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And That Happened: Wednesday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

 

Pirates 1, Dodgers 0: I wrote up the story of Rich Hill‘s near no-hitter here, so go there for the full picture. Now I’d like to tell you about how I followed it.

For dumb, historical reasons involving the Pirates former owner living in Columbus, Ohio, my town is considered part of Pirates territory and is thus blacked out from Pirates games. No, I’ve never met a Pirates fan here and no Pirates games have never been broadcast here locally, so it’s one of baseball’s dumber blackouts. Anyway, I had to listen to it on the radio feed. Rick Monday was doing play-by-play for the Dodgers.

Monday’s call of the no-hitter-busting, walkoff homer by Josh Harrison may have been the worst call of a major moment I’ve ever heard. For starters, he said it was Starling Marte up to bat. I knew it was Harrison because I was following along with the box score online too, but I’m sure some listeners were confused. The call itself was a dead calm “fly ball to left, Granderson goes back and … [five second of silence then super calmly, as if he was ordering tea] . . . he caught it? No, it’s out.” It wasn’t a calculated, understated counterpoint to highlight a moment of tension. It wasn’t understandable disappointment by a partisan announcer. It sounded like disinterest. It was the exact opposite of what a radio listener wants and needs in order to follow the action. I was sitting there slack jawed, in disbelief, not at the way Hill lost the no-hitter and the game but at how horribly that moment was conveyed.

Anyway: blackouts are dumb and Rick Monday really needs to not call games.

Orioles 8, Athletics 7: Zach Britton blew a two-run lead and failed to get out of the ninth inning, blowing his 60-straight save streak as well, but Manny Machado saved everyone’s bacon with a leadoff walkoff homer in the 12th. After the game, Buck Showalter said “he does hold the record in my mind, OK?” This, I presume, is a reference to the real record holder, Eric Gagne, who saved 84 straight games while juiced to the gills on dinosaur steroids or whatever it was he was taking. No word on how many of Showalter’s own 1,490 wins as a manager he does not recognize due to their being obtained by lineups including PED users like Alex Rodriguez, Rafael Palmeiro, Andy Pettitte and others of whom we are not aware.

Royals 6, Rockies 4: Colorado took a 4-3 lead into the bottom of the ninth and called on the Royals old friend, Greg Holland, to close it out. Eric Hosmer wasn’t having it. After Alex Gordon walked and Melky Cabrera singled, Hosmer launched a 400 foot homer to right field to bring the Royals back, even and over with one swing of the bat. It’s just the latest disappointment for Holland the Rockies, who have lost four straight and 11 of 15. Holland is 0-4 with one save in four chances in his past six games, allowing 10 hits, three home runs and 12 runs over five innings.

Giants 4, Brewers 2Jarrett Parker hit a go-ahead two-run double in the seventh on a check swing. There’s nothing more satisfying than coming through in a moment when you really did not mean to do whatever it was you did but it all worked out anyway.

Phillies 8, Marlins 0Mark Leiter Jr. allowed one hit over seven shutout innings and Rhys Hoskins continued to crush it, homering and driving in five runs. In other news, the fact that Mark Leiter’s kid is pitching in the majors makes me feel super dang old all of a sudden.

Red Sox 6, Indians 1: Corey Kluber struck out 12 over seven and two-thirds, but the Sox got to him in the eighth, when Mitch Moreland homered and Mookie Betts singled home a run. That was enough for Boston as Drew Pomeranz and Joe Kelly held Cleveland scoreless for seven and — after Edwin Encarnacion homered in the eighth — Craig Kimbrel closed it out in the ninth, striking out the side.

Yankees 10, Tigers 2: Gary Sanchez homered and drove in three runs. He has ten bombs in August. Last August, when he was a rookie sensation, he hit 11. You don’t want to be a ballplayer with the nickname “Mr. August,” but I suppose someone has to claim that title. Didi Gregorius and Chase Headley also homered. Luis Severino allowed one run over six and two-thirds. The Yankees have outscored the Tigers 23-6 in the first two games of this series.

Cubs 9, Reds 3: Kyle Schwarber and Tommy La Stella each homered and drove in three. The Cubs have won eight of ten and have their biggest lead in the division all year, at three and a half games.

