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And That Happened: Friday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores and highlights from Friday’s slate, none cooler than the way Red Sox fan Thomas Hastings has been spending his days lately.

Pirates 5, Braves 4: The most impressive part of Ivan Nova‘s season debut wasn’t the way he stifled the Braves’ offense through six innings, allowing one run on an Ender Inciarte RBI double, nor was it the four scoreless frames he pitched to start the game nor the four strikeouts he collected. It was the way he managed all of these things while pitching in 37-degree weather during the Pirates’ home opener. The cold didn’t appear to bother the rest of the lineup, either, as they collected 11 hits against the Braves with RBI hits from Andrew McCutchen and Starling Marte and back-to-back homers from David Freese and Francisco Cervelli.

Tigers 6, Red Sox 5: For all the back-and-forth on Pablo Sandoval‘s ideal weight, his attitude in the clubhouse, and his waning production over the last two seasons, it’s difficult to remember he’s still capable of doing this:

[mlbvideo id=”1260728283″ width=”600″ height=”336″ /]

Unfortunately, the Red Sox needed more than the three-run blast to power their efforts against the Tigers, and were unseated by a two-run rally in the eighth inning.

Nationals 7, Phillies 6: Remember when a fractured finger cost Max Scherzer his Opening Day start? Apparently he doesn’t. The 32-year-old ace looked no worse for wear on Friday, firing seven strikeouts and allowing two runs over 6 2/3 frames against the Phillies. He held opposing batters scoreless through the first five frames, backed by a comfortable seven-run cushion with home runs from Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy and Jayson Werth.

Rockies 2, Dodgers 1: The Rockies kicked off their first homestand of the season with a dominant major league debut by southpaw Kyle Freeland. Freeland snagged a roster spot after impressing in spring training with a 3.48 ERA and looked just as solid against the Dodgers in regular season play, holding them to four hits, one run and six strikeouts through six quality innings.

Padres 7, Giants 6: One man can only do so much for his team in a single game. That was likely how Giants’ first baseman Brandon Belt felt during a 7-6 loss to the Padres, during which Belt drove in five runs on two home runs, including his first career grand slam. The bullpen blew their tenuous one-run advantage in the sixth inning, allowing San Diego to notch three runs on a two-run double and an RBI bunt and take their second win of the season.

Orioles 6, Yankees 5: The Orioles are one of two undefeated teams left in the American League (along with the Twins, which we all predicted) after squeezing past the Yankees in Friday night’s series opener. Neither pitching staff could suppress the other’s offensive drive, but it was Seth Smith‘s first home run in a Baltimore uniform that became the deciding factor for the Orioles in the seventh inning.

Marlins 7, Mets 2: According to the Elias Sports Bureau, only four players since 1900 have started their major league careers with hitless streaks greater than 50 consecutive at-bats. Marlins’ left-hander Wei-Yin Chen broke his streak of 51 at-bats with his first career hit on Friday, a blooper that rolled toward shortstop for an infield hit against the Mets’ Zack Wheeler.

Rays 10, Blue Jays 8: After taking home their first win of the year on Thursday, the Blue Jays hit another speed bump with shaky performances from Francisco Liriano and their bullpen on Friday. Whatever stability Liriano found with his 2.00 spring training ERA dissolved in Tropicana Field, as the veteran right-hander was forced out of the game after giving up three hits, four walks and five runs through the first 1/3 of the first inning.

Rangers 10, Athletics 5: If there’s been one bright spot in the Rangers’ lineup this week, it’s 21-year-old Nomar Mazara, who helped catapult the team to their first win of the season with an RBI single and grand slam against the A’s. Mazara is looking to follow up an impressive rookie performance in 2016, during which he batted .266/.320/.419 with 20 home runs and a .739 OPS. Sample sizes notwithstanding, his .588/1.059/1.647 slash line through the first four games of 2017 indicate that he’s on the right track.

Brewers 2, Cubs 1 (11 innings): After ten innings of mostly dominant pitching, this wasn’t the way the Cubs planned to lose. In the eleventh, with one out and the bases loaded, Chicago right-hander Mike Montgomery served up a wild pitch that bounced over the shoulder of catcher Wilson Contreras. Contreras missed the throw to home plate and the ball skirted back into the infield as Ryan Braun crossed the plate for the game-winning run.

Royals 5, Astros 1: Carlos Beltran slugged his way into the history books during the Astros’ second loss of the season. He snagged an RBI double in the seventh inning, scoring Carlos Correa and tying the Yankees’ Joe DiMaggio with 1,537 career RBI — good for 49th-most among all past and present major leaguers.

Twins 3, White Sox 1: There are two ways to consider Twins’ center fielder Byron Buxton. You can choose to isolate his superb defense…

…or you can focus on the fact that he’s collected 11 strikeouts in 19 PA this season, including a coveted “golden sombrero” during Friday’s fiesta.

In other news, the Twins haven’t started a season 4-0 since 1987. If they can stretch their streak to five wins, it’ll be the club’s most successful start to a season since the Washington Senators went 5-0 in 1913.

Reds 2, Cardinals 0: Rookie left-hander Amir Garrett looked calmer and more polished than many veteran major leaguers on Friday. He made his major league debut with six dazzling frames against the Cardinals, striking out four and issuing just two walks and two hits.

