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And That Happened: Wednesday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Twins 8, Angels 7: Byron Buxton and Jason Castro each hit two-run homers, Ehire Adrianza added a two-run double and the Twins needed all of that and more to hold off a late Angels rally. Minnesota has won 10 of their last 15 games

Yankees 5, Orioles 3; Yankees 3, Orioles 1: Have a day Gleyber Torres. The Yankees shortstop hit two homers in the first game and a third homer in the nightcap. Gary Sánchez and Cameron Maybin joined him in longball land in Game 1. Sánchez’s homer as a monster blast, going 449 feet and leaving the bat at nearly 115 m.p.h:

Domingo Germán was strong in the second game, tossing seven innings, allowing a run and striking out eight to notch his eighth win of the year and lowering his ERA to 2.41. Aroldis Chapman saved both ends of the twinbill. The Yankees have won 20 of 27 games despite still having 13 dudes on the injured list.

Diamondbacks 11, Pirates 1: Zack Greinke cruised in this one, pitching shutout ball into the eighth before leaving with abdominal tightness. They’re going to reevaluate him today. He may have hurt himself while batting but, hey, that’s a price worth paying for “purism” I guess. Blake Swihart hit a two-run, inside-the-park homer. Like the one the other night, it was all thanks to a bad carom and there was no play at the plate:

Eduardo Escobar and Adam Jones also homered. Jarrod Dyson had two hits, drove in two, scored three runs and stole two bases.

Giants 4, Blue Jays 3: Shaun Anderson was one of a couple of notable rookies to make his debut and to make an impact last night. Here the Giants starter did not figure in the decision but he did go five, allowing only two hits and two earned runs. His counterpart, Edwin Jackson, is about as opposite as you can get from a debuting rookie. Here he donned his record-breaking 14th uniform in 17 big league seasons as he made his Jays debut. Brandon Crawford‘s sixth inning homer broke a 3-3 tie and held up.

Reds 6, Cubs 5: Yasiel Puig hit an RBI single with the bases loaded in the 10th to give the Reds a walkoff win. Yu Darvish was pretty good for Chicago, striking out 11 and leaving with a 3-2 lead in the sixth, but the pen blew it, allowing one in the seventh and two in the eighth to force extras.

Nationals 5, Mets 1: Patrick Corbin has been a bright spot for the Nats so far this year and he lit up the Mets last night, allowing only one run on four hits and striking out 11 in eight innings of work. Not gonna say the Nats have been going poorly of late or that they were desperate for a win here, but they brought in closer Sean Doolittle for the ninth in this one with a four-run lead because (a) a closer doesn’t get much work when you’re playing like the Nats have played lately; and (b) a four-run lead is no sure thing for this crew in 2019.

Brewers 5, Phillies 2: Gio Gonzalez allowed one run and scattered seven hits while pitching into the sixth and Jesús Aguilar drove in a couple. I read two game stories about this one and both featured almost as much Milwaukee Bucks content as it did Brewers content so, yeah, the Brewers are gonna be on the back burner a bit. It happens. Bucks won if you care about such things.

Red Sox 6, Rockies 5: Boston built up a 5-0 lead after three innings, blew it by the seventh inning but then Michael Chavis hit a walkoff single in the tenth to give the Sox he win. J.D. Martinez homered for his third straight game and drove in three. Eduardo Rodríguez struck out 10. Boston won for the 12th time in their last 15 games.

Astros 5, Tigers 1: The Astros got seven impressive innings from Justin Verlander, who allowed only two hits and struck out nine guys who wore the same uniforms his old mates used to wear. Alex Bregman homered and Jake Marisnick went 2-for-3 and drove in a couple. Houston has won eight in a row. It’s only May 16 and they already lead their division by seven and a half. They have a +87 run differential and every other AL West team is negative. In 2017 they won the division by 21 games. Feel like they’re gonna shatter that this year.

Rays 1, Marlins 0: The Rays use seven pitchers to toss a seven-hit shutout and the wonderfully-named 29-year-old rookie catcher Anthony Bemboom plated the game’s only run with a second inning single. Sadly, Bemboom sprained his left knee blocking a pitch in the fifth and had to leave the game. He’ll likely be placed on the injured list. Here’s hoping it’s a short stay, he comes back and hits his first big league homer soon because you cannot have a guy named Bemboom not hit a homer. It’d be like abusing broadcasters who have waited their whole life to call such a shot. Miami has lost seven straight.

