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And That Happened: Thursday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Angels 13, Tigers 0: This game featured Albert Pujols’ 2,000th RBI and four RBI — and two homers — from Tommy La Stella. Pujols is a Hall of Famer and we knew he was gonna get to 2,000 eventually. La Stella, meanwhile has nine homers in 32 games. Before this season he had ten homers, total, in 396 career games. The Angels used an opener here and after he left Felix Pena threw seven scoreless innings, giving up just three hits and striking out seven.

Indians 5, White Sox 0: This game went the bare minimum — five innings — due to rain. I feel like the White Sox had enough, though. They got bupkis from Carlos Carrasco, who gave up only two hits in five shutout innings, striking out six. Jordan Luplow homered twice for Cleveland, both solo shots.

It was good that they called the game for rain, though. The outfield was getting so slippery that it was affecting not only the outfielders’ footing, but it was also affecting the official scorer’s brain:

Cubs 4, Marlins 1: A Yu Darvish special. One hit! One run! But only four innings because he walked six and struck out seven and needed 97 pitches to get even that far. The guy has talent and when he was younger he was electric to watch but my God is he . . . an experience these days. Mike Montgomery relieved him and went five innings, shutting out the Fish the rest of the way on only three hits. he needed only 71 pitches to get that far. Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo went deep for the Cubbies.

Rockies 12, Giants 11: It was 39 degrees at first pitch and there was a snowpocalypse in Denver, but that didn’t stop everyone from hitting:

It certainly didn’t stop Nolan Arenado, who went deep, had three hits and reached base five times. Ian Desmond and Mark Reynolds also homered. Colorado built an early 7-0 lead but the game was tied at eight by the sixth because, well, that’s what happens in Denver. Chris Iannetta hit a go-ahead two-run double in the sixth, though, to keep the Rockies from totally choking away the game. Giants first baseman Tyler Austin had two home runs and six RBI in a losing cause. The game lasted almost four hours and the temp barely got into the 40s. Sounds absolutely lovely.

Reds 3, Athletics 0: Tanner Roark and three relievers combined to toss as six-hit shutout, backed by homers from Derek Dietrich and Eugenio Suárez to avoid being swept in Oakland. It was Dietrich’s fifth dinger in six games. Suárez also doubled twice and flashed some leather. If you get through the offensive highlights here you can watch a pretty fantastic pick and jump throw from foul territory and a super nice stab for a hot liner after which he quickly doubled off the runner at first:

Yankees 3, Mariners 1: J.A. Happ and four Yankees relievers combined to two-hit the M’s, with their only run coming on a ninth inning homer by Domingo Santana off of Aroldis Chapman. There was some controversy here too as Happ plunked Dee Gordon on the wrist, when his wrist happened to be up near his head. Gordon was salty about it after the game because he didn’t like Happ coming up and in at him, but there’s really no reason to believe this was intentional. I get mad when I hit my thumb with a hammer too. Doesn’t mean I meant to do it. The M’s have lost nine of 11.

Cardinals 17, Pirates 4: St. Louis scored these 17 runs all without the benefit of a homer and they sent nine batters to the plate in three times in the first six innings. Marcell Ozuna drove in four of them, three on a double, one on a fielder’s choice. Paul Goldschmidt reached base four times and had three hits and two RBI. Dexter Fowler drove in three. Fowler credits the outburst to him and his wife taking several other players and their wives out for karaoke after Wednesday’s bad game. No word on what they sang, but for the record, my go-to is always “Laid” by James. And yes, I can hit those high notes.

Astros 4, Rangers 2: Josh Reddick hit the tiebreaking RBI single in the sixth and made a game-saving, home-run robbing catch off the bat of Hunter Pence with two men on base:

Wade Miley outpitched Mike Minor, allowing two runs on only two hits and striking out seven over six.

Diamondbacks 3, Braves 2: It was 1-1 in the ninth when Josh Donaldson and David Peralta traded solo homers to send it to extras. The Dbacks rallied in their half of the tenth with a walk and consecutive singles off of Braves reliever A.J. Minter, the second single was a walkoff RBI from Ketel Marte. Ballgame. Good job, Braves bullpen. Capital effort. There was a home run robbery in this one too, with Adam Jones stealing a dinger from Ronald Acuña Jr.:

My favorite thing about that is when Jones slaps his glove to his thigh, which is the gesture outfielders make to signal “I got this one.” I get that on a regular fly ball, but it’s pretty sweet to see a guy so experienced and confident that he knows he’s got one that would’ve otherwise gone over the fence.

Nationals 6, Dodgers 0: The Nats have been on the skids lately but Patrick Corbin played stopped, tossing seven innings of shutout ball. The Nats got three off of Rich Hill in the first thanks to a Howie Kendrick homer. Kendrick is one of those guys you have to remind yourself is still in the league and then you look up and see that he’s hitting .325/.383/.588 with six homers on the year.

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.