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Brewers take a 3-1 lead over Cubs in eighth

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There was nothing doing in between Anthony Rizzo‘s fifth inning home run and the top of the eight, but Milwaukee has broken through in the top of the eighth.

The inning began with Justin Wilson on the hill for the Cubs, who surrendered a single to Orlando Arcia. Domingo Santana then doubled Arcia to third to put two men in scoring position with no one out. Joe Maddon had seen enough of Wilson at that point so he went to the pen and brought in Steve Cishek to face Lorenzo Cain.

Welp, that didn’t work. Cain singled to center, scoring Arcia and moving Santana to third, giving the Brewers a 2-1 lead.

That caused Maddon to go to the pen once again and brought up Christian Yelich, who was 3-for-3 on the day, with runners on the corners and no one out. A home run in that situation would’ve not only broken the game wide open but would’ve put Yelich in a tie for the league lead in homers and in the outright lead for RBI. He already leads in batting, so with one swing he could not only win the division for Milwaukee, but he could win the Triple Crown.

Nah, didn’t happen. New Cubs reliever Randy Rosario bore down and struck Yelich out.

Brandon Kintzler came on to face Ryan Braun and Braun, with the count 2-2, served one into right center to score Santana and send Cain to third base:

Kintzelr stayed on to face Jesus Aguilar, again with runners on the corners. Braun attempted to steal second but he guessed poorly, Kintzler pitched out and Willson Contreras had no problem throwing Braun out at second. A good play by Javier Baez too, fielding the throw, making the tag, all while looking Cain back over to third base to head off a delayed double steal. Baez is something special, folks. After the throwout, Aguilar flied out to left for out number three.

Nonetheless, the Brewers have a 3-1 lead. The Cubs are down to their final six outs. It’s tight, but the Brewers are close to breaking through to the NL Central title.

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.