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And That Happened: Thursday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Red Sox 3, Rays 2: David Price tossed seven shutout innings and the Rays starter, Johnny Wholestaff, started out with eight goose egg frames himself, heading into the bottom of the ninth with a 2-0 lead thanks to a Matt Duffy homer. The Sox rallied, however, with a Hanley Ramirez RBI single and an RBI double from Xander Bogaerts to force extras. Blanks until the bottom of the 12th, when a double and two walks loaded the bases for Ramirez who smacked a walkoff single to give Boston the game. I didn’t watch the postgame interviews, but I have to imagine that Rays manager Kevin Cash was peppered with tough questions about why he kept Wholestaff in for all 12 innings here. He had to be gassed.

Twins 4, Mariners 2: Seattle took an early two-run lead but the two was all they’d get. In the sixth Miguel Sano hit a two-run homer. Mitch Garver and Eddie Rosario would hit solo shots in the seventh and eighth, respectively. The Twins got four and two-thirds innings of scoreless relief from the bullpen, with Fernando Rodney getting his first save for Minnesota. The highlight of the game, however, came before it began, when a bald eagle landed on Mariners starter James Paxton’s shoulder. After the game, Paxton was asked how he remained so calm when the eagle landed on him. This is what he said:

“I’m not gonna outrun an eagle, so just thought, we’ll see what happens.”

I am being 100% sincere when I say that that is some seriously deep life lesson stuff. I’m fifteen years older than Paxton, I pride myself on rarely losing my cool when stressed or when I find myself in situations where I’m not in control, yet I continue to struggle for this level of zen in even my best moments. We should all simply chill out and see what happens whenever we’re faced with an eagle we cannot outrun. Metaphorically speaking.

Mets 8, Nationals 2: Michael Conforto came off the disabled list and hit a homer. Yoenis Cespedes homered as well. Jay Bruce later hit a grand slam that put the game well out of reach. At one point, when the game was close, the Nationals loaded the bases with nobody out and didn’t score a single run. Woof. After beginning the year 4-0, the Nationals have now dropped three straight. Woof woof. After a super hot start, Adam Eaton left the game after tweaking his ankle. Woof, woof, woof.

Phillies 5, Marlins 0: A combined shutout for Nick Pivetta and three Phillies relievers was backed by a 3-for-4, four-RBI afternoon from Maikel Franco, which included a two-run bomb. Phillies manager Gabe Kapler lifted Pivetta in the sixth after he had thrown 97 pitches and put a runner on. Totally conventional and totally defensible pitching change, but Phillies fans rained boos down upon Kapler, making up for the fact that all of the other stuff that he could’ve been booed for happened in road games.

Rangers 6, Athletics 3: A four-run second inning, aided by some bad Oakland defense, held up for Texas. Rangers starter Martin Perez was an escape artist, allowing ten hits in five and a third but giving up only three runs. Adrian Beltre made the record books by becoming the all-time hits leader among Latin-born players, passing Rod Carew. Shin-Soo Choo homered. Nomar Mazara added two hits. There were only 10,132 fans at this game and only 34,613 for all four games of this series. Yikes.

Rockies 3, Padres 1: Nothing but zeros on the board for either team through the first eight innings, but the Rockies got three in the ninth — all unearned — off of Brad Hand. Not that Hand distinguished himself, walking the first two batters he faced and then walking in a run before allowing a two-run single to DJ LeMahieu. The box score says “unearned” but cosmically speaking, Hand gave ’em up.

Tigers 9, White Sox 7: Miguel Cabrera left the game early when he jammed his hip, but his replacement — Niko Goodrum — came up big with a two-run homer in the ninth inning which brought the Tigers to within one run. Soon after that Victor Martinez doubled in Nicholas Castellanos to tie things up and send it to extras. In the 10th, Leonys Martin knocked in Mikie Mahtook on a fielder’s choice and Jeimer Candelario added an insurance run with an RBI single. The lead would hold, ending a cold and snowy home opener in Chicago. In other news, if you had asked your average Tigers fan who Niko Goodrum and Jeimer Candelario were a year or so ago, I’m guessing most would stare at you blankly. Hell, I follow baseball closer than most folks, and if you would’ve asked me, I might’ve said that “Niko Goodrum” was a character’s name in some bad allegorical fiction written by a college sophomore.

