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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:

Cubs 9, Orioles 8: It took the Cubs three innings to construct an eight-run lead and another five innings to dismantle it, handing the Orioles eight unanswered runs to tie the game 8-8 in the eighth. According to ESPN Stats and Info, that’s fairly unheard of, at least during the 2017 season:

No thanks to the bullpen, the Cubs managed to rally in the ninth inning with their fifth home run of the night: a game-winning solo shot from Addison Russell.

Pirates 5, Cardinals 2: The Pirates’ winning streak survived the All-Star break, improving to three consecutive games after rookie Josh Bell clobbered his first walk-off home run against the Cardinals. Unlike Jedd Gyorko’s home run in the first inning, this one wasn’t hurled into the Allegheny River:

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Mets 14, Rockies 2: The Mets opened a nine-game homestand with another gem from Jacob deGrom, who earned his 10th win of the season after dealing eight innings of two-run, 11-strikeout ball. He impressed at the plate, too, recording his fourth multi-hit game of the season with two base hits and an RBI to help pad the team’s 12-run lead. The same could not be said for opposing starter Jon Gray, however, who delivered eight runs in two innings for a season-worst performance and pushed the club to a 10.5-game deficit in the NL West.

Red Sox 5, Yankees 4: Aaron Judge furthered his on-base streak on Friday, reaching just once on a six-pitch walk. Excepting a rare pinch-hit at-bat, he’s successfully reached base in 40 of his past 41 games (via MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch). Even combined with Gary Sanchez‘s mammoth home run, that wasn’t enough to propel the Yankees past the Red Sox, and they dropped to third place after Andrew Benintendi drew a game-winning, bases-loaded walk in the ninth. Worse than the loss? A report that the Yankees may have seen the last of right-hander Michael Pineda, who has been battling a torn UCL and is currently considering alternatives to season-ending Tommy John surgery.

Dodgers 6, Marlins 4: Yasiel Puig was the indisputable hero of the Dodgers’ series opener, fueling the club’s division-best 62nd win with a solo home run in the fifth inning and a go-ahead, three-run homer in the ninth. The most unconventional of the Dodgers’ six runs, though, came on a caught stealing error in the first inning, which allowed Joc Pederson to swipe home plate as the Marlins chased the ball around the infield:

Nationals 5, Reds 0: The Reds haven’t turned out a home run title in 39 years, and if Friday’s shutout was any indication, it looks like they’ll have to keep waiting. They failed to generate a lead against the Nationals, who rested on two home runs from Bryce Harper and a pair of RBI base hits to secure their first win of the second half. Joey Votto, who may be in line for the NL home run title this year, went 0-for-3 with a walk and has not smashed one out of the park since July 8.

Blue Jays 7, Tigers 2: After taking a tough 19-1 loss to the Astros prior to the All-Star break, the Blue Jays came out swinging against the Tigers during their first road trip of the second half. Steve Pearce put the Blue Jays on the board in the fifth inning with a solo home run, his seventh of the season, and Josh Donaldson‘s two-run single sealed the deal for the club in the seventh.

Braves 4, Diamondbacks 3: R.A. Dickey‘s resurgence continued with another masterful performance on Friday, executing six innings of one-run ball as the D-backs struggled to hold a lead. Dickey didn’t get the run support he needed to pull off his seventh win of the year, but improved to a 1.09 ERA over his last five starts, holding opposing batters to just four runs and eight walks and striking out 27 batters in 33 innings.

Astros 10, Twins 5: Any concern about the Astros facing a second-half slump was obliterated on Friday night. Charlie Morton spun 10 strikeouts in five innings, while the offense hammered Jose Berrios with an eight-run second inning. In fact, the worst thing to happen to the Astros was Jose Altuve‘s “underwhelming” performance: he went 2-for-4 with a single, double and walk, coming one game shy of shattering the all-time record for most consecutive three-hit games.

Brewers 9, Phillies 6: Nick Pivetta laid down four strikeouts to kick off the Phillies’ series opener, a promising start for a rookie who carried a 4.73 ERA into the second half. His outing was quickly compromised in the second inning, however, when the Brewers responded with eight runs and Ryan Braun‘s sixth career grand slam:

Braun’s 400-foot home run set a new franchise record for career grand slams, breaking a four-way tie among Cecil Cooper, Jeromy Burnitz and John Jaha.

Rangers 5, Royals 3: Speaking of historical knocks, Adrian Beltre moved up another rung on the all-time home run list, drilling a 2-2 slider from Jason Hammel to center field for his 453rd career home run.

He now sits at No. 38 on the all-time list, just four home runs shy of Miguel Cabrera‘s 457 career blasts.

Mariners 4, White Sox 2: All-Star MVP Robinson Cano hogged the spotlight again on Friday, propelling the Mariners to their 44th win with a three-run homer in the third inning. The club now sits just three games back of an AL wild card berth, but will need to duke it out with the Twins, Royals, Rangers and Angels to earn a spot in the postseason this fall.

Athletics 5, Indians 0: Sonny Gray has already incurred considerable interest as the trade deadline approaches, and his performance on Friday night only boosted his appeal. The 27-year-old ace turned in six pristine innings, limiting the Indians to two hits and striking out five of 22 batters as he worked up to his fifth win of the season.

