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And That Happened: Thursday’s scores and highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Brewers 5, Cubs 4: The Cubs lost — thanks in large part to some uncharacteristically bad Addison Russell defense — but the sting of the loss didn’t last too long thanks to the Giants beating the Cardinals, which clinched the N.L. Central for Chicago. The Cubs likely stayed up late last night to watch that west coast game and then likely celebrated. They have a day game today. All of which is to say that today’s Cubs lineup is going to be sketchy, hungover or both. Congrats, guys.

Red Sox 7, Yankees 5: New York had a 5-1 lead entering the eighth inning when David Ortiz — who I am going to start tagging with the hashtag #R34PECT, because it pisses off Yankees fans — hit a homer. That was just prelude to the ninth inning rally, kicked off with an Ortiz RBI single to make it 5-3 followed by Mookie Betts singling in Xander Bogaerts to make it 5-4 and capped off with a Hanley Ramirez three-run walkoff homer. Yesterday I saw a lot of people tweeting some factoid about how the back end of the Yankees bullpen has put up identical numbers to Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman before they were traded. That probably didn’t provide any comfort as they were giving up six late runs.

Twins 5, Tigers 1: That whole “watch out for the Tigers in the Wild Card race because they have an easy schedule down the stretch” thing doesn’t hold up very well if they go and lose to the easy teams on their schedule. Which is to say that splitting four to the Twins is not ideal. All five Twins runs came on RBI singles. Mike Pelfrey lasted an inning and two-thirds. If he makes another start for Detroit before the end of the season it’ll be fair to ask Brad Ausmus if he’s actually trying to get fired.

White Sox 2, Indians 1: Carlos Sanchez with a walkoff RBI single. More impressively, before the game, Jose Abreu met with a young cancer patient and said he would try to hit a home run for the boy, which he did in the third inning. Note: this was just one of three instances of home runs by request yesterday.

Pirates 15, Phillies 2: Instance number two: former Pirate A.J. Burnett was at the game and a witness said that Andrew McCutchen promised Burnett that he’d hit him two home runs. McCutchen hit two homers.

Giants 6, Cardinals 2: Finally, we have this:

In the first inning Pence hit a two-run homer. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna go play the lottery.

Diamondbacks 7, Dodgers 3: Mitch Haniger hit a three-run homer in the Snakes’ five-run sixth inning and Rich Hill proved to be mortal, being touched for four overall and not making it out of that sixth.

Rays 7, Orioles 6: Evan Longoria homered and drove in five. With this and the Sox and Jays wins, Baltimore dropps to two games behind Boston in the East and are tied with Toronto for the two AL Wild Cards.

Athletics 14, Royals 5: Steven Vogt drove in five in this laugher of a game. The highlight, however, was the A’s mounting a replay challenge while leading 14-0. Then again, if you’re the defending World Series champs and think you still have a playoff shot and then let THIS A’s team come into your home park and sweep you, well, you kinda deserve it.

 

Blue Jays 7, Angels 2: Josh Donaldson missed three games but came right back and went 3-for-3 with two doubles and two runs scored. Russell Martin hit a three-run homer. J.A. Happ got his 19th win. It’s most wins for a Toronto pitcher since Roy Halladay won 20 in 2008. Halladay in a Jays uniform seems like 50 years ago.

Rob Manfred offers little insight, shows contempt for reporters in press conference

Rob Manfred
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Commissioner Rob Manfred spoke at a press conference, addressing the Astros cheating scandal and other topics on Sunday evening. It did not go well.

To start, the press conference was not broadcast officially on MLB’s own TV channel (it aired the 1988 movie Bull Durham instead), nor could any mention to it or link to the live stream be found anywhere on MLB.com. When the actual questions began, Manfred’s answers were circuitous or simply illogical given other comments he has made in the past. On more than one occasion, he showed contempt for reporters for doing their jobs — and, some might argue, doing his job — holding players and front office personnel accountable.

