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And That Happened: Thursday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Diamondbacks 10, Cubs 8: Paul Goldschmidt went deep three times, knocking in six runs, including a solo shot in the ninth that broke an 8-8 tie after the Dbacks had blown a five-run lead. Goldschmidt is the ninth player to have a three-homer game this season, joining Yoenis CespedesMatt KempAnthony RendonScooter Gennett (four), Eddie RosarioCorey SeagerNolan Arenado, and Andrew McCutchen.

Red Sox 9, White Sox 5: Sox win! Rafael Devers hit a three-run homer in the first inning, Mookie Betts added a two-run shot and Andrew Benintendi went 3-for-3, reaching base five times, and scoring twice and driving in a run. White Sox rookie Nicky Delmonico hit his first career homer. Well done, Delmonico.

Brewers 2, Cardinals 1: Keon Broxton gave the Brewers a 2-1 lead with a single in the fifth, which would hold up. It would’ve been a 2-2 tie except he robbed Jose Martinez of a solo homer earlier in the game:

 

Matt Garza came off the DL to allow one run in five and two-thirds.

Rockies 5, Mets 4: What a way to lose a game. Tied 4-4 in the ninth inning, the Rockies rallied to win it in walkoff fashion, though you can give the Mets and reliever Hansel Robles a monster assist in that victory. The ninth inning sequence: Jonathan Lucroy getting hit by a pitch, a sac bunt, an intentional walk of Charlie Blackmon to put runners on first and second and then a  walk to D.J. LeMahieu and a walkoff walk to Nolan Arenado. Here was the last pitch to Arenado:

Juuuuust a bit high.

Tigers 7, Orioles 5: Detroit took a 7-0 lead by the top of the third and it held up, ending the O’s five-game winning streak. Ian Kinsler hit a leadoff homer and Justin Upton hit a two-run homer in the rain-interrupted game. The O’s did have a nice moment, however, in turning a sweet 5-4-3 triple play:

Pirates 6, Reds 0: Chad Kuhl tossed seven shutout innings as Andrew McCutchen and David Freese each drove in two and Starling Marte went 3-for-5 and scored three times . The Reds didn’t advance a runner past second base all game long.

Indians 5, Yankees 1: Corey Kluber tossed a complete game, striking out 11 and allowing one run on only three hits, overshadowing Sonny Gray‘s debut for the Yankees. Gray allowed four runs over six, but only two were earned thanks to the Yankees playing terrible defense behind him in the first inning, committing not one, not two, but three errors.

Dodgers 7, Braves 4: Alex Wood has lost only one game all year, and that was to the Braves. Here, facing his old mates again, he allowed one run in six innings to get the W. Although to be honest, most of them probably aren’t his “old mates.” Freddie Freeman, maybe. Nick Markakis. A couple of pitchers. Otherwise the roster has turned over. But relax, it’s a figure of speech.

Rangers 4, Twins 1: You’re not gonna believe this, but Joey Gallo went deep again. Here he hit a three-run shot in the fourth inning for his fourth homer in the past three games and his 29th on the year. He’s hitting .205 and is on pace for 44 bombs. That’s some Dave Kingman stuff right there.

Rays 5, Astros 3: Steven Souza Jr. homered and drove in three runs. Corey Dickerson added three hits. Houston loses their third in a row and their fifth in the past six games.

Royals 6, Mariners 4: Brandon Moss hit two home runs and Lorenzo Cain drove in the go-ahead run in the seventh as the Royals fought back from deficits of 2-0 and 3-2 to snap their three-game losing streak. Ned Yost was ejected for the second straight game. I would say that he learned from his old boss Bobby Cox about how to get ejected on purpose — if it was hot out Cox would pick a dumb fight with an ump and get himself sent to the air conditioned clubhouse — but it was pretty nice in Kansas City yesterday so maybe this was something else.

Angels 5, Phillies 4: Mike Trout hit a two-run homer early and the Angels came back late, with the go-ahead score coming on a wild pitch. “That was hard to take,” Philadelphia manager Pete Mackanin said afterward. He’ll probably say that on the afternoon of October 1 referring to the whole season, too.

Giants 11, Athletics 2: Giants starter Ty Blach pitched eight strong innings, allowing only two runs, and he hit a three-run homer to boot. And it wasn’t a cheapie. He hit out to dead center into the heavy Bay Area nighttime air.Brandon Belt hit a two-run homer and Jarrett Parker had three hits and three RBI in his first game back from the disabled list.

Meanwhile, on the cold, cold Hot Stove . . .

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It’s Hot Stove Season baby! You know what that means! Yep: time to watch some teams sign a few relievers to minor league deals and then wait everyone out until February while talking about the need to maintain financial flexibility! FEEL THE BURN.

In more specific news:

We’ve talked a lot about Betts this winter already, and that seems like madness. Bryant’s career with the Cubs began with business-side acrimony, it’s still simmering, and there is no sense that either side is amenable to a long-term deal before he hits free agency. The Indians have been signaling for some time that they have no interest in keeping Lindor long term.

It’s quite the thing when three teams who are supposed to be contending are, instead, looking to deal recent MVP award winners and candidates who are 27 and 26 years old, but these are the times in which we are living.

  • Joe Sheehan wrote an excellent column for Baseball America last week analyzing the attendance drop MLB experienced in 2019. Which is just the latest in a series of attendance drops. As Joe notes there is a very, very strong connection between teams (a) signaling to fans during the offseason that they are not interested in signing or retaining players or otherwise being competitive; and (b) teams suffering attendance losses.

As I wrote last offseason, there is an increasing disconnect between attendance and other proxies of broad fan interest and revenue. Which is to say that, as long as teams continue to get fat on long-term TV deals, side businesses like real estate development, and soaking a smaller and wealthier segment of the fan base with higher and higher prices, they really have no reason to care if several thousand common or casual fans become alienated by their teams’ lack of desire to compete.

Sullivan doesn’t offer ideas about how that can happen, but over the past couple of seasons we’ve seen a number of proposals, some broad, some specific, about how MLB can turn its free agency/trading period into frantic, 1-3 day scrambles-to-sign like we see in both the NBA and NFL. I’m sympathetic to that desire — it’s exciting! — but any attempt to do that in Major League Baseball, at least as things are currently set up, would be a disaster for the players.

In the NBA and NFL you have salary caps and floors and, in the NBA, you have max contracts. As a result, teams both have a set amount of money to spend and an incentive to spend that money. We can quibble with whether those incentives are the best ones or if they benefit the players as much as other systems might, but there’s at least something inherent in their systems which inspires teams to sign free agents.

In Major League Baseball, there is no such incentive. May teams want to keep payrolls as low as possible under the guise of rebuilding or tanking and there is no effective mechanism to keep them from doing so. Even nominal contenders — see the Cubs, Indians and Red sox in item 1 above — spend more time thinking about how to cut payroll rather than add talent. This is bolstered by the stuff in item 2 above in which attendance and even winning has less of an impact on the bottom line than it ever has.

So, why scramble to sign players by a set deadline? Under most of the scenarios I see floated — like the laughably horrible one MLB reportedly suggested to the MLBPA — teams would just wait out free agents until deadline day, give them crappy take-it-or-leave-it offers and then leave them all scrambling to sign one-year deals or to sit the season out.

For such a thing to happen — or for teams to want to keep their bright young stars or for the league to want to maintain fan interest and keep attendance from continuing to slide — there must be incentives put in place to make them want to sign and retain players. To make them want to win. To make them want to excite the fan base.

At present, such incentives are not there. And, as such, we are faced with yet another winter with a cold, cold stove.