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And That Happened: Friday’s Scores and Highlights

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These are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Braves 8, Rockies 3: The Braves are riding a three-game winning streak after out-slugging the Rockies during Colorado’s home opener. Rookie second baseman Ozzie Albies engineered his second homer of 2018 in the first inning, followed by Dansby Swanson‘s near-cycle and Brandon McCarthy‘s first career extra-base hit: a two-run double lined off of a 1-1 pitch from German Marquez in the fifth. If you haven’t been keeping track lately, the Braves have racked up a franchise-best 56 runs in their first seven games, good for the most in the league (and given a generous boost by their 15-run and 13-run outbursts over the last week, too).

Indians 3, Royals 2: There was no last-minute drama on Friday, no ninth-inning rallies or instant replay upsets to keep fans on the edge of their seats. In fact, it only took one inning to decide the victor — in the top of the first, Mike Moustakas and Lucas Duda eked out two runs against Carlos Carrasco, followed by the Indians’ modest three-run spread in the bottom of the inning. From that point on, the game gelled into a perfect pitcher’s duel: eight shutout innings from both sides, capped by a strong showing from Andrew Miller in the eighth and Cody Allen‘s second save of the year.

Orioles 7, Yankees 3 (14 innings): The Orioles played the longest extra-inning game of their season on Friday, a 14-inning affair that saw two home runs from Manny Machado, Chris Davis‘ first homer of the season and an 11th-hour grand slam from Pedro Alvarez. One of the most peculiar moments, however, was saved for the 11th inning, when Orioles reliever Mychal Givens blocked Didi Gregorius as he charged toward home plate.

The Yankees challenged — Givens had clearly failed to give Gregorius a path to the plate — but the original outcome of the collision was upheld, as a) there is no protocol for a non-catcher obstructing the plate and b) Givens had not yet received the ball and was attempting to field it.

Blue Jays 8, Rangers 5: Marco Estrada looked nearly untouchable on Friday night, spinning six frames of one-run, seven-strikeout ball against a lackluster Rangers’ offense as the Jays kicked off their nine-game road trip. The only real blemish on his pitching line was Shin-Soo Choo‘s one-out home run in the bottom of the sixth inning, a 394-footer that finally put Texas on the board. With Estrada out of the game, the Rangers perked up a little — enough to mount a four-run rally in the seventh, that is — but couldn’t quite muster the effort needed eclipse the Blue Jays’ three-run lead.

Brewers 5, Cubs 4: “We’ve been a little bit of a high-wire act for a little over a year now,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell told reporters. “That’s exciting, it’s maddening, it’s frustrating. It’s entertaining baseball, I think — even on the nights it doesn’t work out.” He wasn’t wrong, at least when it came to Friday’s nail-biter against the Cubs. The maddening? Brandon Woodruff expended an unsightly 95 pitches through 3 2/3 innings, prompting an early exit in the fourth. The frustrating? Tied 4-4 in the seventh inning, the Brewers loaded the bases against Justin Wilson, only to be foiled by Lorenzo Cain‘s inning-ending strikeout versus Steve Cishek. The entertaining? Well, this:

Pirates 14, Reds 3: It’s little surprise that the Pirates have compiled their best start to the season since 1976, especially given their second double-digit performance against the last-place Reds on Friday. Trevor Williams secured his second win of the year with an incredible 10 hits over 5 1/3 innings, but managed to limit the damage to just two runs as the Pirates built up to an 11-run lead — just the way they scripted it.

Padres 4, Astros 1: Sure, leave it to the Padres to upset the Astros’ five-game winning streak. Five innings of one-run ball from Luis Perdomo? Four shutdown frames from the bullpen? Five consecutive hits in the fifth, punctuated by a one-out, two-run double from Jose Pirela? Yep, that’s definitely the way we saw this series going.

Angels 13, Athletics 9: Shohei Ohtani‘s third career home run — a second-inning, 449-foot shot off of Daniel Gossett — was the spark needed to light the Angels’ 13-run rally on Friday night.

Zack Cozart drove in two runs on a throwing error from Matt Chapman, Andrelton Simmons contributed a pair of runs of his own with a ground-rule double and RBI single, and Justin Upton collected his second dinger of the year. Ohtani didn’t limit himself to a single home run, either: he returned in the fifth to walk in a run, too.

Dodgers vs. Giants (postponed): Expect baseball-averse weather for the next day or so. The Giants will make up Friday’s postponement on Saturday, April 28. This was yesterday’s view at AT&T Park (via Twitter):

And this is today’s:

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.