And That Happened: Wednesday’s scores and highlights

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*The first recap of the morning was written, collectively, by everyone’s mid-50s-year-old drunk uncle who peaked during Reagan’s first term and has hated everything since*

Indians 2, Cardinals 0: Eighteen strikeouts and one hit allowed in eight innings? Bah! Call me back when he can go nine. Kids these days are soft! Coddled by their parents since preschool, begging out of their responsibilities the moment things start to get tough. Jack Morris had 175 complete games in his career! You can bet, knowing that his team had the lead in this one, that he’d pitch to contact late and save the bullpen!

 

Cubs 2, Mets 1: I was on a radio show yesterday that billed this as “Matt Harvey vs. Kris Bryant.” Thing about baseball, however, is that you can’t do that. You can’t tease any one baseball game as star vs. star because even if he’s fantastic like Matt Harvey was (7 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 9K), the first star may get a no-decision and not figure in to the game’s ultimate outcome. Likewise, the second star may go 1-for-4 with two strikeouts. Maybe that kind of tease gets some people to watch who wouldn’t, but if you promise greatness from superstars in baseball you’re going to, statistically speaking, end up burning your audience more often than not. At least the casual fans who were only attracted by you hyping the stars. And if you do burn fans enough, maybe they don’t stick around until the ninth inning and see a walkoff walk to Chris Coghlan. You can’t hype things like walkoff walks in advance because you never know what you’re gonna get. You can, however, hype the fact that you never know what you’re gonna get.

Angels 2, Rockies 1: Mike Trout put on a defensive clinic in extra innings. Two plays, each of which would’ve caused the Angels to lose the game if he did not make them. Wait, make that three: the home-run theft, the running catch with the man on third and then, after that catch, the throw home to nail the runner tagging up. And the dude didn’t even make it look hard:

Best all-around player in the game and it’s not particularly close.

 

Nationals 9, Diamondbacks 6: Michael Taylor hit a grand slam in the ninth inning with the Nats down one. No biggie.

Best part: he was only in the game because Bryce Harper had been ejected in the seventh inning for arguing balls and strikes.

Reds 5, Braves 1: Rookie Raisel Iglesias baffled the Bravos, allowing one run on two hits in eight innings. Not to take anything away from him — he was great and the Braves sorta stink — but this was such a getaway day game. Lasted two hours and six minutes and after three games in Ohio where they dealt with rain, cold and then cold again, the Braves have an offday in Miami today. Mentally speaking they were on the dang beach and eating at Joe’s Stone Crab by the third inning.

Red Sox 2, Athletics 0: Wade Miley pitched shutout ball into the seventh. He wasn’t totally cruising — he allowed five hits and walked four — but he worked out of every jam he faced. The Sox needed that.

Orioles 6, Blue Jays 1: The O’s scored five in the second thanks in part to three doubles. Miguel Gonzalez allowed only three hits while pitching into the seventh. The Jays’ only run came on a passed ball.

Phillies 3, Pirates 2: Jeff Francoeur nailed a runner at the plate for the final out of the game. An out which made Jonathan Papelbon the all-time Phillies saves leader:

 

Am I the only one who wondered if, maybe, since the ball was foul, Francoeur shoulda let it drop so that there was no chance the tying run could tag up and come home? Maybe that’s too harsh. You should take the outs that are given to you whenever you can. Instincts are hard to overcome and it’s possible that Francoeur didn’t know if he was in fair or foul territory by the time he got to the ball. Nice throw either way and obviously the good result. That cannon he carries is the biggest reason he still has a job in the majors. Good to see him get to use it.

Twins 6, Tigers 2: Ricky Nolasco wasn’t efficient or sharp in an absolute sense but he certainly was compared to the way he’s been pitching lately. Torii Hunter homered and Joe Mauer hit a three-run triple.

Rays 3, Yankees 2: Asdrubal Cabrera drove in a run on a double that served as his 1,000th career hit. Pretty sweet. The Rays have allowed the fewest runs per game in the American League this year.

Marlins 5, Dodgers 4: Dee Gordon had four hits, including two doubles, against the team that dealt him away this past offseason and Giancarlo Stanton had a two-run single. I assume even his RBI singles go 500 feet somehow. The Marlins avoid the sweep and snap the Dodgers’ five-game winning streak.

