And That Happened: Monday’s scores and highlights

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Braves 4, Red Sox 2: Seven straight losses for the Red Sox, but hey, no one really expects you to win when Williams Perez is on the mound for the other team. “What’s the deal with that ‘s’ at the end of his first name?” the opposing hitters say, fearfully. “How can we possibly hit against a guy whose parents are so dismissive of generally-accepted naming conventions?” After the game Pablo Sandoval actually said this:

“We’re fighting. We’re not giving at-bats away . . . We’ve got a good team.”

All evidence points to the contrary.

Orioles 4, Phillies 0: Wei-Yin Chen was great, striking out nine in eight shutout innings. As the season has gone on, game stories from Phillies losses have made them sound more and more like some sort of service provider, traveling the country and helping pitchers who have lost their confidence to find it again. It’s almost noble. It’s like they’re saying “hey, we’re technically major league hitters. Dominate us for a while. Remember what that feels like. It feels good, doesn’t it? We’re happy to help. No go out there and be the best pitcher you can be! Oh, no. We will accept no payment. Helping you was payment enough.”

Pirates 11, White Sox 0: Francisco Liriano was fantastic, going eight innings allowing only two hits and fanning 12. People don’t say “fanning” enough for strikeouts. I feel like they used to say that a lot more than they do now. Sort of how like people used to write “Chisox” for the White Sox and “Bosox” for the Red Sox. I blame it all on unrestrained speculation and shorting going on at the increasingly unregulated New York Word Exchange. Bernie Sanders will straighten them out if we just give him the chance, man.

Tigers 6, Reds 0: Anibal Sanchez with a two-hit shutout and J.D. Martinez and Miguel Cabrera each with a couple driven in. Sanchez has now had two good starts after a couple of months of bad ones. And the Tigers have won six of eight. Scary moment in this one when Reds catcher Tucker Barnhart was on deck and Eugenio Suarez fouled a pitch back and hit him. Barnhart was unhurt, but I have always wondered when, not if, someone on deck was going to get smacked with a foul ball. Shocked we haven’t had more incidents like that.

Mets 4, Blue Jays 3: New York was down 3-2 in the 11th when the Mets rallied. Wilmer Flores had the walkoff hit which ended the Blue Jays’ 11-game winning streak. The Mets are now 35-30 on the season, 1 1/2 games ahead of the Nationals for first place in the National League East. Because . . .

Rays 6, Nationals 1: Erasmo Ramirez was shut out Washington for six innings and the Rays kept scratching out runs. Weird thing: Steven Souza walked five times but was stranded all five times. Tampa Bay won for the 12th time in 16 games to take a one-game lead in the AL East. Because . . .

Marlins 2, Yankees 1: Tom Koehler outdueled Masahiro Tanaka. Kohler allowed a Mark Teixeira homer, but that was it. Fun thing: A-Rod didn’t start due to there being no DH, but he came on to pinch hit in the ninth inning and got a huge ovation from his hometown Miami fans. I feel like the last time he got cheered on the road happened during the Clinton Administration. Oh well, just make him a player-manager, Jeff Loria. You know it’s a great idea.

Rangers 4, Dodgers 1: Rougned Odor had three hits, including a two-run single in his first game back after an over month-long demotion to the minors. Yovani Gallardo frustrated Dodgers hitters. How frustrated?

Royals 8, Brewers 5: The Royals were cruising and then put lights-out closer Greg Holland in the game despite having a six-run lead. He needed the work, you see. But he couldn’t close it out, allowing three runs on four hits and a walk. His ERA went from 1.76 to 3.52. The Royals still won, but this will sadly give fuel to the fire of people who insist on claiming that “save situations” are somehow different and more special and more magical than non-save situations and that a special breed of pitcher approaches them in a special sort of way and, my god, I hate that crap.

Astros 6, Rockies 3: Two homers for George Springer to go along with a couple of diving catches in the outfield. Colby Rasmus added a three-run homer. Carlos Correa had three hits.

Cardinals 3, Twins 2: John Lackey allowed two runs on five hits over eight innings and Mark Reynolds and Yadier Molina homered. Random from the AP game story: “Lackey said he missed Reynolds homer live because he was ‘in the bathroom.'” Good to know.

Diamondbacks 7, Angels 3: Robbie Ray allowed two hits over seven scoreless innings. No hits until after the fifth inning. The AP says that’s the third time in four days that a Dbacks starter held an opponent hitless through the first five innings. Luminaries all of them: Ray, Chase Anderson and Allen Webster.

Athletics 9, Padres 1: Stephen Vogt hit a grand slam and Jesse Hahn allowed only one run while pitching into the seventh, spoiling Dave Roberts’ managerial debut. Vogt had two other hits as well. He was 0-for-his-last-15 coming into the game.

