source:

In his defense, he looks like that when he swings at everything. And he’s 0 for 17 on the year with ten strikeouts. I feel like the DH in the NL is inevitable, but I also want them to wait until Bartolo Colon is done playing in the NL because how can you deprive us of this, Baseball Gods?

Astros 9, Royals 3: Another game, another homer for George Springer. That’s nine in May for him. Chris Carter homered twice. The Astros sweep the Royals, who have lost four in a row.

Giants 5, Cubs 0: Six Giants pitchers, led off by Tim Lincecum, combine for a two-hit shutout of the Cubs. Despite only two hits, the Cubs had ten base runners as Giants pitchers walked five and hit a batter and two more Cubs reached on errors. They couldn’t convert, though.

Blue Jays 3, Rays 2: That’s nine straight for Toronto, this one coming on a walkoff E-1 following a bunt to the pitcher. The other two runs scored on an RBI single by Edwin Encarnacion in the first.

Marlins 8, Nationals 5: Miami blew a 4-0 lead but the Nats bullpen fell apart in the tenth with Jerry Blevins and Aaron Barrett allowing four runs of their own. Henderson Alvarez left this one for the Marlins with elbow stiffness. Sadly that’s not too rare a thing in baseball this year.

Red Sox 4, Braves 0: John Lackey pitched a shutout into the seventh and Sox hitters dinked and dunked Gavin Floyd and Alex Wood to death. Three straight wins for Boston now. This one coming on Idiots Day at Fenway.

Brewers 8, Orioles 3: Nelson Cruz hit homers 18 and 19, but they came in a losing effort. Ryan Braun’s two-run double and Khris Davis’ three-run homer came in a winning effort.

Rangers 1, Twins 0: Joe Saunders and four relievers combine for the shutout, with their only run of support coming on a Luis Sardinas single in the seventh. Not bad for Saunders, who was making his first start in two months.

Yankees 7, Cardinals 4: Hiroki Kuroda won on the road for the first time in 11 starts, stretching back to last year. Jacoby Ellsbury had three hits and three RBI. The Yankees take the series. Brian McCann started at first base and went 2 for 4. So that was something.

Diamondbacks 12, Padres 6: An eight-run first for Arizona pretty much ended this one before it started. Dbacks starter Chase Anderson got 18 runs of support in the start before this one. He’s gonna get spoiled.

Mariners 3, Angels 1: King Felix took a shutout into the ninth and struck out nine. Mike Zunino drove in both of the M’s runs, one on a solo shot.

Reds 3, Dodgers 2: Clayton Kershaw pitched OK, but Homer Bailey pitched better. Yasiel Puig hit a solo homer, but Brandon Phillips hit a two-run shot. Anything you can do I can do better, I can do anything better than you.

 

Whitewash: Rob Manfred says he doesn’t think sign stealing extends beyond the Astros

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Rob Manfred said today that he believes the sign-stealing scandal which has taken over the news in the past week does not extend beyond the Houston Astros. His exact words, via Jeff Passan of ESPN:

“Right now, we are focused on the information that we have with respect to the Astros. I’m not going to speculate on whether other people are going to be involved. We’ll deal with that if it happens, but I’m not going to speculate about that. I have no reason to believe it extends beyond the Astros at this point in time.”

This is simply incredible. As in literally not credible.

It’s not credible because, just last week, in the original story in The Athletic, it was reported that the Astros system was set up by two players, one of whom was “a hitter who was struggling at the plate and had benefited from sign stealing with a previous team, according to club sources . . . they were said to strongly believe that some opposing teams were already up to no good. They wanted to devise their own system in Houston. And they did.”

The very next day Passan reported that Major League Baseball would not limit its focus to the Astros. Rather, the league’s probe was also include members of the 2019 Astros and would extend to other teams as well. Passan specifically mentioned the 2018 Red Sox which, of course, were managed by Alex Cora one year after he left Houston, where he was A.J. Hinch’s bench coach.

Add into this the Red Sox’ pre-Cora sign-stealing with Apple Watches and widespread, informed speculation on the part of players and people around the game that many teams do this sort of thing, and one can’t reasonably suggest that only the Houston Astros are doing this.

Which, as I noted at the time, made perfect sense. These schemes cannot, logically, operate in isolation because players and coaches change teams constantly. In light of this, players have to know that their sign-stealing would be found out by other teams eventually. They continue to do it, however, because they know other teams do it too. As is the case with pitchers using pine tar or what have you, they don’t rat out the other team so they, themselves, will not be ratted out. It’s a mutually-assured destruction that only exists and only works if, in fact, other teams are also stealing signs.

So why is Major League Baseball content to only hang the Astros here? I can think of two reasons.

One is practical. They had the Astros fall in their lap via former Astro Mike Fiers — obviously not himself concerned with his current team being busted for whatever reason — going on the record with his accusation. That’s not likely to repeat itself across baseball and thus it’d be quite difficult for Major League Baseball to easily conduct a wide investigation. Who is going to talk? How can baseball make them talk? It’d be a pretty big undertaking.

But there’s also the optics. Major League Baseball has had a week to think about the report of the Astros sign-stealing and, I suspect, they’ve realized, like everyone else has realized, that this is a major scandal in the making. Do they really want to spend the entire offseason — and longer, I suspect, if they want a thorough investigation — digging up unflattering news about cheating in the sport? Do they really want to be in the bad news creation business? I doubt they do, so they decided to fence off the Astros, hit them hard with penalties, declare victory and move on.

Which is to say, it’s a whitewash.

It’s something the league has tried to do before. They did it with steroids and it didn’t work particularly well.

In 1998 Mark McGwire, that game’s biggest star at the time, was found to have the PED androstenedione in his locker. It was a big freakin’ deal. Except . . . nothing happened. Major League Baseball planned to “study” the drug but most of the fallout was visited upon the reporter who made it public. It was accompanied by some shameful conduct by both Major League Baseball and the baseball press corps who eagerly went after the messenger rather than cover the story properly.

Four years later Ken Caminiti and Jose Canseco went public with their PED use and said drug use was widespread. MLB’s response was slow and, again, sought to isolated the known offenders, singling out Caminiti as a troubled figure — which he was — and Canseco as a kook — which he kind of is — but doing them and the story a disservice all the same.

The league eventually created a rather toothless testing and penalty regime. Congress and outside investigative reporters filled the void created by the league’s inaction, calling hearings and publishing damning stories about how wide PED use was in the game. Eventually Bud Selig commissioned the Mitchell Report. Some ten years after the McGwire incident baseball had at least the beginnings of a sane approach to PEDs and a more effective testing plan, but it was pulled to it kicking and screaming, mostly because doing anything about it was too hard and not very appetizing from a business and P.R. perspective.

And so here we are again. Baseball has a major scandal on its hands. After some initially promising words about how serious it planned to take it, the league seems content to cordon off the known crime scene and refuses to canvass the neighborhood. Sure, if someone gratuitously hands them evidence they’ll look into it, but it sure sounds like Rob Manfred plans to react rather than act here.

That should work. At least until the next time evidence of cheating comes up and they have to start this all over again.