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Giants beat Cardinals, Cubs clinch NL Central title

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The Cubs weren’t able to take care of their own business against the Brewers to clinch the division on Thursday night, losing 5-4. But they got a little help from the Giants, who beat the Cardinals 6-2, officially making the Cubs the champions of the NL Central.

Against the Brewers, the Cubs took an early 2-0 lead on a Jorge Soler homer, but the Brewers fought back to take a 3-2 lead in the fourth on a Keon Broxton solo homer and a two-run double from Orlando Arcia. They it a 5-3 game in the seventh when Scooter Gennett hit a two-run double of his own. The Cubs rallied in the bottom of the eighth, but could only score one run.

Meanwhile, Hunter Pence gave the Giants an early 2-0 lead of their own with a two-run shot in the first inning. The Cardinals scored once in the third and once in the fourth to knot the game at two apiece, but the tie was quickly broken in the bottom of the fourth as the Giants scored twice thanks to a Johnny Cueto sacrifice fly and an Angel Pagan RBI single. The Giants tacked on two more in the seventh as Denard Span ripped a single to right field with the bases loaded. Cueto was able to outduel Adam Wainwright, pitching nine strong innings. He allowed just the two runs on five hits and a walk with seven strikeouts, throwing 105 pitches.

This is the Cubs’ first division title since 2008 and their second consecutive appearance in the postseason. They beat the Pirates in the NL Wild Card play-in game to enter the NLDS, then defeated the Cardinals in four games to advance to the NLCS. They were stopped there, getting swept in four games by the Mets. The Cubs are hoping for a different fate this year.

The Cardinals-Giants game was also big because its impact on the NL Wild Card race. The Giants now own a one-game lead over the Mets for the first slot, and the Cardinals now trail the Mets by a full game for the second slot.

MLB suspends Tim Anderson for using the n-word

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This is weird.

As you no doubt recall, on Wednesday White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson hit a two-run home run off of Royals starter Brad Keller. Anderson celebrated by throwing his bat back towards his dugout. The next time Anderson stepped to the plate Keller threw a fastball at him. The benches emptied. Keller and Anderson were ejected, as was White Sox manager Rick Renteria.

Why Anderson was ejected was something of a mystery. He did not charge the mound. He did not throw a punch and he did not shove anyone or anything. At most you figure he said something intemperate and, sure, saying intemperate things can sometimes get you ejected. Only sometimes, of course, as many a blue streak-swearing manager has gotten a pass as long as he doesn’t say some magic words “Bull Durham” taught us about. But that’s usually the end of that.

MLB just announced via press release that Keller has been suspended for five games for throwing at Anderson. We’ve argued that that’s too light a sentence for pitchers in the past, but let’s leave that aside for now. What’s interesting is that Anderson has been suspended too. For one game.

Why? Major League Baseball’s press release merely says “for his conduct after the benches cleared.” Which isn’t very helpful as, again, there was nothing apparent in his conduct that seemed to warrant a suspension. Before the release came out, however, Jeff Passan reported that it was “language”:

I can’t recall a player ever being suspended merely for “language” before. Guys drop F-bombs and say aggressive things to one another fairly often when tempers flare, but that’s not the stuff of suspensions. What has been the stuff of suspensions — two games, specifically — are homophobic slurs, with players such as Kevin Pillar and Matt Joyce, among others paying the price for saying such things. There has been no report at all, however, that Anderson said such a thing. And, if he did, why would he only get one game?

There’s gotta be more to this. A player getting one game just for cussing makes no sense. If we hear any more about it, we’ll certainly provide an update.

UPDATE: And here it is:

Again, specifics definitely matter, and I presume we’ll get them soon, but I strongly suspect that this is a case where Anderson, who is black, used a word that is historically acceptable when used by and among black people and always unacceptable when used by non-black people. If that is the case, MLB has thrown itself into the insanely controversial and likely indefensible position of presuming that it can and should police a black person’s use of that term. I hope I’m wrong about this, but I feel like I’m not.

UPDATE: Nope, I’m not.

Bold move, MLB. But not a wise one I don’t think.

And it goes without saying that you all had best mind yourself in the comments on this one.