Mariners 5, Giants 1: Kyle Seager hit a solo shot and Taijuan Walker struck out six in seven innings What an up-and-down season for San Francisco. The Giants have lost five in a row and nine straight at home.

Indians vs. Cubs: POSTPONED: See the sky about to rain,
broken clouds and rain.
Locomotive, pull the train,
whistle blowing
through my brain.
Signals curling on an open plain,
rolling down the track again.
See the sky about to rain.

Report: Braves not expected to pursue Bryce Harper

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Thanks in part to a rebuilding effort that got ahead of schedule, the Braves in 2018 had their best season in five years, finishing 90-72 and winning the NL East. They were stopped in the playoffs by the Dodgers, falling in five games in the NLDS. Outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr. won the NL Rookie of the Year Award and Brian Snitker won the NL Manager of the Year Award. Veteran outfielder Nick Markakis even got some down-ballot love in NL MVP voting, finishing 18th behind teammates Freddie Freeman (fourth) and Acuña (12th).

Markakis is now a free agent and there happens to be a very talented and still-young outfielder available in free agency this offseason who could replace him and then some. He goes by the name Bryce Harper. You might have heard of him. David O’Brien of The Athletic initially said to not be surprised if the Braves became players in the Harper sweepstakes, but quickly retracted it as a source he trusts assured him the Braves are not, in fact, in on Harper and added that he thought there would be no way Braves ownership (Liberty Media) would sign off on a 10-year deal.

Since being taken over by Liberty Media in 2007, the Braves’ Opening Day payroll has been in the $60 million to $137 million range, according to USA TODAY Sports. On average over that period of time, the Braves have had the 18th-highest payroll among the 30 major league teams. The Braves increased payroll to a franchise-record $137 million on Opening Day in 2017, but cut that all the way back to $83 million in 2018, dropping their rank in baseball from 13th to 27th. In April, the Braves disingenuously played service time games with Acuña, then an uber-prospect who was undoubtedly major-league ready, in order to cheaply get another year of team control over him.

Jeff Schultz of the Atlanta-Journal Constitution wrote in March this year that Liberty Media has $42 billion in assets. This corporation is not hurting for cash. Yet the Braves cried poor in order to bilk taxpayers of $400 million to fund the totally unnecessary new ballpark that moved the Braves’ home from Atlanta to Cumberland (Cobb County). The stadium is not as easily accessible by way of bus or subway, hurting a lot of the Braves’ poorer fans and those who live in the city, sans car. As Meris Lutz of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported last year, Cobb County found itself in a $30-55 million budget shortfall, even after “raiding $21 million in rainy-day funds to plug a gaping hole in the 2018 budget.” Liberty Media, of course, doesn’t lose anything from this.

The Braves were one of 13 teams in baseball to see an attendance increase from 2017 to ’18, seeing over 50,000 more fans go through the turnstiles. Braves ownership had said that a spike in revenue — from increased attendance as well as from leasing offices and retail space — would lead to increased payroll. Instead, the Braves’ payroll was cut by approximately $54 million and now the organization has reportedly already taken itself out of the running for Harper, unarguably the best free agent outfielder to hit the open market in quite some time. Adding a talent like Harper (or Manny Machado) would solidify the Braves’ legitimacy in the NL East and it would, at minimum, be a show of good faith to Braves fans, whose tax dollars are on constant display during all 81 home games in Cobb County.

This is in stark contrast to Phillies owner John Middleton, who recently said, “We’re going into this [offseason] expecting to spend money. And maybe even be a little bit stupid about it.” He added, “We just prefer not to be completely stupid.” This confirms what everyone already knew: the Phillies are major players for elite free agents Harper and Machado. Heck, they might even get both. Either player could exceed the record for the largest contract in baseball history, currently held by Yankees outfielder Giancarlo Stanton, who signed a 13-year, $325 million contract with the Marlins in 2014.

This past season, the Phillies fell flat on their faces in the second half while the Braves continued to press forward with a better-constructed team. The Phillies didn’t have an Acuña or a Freddie Freeman and their minor league system still doesn’t quite match up with the Braves’. Sniping Harper from the Phillies would seem almost critical, then. Or at least keeping up with the Phillies by signing other free agents to fill the gaps left by Markakis and others.

Sadly for Braves fans, it seems like Liberty Media got what it wanted, largely on the taxpayers’ dime, and is happy to keep the Braves near the bottom-third of the league when it comes to payroll. If the Braves finish behind the Phillies in 2019 and beyond, fans and the players will have only ownership to blame.