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And That Happened: Saturday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores and highlights from Saturday’s games, including Jeremy Guthrie’s worst birthday ever.

Tigers 4, Red Sox 1: So much for the Twins’ undefeated streak. White Sox’ right-hander Miguel Gonzalez rattled off five scoreless frames on Saturday afternoon, striking out six of 27 batters and holding the Twins to two runs and two walks in over six total innings. Jason Castro bounced back in the sixth with a two-RBI home run to center field, but it wasn’t enough to even the score after Avisail Garcia and Geovany Soto went back-to-back in the bottom of the inning.

Cardinals 10, Reds 4: According to Elias Sports Bureau, Bronson Arroyo became the first 40-year-old to start a game for the Reds since 46-year-old Hod Lisenbee and 40-year-old Boom Beck appeared in the Reds’ rotation in 1945. It was a tumultuous and short-lived return to the mound for the veteran right-hander, who has been conspicuously absent from the majors for over three years. Whether it was nerves or rustiness, Arroyo sank the Reds into a six-run deficit by the fourth inning after handing the Cardinals six hits, three walks and two Aledmys Diaz home runs.

Orioles 5, Yankees 4: Baseball stats mean precious little in the first few months of a new season, but it’s worth pointing out that the Yankees currently have the third-most valuable bullpen in the American League, trailing only the Orioles and Angels. That did them little good on Saturday, however, when they lost another one-run game on a pair of RBI base hits in the seventh. Complicating matters was Gary Sanchez’s biceps strain, which he sustained after fouling off a pitch in the fifth. Perhaps it’s better to just remember Saturday’s game as the day Matt Holliday notched the 2,000th hit of his 14-year career:

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Rays 3, Blue Jays 2 (11 innings): For four solid innings, Chris Archer and Aaron Sanchez were flawless. Archer delivered six strikeouts and kept a perfect game going until the fifth, while Sanchez allowed just two hits and prevented runners from reaching past second base. It was fitting, then, to see a pitchers’ duel decided by a pitching flub in the eleventh inning, when, with the bases loaded and two outs, the Blue Jays’ Casey Lawrence worked a 3-2 count against Brad Miller and walked in the winning run.

Pirates 6, Braves 4: Things could be going better for the Braves. An early win against the Mets last week ensured that they wouldn’t repeat their nine-game losing streak to start the season, but they’ve taken three consecutive losses since. Saturday was no better: R.A. Dickey buckled under nine runs, six walks and four strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings, and despite an airtight performance from the bullpen, Atlanta couldn’t quite muster the two runs they needed to regain the lead in the eighth inning.

Phillies 17, Nationals 3: Jeremy Guthrie has undoubtedly seen better birthdays. The Nationals selected the right-hander’s contract on Friday while Joe Ross finished his optional assignment, allowing Guthrie a brief window to make an impression on the team. Unfortunately, the impression he made was a poor one. Guthrie served up six hits, four walks, and a staggering ten runs through 2/3 of the first inning before left-hander Enny Romero came in to replace him. There’s no coming back from a disadvantage that great, especially after the Nationals saw their ten-run deficit snowball to a 14-run gap by the end of the eighth inning.

Cubs 11, Brewers 6: The Cubs looked more like their old World Champion selves on Saturday, evening the series with an 11-run effort on the back of Kris Bryant and Albert Almora Jr., among others. Every starting player — including right-hander Kyle Hendricks — logged at least one hit, and they collectively tagged the Brewers’ Tommy Milone with nine hits and four runs through four innings.

Royals 7, Astros 3: The Cubs weren’t the only ones who recovered some of their championship-caliber stuff this weekend. The Royals found a spark against the Astros’ bullpen, driving five hits, six runs and two homers against Houston right-hander Luke Gregerson in a decisive eighth-inning rally that brought to mind another late-game comeback from Kansas City’s 2015 postseason run. This time, however, the only compensation the Royals received was a series win, which they’ll look to convert into a sweep on Sunday.

Marlins 8, Mets 1: It looks like another standout performance is in the cards for Marcell Ozuna this season. The 26-year-old outfielder was batting .412/.444/.412 through his first four games of 2017 before Saturday, when he drove in two runs and unleashed a 437-foot, double-deck home run off of Robert Gsellman, falling just 10 feet shy of his all-time home run record.

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Athletics 6, Rangers 1: With Sonny Gray still working his way back to the mound after sustaining a lat injury, Kendall Graveman has stepped to the forefront of the A’s rotation. It’s easy to see why. The right-hander was dominant on Saturday, taking a no-hitter through 6 2/3 innings against the Rangers and serving up two walks, five strikeouts and an unfortunately-placed 94 mph sinker to Mike Napoli.

Diamondbacks 11, Indians 2: You’ve seen a player hit for the cycle before, but have you seen a team collectively hit for the cycle in the span of one inning? The Diamondbacks engineered such a cycle in the sixth inning of Saturday’s game, starting with a David Peralta home run and followed by a Paul Goldschmidt double, Yasmany Tomas triple, Brandon Drury double and Jeff Mathis single. The inning ended, fittingly, with a seven-pitch strikeout to Zach Grienke, but the damage was already done, and another six-run spread in the eighth inning cemented the Diamondbacks’ 11-run rout.

