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Clayton Kershaw battles in Dodgers’ first NLDS win

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It wasn’t the worst Clayton Kershaw and Max Scherzer had looked in the playoffs, but it wasn’t good, either.

Scherzer fell victim to rookie shortstop Corey Seager, who rode a 109 m.p.h. home run to center field in his first at-bat of the game. Chase Utley and Justin Turner piled on in the third inning with an RBI single and a two-run homer, giving the Dodgers just the edge they needed to clinch Game 1 of the NLDS.

Kershaw, meanwhile, got off to a more promising start after striking out the side in the first inning, though he labored through 17 pitches to do so. His command was on point, inducing swings and misses in the dirt with his offspeed stuff and swings and misses in the middle of the zone with his heater, but Bryce Harper‘s eight-pitch at-bat left him winded heading into the second inning.

After a 23-pitch second inning, during which Scherzer popped out with the bases loaded, Kershaw ran into trouble when Harper and Jayson Werth executed a double steal during Anthony Rendon‘s at-bat in the third. Rendon lashed a single into left field and drove in the Nats’ first runs of the game, bolstered by a bonus sac fly in the fourth inning. By then, Kershaw was nearly out of the game — at 101 pitches, he exited in the fifth when Dave Roberts handed the game over to the bullpen.

Scherzer lasted another inning before leaving with four runs, two homers, and five strikeouts on the night. While Sammy Solis and Mark Melancon pitched two scoreless innings for the Nationals, aided by Kenley Jansen‘s bases-loaded flub in the ninth, they were matched with equal dominance by a four-pitcher cadre of Los Angeles relievers. Jansen returned in the bottom of the ninth to log the final three outs of the game, sending the Nats home on a seven-pitch strikeout to Jayson Werth.

Thanks in small part to Kershaw’s efforts and in larger part to Corey Seager, Justin Turner, and an outstanding effort by Los Angeles’ bullpen, the Dodgers sit 1-0 over the Nationals in the NLDS. Their next match-up, a showdown between left-hander and near-perfect gamer Rich Hill and right-hander Tanner Roark, will kick off at 4 PM EDT on Saturday.

An Astros executive asked scouts to use cameras, binoculars to steal signs in 2017

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The Athletic reports that an Astros executive asked scouts to spy on opponents’ dugouts in August of 2017, suggesting in an email that they use cameras or binoculars to do so.

The email, ESPN’s Jeff Passan reports, came from Kevin Goldstein, who is currently a special assistant for player personnel but who at the time was the director of pro scouting. In it he wrote:

“One thing in specific we are looking for is picking up signs coming out of the dugout. What we are looking for is how much we can see, how we would log things, if we need cameras/binoculars, etc. So go to game, see what you can (or can’t) do and report back your findings.”

The email came during the same month that the Red Sox were found to have illegally used an Apple Watch to steal signs from the Yankees. The Red Sox were fined as a result, and it led to a clarification from Major League Baseball that sign stealing via electronic or technological means was prohibited. Early in 2019 Major League Baseball further emphasized this rule and stated that teams would receive heavy penalties, including loss of draft picks and/or bonus pool money if they were found to be in violation.

It’s an interesting question whether Goldstein’s request to scouts would fall under the same category as the Apple Watch stuff or other technology-based sign-stealing schemes. On the one hand, the email certainly asked scouts to use cameras and binoculars to get a look at opposing signs. On the other hand, it does not appear that it was part of a sign-relaying scheme or that it was to be used in real time. Rather, it seems aimed at information gathering for later use. The Athletic suggests that using eyes or binoculars would be considered acceptable in 2017 but that cameras would not be. The Athletic spoke to scouts and other front office people who all think that asking scouts to use a camera would “be over the line” or would constitute “cheating.”

Of course, given how vague, until very recently Major League Baseball’s rules have been about this — it’s long been governed by the so-called “unwritten rules” and convention, only recently becoming a matter of official sanction — it’s not at all clear how the league might consider it. It’s certainly part and parcel of an overarching sign-stealing culture in baseball which we are learning has moved far, far past players simply looking on from second base to try to steal signs, which has always been considered a simple matter of gamesmanship. Now, it appears, it is organizationally-driven, with baseball operations, scouting and audio-visual people being involved. The view on all of this has changed given how sophisticated and wide-ranging an operation modern sign-stealing appears to be. Major League Baseball was particularly concerned, at the time the Red Sox were punished for the Apple Watch stuff, that it involved management and front office personnel.

Regardless of how that all fits together, Goldstein’s email generated considerable angst among Astros scouts, many of whom, The Athletic and ESPN report, commented in real time via email and the Astros scout’s Slack channel, that they considered it to be an unreasonable request that would risk their reputations as scouts. Some voiced concern to management. Today that email has new life, emerging as it does in the wake of last week’s revelations about the Astros’ sign-stealing schemes.

This is quickly becoming the biggest story of the offseason.