And That Happened: Sunday’s scores and highlights

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Ah, it’s good to be back. If you’re curious about where I was, you can read what I wrote about it here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. If you’re not curious, well, let’s get right back into it, shall we?

Tigers 8, Indians 1: All Miguel Cabrera does is hit 450+ foot homers against the Indians. He did it on Friday and again here yesterday, this time tagging Corey Kluber. Also, if you ever visit Miguel Cabrera’s house, ask him to show you the bill of sale for when he acquired Kluber. For he certainly owns him: he’s 20-for-35 with five homers against him in his career.

Mets 10, Braves 8: The Braves were up five at one point, but the Mets just bashed the living hell out of them to come from behind. Four homers in all for New York, including Juan Lagares’ go ahead three-run homer in the sixth to cap the scoring in a game that looked like the American League circa 2000. Oh, and I should note that Dana Eveland pitched in this one for the Braves. He was acquired by them while I was gone, and I did not get to make mention of it. Long time readers will know of my fascination with Eveland and the fact that he has the EXACT name I would use if I was a pretty young starlet in 1940s Hollywood. And which I bet at some point some starlet did use, only she didn’t make it big because she wouldn’t sleep woth Howard Hughes or some such thing and got buried in RKO B-movies. Sure, she came back once in a “Murder, She Wrote” episode in the late 80s and John Waters stunt-casted her a couple of times, but it wasn’t much of a career, frankly.

Rockies 4, Marlins 1: I’ll always remember where I was when Jorge De La Rosa passed Aaron Cook for the all-time Rockies franchise win record. Specifically, I was . . . um. Wait. I did some laundry yesterday. And I met some friends for an early dinner. Hmm, not sure when this game ended so I can’t really be sure. OK, guess I won’t always remember where I was, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. Charlie Blackmon and Nolan Arenado homered in this one.

Dodgers 4, Padres 2: Adrian Gonzalez drove in three, including a two-run single in the top of the 12th to put the Dodgers over. I did not say “put them ahead,” because I wanted to use a wrestling term there in honor of the Late, Great Dusty Rhodes who died last week. I don’t follow wrestling now but I sure as hell followed it back in the mid-80s and Georgia/Mid-Atlantic was my circuit of choice. Rhodes owned that world, jack, telling us all about “Hard Times” and lamenting the time Baby Doll — that Jezebel! — spent $5,000 of his hard-earned dollars on assorted men and papaya juice. RIP, American Dream.

 

Rays 2, White Sox 1: Asdrubal Cabrera hit a two-run homer off Chris Sale in the seventh and that’s all the Rays would need. Which was unfortunate given how well Sale pitched otherwise, striking out 12 and allowing only two hits apart from that mistake to Cabrera. Sale was clearly tiring, however and finished that inning with 125 pitches on the day.

Yankees 5, Orioles 3: The Yankees kept pace and maintained their percentage points lead over Tampa Bay with a victory here. Free passes helped key the Yankees’ rally. Two Orioles pitchers managed four straight walks to force in a run and then John Ryan Murphy hit a two-run double.

Blue Jays 13, Red Sox 5: The last time I did an “And That Happened” was ages ago. June 3, to be exact. And that is the last time anyone around here was able to write about a Blue Jays’ loss, which last happened the evening before. Now it’s 11 straight for Toronto, and they stand only a game behind the Yankees and Rays. Some things are the same as before I went on my little trip: the Red Sox sucked then and they suck now. Ryan Goins homered, doubled and drove in five in this one.

Pirates 1, Phillies 0: Josh Harrison drove in Neil Walker with two outs in the bottom of the 11th for the win, but it was really A.J. Burnett and Cole Hamels who owned the day. Burnett pitched nine, shutting out the Phillies in regulation on five hits. Hamels only went seven but he too shut out the opposition, striking out 12. It’s a shame neither of them figured in the decision and one of their team’s had to come out on the losing end.

Nationals 4, Brewers 0: Max Scherzer must’ve been feeling right yesterday: 1 hit, 16 strikeouts and the complete game shutout. All he’s done this year is post a 1.93 ERA with a 113/14 K/BB ratio over 93 1/3 innings. Yet he’s only 7-5 and the Nationals aren’t in first place, meaning that he really has not done his job, right?

Astros 13, Mariners 0: The Astros take two of three from Seattle. In the two wins they outscored the M’s 23-0. Not too bad. Here Lance McCullers had a no-hitter going through five but was nonethless pulled. That’s what happens when you’re a well-regarded kid and you’ve already tossed 90 pitches in those five innings. Four relievers came in after him and helped to combine for a two-hitter. Evan Gattis had four hits. Colby Rasmus and Hank Conger each drove in three. Houston: still in first place after Flag Day. Who’da thunk it?

Twins 4, Rangers 3: Byron Buxton made his big league debut. No hits and he struck out twice, but he scored the go-ahead and winning run from first base in the top of the ninth after reaching on a botched sac bunt in which the lead runner was thrown out.

Athletics 8, Angels 1: The A’s are double-digits behind the division leaders but Sonny Gray has done his job at least. He allowed only one unearned run in seven and two-thirds to lower his ERA to 1.60. Ben Zobrist — likely coming to a contender near you in the next month or so — went 3-for-5 and scored three times.

Diamondbacks 4, Giants 0: Good day for De La Rosas. Jorge set a team record and Rubby took a shutout into the ninth. He couldn’t seal the deal but he did get his first win in ages. Chris Heston, alas, did not pull a Johnny Vander Meer, allowing a hit in the second and being chased after five after giving up three runs.