Rangers 5, Royals 2: Prince Fielder and Shin-Soo Choo each homered and the Rangers won. That’s the sort of thing a lot of people expected to happen last year and it didn’t. See the above Mets-Cubs recap about the unpredictability of stars power.

White Sox 4, Brewers 2: Jose Quintana had a 3-0 lead before he tossed his first pitch and then proceeded to strike out ten Brewers in seven innings. F***ing Quintana. That creep can roll, man.

Astros 4, Giants 3: George Springer had been out a week with concussion symptoms but looked no worse for the cobwebs and rust, hitting the go-ahead homer in the eighth. Buster Posey had three hits, including a two-run homer in a winning effort in a losing cause.

Padres 4, Mariners 2: James Shields allowed one run in six innings and moved his record to 5-0. Weird thing: perfect record but has given up 12 homers this year which leads all of baseball. I guess if that’s the only thing you do wrong and if you get some run support you’ll be alright. Will Middlebrooks homered.

Pressure is on Phillies to finally spend “stupid money”

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For the Phillies, the term “stupid money” has defined their offseason. Coined in November when owner John Middleton said, “We’re going into this [offseason] expecting to spend money, and maybe even be a little bit stupid about it.” While Middleton caught himself, adding, “We just prefer not to be completely stupid,” it was a rare promise — especially these days — by a team owner appearing to actually commit to spending money. Austerity measures, it seems, have been implemented by most other front offices across the league.

One of two bombshells finally dropped on Tuesday: infielder Manny Machado reportedly signed a 10-year, $300 million contract with the Padres. The deal also apparently includes an opt-out clause after the fifth year. The other bombshell, of course, is free agent outfielder Bryce Harper.

While the Phillies have been more strongly linked to the superstar Harper, the club’s connection to Machado could not be overlooked. Several prominent members of the front office, including president Andy MacPhail and GM Matt Klentak, worked with Machado during his years in Baltimore. Upon learning today’s news, Klentak said (via Matt Gelb of The Athletic), “If the reports are true, this contract will exceed our valuation. Sometimes you have to walk away.”

The Phillies, mind you, spent the last five years actively and publicly rebuilding, which included a complete overhaul of the front office. All of that losing was designed to have the club be built up just in time for this offseason, featuring two mega-free agents in Machado and Harper. There are free agents every year. Few of them are of Machado and Harper’s caliber and at the age of 26. The free agent market has stagnated in recent years, in part, due to more analytics-focused front offices being hesitant to pay players lots of money beyond their prime years. Machado and Harper still have plenty of prime years left and, arguably, may not have even entered their primes yet. As far as free agency goes, there are no better bets than Machado or Harper.

So, the pressure is now on the Phillies to go get Harper and live up to Middleton’s “stupid money” proclamation. Despite adding J.T. Realmuto, Andrew McCutchen, David Robertson, and Jean Segura this offseason, PECOTA still projects the Phillies to finish tied for third place in the NL East at 85-77, just four games behind the projected first-place Nationals. The whole point of rebuilding is to avoid being an 85-win team, teetering on playoff contention. To these more analytically-oriented front offices, it’s either boom or bust. Failing to get Harper would not only make the spurt of activity over the last four months and the entire rebuilding scheme pointless, it would be a slap in the face to fans who endured the pitiful quality of play the club has shown over the last half-decade. Klentak, hired after the 2015 season, subjected fans to things like Jeanmar Gomez, closer; Rhys Hoskins, left fielder; and whatever the heck you call the last three editions of the starting rotation beyond Aaron Nola.

If the Phillies do fail to sign Harper, Klentak will likely say something similar to what he said today, that Harper’s ask didn’t match up with their internal valuations. There will be claims that the Phillies can still spend “stupid money” elsewhere in free agency, like going on a binge and signing Craig Kimbrel, Marwin González, and Dallas Keuchel. No one player left in free agency is a better bet than Harper and no group of players would impact the Phillies’ strength relative to their competitors more than Harper alone would. For the Phillies, it is now Harper-or-bust, and fans should revolt if the club opens the regular season not having signed a free agent superstar.