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And That Happened: Wednesday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Mariners 11, Phillies 6: Carlos Ruiz came back to Philly and the fans welcomed him warmly. Then Chooch hit a three-run double. Business is business and family is family. Robinson Cano and Danny Valencia homered. Phillies left fielder Aaron Altherr hit a three-run homer for the third consecutive game.

Giants 6, Mets 5: The Mets had a 3-1 lead after four innings and took a 3-2 lead into the top of the ninth when they called on closer Jeruys Familia. A walk and then a Wilmer Flores error put two on, followed by a Hunter Pence RBI single, another walk to load the bases, and a Christian Arroyo double that plated three to make it 6-3. The Mets scored two in the bottom half but the Giants bullpen, for once, merely bent but did not break.

Astros 4, Braves 2: Houston scored three runs in the fifth, two on a Carlos Correa double and the Correa came around to score on a single from Yuli Gurriel. All this with two outs. Freddie Freeman and Adonis Garcia hit solo homers in a losing cause but, ick, it’s been a slog for the Braves lately.

Rockies 3, Cubs 0: Rockies starter German Marquez took a no-hitter into the seventh inning. Kris Bryant broke it up, but Marquez ended up tossing eight shutout innings, allowing only three hits. He was helped by some fantastic D from Carlos Gonzalez. He was also helped by . . . German Marquez, who drove in two runs with a seventh inning single.

Athletics 3, Angels 1: Andrew Triggs got the start for the A’s. He walked the game’s leadoff hitter. Then he walked the second hitter. Then he walked the bases loaded. Not a great way to start things out. He somehow escaped that with only one run scoring and then he somehow went the next five innings walking no one else, allowing only three hits and surrendering no more runs. Baseball is a funny game. Chad Pinder hit a two-run homer for Oakland.

Cardinals 7, Marlins 5: The Marlins scored four runs in the first inning but lost anyway. The Marlins had a four-run lead over the Cardinals the night before too, and lost that one as well. On Tuesday, Dexter Fowler was the hero, singling in the winning run with a pinch hit single. Yesterday Dexter Fowler hit a pinch-hit, go-ahead triple in the sixth. Dramatic video:

Nationals 7, Orioles 6: Can’t anyone hold a dang lead anymore? The O’s blew one too, this a 5-1 lead in the fifth. The capper came on a Matt Wieters two-run single in the bottom of the ninth inning which gave Washington a walkoff win over their local rivals. The three-run rally in the ninth came against O’s acting-closer Brad Brach, who gave up a homer to Jayson Werth and a double to Bryce Harper before ex-Oriole Wieters did his thing. Miss U Zach Britton.

Blue Jays 8, Indians 7: Guess what? Cleveland had a four-run lead here and lost it. Toronto got those four runs back in the third and fourth innings and it was tied for a long time, but Ryan Goins singled home the winning run in the ninth inning for the walkoff win. I guess the worst thing in baseball these days is to have a four-run lead.

Rays 12, Royals 1Chris Archer pitched eight shutout innings and Logan Morrison, Rickie Weeks Jr., and Colby Rasmus homered for the Rays. Things got chippy late, however, as Archer hit Sal Perez on the elbow. Perez took offense. After the game, there were two different stories about it, with Perez thinking Archer was throwing at him and Archer denying it. Perez:

“Yeah, of course he threw at me. He’s going to throw at me because I had two hits against him,” Perez said. “I think he was mad. I don’t think that’s the right way.”

Archer:

“Honestly there was nothing malicious there,” Archer said. “I’ve had some great interactions with him the past. He’s a good hitter; I’m trying to pitch inside. There was no malicious intent with 96 mph.”

Who knows. All I do know is that “there was no malicious intent with 96 mph” line is a head-scratcher. Most of the time you hear guys say that a breaking ball that hits a dude was proof that it was not intended, because who hits a guy with a breaking ball? When they try to plant on one someone, it’s a heater because it’s easier to control where that goes. Like I said: I dunno.

Rangers 4, Padres 3: Texas scored four runs. Of those, one came on a wild pitch, one scored on a balk and one scored on a fielder’s choice + a throwing error. Who needs hits? Being a Padres fan is hard, I suppose, but at least they have good weather.

