And That Happened: Wednesday’s Scores and Highlights

16 Comments

Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Cubs 5, Tigers 2: Having done game recaps every weekday morning of the season for over ten years now, I hereby declare that games which end with the score 5-2 are the most innocuous games and also the most boring to recap. Generally, 5-2 games are not close enough to be exciting, not high-scoring enough to have an offensive hero but not low-scoring enough to have an exceptional pitching performance. If a 5-2 game doesn’t have a fight, a guy hitting two homers or something else it just . . . is. Usually, anyway. But not here, as the Tigers led 2-1 and the Cubs tied it on a steal of home by Javier Baez of all things. They then went on to take the lead and win the game thanks to the heroics of Willson Contreras who homered in the sixth and then hit a two-run double in the seventh.

Check out Baez’s trip around the bases which ended on the steal of home. Yes, it was a steal that started off with the Tigers pitcher throwing to first — it was not some brazen Jackie Robinson-style thing — but the slide totally makes it:

Athletics 4, Padres 2: Stephen Piscotty had a two-run double and a one-run double while Sean Manaea was solid over seven. There are far more complicated names that “Stephen Piscotty” and “Sean Manaea” to write, but they may be the most low-key hardest to spell in baseball right now. I can never remember if Piscotty is a “v” or a “ph” Ste[v][ph]en and you always run the risk of not putting the second “t” in his last name. You have the “Shawan”/”Sean” issue with Manaea and, even though he’s been in the league a while now, the spelling of his last name just does’t come naturally to me at all. It simply won’t click, even if I can now do “Jeff Samardzija” without looking now.

You guys liking this “inside ATH” content this morning? Riveting stuff, eh?

Red Sox 3, Nationals 0: Eduardo Rodriguez and the pen shut out Washington to complete the sweep. Washington is now a game under .500, seven games out of first place. Indeed, they’re just as close to the Mets, who are 14 back, as they are to the Braves.

Yankees 6, Braves 2: Homers from Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge and Kyle Higashioka, and a solid performance from CC Sabathia, give the Yankees the series in the rubber match. It wasn’t all rosy, though, as Gleyber Torres left the game in the top of the fifth inning because of tightness in his hip and was placed on the 10-day disabled list with a right hip strain.

Marlins 3, Rays 0: JT Riddle tripled in a run and homered and Jose Urena led a group-effort shutout. Given that everyone except Urena — who was allowed to go home early during Tuesday night’s 16-inning game due to him being the day game’s starting pitcher — was likely gassed, the advantage was clearly Miami’s.

Phillies 4, Orioles 1: Philly wins thanks to a two-run error by Chris Davis and a two-run homer by Nick Williams. Oh, and Aaron Nola striking out nine over seven innings and allowing one run helped a bunch too. Nola is now 11-2 and has won five straight decisions.

Brewers 3, Twins 2: The Brewers don’t get as many national games as a team of their caliber should, so you may not have seen Keon Broxton play as much as you should’ve by now. Here’s what you’re missing:

That robbed Brian Dozier of a homer in the ninth that would’ve brought the Twins to within one run. Given that Eduardo Escobar did, in fact, homer just after this catch made it matter a lot more than it first seemed too. Rookie Nate Orf homered for Milwaukee, which was his first hit in the bigs. Brad Miller hit a solo shot too.

Angels 7, Mariners 4: The M’s eight-game winning streak came to an end thanks to Kole Calhoun‘s two-run homer and three-RBI game and two driven in by Luis Valbuena. Shohei Ohtani went 2-for-4 in his second game as the Angels’ DH.

Reds 7, White Sox 4: The Reds had a six-run fourth, but it wasn’t all big fireworks. The rally consisted of three RBI singles and a suicide squeeze laid down by pitcher Sal Romano of all things. The Reds have won 13 of 17 and have come from behind in eight of their last 11 wins. They are also 8-2 in interleague play.

Astros 5, Rangers 4: Texas had a 4-0 lead after three innings and wouldn’t score again as the Astros got three in the fourth, one more to tie it in the fifth and then Evan Gattis hit a 10th inning sac fly to seal the win. Houston got homers from Josh Reddick and Yuli Gurriel. Gurriel homered, doubled and scored twice in the game.

Mets 6, Blue Jays 3: The Mets had no trouble with Marcus Stroman, lighting him up for six runs on six hits in less than five innings, capped by a two-run homer from Todd Frazier. Jose Bautista singled in a run off of his old mates in his old stadium as well. Stroman ain’t right, folks.

Indians 3, Royals 2: Trevor Bauer allowed two runs while pitching into the eighth inning, supported by two sac flies and a Michael Brantley RBI double. The Royals have lost six straight and 18 of 21 and they’ve looked really bad doing it.

Dodgers 6, Pirates 4: L.A. sweeps Pittsburgh, with Chris Taylor and Yasmani Grandal each driving in three runs. Rich Hill pitched solidly but he was also a terror on the base paths:

Well, not really, but that was kinda fun to watch. Pittsburgh was outscored 31-8 in the three-game series.

Rockies 1, Giants 0: Tyler Anderson stymied the Giants for eight innings, out-pitching Andrew Suarez, whose only mistake was a gopher ball to Chris Iannetta in the seventh. This was only the tenth 1-0 game that has taken place at Coors Field in its entire history and the first one in over eight years. 

Cardinals 8, Diamondbacks 4: St. Louis was behind but rallied for five in the seventh and two in the eighth, kicked off by Yadi Molina’s three-run shot. Tommy Pham drove in three with a double and two singles and Matt Carpenter doubled twice, singled and drove one in.

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

Getty Images
12 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.