Getty Images

And That Happened: Friday’s Scores and Highlights

3 Comments

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

Royals 4, Indians 3: The Indians came just four games shy of tying the 1916 Giants’ all-time 26-game winning streak, an incredible run that was stopped in its tracks by Lorenzo Cain and Mike Minor on Friday night. Cain put up the go-ahead run with an RBI single in the sixth inning, capping a four-run spread while the Indians struggled to get back on top. Minor sealed the deal for the Royals in the end, allowing a bloop single to Yandy Diaz before closing out the ninth with three straight strikeouts for his first save of the year.

Hey, think about it this way: The Indians may be done chasing history, but at least everyone will show up wearing clean underwear today.

Dodgers 7, Nationals 0: Sometimes, you have to pretend you know what you’re doing and hope no one catches on. Sometimes, you just need to read the ball better.

You can’t pin all the blame on Jayson Werth: Corey Seager exploited an Edwin Jackson fastball for a three-run homer, while the whole of the Nats’ offense couldn’t scare up more than four hits against Alex Wood and the bullpen. With the win, the Dodgers extended their winning streak to three games, their longest such run since August 25. They still need six more wins to clinch the NL West title.

Cubs 8, Cardinals 2: As long as there has been an enforceable strike zone, there have been quibbles between pitchers and umpires. Friday’s game was no exception, inciting an especially salty dispute between Cubs’ right-hander John Lackey and home plate ump Jordan Baker following a botched call in the fifth inning.

At least Joe Maddon didn’t expect anyone to keep their cool. “That’s the definition of insanity,” he told reporters following the game. “Why would I think he’s going to change in that particular moment? God bless him. I never want him to change. He’s not going to change, so why expect that? It happened, we reacted, and the rest of the group came together.”

Granted, he might have felt differently had the Cubs not won so handily, skirting their division rivals with four shutout innings and an impressive seven-run explosion in the sixth.

Athletics 4, Phillies 0: Maybe it was Daniel Mengden’s expertly-trimmed handlebar mustache or the way he slung his changeup, but whatever the case, the Phillies couldn’t figure him out. Mengden fired nine scoreless innings for his first career complete game shutout, issuing two hits and seven strikeouts and tacking on a base hit of his own.

Yankees 8, Orioles 2: The Yankees kept pace with the Red Sox again on Friday, maintaining their three-game deficit in the AL East as they try to prevent Boston from gaining a steep advantage in the last two weeks of the regular season. Luis Severino went eight strong and Didi Gregorius smashed his 22nd home run of the season, tying Derek Jeter’s single-season record for most dingers by a Yankees’ shortstop.

Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

Red Sox 13, Rays 6 (15 innings): Let’s not pretend that this isn’t exactly what any of us (non-baseball player types) would look like against Chris Sale, Supreme Strikeout Leader:

Unlike the rest of us, Kevin Kiermaier wasn’t down for long. He stung the right field bleachers with a game-tying jack in the 14th inning and harnessed a pair of extra bases with five-star catches on the warning track. The Red Sox ran the Rays’ bullpen right into the ground in the 15th, however, piling on seven runs to take the win.

Tigers 3, White Sox 2: Friday was a day for snapping streaks, and thankfully for the Tigers, that meant the end of their six-game skid. Anibal Sanchez went toe-to-toe against Carson Fulmer, each distributing one run over six innings, and Sanchez’s 11 strikeouts decorated his best start of the season. Mikie Mahtook supplied the winning run, pouncing on a 3-2 slider from Juan Minaya to send the Tigers home with a win.

Reds 4, Pirates 2: The Reds trotted out a tried-and-true strategy during Friday’s opener: solid pitching and a lot of home runs. Homer Bailey suppressed Pittsburgh’s offense with 5 2/3 innings of one-run ball and Joey Votto, Zack Cozart and Scott Schebler swatted a handful of solo home runs for a two-run advantage. The Reds are angling to surpass the Pirates for fourth place in the NL Central, which… sounds like the epitome of September baseball.

Braves 3, Mets 2: When you’re down 26 games in the division standings and three games from elimination in the wild card race, there are things you want to see:

And things you don’t:

This one went to the Braves, who needed just one run to top the Mets after rookie Sean Newcomb settled into a groove.

Brewers 10, Marlins 2: In the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, the Marlins/Brewers series was relocated to Miller Park on Friday. The Brewers did everything they could to accommodate their guests, relinquishing home field advantage and decking out the ballpark with palm trees and multicolored seashells and flamingoes.

The only accommodation they couldn’t make was on the scoreboard, where they trounced the Marlins with an eight-run lead after homering for the cycle with Eric Thames‘ solo shot, Stephen Vogt‘s two-run knock, a three-run homer from Domingo Santana and Neil Walker‘s grand slam.

Astros 5, Mariners 2: James Paxton returned to the mound for Seattle, but didn’t find the conditions nearly as favorable as Felix Hernandez had on Thursday night. He nearly hit his pitch count in just 1 1/3 innings, scattering three runs over four hits and two walks before getting pulled for Ryan Garton. The Mariners are still just 3.5 games back in the wild card race, but neither the Twins nor the Angels appear ready to relinquish their hold on second and third place just yet. The Astros, meanwhile, are gunning for the title with two wins to go.

Blue Jays 4, Twins 3: The Twins played up Bartolo Colon‘s first-ever “Big Sexy” Night at the ballpark, but the Blue Jays didn’t succumb to his charms for long. After four scoreless innings, Kevin Pillar broke through with a solo homer in the fifth, while Josh Donaldson‘s long ball in the sixth snapped a homer-less streak of six consecutive games:

A two-run rally in the seventh propelled the Blue Jays to their first win of the series, dropping the Twins to a slim two-game lead in the wild card standings.

Rockies 6, Padres 1: Speaking of wild card leaders, the Rockies preserved their 2.5-game advantage over the Brewers with a solid outing from Tyler Chatwood, who turned in 5 2/3 innings of one-run ball before Wil Myers‘ 457-footer forced his exit in the sixth. Chatwood provided his own run support, too, putting the Rockies on the board with a two-RBI single in the second inning.

Angels 6, Rangers 6: Both the Angels and Rangers made compelling arguments for their place in the postseason, but it was the Angels’ five-run inning that put them over the top on Friday. The run support couldn’t have been more timely or more welcome, especially on a bullpen day. Mike Scioscia trotted out seven relievers to keep the Rangers’ bats at bay, starting with two scoreless frames from Bud Norris and ending with Blake Parker‘s sixth save of the season.

Diamondbacks 3, Giants 2: The Diamondbacks may not be in line for a division title, but they only need seven more wins to lock down a spot in the playoffs. Robbie Ray turned in seven innings of two-run, 10-strikeout ball for his 14th win of the year, while Jeff Samardzija did everything he could to play spoiler to the D-backs’ efforts, crafting his own eight-inning gem and scoring the Giants’ second and final run of the night.

Whitewash: Rob Manfred says he doesn’t think sign stealing extends beyond the Astros

Getty Images
25 Comments

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.