Jorge Lopez
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Jorge López loses perfect game bid in the ninth

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Royals rookie right-hander Jorge López was three outs shy of the first perfect game in franchise history on Saturday. He dealt eight flawless innings against the Twins, striking out four of 24 batters and keeping the basepaths clear with an even 100 pitches.

In the ninth, however, things began to unravel after Max Kepler worked a 3-1 count against the righty, then took a walk after López’s fastball missed the edge of the strike zone. With the perfecto gone and the no-hitter still intact, López lasted just five more pitches against the Twins before giving up a single to Robbie Grossman, who lined an 86.5-MPH changeup into center field for the Twins’ first hit of the game. Carrying a pitch count of 110 and a comfortable four-run lead, he was given a swift exit from the mound and replaced by right-handed reliever Wily Peralta.
The Royals backed López’s extraordinary efforts with a handful of runs, from Hunter Dozier‘s RBI single in the sixth to Alberto Mondesi’s RBI double and another pair of base hits from Whit Merrifield and Alex Gordon in the seventh. The Twins spoiled the shutout in the ninth after Ehire Adrianza plated a single run on a sac fly, but they weren’t quite able to close the gap against the Royals and convert a stunning loss into a comeback.
Had López completed the perfecto, he would have been the first to do so in franchise history and the 22nd to do so in MLB history. No pitcher has recorded so much as a no-hitter for the Royals since Bret Saberhagen’s no-no against the White Sox in 1991, when he blanked the club’s division rivals with nine innings of two-walk, five-strikeout ball. On the flip side, it’s only been six years since the Twins found themselves on the losing end of a no-hitter. Former Angels hurler Jered Weaver was the last to no-hit the team after taking them to task with a 9-0 victory in 2012. Funnily enough, the league’s last three perfect games were also recorded in 2012, when the White Sox’ Philip Humber no-hit the Mariners in April, the Giants’ Matt Cain delivered a perfect game against the Astros in June, and the Mariners’ Felix Hernandez crafted a perfecto against the Rays in August.
Needless to say, this still was the strongest start the Royals had seen from López since they acquired him from the Brewers prior to the July trade deadline. While he was primarily used as a relief pitcher in Milwaukee, he transitioned to a starting role in Kansas City and entered Saturday’s game with a combined 4.26 ERA, 4.7 BB/9, and 7.4 SO/9 through 40 1/3 innings for both teams.

The Astros continue to refuse to take responsibility for the Taubman Affair

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I’m calling it the “Taubman Affair” because writing “the incident in which a top front office executive — Astros Assistant General Manager Brandon Taubman — taunted a reporter for her past opposition to the team acquiring a domestic abuser, after which the team lied, aggressively about it, accusing another reporter of fabricating a story, then admitted that they lied but made no apology for smearing the reporter” is too unwieldy for a headline.

If you need catching up on it, though, you can read this, this or this.

The latest on it all: yesterday, after walking back their angry denial that the incident ever occurred and admitting that, yes, Taubman did in fact gleefully and profanely target a reporter for taunting, the team basically went silent and let Game 1 unfold.

Today General Manager Jeff Luhnow went on a team-friendly radio station (i.e. the station that broadcasts Astros games). In the entire segment he was asked only one question about it: “Your thoughts on the SI article, Jeff.” Luhnow said that he would withhold comment, but apologized to “everybody involved,” including the fans and the players, saying “this situation should have never happened.” You can listen to the entire segment here.

He did not, however, make any specific mention of what “this situation” was. Nor did he acknowledge that, actually, it’s at least two “situations:” (1) the initial behavior of Taubman; and (2) Monday night’s team-sanctioned attack of Sports Illustrated’s Stephanie Apstein, who reported it. Indeed, at no time in the team’s now multiple comments has anyone acknowledged that, as an organization, the Houston Astros’s first impulse in all of this was to attempt to bully and discredit a reporter for what has now been established as a truthful report to which the Astros have admitted. And they certainly have not voiced any specific regret or offered any form of accountability for it.

Major League Baseball is apparently investigating Taubman’s conduct. But it is not, presumably, investigating the Astros’ disingenuous smear of Apstein. A smear that the Astros likely undertook because they figured they could intimidate Apstein and, what may even be worse, because they assumed that the rest of the press — many of whom were witnesses to Taubman’s act — would go along or remain silent. If they did not think that, of course, releasing the statement they did would’ve been nonsensical. It speaks of an organization that believes it can either bully or manipulate the media into doing its bidding or covering for the teams’ transgressions. That part of this has gone wholly uncommented on by the Astros and apparently will for the foreseeable future. No matter how this shakes out for Taubman, if the Astros do not talk about how and why they decided to baselessly attack Apstein on Monday night, nothing they ever say should be trusted again.

More broadly, everything the Astros are doing now is the same as when they traded for Roberto Osuna in the first place.

In 2018 they wanted to do an unpopular thing — arbitrage a player’s domestic violence suspension into the acquisition of cheap relief help — while wanting to appear as though they were good actors who had a “zero tolerance for domestic violence” policy. To solve that problem they shoveled a lot of malarkey about how “zero tolerance” actually includes a fair amount of tolerance and hoped that everyone would go along. When not everyone did — when fans brought signs of protest to the ballpark or expressed their displeasure with Osuna’s presence on the roster — they confiscated them then hoped it’d all blow over and, eventually, via Taubman’s rant on Saturday night, lashed out at their critics.

Here, again, they want to do something unpopular: retain a boorish and insensitive executive in Taubman without him or the team suffering any consequences for it, be they actual consequences or mere P.R. fallout. Again, it’s kind of hard to pull that off, so to do so they falsely accused a reporter of lying and then circled the wagons when they caught heat for it.

I have no idea how long they plan to keep this up. Maybe they are calculating that people will forget and that forgetting is the same as forgiveness. Maybe they simply don’t care. All I do know is that folks will be teaching the Astros’ response to all of this as a counterexample in crisis management courses for years.