Cubs 2, Reds 1: For the second game in a row Starlin Castro got a walkoff hit. This one in the 11th. Chicago took three of four. They’re seven games over .500. Six and a half back and in third place, mind you, but they’d be leading three other divisions and, given how strong the NL Central is, it’s totally possible three playoff teams come out of that division anyway.

Royals vs. Cardinals: POSTPONED: Another rainy day, we’re trapped inside with a train set
Chocolate on the boil, steamy windows when we met
You’ve got the attic window looking out on the cathedral
And on a Sunday evening bells ring out in the dusk

(sorry; I saw Belle and Sebastian in concert last night, so everything is nice and twee today)

Astros, Red Sox look ahead in wake of sign-stealing scandal

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Players from two teams at the center of baseball’s sign-stealing scandal faced their fans on Saturday for the first time since the Houston Astros and Boston Red Sox ousted their managers amid the fallout from the investigation into Houston’s elaborate scheme.

The Astros and Red Sox held their annual fan fests on Saturday, and instead of discussing preparations for the season, players from both teams were left to answer questions about the cheating that resulted in both teams’ managers being fired.

“It’s a tough situation and as a team we have to stay together and go through this as a team like we’ve been doing, always,” Houston star second baseman José Altuve said. “We have to talk about it at spring training and try not to let things in the past distract us for for next year.”

Houston manager AJ Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow were suspended for a year by MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred on Monday after he found illicit use of electronics to steal signs during the Astros’ run to the 2017 World Series championship and again in the 2018 season. Team owner Jim Crane then fired both Hinch and Luhnow. Manager Alex Cora left the Red Sox on Tuesday after Manfred’s report identified him as the ringleader of the sign-stealing scheme when he was the bench coach for the Astros in 2017.

Many Red Sox players talked Saturday about how much they liked and valued Cora and hated to see him go.

“I’m heartbroken about it,” Boston designated hitter J.D. Martinez said. “I understood his side of it. He definitely didn’t want to be a distraction. He was one of my favorite, if not my favorite, managers I’ve had.”

The Astros were fined $5 million, which is the maximum allowed under the Major League Constitution, and must forfeit their next two first- and second-round amateur draft picks.

The investigation found that the Astros used the video feed from a center field camera to see and decode the opposing catcher’s signs. Players banged on a trash can to signal to batters what was coming, believing it would improve the batter’s chances of getting a hit.

MLB is also looking into whether Cora installed a similar system in Boston after arriving the following year, when the Red Sox won the World Series. No conclusions have been reached and there is no timetable; the Astros investigation took two months.

Martinez hopes MLB wraps up the investigation into the Red Sox soon so they can put this behind them.

“I’m excited for the investigation to get over with, so they can see there’s nothing going on here,” he said.

While the Astros were meeting with fans in Houston, Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Randal Grichuk called for MLB take away their World Series championship, now that it’s been proven that they cheated.

“I mean, I would like to see that obviously. I bet the Dodgers would like to see that,” Grichuk said. “I’ve got a few friends on the Dodgers that are very disappointed that possibly two years in a row they lost due to a team going against the rules.”

Many Boston players are trying not to focus on the investigation or what could be coming for the team, but instead simply trying to prepare like it’s any other season.

“MLB’s going to do what they have to do to look into it,” pitcher Nathan Eovaldi said. “I’m just trying to focus on baseball. I feel like it’s going to pass, and everything’s going to be fine.”

While Altuve didn’t have a problem answering numerous questions about the scandal, Houston third baseman Alex Bregman refused repeated attempts by reporters to get him to address what happened and kept repeating variations of the same phrase.

“The commissioner made his report, made his decision and the Astros made their decision and I have no further comment on it,” Bregman said in some variation again and again.

After being pressed on if he plans to discuss the sign-stealing in the future, Bregman finally gave an answer that didn’t seem as rehearsed.

“I think in the 2020 year our actions will speak louder than our words,” he said.

Altuve and Bregman were the only two stars at Saturday’s fan fest in Houston who were part of the 2017 championship team. Many of the other big names who helped the Astros win their first title, including World Series MVP George Springer, ace Justin Verlander and shortstop Carlos Correa, did not attend the daylong event where fans can interact with players.

Altuve was the AL MVP in 2017, and since the sign-stealing scandal broke, some have questioned whether he deserved the award. In recent days he’s also been accused of wearing an electronic device under his jersey to tip pitches, which he vehemently denies. He was asked how it feels for people to call him a cheater.

“You don’t want anybody to call you that,” he said. “But … I have two options. One is cry and one is go down and play the game and (perform) and help my team. And you know what one I am going to do.”

MLB’s investigation of Houston began after former Astros pitcher Mike Fiers, who played for Oakland last season, told The Athletic about the team’s scheme to steal signs. Martinez said he has spoken to Fiers and gets why he came forward.

“I understand his side of it, being in that division, going against those guys. It’s an uncomfortable position for him, but I understand why he did what he did,” Martinez told reporters in Springfield, Massachusetts. “He obviously felt like he needed to and I understand it.”

In Houston, as the Astros try to put the scandal behind them and focus on the future, Altuve, who has often been described as the heart and soul of the team, is confident it won’t derail the Astros from another successful season.

“Everything will be fine,” he said. “We’re going to be in the World Series again. People don’t believe it. But we will.”