And That Happened: Thursday’s scores and highlights

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Astros 3, Mariners 2: Jose Altuve hit a walkoff single in the tenth inning, lifting the Astros to their seventh straight win. Altuve was up, by the way, because Lloyd McLendon decided to walk Colby Rasmus to get to Altuve with a man on second. I suppose that whole set-up-the-double-play thing has been on page 16 of the Managerial Handbook for 100 year, but I feel like “Don’t Pass Up a Much Easier Hitter To Get To The Reigning American League Batting Champion” is on page 13 or 14. In any event, I’d rather go after Rasmus, hope to get him out and then be able to be carful with Altuve, but I’m just some schmo in my armchair. Oh well. The Astros’ 15-7 record and .681 winning percentage represents their best April in 29 years.

Cardinals 9, Phillies 3: After a slow start to the year the Cards’ offense is now clicking. Some may choose to believe that adjusting the batting order, dropping Matt Carpenter down from the leadoff spot and stuff is what has done the trick. I prefer the Occam’s Razor=friendly explanation which has only one variable, with that being “the Phillies have been in town.” As it was, Carpenter doubled, singled and walked twice. Matt Adams had three hits, including a two-run homer, and drove in three.

Twins 12, White Sox 2: In basketball, the big star is almost always going to have a good game, even if the team comes up flat. In football, teams can be out of synch — quarterbacks and receivers not on the same page or the game plan disrupted by a superior defense — but it’s not like the quarterbacks forget how to throw or the receivers forget how to run routs. In baseball, though? Dang, sometimes even the best players show up to the park and simply don’t have it. Like Chris Sale last night. He’s one of the best in the game but, sometimes, you just don’t have anything and one of the worst teams in the game beat you around like the Twins did last night. But, in baseball, you also don’t get a week’s worth of thinkpieces about it. No one talks about benching Sale or questions his skills. We just say “huh, I’ll be damned,” shrug our shoulders and forget it the next day, his inflated ERA the only real reminder of that shellacking. It’s part of what I love about baseball. Here, as in life, you’re best not to dwell on a bad day. And most of the time we don’t.

Angels 6, Athletics 5: Kole Calhoun drove in three, but this catch from Mike Trout with the bases loaded and two out in the ninth is what everyone was talking about:

Watch the second time they show the play on video — the one with the wide shot showing Trout’s positioning before the ball hit off the bat — and note how immediately that dude breaks back once you hear the crack. Just outstanding instincts and a quick-as-all-get-out read.

Blue Jays 5, Indians 1: The Jays plated five in the fourth with some walks, singles and doubles strung together. Which for them anyway is small ball. Blue Jays starter Daniel Norris threw 78 pitches in three innings without allowing a run somehow. That’s quite a trick. Normally that would spell disaster, but the Jays’ pen — Jeff Francis, Roberto Ozuna, Aaron Loup and Brett Cecil — allowed only one run over six.

Reds 5, Braves 1: Mike Leake tossed eight shutout innings and hit a homer to [all together now] help his own cause. Todd Frazier, Tucker Barnhart and Billy Hamilton all had solo homers, helping Leake’s own cause as well. And their own, because there is no “i” in “own cause.”

Nationals 8, Mets 2: Remember way, way back at the beginning of the season when the Mets couldn’t lose and the Nationals couldn’t win and we were talking about how great it was for New York and how crappy and underachieving Washington was? Nah, me neither. The Mets have dropped five of seven since their big winning streak. The Nats have notched three wins in a row. Bryce Harper hit two doubles and drove in three.

Royals 8, Tigers 1: Danny Duffy put up goose eggs into the eighth inning and Royals’ bats were not fooled by Alfredo Simon. Eric Hosmer homered for the second straight day. The Royals finish April 15-7 and a half game up on Tigers in the Central.

MLB executive: Bruce Maxwell’s kneeling may keep him from finding work, not his arrest

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In September 2017, former Athletics catcher Bruce Maxwell became the first major league player to kneel during the national anthem, joining the handfuls of NFL players who had been doing the same to protest police brutality and racial inequality. Maxwell’s effort was laudable, but he got into trouble a month later when he was arrested for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and disorderly conduct. Maxwell allegedly pointed a gun at a food delivery person.

Maxwell, 27, played sparingly for the Athletics in 2018 and then was designated for assignment at the beginning of September. He officially became a free agent on November 2 and has had trouble finding work in the month-plus since.

Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that Maxwell fired his agent, Matt Sosnick on Thursday because he’s still jobless. According to an unnamed MLB executive Slusser spoke to, “It’s the kneeling thing that might keep him from getting another job, not the arrest. Owners aren’t going to want to deal with that whole anthem issue.”

That makes a lot of since since abusive players haven’t had too much trouble finding new work otherwise. Addison Russell, Jeurys Familia, and José Reyes, among others have either stayed with their teams or quickly found new work. Given the relatively weak catching market, had Maxwell only had the assault charge, there is no doubt he would have been signed to be a backup catcher somewhere.

In the NFL, Colin Kaepernick — who popularized kneeling during the anthem — has remained unsigned even though teams have opted to sign and start clearly inferior quarterbacks like Mark Sanchez, Josh McCown, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jay Cutler, Matt Barkley, and Sam Bradford, among many others. Team owners tend to run conservative in terms of politics, so they may not like the protest to begin with, then there is the public blowback to signing such a player as those who dislike such protesting make up a slight majority in the U.S., according to various polls including one done by the Washington Post.

It’s worth noting that Maxwell has a career .240/.314/.347 triple-slash line in 412 plate appearances. We’re not talking about J.T. Realmuto or Buster Posey here. That being said, there have been 15 other catchers to have put up a lower aggregate OPS since 2016 (min. 400 PA). One of those players, Derek Norris (.600 OPS since 2016), signed a minor league contract with the Tigers just three months after being suspended by Major League Baseball for violating its domestic violence policy. Makes you think.