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And That Happened: Friday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the rest of Friday’s scores and highlights:

Rockies 5, Cubs 3: After kicking off the month of June with a promising five-game winning streak, the Cubs are back on shaky footing after taking their third consecutive loss on Friday. Seth Frankoff took the loss during his Major League debut, tossing two innings with four hits, a two-run homer and two strikeouts.

Not helping matters: these clowns, who showed up to interrupt Kris Bryant‘s first at-bat.

Rangers 5, Nationals 2: There’s little hope of catching the Astros for first place in the AL West these days, but the battle for second place rages on. The Rangers put on a good show during their series opener this weekend, quashing the Nationals with seven innings of one-run ball from Andrew Cashner and a pair of home runs from Jonathan Lucroy and Rougned Odor.

Marlins 12, Pirates 7: Giancarlo Stanton did what Giancarlo Stanton does best, hammering a no-doubt home run to the batter’s eye in PNC Park during Friday’s 12-7 win.

According to Statcast, the blast measured 449 feet, his third-longest knock of the year. Still not impressed?

Indians 7, White Sox 3: After going 1-4 on the road, the Indians kicked off their homestand with a much-needed win. Corey Kluber fired six strong innings, striking out eight and giving up three runs on seven hits and two walks. Edwin Encarnacion powered the Indians’ seven-run drive with a three-hit night of his own, including his 11th home run of the season.

The win brought the Indians within two games of first place — and, more importantly, preserved Francisco Lindor‘s precious locks:

Red Sox 5, Tigers 3: Jackie Bradley Jr. capped an impressive rally on Friday night, smoking his eighth home run of the season at 110 MPH — the hardest-hit home run he’s recorded in the Statcast era to date.

Rays 13, Athletics 4: The Rays didn’t mean to treat outfielder Mallex Smith like a yo-yo. The 23-year-old has been yanked to and from Triple-A Durham this year, mostly used as filler between disabled list stints. With Kevin Kiermaier sidelined due to a hip fracture, Mallex received yet another call-up on Friday and responded in kind, batting leadoff and going 2-for-3 with a base hit, home run and three stolen bases.

Not only did Smith’s performance fuel the Rays’ outstanding win, but it matched a nifty little franchise record, too:

Yankees 8, Orioles 2: Aaron Judge went hitless during Friday’s 8-2 win over the Orioles, but that doesn’t mean the fans in the Judge’s Chambers were left hanging. Aaron Hicks muscled a solo shot to the Yankee faithful, depositing his ninth home run of the year to put the Yankees up 3-2 in the fifth:

Hicks returned for his second blast in his next at-bat, taking Edwin Jackson to task with a two-run, 372-foot homer in the seventh inning.

Braves 3, Mets 2: Terry Collins is reportedly considering a six-man rotation after watching his pitching staff succumb to repeated injury this season. The rotation wasn’t the problem on Friday, however, as Matt Harvey bounced back from last week’s six-run outing to hurl five scoreless innings against the Braves. Things didn’t go as well for Paul Sewald, who earned his second blown save after Dansby Swanson ripped a two-run double in the sixth inning.

Angels 9, Astros 4: Alex Bregman might not have improved the Astros’ winning percentage on Friday, but he brought them one game closer to their franchise home run streak. He launched a first-pitch homer off of Matt Shoemaker in the seventh inning, marking both his seventh home run of the year and the Astros’ 17th consecutive game with at least one home run. If they can extend it to 18 games, they’ll have tied the record established by the club back in May 2000.

Cardinals 3, Phillies 2: The Cardinals didn’t win once on their road trip last week, making Friday’s win all the sweeter when they returned to Busch Stadium for a six-game homestand. Behind six innings of two-run ball from Michael Wacha, three scoreless innings from the bullpen and a game-winning home run from Aledmys Diaz, left fielder Tommy Pham stole the show with a highlight reel catch to end the game:

Brewers 8, Diamondbacks 6: Jonathan Villar was having a banner night against the Diamondbacks — until he wasn’t. The second baseman went 2-for-5 with a base hit and RBI double and capped his night with a terrific, run-saving play in the eighth. Something went wrong on the catch, however, and Villar left the field on a cart after suffering severe back spasms on the throw to first.

Dodgers 7, Reds 2: Justin Turner didn’t waste any time getting back into the swing of things on Friday. He made a triumphant return from the disabled list in his first at-bat and ripped a 369-foot home run off of the Reds’ Amir Garrett in the first inning:

His secret? Cody Bellinger’s bat, apparently.

Padres 6, Royals 3: Matt Szczur finally crested the Mendoza line on Friday night, delivering the go-ahead run in the seventh inning with his second home run of the season:

He wasn’t the only pinch-hitter to come up big in the Padres’ win, either. Franchy Cordero plated two insurance runs in the eighth with a two-run double, preserving a strong start from Jhoulys Chacin and setting up Brandon Maurer for his tenth save.

