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And That Happened: Sunday’s Scores and Highlights

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Happy Labor Day. I hope you have an enjoyable one. But I also hope you take some time to think about the reason for the holiday. It’s not just a day off for grilling meat, even if a lot of us plan to spend it that way.

Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Brewers 7, Nationals 2: Hello. My name is Domingo Santana. You killed my father. Prepare to die. Not sure why Washington even pitched to Santana. You knew it’d be his day. Dang day was named after him for cryin’ out loud.

Rangers 7, Angels 6: I can’t decide if I want to hug or boo the headline writer responsible for this: 

Probably hug. I love headline puns. This one described Elvis Andrus going deep twice, of course.  Robinson Chirinos and Delino DeShields hit back-to-back homers. The Angels rallied in the ninth, though, scoring three times and loading the bases before Luis Valbuena grounded out to end things.

Braves 5, Cubs 1: Rookie Max Fried made his first big league start against the defending World Series champions who came into the game on a six-game winning streak. No worries: Fried allowed one run over five innings and four relievers shut the Cubs out for the final four to give Fried the win. Rio Ruiz backed them offensively, going 3-for-4 and driving in three.

 

Orioles 5, Blue Jays 4: This one ended in the twelfth too, with Mark Trumbo hitting a walkoff RBI double for Baltimore. His cohort in clutchiness was Welington Castillo, who hit two home runs, including a game-tying shot in the ninth. Baltimore has won eight of ten and is now tied with the Angels, 1.5 games behind the Twins for the second Wild Card spot. They’re three and a half back of the Yankees, who they meet this afternoon.

Indians 11, Tigers 1:  Jose Ramirez had five extra base hits on the day, smacking two homers and three doubles and driving in three. That’s not the sort of thing that happens every day. Something else that doesn’t happen every day is hitting a homer that an opposing outfielder helps over the wall. Cleveland outscored the Tigers 29-5 while sweeping them in the four game series. They’ve won 11 in a row overall.

Phillies 3, Marlins 1:  Nick Williams hit a two-run single with two out in the 12th to give Philly the win. Lost in the extra innings heroics was a nice little duel between starters Jose Urena of Miami and Jake Thompson of Philly, who went seven and six innings, respectively, each allowing one run.

Pirates 3, Reds 1: Trevor Williams tossed seven scoreless innings despite allowing eight hits and walking a guy. Cincinnati went 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position and left 10 runners on base. That’s no way to go through life, son.

White Sox 6, Rays 2: Tim Anderson singled in a run, doubled in a run and homered in a run (sure, that’s a thing) on his 3-for-4 day. Jose Abreu hit a two-run homer after missing three games with an elbow injury. Guess he’s feeling better. Lucas Giolito allowed one run on three hits and struck out 10 in seven innings of work.

Royals 5, Twins 4: Lorenzo Cain hit a go-ahead, two-run triple in the seventh inning to lift Kansas City. Melky Cabrera hit a two-run homer. Not a bad bounce back day for the Royals, who lost 17-0 on Saturday.

Astros 8, Mets 6: Two guys who weren’t around for Houston a week ago — Cameron Maybin and Carlos Correa — came up big. Maybin hit a three-run homer and Correa drove in a run. George Springer homered and Josh Reddick had two hits and three RBI as the Astros sweep the Mets in the two-day, three-game series.

Diamondbacks 5, Rockies 1: Arizona seems unstoppable lately, winning ten in a row. Ketel Marte and Brandon Drury homered and Zack Godley pitched out of trouble, allowing only one run on three hits despite walking six. Striking out seven helps. The Dbacks lead for the top Wild Card spot is now six and a half games. The Rockies, who once looked to be locks for the second Wild Card, are now only up by a half game over the Brewers.

Cardinals 7, Giants 3: Madison Bumgarner hit a homer to tie things up at two in the fifth inning but Harrison Bader homered off of him in the sixth to put St. Louis up for good. Tommy DeJong and Jose Martinez took Bumgarner out too. Martinez drove in three on the day.

Mariners 10, Athletics 2: Robinson Cano had a day, going 4-for-5 and driving in four, thanks in part to a two-run homer. Andrew Albers took a no-hitter into the sixth inning before running out of gas, but he’d only allow one run on the day. The M’s sweep the A’s in three.

Padres 6, Dodgers 4: The Dodgers continue to struggle, dropping three of four to San Diego. Here Erick Aybar hit a go-ahead, two-run homer and Jose Pirela went deep as well. Los Angeles has lost eight of nine.

Yankees 9, Red Sox 2: New York takes three of four from Boston and moves to within 3.5 games back of the Sox for the division lead. Aaron Judge snapped his longest home run drought of the season, Chase Headley went deep and Matt Holliday and Todd Frazier hit back-to-back home runs. Chris Sale didn’t make it out of the fifth inning as he falls to the Yankees for the third time this year.

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.