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And That Happened: Saturday’s Scores and Highlights

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

Cubs 17, Phillies 2: Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but Rhys Hoskins lit up another Cubs pitcher for another home run that extended his rookie home record for yet another day. This time, he victimized Kyle Hendricks with a two-run shot in the first inning, collecting his 10th home run in just 17 games.

Unfortunately for the Phillies, that was all they were able to muster against Hendricks and a scorching Cubs’ offense. The Cubs rode Drew Anderson and Jesen Therrien for seven runs in the seventh, building to a season-best 17-run spread that culminated with another two homers and four runs in the ninth.

Yankees 6, Mariners 3: The Mariners missed an opportunity to slide into the second wild card spot on Saturday, coming up empty-handed against Sonny Gray in seven innings of one-run ball. Kyle Seager and Guillermo Heredia rallied in the eighth, but couldn’t quite close the door against a less-forgiving Dellin Betances in the ninth.

Blue Jays 10, Twins 9: Max “Papa Slam” Kepler did all he could for the Twins during Saturday’s nail-biter, and it still wasn’t enough. The outfielder muscled a grand slam in the eighth inning, bringing the Twins within one run of tying the game.

That narrow lead vanished with the Blue Jays’ two-run response in the bottom of the inning, however, and even a Brian “Doz” Dozier RBI single and run-scoring double play from Joe “Mauer” Mauer wasn’t enough to topple their AL rivals.

Orioles 7, Red Sox 0: Kevin Gausman posted his first shutout of the month, holding the Red Sox scoreless through 7 2/3 while home runs from Tim Beckham and Jonathan Schoop highlighted the offense’s seven-run effort. While this hasn’t been Gausman’s finest season by a long shot, he’s looked marginally better in the second half, lowering his ERA to 4.02 and lighting up batters at a clip of 10.0 SO/9.

Nationals 9, Mets 4: The Nationals would like to hand off a three-game winning streak to Max Scherzer on Monday. That’s still up in the air, at least for now, but with a strong performance from Gio “Double G” Gonzalez and a nine-run rebound on Saturday, they’re heading in the right direction. The Nats didn’t score on a single extra-base hit against the Mets’ Robert Gsellman, building their five-run lead on a smattering of singles and productive outs to stay a comfortable 12.5 games above the second-place Marlins in the NL East.

Athletics 8, Rangers 3: The Rangers picked up right-handed journeyman reliever Paolo Espino on Saturday, which looked like a prudent move on their part after another of their right-handers imploded against the A’s earlier in the day. Granted, Tony Barnette‘s two-run flub was the final nail in the coffin following a similarly disastrous outing from Cole Hamels, who led the club to their second straight loss by giving up six runs on nine hits and three walks. Chad Pinder collected two home runs and Jed Lowrie reached 40 doubles (five shy of his career-best single-season total) to boost the A’s to a 57-72 record.

Pirates 1, Reds 0: This wasn’t your run-of-the-mill shutout, if such things even exist. Gerrit Cole turned in his 11th win of the year and arguably his best start, too, flashing six strikeouts and five hits over seven innings. He made his solo home run look equally as effortless, launching a 95-MPH heater off of Welington Castillo in the sixth inning and setting a new franchise record:

Indians 4, Royals 0: Jason Hammel took a perfect game into the sixth inning on Saturday, but finally met his match in Bradley Zimmer, whose stunning fifth-inning grab and perfecto-snapping single helped lock down the Indians’ third consecutive win.

Edwin Encarnacion also helped the Indians’ winning streak with a seventh-inning home run, his 30th of the year. The slugger now owns 30+ home runs in each of his past six seasons.

Tigers 6, White Sox 3: Like the rest of those suspended over Thursday’s Tigers-Yankees brawl, Miguel Cabrera is waiting for a ruling on his appeal. In the meantime, he’s still eligible to play, and made the most of his time on Saturday after going 3-for-4 with a solo home run in the third.

In related news, it looks like there might be additional repercussions from Thursday’s incidents. Nicholas Castellanos reported a ligament sprain in his left wrist following the fracas, though he couldn’t tell reporters exactly how he sustained the injury or give a definite timetable for his return to the field. He’s expected to have it checked out before resuming his post at third base and, in a best-case scenario, will rejoin the team for Sunday’s finale in Chicago.

Cardinals 6, Rays 4: Tommy “T. Pham” Pham played the hero on Saturday night, clubbing a walk-off 419-footer after the Cardinals stunned the Rays with a four-run comeback to take the lead — and the game.

The win went to Tyler Lyons, who combined with John Brebbia for two shutout innings following Mike Leake‘s four-run, three-homer appearance.

Diamondbacks 2, Giants 1: Madison Bumgarner stymied the Diamondbacks with seven beautiful innings of two-run ball, which proved too great a task for the Giants’ offense as they dropped their 20th one-run loss of the year. Taijuan Walker, whose 6 1/3 innings of one-run ball were rewarded by a pair of homers from A.J. Pollock and J.D. Martinez, improved to 7-7 on the year as the D-backs cruised to a 1.5-game lead in the wild card standings. In other words, just your standard Giants/Diamondbacks 2017 matchup.

Marlins 2, Padres 1 (11 innings): Both the Marlins’ Odrisamer Despaigne and Padres’ Dinelson Lamet played hard to get on Saturday, allowing a collective two runs and six strikeouts over the first six innings. Cory Spangenberg stole home to put the Padres on the board, while Marcell Ozuna grabbed hold of his 31st home run of the season to knot the game 1-1. Miguel Rojas plated the deciding run in the 11th inning, scoring Derek Dietrich on a sac fly for the Marlins’ walk-off win and their sixth victory in seven games.

Amid all the hubbub, Ichiro Suzuki and his lone pinch-hit single made franchise history, too:

Rockies 7, Braves 6: The Rockies still need another 1.5 games to catch the Diamondbacks for the first NL wild card spot, and they made a good-faith effort to close the gap with a late rally against the Braves. Charlie Blackmon and DJ LeMahieu stepped up in the ninth, smashing a pair of home runs to give the Rockies a much-needed three-run lead.

Things got too close for comfort in the bottom of the inning with Matt Adamstwo-run shot, but it took Jake McGee just one Brandon Phillips double play to polish off the win.

Brewers 3, Dodgers 0: Clayton Kershaw‘s return can’t come soon enough. The Dodgers’ ace lasted five innings in his Triple-A rehab start on Saturday, issuing one run and eight strikeouts as he continued to work back from a back injury. Things didn’t go nearly as well for his big league teammates, who were felled in a five-hit shutout by Zach Davies and an airtight Milwaukee bullpen.

Angels 7, Astros 6: It’s never too early or too late in the season to be reminded of this helpful PSA:

Of course, it’s much easier to weather a 40-minute delay and five-run deficit if you can be assured of an Andrelton Simmons three-run, go-ahead home run for your troubles.

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.