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And That Happened: Wednesday’s scores and highlights

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Your fact of the day: There have only been three players in Major League Baseball history who were named Aurelio. Aurelio Lopez, Aurelio Rodriguez and Aurelio Monteagudo. All three were killed in car accidents.

I just thought you all needed to know that.

Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Mets 6, Reds 3: Yesterday was a big day for Mets fans to find a tweet of mine from back in June in which I said that, whatever you think about the domestic violence stuff, people considering Jose Reyes had to contend with the fact that he kind of sucks now. I roll my eyes at their hindsight-fueled mocking of my tweet now — they can’t seem to find tweets of their own in which they correctly predicted he’d be putting up the best season he’s had in five years at the time — but it’s certainly the case that Reyes has not sucked for the Mets. Far from it. Here he hit a leadoff homer, scored twice and stole a base. On the season he’s hit .287/.341/.485 in 40 games and has been a big part of the Mets second half push for the Wild Card.

Rays 7, Orioles 6: This one was tied at six in the seventh inning when Corey Dickerson had a go-ahead RBI double. The O’s lose a game on the first place Red Sox and remain a game ahead of Detroit for the second Wild Card as they head to the Motor City for a pivotal seres with the Tigers who . . .

White Sox 7, Tigers 4: . . . lost to Chicago. Like the O’s, it was a late rally that did them in, albeit a bigger one. The Chisox scored four runs in the eighth inning thanks to Shane Greene and Justin Wilson being totally hittable. Avasail Garcia, Adam Eaton, Tyler Saladino and Justin Morneau did the hitting with three RBI singles and an RBI double, respectively.

Athletics 4, Angels 1: Jharel Cotton, who came to Oakland in the trade which sent Rich Hill and Josh Reddick to Los Angeles, made his major league debut. And it was impressive. He shut out the Angels through six and exited after allowing a solo homer to C.J. Cron in the seventh. That was only the second hit he gave up in the game, by the way. Nice pickup.

Pirates 4, Cardinals 3: The Pirates finally won a game. Their first since August 29, which covered eight games, their longest losing streak in five years. Jung Ho Kang eighth inning home run was the game winner. With the Cards’ loss and the Mets’ win the Mets and Cards are now tied for the second wild card in the National League. Though they might both make it to the playoffs given that . . .

Rockies 6, Giants 5: . . . The Giants continue to struggle. They took a two-run lead into the bottom of the ninth but the Rockies rallied with a Nolan Arenado homer off of Santiago Casilla and a two run double by pinch hitter Cristhian Adames off of Joe Nathan for the walkoff win. Josh Osich contributed to that for the Giants too, by the way, hitting the only dude he faced with a pitch. The Giants used eight relievers in this game. Six in the final two innings. More is not better. And the Giants are not good, going 17-32 since the All-Star break.

Yankees 2, Blue Jays 0: The Yankees traded away the two best relief pitchers in the game, released a should-be future Hall of Famer and called up a bunch of rookies, all of which are things you do when you rebuild. Then the Yankees put on a pretty convincing push for the Wild Card because nothing makes sense in baseball. Here they beat the Jays thanks to a Starlin Castro homer and a Brian McCann RBI single in the third inning and a combined shutout from Bryan Mitchell, Luis Severino and Tyler Clippard. New York is two and a half back from a playoff slot.

Red Sox 7, Padres 2: This win, combined with the Blue Jays loss gives the Sox sole possession of first place in the AL East. Which, given how this season has gone in that division won’t last long, but dang it, they have it today. Travis Shaw, Hanley Ramirez and Brock Holt homered and David Price allowed two runs over seven innings.

Nationals 5, Braves 4: Good news: the Nats win on a walkoff single from Wilson Ramos in the 11th. Bad news: mere hours after activating Stephen Strasburg, he leaves the game with a pinch in his elbow after throwing 42 pitches, grimacing in obvious discomfort following pitch 41. He’ll have an MRI today. It sounds pretty ominous. Seventeen pitchers were used in this game. Criminey!

Indians 6, Astros 5: A Joba Chamberlain-style midge attack at Progressive Field briefly felled Carlos Carrasco in the fourth inning but rallied from that and ended up pitching into the eighth. All the players had to fight the bugs, but Mike Napoli managed a two-run homer and Brandon Guyer added a two-run double, both in the fifth inning, to boost the Indians to victory.

Marlins 6, Phillies 0: Andrew Cashner and four Miami relievers combined for the shutout. Martin Prado drove in three via a sac fly, a fielder’s choice and a double.

Brewers 2, Cubs 1Jonathan Villar homered twice, once from the left side of the plate, once from the right, and Keon Broxton saved what would’ve been a tying homer with this play to preserve the win:

[mlbvideo id=”1148489183″ width=”600″ height=”336″ /]

Twins 6, Royals 5: Minnesota avoids the sweep. Brian Dozier didn’t hit a homer, though, so I’m not sure how to get through this day. Everything seems different and weird.

Mariners 8, Rangers 3: A five-run first inning for Seattle ended this one before it really began. Adam Lind his a three-run homer in the first and added a second homer in the third.

Dodgers 3, Diamondbacks 1: Yasiel Puig drove in two, one via a homer, one via a sac fly, as the Dodgers extend their lead in the West over the Giants to five games. When giving radio interviews recently I said that the last week of the season will be big given that the Giants and Dodgers will play each other a bunch of times. At this rate, however, the game could be virtually meaningless.

Anger, apologies, incompetence and the chaos surrounding the Houston Astros

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It’s hard to keep track of the silliness and drama surrounding the Astros these days, but since it’s virtually the only story of note so far this spring training, let us get ourselves up to speed, shall we?

