And That Happened: Wednesday’s scores and highlights

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Indians 8, Tigers 2: I’ve seen enough wrestling to know a work when I see one, and the Tigers not starting Miguel Cabrera against a team he routinely destroys was clearly a work designed to put the Indians over as a team that can actually, on occasion, beat the Tigers in a house show like this. Carlos Carrasco took a two-hit shutout into the eighth, but broke kayfabe to give up a two-run homer to J.D. Martinez.

Angels 2, Astros 1: A walkoff single for Taylor Featherston in the 13th. In other news, “Taylor Featherston” was the name I gave my villain character in the 1980s teen comedy screenplay I wrote that time. He was a rich kid on the swim team who competed with our John Cusackian hero for the affections of, umm, let’s say Lea Thompson. Why everything got resolved based on the results of a big swim meet is beyond me — and why were there cheerleaders at a swim meet? — but a writer has to conform to the conventions of his genre.

Nationals 2, Braves 1: Ian Desmond with a walkoff sac fly in the 11th as the Nats beat the Braves for the [frantically mashes keys on a calculator] 264th straight time. The sac fly was made possible by Dana Eveland loading the bases by giving up a double to Bryce Harper and walking two guys, one intentionally. This is Eveland’s worst work since he played the femme fatale in that truly misguided RKO noir from 1951, “Farewell my Tomato Can.”

Blue Jays 1, Rays 0: Marco Estrada took a perfect game into the eighth, thanks in part to a fantastic catch by Josh Donaldson. You don’t figure the Jays to win a lot of 1-0 games this year, but when everything breaks right oddities can occur.

Yankees 10, Phillies 2: Ivan Nova came off the DL to tame the Phillies. Not that taming the Phillies is particularly hard, Monday and Tuesday’s results notwithstanding. Cole Hamels had himself a not too great day, but given how little support he’s gotten from his teammates this year he’s allowed to mail one in once in a dang while. Save it for the contender you’re traded to, Cole. Don’t burn yourself out for these guys.

Twins 6, White Sox 1: It was Phil Hughes’ birthday yesterday. Working on your birthday is lame, but Hughes made it work, allowing one run over eight innings. Chris Sale reached double digits in strikeouts once again — it was the seventh straight time he did it, which is the longest streak since Randy Johnson did back in 2001 — but strikeouts ain’t enough in and of themselves. Sale lost to the Twins for the third time this year.

Reds 5, Pirates 2: A four-run first inning off of Gerrit Cole is not the sort of thing we’ve come to expect, but the Reds did it anyway. Cincinnati is about the only team who has gotten to Cole this year, actually. They scored three off of him on April 8, three off of him on May 6 and these five last night. No other team has scored three runs off Cole even once this year.

Red Sox 5, Orioles 1: A five-run sixth inning which included a David Ortiz homer powered the Sox to victory, but it was something of a Pyrrhic one, as Dustin Pedroia (hamstring) and Hanley Ramirez (bruised hand) each left with injuries. The Sox have won five of eight.

Cardinals 6, Marlins 1: Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but Giancarlo Stanton hit a homer but the Marlins were otherwise stopped cold. Jason Heyward homered for the third straight game. Jamie Garcia stifled the non-Stanton Marlins and even singled and scored. His ERA is down to 1.69.

Dodgers 5, Cubs 2: Justin Turner and Adrian Gonzalez homers helped snap the Cubs’ four-game winning streak. Turner surprised everyone with his .340/.404/.493 season last year. This year he’s hitting .323/.392/.575.

Athletics 8, Rangers 2: Four straight for Oakland, as Brett Lawrie hit a grand slam in their five-run first and never looked back. That was plenty of run support for Kendall Graveman. Which made me think of the word “gravamen” which is one of those words more people should use but don’t.

Brewers 4, Mets 1: Seven straight losses for the Mets as Jimmy Nelson held them to two hits over eight innings. After the game Terry Collins held a closed-door meeting with his team. Which I will never think about the same way again after what I read yesterday.

Diamondbacks 8, Rockies 7: Arizona rallied after being down two in the ninth, thanks in part to Yasmany Tomas’ RBI single — his fourth hit in the game — and a bases-loaded walk to Jarrod Saltalamacchia. These two teams have combined for 30 runs in two games. They play again today. If you are walking around Denver and see any baseball players getting breakfast this morning, the pitchers are the ones looking kind of sick and ordering dry toast.

Royals 8, Mariners 2: Mike Moustakas hit a two-run home run and Omar Infante had a three-run double as the Royals put up a seven-spot in the fourth inning. After the game, Eric Hosmer said “This is great for a team that’s built off pitching and defense.” Secret: no truly good teams are built solely on pitching and defense. What changed the Royals from lighting-in-a-bottle team in 2014 to strong contender in 2015 is the fact that they hit now.

Giants 6, Padres 0: Buster Posey hit a grand slam as the Giants cruised. Posey was playing first base as Brandon Belt covered left field. Posey hit a grand slam last Friday too.

Cubs, Red Sox, Yankees exceeded competitive balance tax threshold in 2019

Matt Stone/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald
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Jorge Castillo of the Los Angeles Times reports that the Cubs, Red Sox, and Yankees exceeded the competitive balance tax (more colloquially known as the luxury tax) threshold for the 2019 season, set at $206 million. It will rise to $208 million for the 2020 season and $210 million in 2021.

Teams that exceed the CBT threshold pay a penalty on the overage, which is compounded depending on how consistently they have exceeded the threshold. The base penalty is 20 percent. If a team has exceeded it in a second consecutive year, the penalty rises to 30 percent. Three or more consecutive seasons yields a 50 percent tax on the overage. Furthermore, teams that exceed the CBT threshold by $20-40 million see an additional 12 percent tax. Above $40 million brings a 42.5 percent penalty which rises to 45 percent if the team exceeds the CBT by more than $40 million in a consecutive year.

The luxury tax has acted as a de facto salary cap. Front offices typically have gone out of their way not to exceed it, especially in recent years. The Cubs, Red Sox, and Yankees are each widely believed to be looking to stay below $208 million in 2020.

In pursuit of payroll efficiency, the Cubs are believed to be willing to listen to offers for catcher Willson Contreras, third baseman Kris Bryant, outfielders Kyle Scharber, Albert Almora, and Ian Happ, as well as pitcher José Quintana. The Red Sox are believed to be pursuing trades of outfielder Mookie Betts and/or J.D. Martinez. Outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. is also believed to be available.

As we have been discussing the ongoing labor tension in baseball lately, one wonders if the CBT threshold might also be changed within the next collective bargaining agreement. It has served ownership well, giving them something to point at as a reason not to invest as much into putting together a competitive and entertaining product for fans.