Mets 4, Diamondbacks 2Chris Flexen allowed two runs over six innings and Dominic Smith homered to help the Mets end a three-game skid. “Flexen! Smith! Be there!” was not exactly the Mets marketing angle heading into 2017, but even disaster seasons have their high points in baseball, usually as a result of seeing unknown dudes do good things.

Blue Jays 7, Rays 6: The Jays hit six homers, with Kevin Pillar‘s solo shot in the eighth breaking a 6-6 tie and giving Toronto the win. The other guys who went deep: Josh Donaldson, Ryan Goins, Raffy Lopez, Steve Pearce and Justin Smoak. All were solo shots except for Donaldson’s. Kevin Kiermaier hit two homers, both solo shots.

Mariners 9, Braves 6: Robinson Cano left the game with a bum hamstring and Taylor Motter replaced him. Later, in the eighth, Motter singled home the tying and go-ahead runs and then came around to score on Kyle Seager‘s three-run blast. Motter also doubled. After the game Scott Servais said that Cano’s initial prognosis seemed OK, but we’ll know more today. The Mariners also lost center fielder Guillermo Heredia, who left in the eighth after being hit on his right forearm by a pitch. Servais said he seems OK too.

White Sox 4, Twins 3: Tim Anderson singled homer with winning run with one out in the bottom of the ninth to walk things off for Chicago. It was Anderson’s first walkoff of his young career. Minnesota starter Ervin Santana allowed two runs — only one earned — on three hits in seven innings before the Chisox rallied. Jorge Polanco homered for the fourth straight game.

Astros 6, Nationals 1Alex Bregman hit a three-run homer and Jake Marisnick and Max Stassi added solo shots to help Houston snap a nine-game losing streak to the Nats. Mike Fiers allowed on run on four hits in seven to notch his first win in over a month.

Cardinals 6, Padres 2: Rookie starter Luke Weaver struck out 10 in seven scoreless innings. His counterpart, Jhoulys Chacin hit more batters (4) than he struck out (3). He also walked three and allowed five runs in four and two-thirds innings. The Cards snapped a three-game losing streak and won for just the third time in nine games.

Rangers 7, Angels 5: Adrian Beltre hit two solo homers and he and his teammates rallied for three runs in the tenth to give Texas the win. Luis Valbuena homered and drove in four runs for the Angels.

Anger, apologies, incompetence and the chaos surrounding the Houston Astros

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It’s hard to keep track of the silliness and drama surrounding the Astros these days, but since it’s virtually the only story of note so far this spring training, let us get ourselves up to speed, shall we?

In case you missed it over the weekend, round 27 of “are the Astros’ apologies sincere?” took place. There was nothing terribly new in all of this. A lot of people have become armchair public relations experts as it relates to the Astros, but my personal view is that the Astros’ public statements are not lacking because they’re tone deaf or because they have bad P.R. It’s simply because they’re not sorry.

It’s pretty simple, really. Athletes are lauded and mythologized for being willing to do anything to win. A century and a half of pro sports has shown us, time and again, that that anything often includes cheating. And that with few exceptions, the reward is worth the risk. It’s also worth the fallout in the instances in which they are caught. The Astros won a title. They got glory and fame and in some cases money and no one can make them give any of that back (and Rob Manfred reiterated last night that he won’t do that). There is really nothing that can be done. And, on some level, the Astros know this. To the extent they feel bad it’s because they got caught and because they are being scrutinized now. It is not because they feel genuine sorrow that, dang it, they simply cannot properly express.

These kinds of dilemmas usually cause people to search for solutions. If we did THIS or if we do THAT the problem will be addressed. Sorry, nope. This is just a thing that has happened. It may be put in the past for the most part, but it won’t be atoned for in a meaningful way. This is one of those basic things that anyone who is into high level sports just has to make peace with somehow. Or, even, if they can’t, it’s something they need to stop assuming is a stain on some pure thing. Baseball is not pure, nor are the men who play it. A lot of us know that, but we also need to accept the flip side of it: forgiveness or absolution is in no way guaranteed and the Houston Astros and their fans are gonna have to get cool with that. “What do you want from them? They can’t win?!” is a refrain you’re hearing more and more of. Well, yeah, maybe they can’t.