Brewers 7, Red Sox 4: Milwaukee did all their damage without homers. They rattled off 13 hits, though, and scored two runs on throwing errors by Sox catcher Christian Vazquez. Boston starter Kyle Kendrick allowed six runs and 10 hits in less than five innings. His ERA is now 12.96. Wondering if that “long look” John Farrell said he was gonna take at Kendrick in the rotation is gonna get shorter now.

Diamondbacks 7, Tigers 1: Zack Godley got called up from Triple-A and allowed only one run on four hits in seven innings. He was backed up by homers from Nick Ahmed, Yasmany Tomas and Brandon Drury. The game was at least moderately close until the seventh inning when the “Anibal Sanchez: relief pitcher” experiment got its latest look. Sanchez coughed up two of those homers and three runs in an inning of work. That has been an utter disaster over the past two seasons.

Dodgers 5, Pirates 2: The sweep. On a day when the Dodgers found out they’ve lost left fielder Andrew Toles for the rest of the year, they witnessed his replacement, Cody Bellinger, homer and made a nice tumbling catch in left. Sucks for Toles who had been one of L.A’s few positive offensive contributors on the young season, but I think they’ll be OK with the kid. Meanwhile, Kenta Maeda pitched shutout ball into the ninth before running out of gas and surrendering two. Grant Dayton bailed him out.

Twins vs. White Sox — POSTPONED:

Seven lonely days
And a dozen towns ago
I reached out one night and you were gone
Don’t know why you’d run
What you’re running to or from
All I know is I want to bring you home
So I’m walking in the rain
Thumbing for a ride
On this lonely Kentucky back road
I’ve loved you much too long
My love’s too strong
To let you go, never knowing
What went wrong
Kentucky rain keeps pouring down
And up ahead’s another town that I’ll go walking through.

Goose Gossage, Pete Rose and “unwatchable baseball”

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There are a lot of things that, in my view and in the view of many others, are suboptimal in today’s game.

You’ve either heard me go on about them in the past year or two or you’ve heard others go on about them, but a short, non-exclusive list includes the view that there are too many home runs and strikeouts now, bullpen use has changed the nature of the game in less-than-great ways, and the game-going and sometimes merely game-viewing experience has become prohibitively expensive for some and annoying in many respects to everyone, to the point where it has become a barrier to even enjoying the product in the first place.

While I never hesitate to make my views known on these matters, I also acknowledge that I do not have a monopoly on wisdom with respect to them. Indeed, there’s a lot to be said about all of these issues — both in support and in pushing back against my views on them — to further the discussion. Baseball has been around a long time, it changes more often than our nostalgic view of its history suggests, and all of us have our blind spots. The only way to deal with that stuff is to talk more about it, to add more voices to the conversation and, perhaps most importantly, to accept that we’re never gonna settle on anything definitive. One person’s ideal game is one person’s “unwatchable” game and it has always been thus.

Are there are limits to who we should talk to about all of this, though? For example, do we really need to know what Goose Gossage and Pete Rose have to add to this conversation? Bob Nightengale of USA Today thinks so. Here’s Gossage:

“I can’t watch these games anymore. It’s not baseball. It’s unwatchable. A lot of the strategy of the game, the beauty of the game, it’s all gone. It’s like a video game now. It’s home run derby with their (expletive) launch angle every night.”

Rose:

“It’s home run derby every night, and if that’s what they want, that’s what they’re going to get. But they have to understand something … Home runs are up. Strikeouts are up. But attendance is down. I didn’t go to Harvard or one of those Ivy League schools, but that’s not a good thing.”

As a matter of editorial philosophy I question whether it ever makes sense to ask Goose Gossage and Pete Rose about anything that is not specifically about Goose Gossage or Pete Rose and even then I’d exercise caution. Gossage has spent the last ten years as every writer’s go-to for easy quotes hating on anything that has happened in baseball since 1988. Rose, in addition to being a loathsome human being who is banned from the game, is also one of those dudes who thinks his generation and his generation alone Played the Game the Right Way. The less we hear from them on this stuff the better, as far as I’m concerned.

Yet, they’re not wrong.

