And That Happened: Monday’s Scores and Highlights

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Cubs 2, Indians 1: Jon Lester was close to a complete game shutout but Carlos Santana had different ideas when he hit an RBI double in the ninth. No worries, though, because the Cubs are covered in pixie dust this year and Kris Bryant used it to hit a walkoff homer to give the Cubs their 20th win in their last 24 games. The Cubs would lead four of the six divisions in baseball this year. They’re in third place in the NL Central.

Yankees 1, Astros 0: Another walkoff, though a tad lest dramatic given that it was a sac fly. Not that this wasn’t an exciting game given that you had two pitchers — Nate Eovaldi and Scott Feldman — tossing eight shutout innings against each other. This could easily be an ALDS matchup. If so, and something like this happened in October, such a game would be an instant classic.

Mets 16, Phillies 7: Welcome back David Wright! Wright homered in his return from over four months on the disabled list. Not that he was alone here: Mets batters had 15 extra-base hits including eight home runs. Lost in this is Jacob deGrom giving up seven runs on eight hits and failing to escape the third inning, but I feel like that’s OK on a night like this.

Braves 5, Rockies 3: Yesterday, after I wrote that thing about team chemistry, I made some jokes on Twitter about how if chemistry matters so much why isn’t Team Leader and Super Chemistry Guy Jonny Gomes leading the Braves to victory after victory. Overall he isn’t, of course, but in this one he did, driving in three including a three-run homer. The Braves snap a seven-game losing streak. Maybe Gomes was the spark for that here, but I suppose playing the team that now has the worst record in baseball will do that for you too.

Reds 12, Tigers 5: This was a makeup game from an earlier rainout. The Tigers probably wish it had rained again. At least heading into the bottom of the sixth. At that time they had a 5-0 lead and things were just dandy. That’s when Buck Farmer ran out of gas and allowed three runs and was followed up by a bullpen which allowed seven more before the inning was over. Brandon Phillips drove in four runs with a home run and a triple in that inning as the Reds snap their nine-game losing streak. Joey Votto hit a two-run homer in the eighth to cap things off, but I assume his many critics in Cincinnati will say that was just garbage time, stat-padding work, not actually good baseball.

Pirates 5, Marlins 2: A couple of plunkings and a high inside from Marlins relievers which seemed more a function of incompetence than intent, though it did lead to one ejection. Both the plunkees ended up scoring too. Meanwhile J.A. Happ threw six scoreless innings as one of the best teams in baseball beat one of the worst.

Red Sox 5, White Sox 4: Sox win. Rusney Castillo was 3-for-4, homered and drove in all five of the Red Sox’ runs.

Royals 8, Orioles 3: Kris Medlen made his first start in almost two years and got the win, thanks to the Royals putting up a seven-spot after he left the game but while he was still the pitcher of record. Omar Infante tripled in two runs in that inning and scored on the same play thanks to a throwing error. The day before he was out trying to stretch a triple into an inside-the-park homer. In one day he has learned jiu-jitsu and the art of making your opponent beat himself.

Cardinals 5, Diamondbacks 3: Lance Lynn pitched in trouble all night but his defense bailed him out with four double plays, including one with Paul Goldschmidt at the plate with one out and the bases loaded. Overall Arizona stranded 11 runners.

Athletics 11, Mariners 5: Another club with a big inning, this time the A’s with a seven-run fifth. Oakland was down 5-0 at the time but a Danny Valencia homer and two Stephen Vogt doubles helped them claw back.

MLB’s juiced baseball is juicing Triple-A home run totals too

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There has been considerable evidence amassed over the past year or two that the baseball used by Major League Baseball has a lower aerodynamic profile, leading to less drag, which leads directly to more home runs. If you doubted that at all, get a load of what is happening in Triple-A right now.

The minors have always had different balls than the majors. The MLB ball is made in Costa Rica at a Rawlings facility. The minor league balls are made in China. They use slightly different materials and, by all accounts, the minor league balls do not have the same sort of action and do not travel as far as the big league balls. Before the season, as Baseball America reported, Major League Baseball requested that Triple-A baseball switch to using MLB balls. The reason: uniformity and, one presumes, more accurate analysis of performance at the top level of the minor leagues.

The result, as Baseball America reports today, is a massive uptick in homers in the early going to the Triple-A season:

Last April, Triple-A hitters homered once every 47 plate appearances. As the weather warmed up, so did the home run rate. Over the course of the entire 2018 season, Triple-A hitters homered every 43 plate appearances. So far this year, they are homering every 32 plate appearances. Triple-A hitters are hitting home runs at a rate of 135 percent of last year’s rate.

Again, that’s in the coldest, least-homer friendly month of the season. It’s gonna just get worse. Or better, I guess, if you’re all about the long ball.

Which you had better be, because if they did something to deaden the balls and reduce homers, we’d have the same historically-high strikeout and walk rates but with no homers to provide offense to compensate. At least unless or until hitters changed their approach to become slap hitters or something, but that could take a good while. And may still not be effective given the advances in defense since the last time slap hitting was an important part of the game.

In the meantime, enjoy the dingers, Triple-A fans.