Rockies 4, Dodgers 2: Coors Field is bound to get the best of every pitcher at some point, and on Saturday, it got the best of Clayton Kershaw. Nolan Arenado crushed a home run in the bottom of the first inning, while Mark Reynolds and Gerardo Parra went back-to-back in the sixth. By the end of the night, the Rockies had worked eight hits, four runs and three homers off of the Dodgers’ ace, marking the first game since April 17, 2013 in which Kershaw had allowed more than two home runs to opposing batters.

Padres 2, Giants 1: Giants’ left fielders Jarrett Parker and Aaron Hill continued their scoreless streak at the plate on Saturday, making the club’s recent acquisition of Melvin Upton Jr. all that more appealing. Madison Bumgarner wasted a complete game effort in the loss, issuing two runs, two walks and five strikeouts over eight innings.

Angels 5, Mariners 4: Despite Felix Hernandez’s steady decline over the last two seasons, there’s no denying he’s still a dominant force on the mound. No one felt the brunt of that more than Mike Trout, who lost a 14-pitch battle with the King during his first at-bat on Saturday:

The Angels had the last laugh, however, returning in the second to kick off a five-run effort that propelled them to their second win of the series.

MLB execs go to bat in favor of shrinking minor leagues

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Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports published an article this morning in which he quotes several executives of MLB teams, including Diamondbacks GM Mike Hazen and Blue Jays president and CEO Mark Shapiro, defending the league’s proposal to cut 42 minor league baseball teams.

We first learned of the idea about a month ago. The proposal was widely panned, even drawing scorn from Congress as more than 100 members of Congress — including Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren — signed a letter condemning the league. In the time since, MLB has spent considerable time defending itself amid the public scrutiny. MLB also got into a bickering match with Minor League Baseball.

To generally sum up what was said in Brown’s column: the GMs echoed what MLB previously said in defensive of its proposal, which is that cutting 42 minor league teams (mostly in short-season and rookie ball) would free up more money to pay players more and improve their working conditions, including food and travel as well as facility conditions.

It is hypocritical for the league and team executives to express concern for the salaries and the quality of life for minor league players. After all, Major League Baseball spent millions of dollars lobbying Congress in order for language in the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to be amended. Doing so allowed the league to classify minor leaguers as seasonal workers and thus not owed things like a minimum wage and overtime pay, among other worker protections. This all happened because MLB is the defendant in a class-action lawsuit, originated by Aaron Senne and several other former minor league players, alleging that the league violated state and federal minimum wage laws with minor league players.

Shapiro is not a fan of Sanders’ constant harping on the league’s proposal. Shapiro said, “I’m never going to go toe-to-toe with him on domestic policy. But I will go toe-to-toe with Bernie Sanders on professional baseball.” As Brown explains, Shapiro is among those who believes that having a smaller minor league system would allow his organization to offer greater focus to each player remaining within that system. With the increased focus, the team would be better able to develop major league-caliber prospects. As we know, teams love prospects because their salaries are artificially depressed for the first six years of their careers.

One anonymous GM harped on the fact that “minor league baseball is not a moneymaker.” It didn’t sound like he was complaining; rather, simply recognizing how their parent teams view the situation. Another anonymous GM, however, said that the 42 teams are on the chopping block “for a reason.” He added, “I’m guessing that reason isn’t because they had overwhelmingly positive gate turnouts or that their facilities were in good shape. I think that’s been the criteria.”

As I pointed out last month, there are two teams that, at minimum, disprove the shabby-facility talking point. The Lowell Spinners (short-season) have had multiple renovations done in recent years. Team owner Dave Heller called his team’s stadium “arguably the best facility in the New York-Penn League.” The Quad Cities River Bandits, as another example, have earned awards from BallparkDigest.com for “Best Ballpark Improvement” and finished in third place as recently as two seasons ago for “Best View in the Minors.”

As for attendance, BallparkDigest has the 2019 numbers for all 160 teams here. The four Double-A teams on the chopping block — the Binghamton Rumble Ponies, Chattanooga Lookouts, Erie SeaWolves, and Jackson Generals — ranked 91st, 74th, 80th, and 130th, respectively. Only one of those teams is significantly below the 50th percentile. Furthermore, one of the High-A teams on the list, the Frederick Keys, ranked 57th in attendance this past season, close to being in the top one-third of the entire minor league system.

The arguments are obviously facile. We should expect nothing less, however, as these execs do the bidding of their team’s ownership. Their jobs necessitate developing players efficiently and thoroughly. Chopping 42 minor league teams would have the double benefit to them of helping reduce overhead so the owners can report higher profits, as well as making their system run more efficiently (or so they think). So be it if thousands of jobs in towns across the U.S. get slashed in the process. So be it if small towns lose a central focus of their local economies and cultures. So be it if baseball becomes significantly less accessible across the nation.