Mariners 4, Blue Jays 2: Rookie right-hander Sam Gaviglio furthered his hot streak against the Blue Jays, crafting his best start of the year with two runs, six hits and five strikeouts over six innings. Danny Valencia and Jarrod Dyson came through with a two-run rally in the seventh inning, giving the Mariners a narrow lead to get the club back to .500.

Twins 4, Giants 0: The rest of the Twins’ lineup looked superfluous next to Ervin Santana, who recorded his third shutout of the season (and third career Maddux) and hit a three-run double during the team’s 4-0 win on Friday. It’s a nice change of pace for Santana, who tossed four innings with seven runs, seven hits and three walks during his outing against the Angels last Saturday.

Whitewash: Rob Manfred says he doesn’t think sign stealing extends beyond the Astros

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Rob Manfred said today that he believes the sign-stealing scandal which has taken over the news in the past week does not extend beyond the Houston Astros. His exact words, via Jeff Passan of ESPN:

“Right now, we are focused on the information that we have with respect to the Astros. I’m not going to speculate on whether other people are going to be involved. We’ll deal with that if it happens, but I’m not going to speculate about that. I have no reason to believe it extends beyond the Astros at this point in time.”

This is simply incredible. As in literally not credible.

It’s not credible because, just last week, in the original story in The Athletic, it was reported that the Astros system was set up by two players, one of whom was “a hitter who was struggling at the plate and had benefited from sign stealing with a previous team, according to club sources . . . they were said to strongly believe that some opposing teams were already up to no good. They wanted to devise their own system in Houston. And they did.”

The very next day Passan reported that Major League Baseball would not limit its focus to the Astros. Rather, the league’s probe was also include members of the 2019 Astros and would extend to other teams as well. Passan specifically mentioned the 2018 Red Sox which, of course, were managed by Alex Cora one year after he left Houston, where he was A.J. Hinch’s bench coach.

Add into this the Red Sox’ pre-Cora sign-stealing with Apple Watches and widespread, informed speculation on the part of players and people around the game that many teams do this sort of thing, and one can’t reasonably suggest that only the Houston Astros are doing this.

Which, as I noted at the time, made perfect sense. These schemes cannot, logically, operate in isolation because players and coaches change teams constantly. In light of this, players have to know that their sign-stealing would be found out by other teams eventually. They continue to do it, however, because they know other teams do it too. As is the case with pitchers using pine tar or what have you, they don’t rat out the other team so they, themselves, will not be ratted out. It’s a mutually-assured destruction that only exists and only works if, in fact, other teams are also stealing signs.

So why is Major League Baseball content to only hang the Astros here? I can think of two reasons.

One is practical. They had the Astros fall in their lap via former Astro Mike Fiers — obviously not himself concerned with his current team being busted for whatever reason — going on the record with his accusation. That’s not likely to repeat itself across baseball and thus it’d be quite difficult for Major League Baseball to easily conduct a wide investigation. Who is going to talk? How can baseball make them talk? It’d be a pretty big undertaking.

But there’s also the optics. Major League Baseball has had a week to think about the report of the Astros sign-stealing and, I suspect, they’ve realized, like everyone else has realized, that this is a major scandal in the making. Do they really want to spend the entire offseason — and longer, I suspect, if they want a thorough investigation — digging up unflattering news about cheating in the sport? Do they really want to be in the bad news creation business? I doubt they do, so they decided to fence off the Astros, hit them hard with penalties, declare victory and move on.

Which is to say, it’s a whitewash.

It’s something the league has tried to do before. They did it with steroids and it didn’t work particularly well.

In 1998 Mark McGwire, that game’s biggest star at the time, was found to have the PED androstenedione in his locker. It was a big freakin’ deal. Except . . . nothing happened. Major League Baseball planned to “study” the drug but most of the fallout was visited upon the reporter who made it public. It was accompanied by some shameful conduct by both Major League Baseball and the baseball press corps who eagerly went after the messenger rather than cover the story properly.

Four years later Ken Caminiti and Jose Canseco went public with their PED use and said drug use was widespread. MLB’s response was slow and, again, sought to isolated the known offenders, singling out Caminiti as a troubled figure — which he was — and Canseco as a kook — which he kind of is — but doing them and the story a disservice all the same.

The league eventually created a rather toothless testing and penalty regime. Congress and outside investigative reporters filled the void created by the league’s inaction, calling hearings and publishing damning stories about how wide PED use was in the game. Eventually Bud Selig commissioned the Mitchell Report. Some ten years after the McGwire incident baseball had at least the beginnings of a sane approach to PEDs and a more effective testing plan, but it was pulled to it kicking and screaming, mostly because doing anything about it was too hard and not very appetizing from a business and P.R. perspective.

And so here we are again. Baseball has a major scandal on its hands. After some initially promising words about how serious it planned to take it, the league seems content to cordon off the known crime scene and refuses to canvass the neighborhood. Sure, if someone gratuitously hands them evidence they’ll look into it, but it sure sounds like Rob Manfred plans to react rather than act here.

That should work. At least until the next time evidence of cheating comes up and they have to start this all over again.