Rays 2, Angels 1 (10 innings): To the delight of fans everywhere (and the chagrin of non-Angels pitchers), Mike Trout finally made his triumphant return to Major League Baseball. The slugger punctuated his performance with a single and a stolen base, doing his part to allay any immediate concerns about his ability to return to form after a lengthy spell on the disabled list. Things didn’t go so smoothly for the rest of the Angels, whose bats went cold after Albert Pujols‘ solo home run in the second inning. With the win, the Rays now sit 3.5 games back of the division lead.

Giants 5, Padres 4: Johnny Cueto was felled by blisters on his pitching hand on Friday, exiting after just four innings and 82 pitches. According to the San Francisco Chronicle’s John Shea, the baseballs may have something to do with Cueto’s discomfort, who doesn’t remember getting blisters on his pitching hand at any point during his 10-year career. The Giants, meanwhile, rallied to take the lead in the sixth and capped their win with a Buster Posey home run in the seventh.

Astros, Red Sox look ahead in wake of sign-stealing scandal

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Players from two teams at the center of baseball’s sign-stealing scandal faced their fans on Saturday for the first time since the Houston Astros and Boston Red Sox ousted their managers amid the fallout from the investigation into Houston’s elaborate scheme.

The Astros and Red Sox held their annual fan fests on Saturday, and instead of discussing preparations for the season, players from both teams were left to answer questions about the cheating that resulted in both teams’ managers being fired.

“It’s a tough situation and as a team we have to stay together and go through this as a team like we’ve been doing, always,” Houston star second baseman José Altuve said. “We have to talk about it at spring training and try not to let things in the past distract us for for next year.”

Houston manager AJ Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow were suspended for a year by MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred on Monday after he found illicit use of electronics to steal signs during the Astros’ run to the 2017 World Series championship and again in the 2018 season. Team owner Jim Crane then fired both Hinch and Luhnow. Manager Alex Cora left the Red Sox on Tuesday after Manfred’s report identified him as the ringleader of the sign-stealing scheme when he was the bench coach for the Astros in 2017.

Many Red Sox players talked Saturday about how much they liked and valued Cora and hated to see him go.

“I’m heartbroken about it,” Boston designated hitter J.D. Martinez said. “I understood his side of it. He definitely didn’t want to be a distraction. He was one of my favorite, if not my favorite, managers I’ve had.”

The Astros were fined $5 million, which is the maximum allowed under the Major League Constitution, and must forfeit their next two first- and second-round amateur draft picks.

The investigation found that the Astros used the video feed from a center field camera to see and decode the opposing catcher’s signs. Players banged on a trash can to signal to batters what was coming, believing it would improve the batter’s chances of getting a hit.

MLB is also looking into whether Cora installed a similar system in Boston after arriving the following year, when the Red Sox won the World Series. No conclusions have been reached and there is no timetable; the Astros investigation took two months.

Martinez hopes MLB wraps up the investigation into the Red Sox soon so they can put this behind them.

“I’m excited for the investigation to get over with, so they can see there’s nothing going on here,” he said.

While the Astros were meeting with fans in Houston, Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Randal Grichuk called for MLB take away their World Series championship, now that it’s been proven that they cheated.

“I mean, I would like to see that obviously. I bet the Dodgers would like to see that,” Grichuk said. “I’ve got a few friends on the Dodgers that are very disappointed that possibly two years in a row they lost due to a team going against the rules.”

Many Boston players are trying not to focus on the investigation or what could be coming for the team, but instead simply trying to prepare like it’s any other season.

“MLB’s going to do what they have to do to look into it,” pitcher Nathan Eovaldi said. “I’m just trying to focus on baseball. I feel like it’s going to pass, and everything’s going to be fine.”

While Altuve didn’t have a problem answering numerous questions about the scandal, Houston third baseman Alex Bregman refused repeated attempts by reporters to get him to address what happened and kept repeating variations of the same phrase.

“The commissioner made his report, made his decision and the Astros made their decision and I have no further comment on it,” Bregman said in some variation again and again.

After being pressed on if he plans to discuss the sign-stealing in the future, Bregman finally gave an answer that didn’t seem as rehearsed.

“I think in the 2020 year our actions will speak louder than our words,” he said.

Altuve and Bregman were the only two stars at Saturday’s fan fest in Houston who were part of the 2017 championship team. Many of the other big names who helped the Astros win their first title, including World Series MVP George Springer, ace Justin Verlander and shortstop Carlos Correa, did not attend the daylong event where fans can interact with players.

Altuve was the AL MVP in 2017, and since the sign-stealing scandal broke, some have questioned whether he deserved the award. In recent days he’s also been accused of wearing an electronic device under his jersey to tip pitches, which he vehemently denies. He was asked how it feels for people to call him a cheater.

“You don’t want anybody to call you that,” he said. “But … I have two options. One is cry and one is go down and play the game and (perform) and help my team. And you know what one I am going to do.”

MLB’s investigation of Houston began after former Astros pitcher Mike Fiers, who played for Oakland last season, told The Athletic about the team’s scheme to steal signs. Martinez said he has spoken to Fiers and gets why he came forward.

“I understand his side of it, being in that division, going against those guys. It’s an uncomfortable position for him, but I understand why he did what he did,” Martinez told reporters in Springfield, Massachusetts. “He obviously felt like he needed to and I understand it.”

In Houston, as the Astros try to put the scandal behind them and focus on the future, Altuve, who has often been described as the heart and soul of the team, is confident it won’t derail the Astros from another successful season.

“Everything will be fine,” he said. “We’re going to be in the World Series again. People don’t believe it. But we will.”