Diamondbacks 7, Indians 3: The Indians’ AL Central crown won’t be tossed aside anytime soon, but they had a rough go of it in their season opener against the Diamondbacks. Arizona came close to a collective cycle in the fifth inning, stockpiling five runs on a single from Jake Lamb, doubles from Paul Goldschmidt and Yasmany Tomas, and a two-run triple from Brandon Drury.

Angels 5, Mariners 1: The Mariners are averaging just 1.8 runs per game in 2017. While a slump isn’t unusual this early in the season, it’s not exactly a good sign, either. Angels’ right-hander Jesse Chavez served up 5 1/3 innings of one-run ball, backed by an airtight performance from the bullpen and a four-run lead.

If 2020 season is cancelled, which teams would be hurt the most?

Mookie Betts
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MLB commissioner Rob Manfred recently expressed his optimistic outlook, saying that he hoped the league would begin “gearing back up” in May. That would put a regular season return potentially at the end of June or at some point in July. He expressed that the league may have to get creative, likely referring to ideas like playing doubleheaders, extending the season deep into fall, and playing some games at neutral parks in warm-weather areas.

Manfred isn’t the only one champing at the bit for a return to normalcy. President Trump recently said he wanted to “open” the economy back up by Easter, meaning that our social isolation plan could be done in two weeks. And, frankly, I’m sure many of us are starting to become a little stir-crazy as we attempt to flatten the curve.

It’s hard to imagine life returning to normal when Coronavirus (COVID-19) is really starting to spread in the United States. It would be ill-advised for us to go back to business as usual. This is a time when we need to put other interests ahead of business interests. Frankly, there’s a very real possibility that there is no MLB season in 2020. Or, at the very least, there may be a point when Manfred has to choose between starting a season or protecting the health of the players and coaches, journalists, fans, and all of the many people that would interact with them and potentially become vectors for the virus.

In the event the 2020 season is cancelled, which teams stand to lose the most? Let’s take a look at some contenders.

Los Angeles Dodgers

The most obvious of the bunch. The club swung a deal with the Red Sox a month and a half ago to acquire the 2018 AL MVP along with David Price in exchange for Alex Verdugo, Connor Wong, and Jeter Downs. Betts was a huge upgrade to an already potent Dodger roster, one which won 106 games during the regular season last year.

Betts, however, is a free agent after the 2020 season. MLB owners and the MLBPA reached an agreement last week stating that, if there is no season, players would still get credit for a full year of service time. If the season is canceled, the Dodgers very well may have given up three good young players and taken on a lot of salary for basically nothing. They’ll get to keep Price, who is under contract for two more years after this, but that’s no consolation.

The Dodgers also have some other important players potentially hitting free agency after the 2020 season: Justin Turner, Kiké Hernández, Joc Pederson, and Pedro Báez.

Cincinnati Reds

The Reds had a better 2019 campaign than their 75-87 record indicated. They finished in fifth place from 2015-18 before last year’s fourth place finish. The club acquired Sonny Gray from the Yankees before the season and picked up Trevor Bauer from the Indians at the trade deadline. Eugenio Suárez, Aristides Aquino, and Michael Lorenzen were among a handful of players who shone brightly as well.

As a result of a roster on the come-up, the Reds bolstered the roster even more, picking up free agents Nick Castellanos and Mike Moustakas. The Reds signed both players to four-year deals, so they will still be around when baseball eventually resumes, even if it’s next year, but Moustakas will be 32 and Castellanos will be 29. It’s a pretty big deal to miss 25 percent of their contracts in what are, on average, the seasons likeliest to be their best.

Bauer, by the way, can become a free agent after the season. That’s a pretty big deal, too.

Philadelphia Phillies

The Phillies were supposed to be competitive last year, but they fell a bit flat, finishing exactly at .500 with an 81-81 record. GM Matt Klentak continued to bolster the roster a year after inking Bryce Harper to what was then the richest contract in baseball history (13 years, $330 million). This past offseason, he signed Zack Wheeler to a five-year, $118 million deal. They also added Didi Gregorius on a one-year deal.

This is a team meant to be an NL East contender in 2020, to finally reach the postseason which it hasn’t done since 2011. If the season is cancelled, that’s one very valuable year out of its window completely gone. That is even more the case upon realizing that catcher J.T. Realmuto, arguably the best player at his position in baseball right now, is a free agent going into 2021. The two sides have discussed a contract extension, but that was tabled as of two weeks ago.

The Phillies haven’t had stability at the catcher position since Carlos Ruiz in the early- to mid-2010’s. They do have some catchers among their top-30 prospects, according to MLB Pipeline, in Deivy Grullon, Rafael Marchan, and Rodolfo Duran, but none of them are J.T. Realmuto. Realmuto is a guy you want to keep around if possible, especially considering the scarcity of his caliber of talent at that position.

. . .

This is a partial list, so this is not to say that teams omitted would not suffer at all from a lost season. You can see the factors that determine whether or not a team has a lot at stake this year: splashy trades, free agent signings, stars potentially becoming free agents after the season, etc.

In general, every team would be devastated by a lost season not just due to the lost development time or the loss of an attempt to win a championship, but because of lost revenues. This is going to have a ripple effect through the baseball economy. Teams will likely become less active in the free agent market, to name one of many potential effects.