Orioles 5, Yankees 2: Masahiro Tanaka was doing just fine until the seventh, blanking the Orioles, but then he ran into some trouble, giving up a two-run blast to Adam Jones and then putting another runner on. Aaron Boone lifted him for Chad Green who allowed that inherited runner to score on an Anthony Santander double, put Colby Rasmus on base and then allowed both of them to score on a Trey Mancini single. Meanwhile, Andrew Cashner allowed only one run over six — Aaron Judge‘s second homer of the season, a solo shot — and his relief allowed only one more man to cross home plate. Judge’s bomb was the only hit Cashner gave up to the Yankees’ Big Three of Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Gary Sanchez.

Pirates 5, Reds 2: Gregory Polanco hit a two-run homer during a four-run fifth. Earlier he had plated a run via a sac fly. Polanco has driven in nine runs on the young season. I guess being in The Best Shape of His Life is paying off. Buccos’ starter Steven Brault pitched one-run ball over five innings. Not gonna freak out or anything, but Joey Votto is 3-for-19 with only one walk and no extra base hits in his first five games.

Diamondbacks 3, Cardinals 1: Robbie Ray allowed one run over six innings and struck out nine. He walked a lot of guys, but he allowed only one hit and the pen allowed only one additional hit for the rest of the game. Meanwhile, his counterpart, Adam Wainwright, labored to throw 89 pitches in three and two-thirds innings.

Cubs 8, Brewers 0: Jon Lester tossed six scoreless frames, striking out six and even picking off a runner at third base, which is not the sort of thing Lester is known for. Of course that runner, Ryan Braun, was only in a position to break for third because he had stolen second due to Lester’s inattention to him previously, but let us not dwell on such details. The Cubs were up 5-0 after three and added more as the night went on, with the scoring capped by a Jason Heyward homer in the ninth. Even worse for Milwaukee: they lost All-Star closer Corey Knebel due to a hamstring injury as he pitched in a non-save situation in the ninth. All he wanted to do was to get some work in, and now he’s DL-bound.

Astros fan logs trash can bangs from 2017

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A fascinating and no doubt time consuming research project was released this morning. An Astros fan by the name of Tony Adams went through every Astros home game in the 2017 season and logged trash can bangs. Which, as you know, was the mechanism via which Astros players in the clubhouse signaled to hitters which pitch was coming.

Adams listened to every pitch from the Astros’ 2017 home games and made a note of any banging noise he could detect. There were 20 home games for which he did not have access to video. There were three “home” games which took place at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida due to the team being displaced by hurricane Harvey and for which, obviously, the Astros’ camera setup from Minute Maid Park would not have been applicable.

Adams logged over 8,200 pitches and found banging before over 1,100 of those pitches. He graphed which players got the most bangs during their at batsMarwin Gonzalez got the most, with bangs coming before 147 of 776 pitches seen, followed by George Springer, who got bangs on 139 of 933. José Altuve had the least among regulars, with only 24 bangs in 866 pitches. One gets the sense that, perhaps, he felt that the banging would interfere with his normal pitch recognition process or something. Either way it’s worth noting that a lack of banging was also signal. Specifically, for a fastball. As such, Astros hitters were helped on a much higher percentage of pitches than what is depicted in the graphs themselves.

Adams reminds us that Commissioner Manfred’s report stated that the Astros also used hand-clapping, whistling, and yelling early in the season before settling on trash can banging. Those things were impossible to detect simply by watching video. As it is, Adams’ graphs of bangs-per-game shows that the can-banging plan dramatically ramped-up on May 28.

It’s hard to say anything definitive about the scope and effectiveness of the Astros’ sign-stealing scheme based on this study alone. Adams may or may not have been hearing everything and, as he notes, there may have been a lot more pitches relayed thought means other than trash can banging than we know. Alternatively it’s possible that Adams was marking some sounds as bangs that were not, in fact, Astros players sending signals to the batter. It’s probably an inexact science.

Still, this is an impressive undertaking that no doubt took a ton of time. And it at least begins to provide a glimpse into the Astros’ sign-stealing operation.