MLB still doesn’t seem like it actually knows what it’s doing re: mound visit rules

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In February, Major League Baseball announced new rules aimed at improving the pace of play. The rule that has everyone’s attention at the moment limits teams to six non-pitching change mound visits per game with each team being granted one more for each extra inning. It’s not the most popular rule. Angels catcher Martin Maldonado and Cubs catcher Willson Contreras said they’d just eat fines rather than follow the rules.

There’s also been some confusion. Rob Manfred said that a seventh mound visit would trigger an automatic pitching change. Per John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle, Manfred said, “There has to be a pitching change. That’s the only way they can go to the mound again. That’s what happens.”

However, chief baseball officer Joe Torre clarified that the seventh visit cannot trigger an automatic pitching change, per Eric Stephen of True Blue LA. Instead, it’s up to the umpire to stop that seventh mound visit.

On Thursday afternoon, Torre and his aides showed up to the Mets’ camp at Port St. Lucie to brief the club on the new pace of play rules. Joel Sherman of the New York Post asked him a hypothetical where there is a pop-up between home plate and the pitcher’s mound. The catcher grabs it and flips the ball back to the pitcher, then the two share a few words. Would that count as a visit? Torre simply said the players aren’t allowed to discuss anything and that the situation is fluid.

In his own interpretation, Sherman believes that MLB is “trying to shoehorn rules” on the fly and that “we are going to have a lot of tension” as the season progresses and new situations arise. And he’s not wrong. There are a lot of different reasons why players and coaches would visit the pitcher on the mound. Perhaps an infielder wants to scrape mud off his cleats or use the rosin bag. Maybe a catcher isn’t on the same page with his pitcher and wants to clarify, which is actually a safety issue. Sometimes an umpire gets hit with a foul tip or the catcher just misses the pitch, so the catcher will trot out to the mound to give the umpire some extra time to recover as a courtesy. If Major League Baseball doesn’t have all of these potential situations spelled out as legal or illegal, there is going to be inconsistency in the way different umpires apply the rule and there will be arguments every time, whether it’s the team upset that the rule was invoked against them or the opposing team upset that the rule was not invoked. And, in the end, the pace of play won’t have improved much, if at all.

Craig has a good rule of thumb for viewing the situation, but it really needs to be spelled out in black and white in the rulebook.

Braves sweep Mets, take 2-game lead in East with 3 remaining

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ATLANTA — Dansby Swanson and Matt Olson homered for the third straight game, Travis d'Arnaud hit a go-ahead two-run single in the third inning, and Atlanta Braves beat the New York Mets 5-3, completing a three-game sweep of their NL East rival and taking a two-game lead in the division with three games to play.

The defending World Series champion Braves have been chasing the Mets the entire season. In the final series of the season, any combination of one Atlanta win or one Mets loss would give the Braves their fifth straight division title.

New York plays its final three games of the season against worst-in-the-majors Washington. Atlanta closed out the regular season with a three-game set in Miami. Should the season end Wednesday in a tie, Atlanta would win the division after claiming the season series 10-9 with Sunday’s victory.

The Braves won five of the last six games in the series, outscoring the Mets 42-19 over that stretch. New York had a 10 1/2-game lead on June 1 but now is the lower in the standings than at any point this season.

It was a lost weekend for New York, which came to Atlanta hoping to clinch its first division title since 2015. Instead, aces Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer lost Friday and Saturday before 15-game winner Chris Bassitt lasted just 2 2/3 innings on Sunday.

Swanson took Bassitt deep to right-center in the first with his 25th homer, and Atlanta took charge with a three-run third. Bassitt (15-9) issued a bases-loaded walk to Olson before d’Arnaud delivered a single up the middle to score Ronald Acuna Jr. and Austin Riley for a 4-3 lead. That chased Bassitt, who was charged with four runs, three hits and three walks.

Olson connected for his 33rd homer to make it 5-3 leading off the sixth, his 410-foot shot landing in the seats in right-center. Olson, in his first year with Atlanta, surpassed 100 RBIs for the second straight season.

Charlie Morton stranded runners on first and second in the first, but he gave up Daniel Vogelbach‘s 18th homer that tied it at 1 in the second. The righty struck out Francisco Lindor with runners on first and second to end the threat.

Jeff McNeil went deep off Morton in the third and Vogelbach followed with an RBI single to put the Mets up 3-1. Morton entered the game having allowed 28 homers, sixth-most in the NL.

Morton scuffled throughout his start, giving up three runs and nine hits in 4 1/3 innings as the 38-year-old made his first start since signing a $20 million, one-year contract to remain with Atlanta next season.

Dylan Lee (5-1) relieved Morton and pitched 1 1/3 innings, leaving after a walk to Brandon Nimmo with two outs in the sixth. Collin McHugh entered and struck out Francisco Lindor.

Raisel Iglesias faced four batters in the seventh, A.J. Minter faced the minimum in the eighth and closer Kenley Jansen converted his third save of the series with a clean ninth.

Jansen leads the NL with 40 saves in 47 chances.

The Braves’ bullpen, which posted a 1.70 ERA last month, pitched 8 2/3 scoreless innings the last two nights.

BIG NUMBERS

Atlanta leads the NL with 241 homers. And the Braves have their first 100-victory season since 2003.

TWO, DARN HOT

McNeil went 3 for 5 and has multiple hits in five straight games. His average is .326, one point behind the Dodgers’ Freddie Freeman for the NL batting title. In 23 career games at Truist Park, McNeil is hitting .395 with 12 runs, nine doubles, two homers, seven RBIs and four walks. … Jansen tied Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley for eighth place on the career list with 389. He’s also is the 10th closer to have four different seasons with at least 40 saves.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Mets All-Star RF Starling Marte (right middle finger fracture) has yet to begin swinging or throwing. … Braves 2B Ozzie Albies (broken right pinky finger) is still wearing a cast. … Braves RHP Spencer Strider still has not thrown as he gets treatment on a sore left oblique.

ATTENDANCE

The Braves drew 42,713 in their regular season finale, the club’s 42nd sellout of the season. Overall. that’s 3,129,931 for the season – and the most tickets sold since 2000. In 2019, the team’s last full season before the COVID-19 pandemic, Atlanta drew 2,655,100.

UP NEXT

Mets: RHP Carlos Carrasco (15-7, 3.95 ERA) will face Nationals RHP Cory Abbott (0-4, 5.11).

Braves: RHP Bryce Elder (2-3, 2.76 ERA) will face Marlins LHP Jesus Luzardo (3-7, 3.53).