Last month, Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal broke a story about the Astros’ “dark arts” and “Codebreaker” operation, based on a letter Manfred sent to then-GM Jeff Luhnow. Diamond was among the reporters present for Manfred’s press conference on Sunday. Per The Athletic’s Lindsey Adler, Manfred addressed Diamond, saying, “You know, congratulations. You got a private letter that, you know, I sent to a club official. Nice reporting on your part.” MLB’s response to the depth of the Astros’ cheating ways was lacking and, without Diamond’s reporting, we would have known how deeply lacking that response was. It is understandable that Manfred would be salty about it, since it exposed him as doing his job poorly, but it was an immature, unrestrained response from someone in charge of the entire league.

Onto the actual topic at hand, Manfred said he felt like the punishment doled out to the Astros was enough. Per Chris Cotillo, Manfred said Astros players “have been hurt by this” and will forever be questioned about their achievements in 2017 and ’18. Some players disagree. Former pitcher Phil Hughes even suggested the players have a work stoppage over this issue.

Manfred defended his decision not to vacate the Astros’ championship, saying, “The idea of an asterisk or asking for a piece of metal back seems like a futile act.” The commissioner devaluing the meaning of a championship seems… not great? Counterintuitive, even? The “piece of metal” is literally called the Commissioner’s Trophy. Manfred went on to brag about the league having “the intestinal fortitude to share the results of that investigation, even when those results were not very pretty.” Be careful, don’t hurt yourself patting yourself on the back for doing the bare minimum.

Manfred said there was no evidence found that the Astros used buzzers and added that, since the players were given immunity, he doesn’t think they would continue to hide that when asked about it. He said, “I think in my own mind. It was hard for me to figure out why they would tell us, given that they were immune, why they would be truthful and admit they did the wrong thing and 17, admit they did the wrong thing and 18, and then lie about what was going on in 19.”

The commissioner expects the league to implement “really serious restrictions” on access to in-game video feeds for the 2020 season.

There has been some recent back-and-forth between the Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger and the Astros’ Carlos Correa. Manfred isn’t a fan of the sniping through the media. He said, “I’m sort of a civil discourse person. It must be because I’m old. But, yeah, I think that the back and forth that’s gone on is not healthy.” The reason Bellinger and others are speaking publicly about the issue, attempting to hold the Astros accountable, is because the league did not do a sufficient job doing that itself. Bellinger wouldn’t feel the need to speak up in defense of himself, his teammates, and other players affected by the cheating scheme if he felt like the league had his and his peers’ backs.

Because the players involved in the Astros’ cheating scheme weren’t punished, some — like Larry Bowa — have suggested intentionally throwing baseballs at Astros players to exact justice. Manfred met with managers who were in attendance today to inform them that retaliatory beanballs “will not be tolerated.” He added, “It’s dangerous and it is not helpful to the current situation.” Manfred has done nothing about beanball wars in the past, but it will now give the Astros somewhat of an advantage since pitchers will now be judged closely on any pitch that runs too far inside on Astro hitters.

Manfred also spoke about the ongoing feud with Minor League Baseball and basically reiterated what he and the rest of the league have disingenuously been saying since it was revealed MLB proposed cutting 42 minor league teams. Manfred’s talking point is that MLB is concerned about substandard facilities being used by minor league players, but not all of the 42 teams on the proposed chopping block have anything close to what could reasonably be considered substandard.

Lastly, Manfred was asked about the Orioles and tanking, and more or less danced around the issue by expressing confidence in the club’s ownership. The Orioles have won 47 and 54 games in the past two seasons. Payroll dropped by more than $50 million. The Orioles saw over 250,000 fewer fans in attendance in 2019 than in ’18. The O’s also saw a decline of over 460,000 fans in attendance from 2017 to ’18. But, yeah, it’s going well.

All in all, this press conference could not have gone worse for Manfred. The press found it condescending and the comments he made rang hollow to the players. Manfred seemed on edge and unprepared addressing arguably the biggest controversy baseball has faced since the steroid era. This is a dark time for the sport.