At least they’re not wrong as far as what they’re saying above. That’s how frickin’ messed up baseball is right now. Even Goose Gossage and Pete Rose are on my side of the matter. It’s enough to make a guy sit down and take stock, ya know? At least it’s enough to make me want to be more specific and objective about what it is that bugs me about the game today, so as not to lazily fall into an “everything is new sucks” stance, which I suspect is what animates these two particular stopped clocks.

I think it helps to break it all down into two categories, which lead to very different conversations. One category is the aesthetics of baseball. The other is the structure of baseball.

On the aesthetic side we’re dealing with how any given game plays out. How, on any given night, it seems, that we have nearly a dozen 14-7 games in which the bat boy, or someone quite like him, hits three homers while also taking the mound and striking out 14 guys but somehow getting the loss anyway, with the game ending a crisp four hours and sixteen minutes after the first pitch. This is a slog. It has a lot to do with the juiced ball and the manner in which both hitters and pitchers have been selected for thanks to analytical trends, changes in the strike zone and all of that.

On the structural side we’re talking about the business, economics and leadership of the game and how it has led to a situation in which multiple teams are tanking — telling their fans that, at best, they’ll be competitive two or three out of every ten years — while fielding a roster of players who would have at least a moderate fight on their hands to ensure first place in the International League. This while still charging ridiculous prices for tickets, concessions, and parking while making the games harder and harder to watch on TV without paying for premium cable plans. Nightengale notes that attendance is down something like 800,000 overall so far this year, coming off last year’s 15-year low in attendance. None of this is an accident, of course. When you tell fans you’re not going to try to win while giving them no other incentive to come to the park, you’re going to have fewer fans coming to the park.

As I said, these are two different areas of complaint. I’m open to the idea that my aesthetic distaste for what’s going on in baseball right now is merely my opinion. I’m a middle aged guy and, even if I work extra hard to not be some nostalgic, sentimental simpleton, I’m not immune from falling into that trap of “everything was better when I was 12.” I probably do that more than I care to admit. I don’t think I’m alone in hating the juiced ball game right now, but I also have to nod in deference to people who love it, as I’m sure there are many.

Where I start to become less “it’s all good, everyone’s opinion is valid” about all of this, though, is when observe that a lot of the aesthetic stuff is a direct product of the structural stuff.

  • We have home run fests because we have a lot of guys pitching who have no business being out there but are because a lot of teams are tanking. I think it’s OK to feel differently about a game that has changed because a non-trivial number of teams aren’t interested in competing;
  • We have home run fests because the ball is juiced. MLB denied this for a while and then when it became undeniable they accepted it and claimed it was an accident but now it’s gone on so long it’s an accident that they seem to have no interest in fixing whatsoever. I think it’s OK to feel differently about a game that has changed because of a juiced ball;
  • We have a legion of high-velocity strikeout pitchers because that’s who front offices have all, almost uniformly, decided to favor, and it’s been helped along by a redefinition of the strike zone — there is no wide strike anymore — that has made control or finesse pitching close to impossible. I think it’s OK to feel differently about a game that has changed because of a lack of creativity and a lack of latitude to be creative when it comes to talent development;
  • We have front offices who see no incentive to be creative when it comes to talent development because — thanks to baseball revenues being substantially detached from winning baseball games — there is no upside to going against the prevalent orthodoxy and/or taking any financial risks. And with that, we go back up to bullet point number one.

Again, it’s OK to like the current state of baseball. It’s OK to presume that some of us — be it Goose Gossage, Pete Rose or me — are turned off by it to some extent because we’re just crotchety old dudes who hate change. But it’s fair to say that, like most change in baseball, it has not been exclusively organic. Like most change it is the product, at least in part, of a change in circumstances and incentives. Though, in this case, that change is not necessarily benign. It’s driven by a bottom-line mentality that, while always present in baseball, has far more of an impact on the game on the field than it has in a very, very long time because it’s a bottom-line mentality that can afford to be indifferent about the winning and losing of baseball games.

Maybe history will prove me to be a crank when it comes to this stuff. But I feel like it’s worth examining the roots of the aesthetic issues in baseball via reference to what led to them. If it’s garbage-in, is that which comes out not garbage?