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And That Happened: Monday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Astros 8, Tigers 1: The Tigers sent Matt Boyd out, who has been their best starter all year, but it didn’t matter given how much of a buzzsaw the Astros have been lately. They win their sixth straight, thanks to homers from Aledmys Díaz, Robinson Chirinos, Jake Marisnick and Alex Bregman.

And get this: George Springer made leaping grabs to rob Niko Goodrum of hits — and maybe a homer on the first one — for both the first out in the first inning and the last out in the bottom of the ninth:

Goodrum has to maybe take that a little personally I’d imagine.

Phillies 7, Brewers 4: Bryce Harper struck out three times on an 0-for-4 night, which puts him on a pace for 212 strikeouts on the year. That led ESPN’s David Schoenfield to ask “did the Phillies give $330 million to Mark Reynolds?”

Harper did do this, however, when the game was tied and the bases were loaded in the top of the seventh, so the night wasn’t a total loss of sick burns:

J.T. Realmuto doubled in the go-ahead run in the bottom half of that inning. Cesar Hernandez hit a two-run homer. Lorenzo Cai had five hits in a losing cause for Milwaukee. There were 13 pitchers used in this nine inning game with neither team using an opener or anything. The thing took just shy of four hours. I didn’t watch it so maybe it was supremely enjoyable or something, but based on the box score it’s the platonic ideal of a game that drives Rob Manfred crazy and inspires him to come up with odd rules he can inflict on his guinea pigs in the Atlantic League.

Angels 5, Twins 4: Shohei Ohtani has started off slowly in his first few games back from Tommy John surgery, but here he hit a two-run home run off of José Berríos in the third inning to give the Angels a 3-2 lead. He also reached base in four of his five plate appearances. Tommy La Stella, who was 3-for-5 on the night, would homer later for some insurance for the Halos. It was his tenth, continuing his rather improbable power surge on the year. The Angels have won five of seven on this road trip. Granted, the first six of those seven games were in Detroit and Baltimore, but wins are wins, right?

White Sox 5, Indians 2: Yoan Moncada hit two solo homers and Jose Abreu and Welington Castillo each hit solo homers of their own. All that backed  Reynaldo López, who allowed two — only one earned – while pitching into the eighth. Cleveland managed only two hits in the entire game. Just a really, really, pathetic offense.

Diamondbacks 9, Pirates 3: The Snakes’ bats woke up. Eduardo Escobar homered, tripled and drove in three. Christian Walker homered. David Peralta had two hits and drove in two. Alex Avila reached base four times and drove in a run. Arizona-Pittsburgh is not exactly a rivalry on par with Ohio State and Michigan, but it’s sort of playing out like that rivalry at the moment, as the Diamondbacks have a nine-game regular-season winning streak against the Pirates and are 13-1 in the last 14 meetings.

Mariners 6, Athletics 5: The Mariners, down by a run, staged a two out rally in the bottom of the tenth for a walkoff win that snapped a four-game losing streak. The rally started with a Dan Vogelbach walk, after which Dee Gordon was inserted as a pinch runner. Gordon stole second, then came around to tie the game on a Domingo Santana double. Omar Narváez then singled in Santana for the game-winner. A nice little small ball-aided win on a night when the A’s hit five solo homers and and the M’s hit two of their own.

Orioles vs. Yankees — POSTPONED: I follow a lot of people who live in New York and every single one of them was saying as early as 10am yesterday that there was no way this game was being played and that they should’ve postponed it way, way before anyone would’ve had to go to the ballpark. Instead, they did nothing, delayed the game for a couple of hours and then finally postponed it despite the fact that there was no window whatsoever in which the game could’ve realistically been played. Pretty disrespectful to fans and stadium employees and stuff in my view, but I guess if you’re the Yankees you do what you want. Anyway:

Another rainy day in New York City
Softly sweet, so silently it falls
As crosstown traffic crawls
Memories in my way in New York City
Tender, tough, too tragic to be true
And nothing i can do
City workers cheer
The taxis disappear
Another rainy day in New York City
Another spacey stay in New York city
High up in an overpriced hotel
The view is really swell
Windy, wet and gray in New york City
No one here i really want to see
Old friends and family
So suddenly serene
The air is fresh and clean
Another rainy day in New York City

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.