The fans are a whole other thing.

I realize that the social media sentiment one sees from a fan base is not necessarily representative of a fan base, but it’s worth noting that a LOT of that sentiment has Astros fans, and some radio personality types, vacillating between “see, they apologized!” and “they have no reason to apologize because everyone else was cheating and no one else is talking about that, are they?!”

This last bit is what’s most fascinating to me, because it involves two levels of cognitive dissonance on the part of those who hold the opinion.

First off, I’m struck by the notion that for seven years the Astros and their fans have insisted that the Astros do everything better, earlier, faster, and more efficiently than the rest of the league. Then, the moment they get busted for something that their better and faster front office innovated — Codebreaker — they insist that they were merely doing what everyone else was doing across the league. I guess the Astros are only at the cutting edge of exploiting competitive inefficiencies in non-rule-breaking ways. Pretty convenient!

Second off, a lot of people are telling me that the Astros are being singled out, and that no one is reporting on all of the other teams who were doing it. While I’ve slammed Rob Manfred and Major League Baseball for apparently ignoring allegations that several other teams have cheated in this manner, I have to take issue with the idea out there that “no one is reporting on this.”

Folks, I know a lot of reporters, and I can assure you that almost every one of them with sources who are former players for the teams they cover have reached out to said sources to try to get a scoop like the one Evan Drellich and Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic got on the Astros.  The media has every incentive in the world to break the story of the A’s or the Rangers or the Braves or the Cubs or whoever doing it and they have no incentive to bury it. That no one has broke it doesn’t mean it didn’t happen, but it does not mean that there is a massive conspiracy to single out the Astros.

Finally, even if the Astros are being singled out, it does not absolve them. I would hope that’s not a difficult concept to grok — “I may have been copying Billy’s test but Billy was copying from Suzy” hasn’t washed as an excuse, basically ever — but you’d be amazed at how many Astros fans I’ve encountered who are arguing, basically that. Down with whataboutism, folks. It’s simply crap logic.

Now on to Rob Manfred.

Last Wednesday I emptied both barrels on Rob Manfred and Major League Baseball for what is, quite obviously, their massive mishandling of the sign-stealing scandal. In that column I wrote that Manfred was “obligated, for the sake of his legitimacy as Commissioner of Baseball and for the sake of the game itself, to answer publicly for why he let it get to this state in the first place.”

Manfred tried to do that yesterday afternoon and it went miserably. You can read Bill’s whole writeup of it here, but the most telling part is when he made a snide and dismissive remark about Wall Street Journal reporter Jared Diamond’s story which revealed (a) how much more sophisticated and front office-led the sign-stealing was; and (b) how Manfred apparently buried all of that in his January report on the matter. Manfred:

“You know, congratulations. You got a private letter that, you know, I sent to a club official. Nice reporting on your part.”

How immature. How peevish. In this Manfred comes off like a whining child. Like someone so out of his depth in the job of commissioner that the echo sounder can’t gauge it.

I mentioned before that there are a lot of reporters who would love to break another team’s sign-stealing, and that’s true, but on the flip side there are very, very few reporters who are super critical of the league or Manfred from an editorial perspective. The reason for this is simple: a substantial part of the baseball press corps is employed by MLB itself or work for MLB rights holders like ESPN, RSNs or radio outlets which broadcast games. That Manfred can’t handle even the very small amount of heat he gets from the press — that a simple factual support inspires an ad hominem attack on the reporter who, via basic reporting, revealed Manfred’s own incompetence — is simply sad.

Anyway, it’s a whole new week now. Maybe now people will begin to accept that not all apologies are required to be accepted. Maybe they’ll begin to accept that not all bad behavior has a defense. Maybe they’ll begin to accept that Major League Baseball cares far less about getting to the bottom of issues that reflect poorly on the league than it does about burying said issues in the bottom of a quarry someplace. Maybe they’ll move on to baseball. To the parts about it that aren’t ridiculous and pathetic.

OK, maybe they won’t.