In case you missed it over the weekend, round 27 of “are the Astros’ apologies sincere?” took place. There was nothing terribly new in all of this. A lot of people have become armchair public relations experts as it relates to the Astros, but my personal view is that the Astros’ public statements are not lacking because they’re tone deaf or because they have bad P.R. It’s simply because they’re not sorry.

It’s pretty simple, really. Athletes are lauded and mythologized for being willing to do anything to win. A century and a half of pro sports has shown us, time and again, that that anything often includes cheating. And that with few exceptions, the reward is worth the risk. It’s also worth the fallout in the instances in which they are caught. The Astros won a title. They got glory and fame and in some cases money and no one can make them give any of that back (and Rob Manfred reiterated last night that he won’t do that). There is really nothing that can be done. And, on some level, the Astros know this. To the extent they feel bad it’s because they got caught and because they are being scrutinized now. It is not because they feel genuine sorrow that, dang it, they simply cannot properly express.

These kinds of dilemmas usually cause people to search for solutions. If we did THIS or if we do THAT the problem will be addressed. Sorry, nope. This is just a thing that has happened. It may be put in the past for the most part, but it won’t be atoned for in a meaningful way. This is one of those basic things that anyone who is into high level sports just has to make peace with somehow. Or, even, if they can’t, it’s something they need to stop assuming is a stain on some pure thing. Baseball is not pure, nor are the men who play it. A lot of us know that, but we also need to accept the flip side of it: forgiveness or absolution is in no way guaranteed and the Houston Astros and their fans are gonna have to get cool with that. “What do you want from them? They can’t win?!” is a refrain you’re hearing more and more of. Well, yeah, maybe they can’t.

The fans are a whole other thing.

I realize that the social media sentiment one sees from a fan base is not necessarily representative of a fan base, but it’s worth noting that a LOT of that sentiment has Astros fans, and some radio personality types, vacillating between “see, they apologized!” and “they have no reason to apologize because everyone else was cheating and no one else is talking about that, are they?!”

This last bit is what’s most fascinating to me, because it involves two levels of cognitive dissonance on the part of those who hold the opinion.

First off, I’m struck by the notion that for seven years the Astros and their fans have insisted that the Astros do everything better, earlier, faster, and more efficiently than the rest of the league. Then, the moment they get busted for something that their better and faster front office innovated — Codebreaker — they insist that they were merely doing what everyone else was doing across the league. I guess the Astros are only at the cutting edge of exploiting competitive inefficiencies in non-rule-breaking ways. Pretty convenient!

Second off, a lot of people are telling me that the Astros are being singled out, and that no one is reporting on all of the other teams who were doing it. While I’ve slammed Rob Manfred and Major League Baseball for apparently ignoring allegations that several other teams have cheated in this manner, I have to take issue with the idea out there that “no one is reporting on this.”

Folks, I know a lot of reporters, and I can assure you that almost every one of them with sources who are former players for the teams they cover have reached out to said sources to try to get a scoop like the one Evan Drellich and Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic got on the Astros.  The media has every incentive in the world to break the story of the A’s or the Rangers or the Braves or the Cubs or whoever doing it and they have no incentive to bury it. That no one has broke it doesn’t mean it didn’t happen, but it does not mean that there is a massive conspiracy to single out the Astros.

Finally, even if the Astros are being singled out, it does not absolve them. I would hope that’s not a difficult concept to grok — “I may have been copying Billy’s test but Billy was copying from Suzy” hasn’t washed as an excuse, basically ever — but you’d be amazed at how many Astros fans I’ve encountered who are arguing, basically that. Down with whataboutism, folks. It’s simply crap logic.

Now on to Rob Manfred.

Last Wednesday I emptied both barrels on Rob Manfred and Major League Baseball for what is, quite obviously, their massive mishandling of the sign-stealing scandal. In that column I wrote that Manfred was “obligated, for the sake of his legitimacy as Commissioner of Baseball and for the sake of the game itself, to answer publicly for why he let it get to this state in the first place.”

Manfred tried to do that yesterday afternoon and it went miserably. You can read Bill’s whole writeup of it here, but the most telling part is when he made a snide and dismissive remark about Wall Street Journal reporter Jared Diamond’s story which revealed (a) how much more sophisticated and front office-led the sign-stealing was; and (b) how Manfred apparently buried all of that in his January report on the matter. Manfred:

“You know, congratulations. You got a private letter that, you know, I sent to a club official. Nice reporting on your part.”

How immature. How peevish. In this Manfred comes off like a whining child. Like someone so out of his depth in the job of commissioner that the echo sounder can’t gauge it.

I mentioned before that there are a lot of reporters who would love to break another team’s sign-stealing, and that’s true, but on the flip side there are very, very few reporters who are super critical of the league or Manfred from an editorial perspective. The reason for this is simple: a substantial part of the baseball press corps is employed by MLB itself or work for MLB rights holders like ESPN, RSNs or radio outlets which broadcast games. That Manfred can’t handle even the very small amount of heat he gets from the press — that a simple factual support inspires an ad hominem attack on the reporter who, via basic reporting, revealed Manfred’s own incompetence — is simply sad.

Anyway, it’s a whole new week now. Maybe now people will begin to accept that not all apologies are required to be accepted. Maybe they’ll begin to accept that not all bad behavior has a defense. Maybe they’ll begin to accept that Major League Baseball cares far less about getting to the bottom of issues that reflect poorly on the league than it does about burying said issues in the bottom of a quarry someplace. Maybe they’ll move on to baseball. To the parts about it that aren’t ridiculous and pathetic.

OK, maybe they won’t.