Braves 4, Cardinals 0: Braves prospect Austin Riley made his MLB debut and in his second at bat he crushed a ball 438 feet for his first major league home run. Later Charlie Culberson came in to replace him in left field and hit a two-run homer, so yeah, nice night from the 7 position. Nice night from the 1 too, as Mike Soroka tossed seven shutout innings, allowing only three hits.

In other news, Boog Sciambi was calling the game for ESPN and Hall of Famer Chipper Jones visited the booth. They told a story that Braves fans might remember but which I don’t think got a ton of wide exposure at the time. Setup: Chipper was in a slump and, before a game, had talked to then-Braves announcer Sciambi about it:

Rangers 6, Royals 1: The Rangers called up Willie Calhoun from Triple-A Nashville before this game and all he did was hit a two-run homer in the first inning. Later Ronald Guzmán singled in a run and hit a two-run shot, with Shin-Soo Choo adding a solo homer for good measure. Mike Minor continued his long audition for the trade deadline by allowing one run and scattering eight hits over five.

Dodgers 2, Padres 0: Kenta Maeda was a one man gang, pitching shutout ball into the seventh and striking out 12 while driving in the game’s only two runs with an RBI single in the second inning. Also: I’m not sure how a 2-0 game lasts three hours and six minutes, but this one did.

Rob Manfred explains reasoning behind proposal to cut 42 minor league teams

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As we learned earlier this week, Major League Baseball wants to contract 42 minor league teams, mostly in short-season and rookie ball. The proposal earned a lot of backlash, including from some of the teams on the chopping block and from Congress. MLB responded with its own letter to Congress, written by deputy commissioner Dan Halem, explaining the league’s reasoning.

In the letter, Halem complains about the lack of competition between minor league teams and independent teams. Halem wrote, “The lack of competition among operators of teams for an affiliation with a Major League Club has reduced the incentive for some affiliated Minor League teams to improve their facilities and player amenities.” It is an interesting thing to write as someone representing a $10 billion business that has benefited for a century from an antitrust exemption.

Halem also noted that MLB has several goals that are supposedly attained by cutting 26 percent of the minors: ensuring the quality of the facilities for the players, reducing the travel burden, improving the “compensation, accommodations, and amenities” for players, improving the affiliation process between minor league and major league teams.

Commissioner Rob Manfred essentially echoed that sentiment on Thursday, per Newsday’s Laura Albanese. He gave four reasons behind the proposal: inadequate facilities, travel, poor pay, drafting and signing players who don’t have a realistic shot to make it to the majors. The last reason is a new one, but let’s go over those four reasons in context.

It is true that some, perhaps even most, of the facilities of the 42 named teams are inadequate. It’s not all of them. As NECN’s Jack Thurston reports, the owner of the short-season Lowell Spinners, Dave Heller, said that his team’s stadium is “arguably the best facility in the New York-Penn League,” speaking highly of its lighting and field conditions. The Quad Cities River Bandits, the Astros’ Single-A affiliate and also on the chopping block, renovated their stadium a handful of times over the last 12 years. In fact, it earned an award from BallparkDigest.com for “Best Ballpark Improvement” in both 2008 and ’09, and finished third in the 2018 running for “Best View in the Minors.” At any rate, if facility quality is such a big issue, why did the Athletics continue to play in a stadium that repeatedly had its sewage system overflow in 2013?

Travel is certainly a big issue for minor leaguers because they mostly travel by bus, not plane. Having teams located closer to each other would be more beneficial in this regard. Or — and hear me out, here — major league teams could take on the extra expenditure of paying for their minor leaguers’ airfare. Several years ago, the Phillies took on the extra expenditure of making sure their minor leaguers ate healthy food and that has worked out well. The Blue Jays took on the extra expenditure of giving their minor leaguers a pay raise and that has worked out well. The Red Sox took on the extra expenditure of installing a sleep room at Fenway Park to ensure their players were well-rested and that has worked out well. No one is suggesting that Single-A players have to fly first class on every flight, but the travel issue is an easy fix that doesn’t require contracting 42 teams. Teams have individually chosen to improve their players’ quality of life and it has yielded positive results. Imagine it on a league-wide scale for thousands of players in their formative years.

Manfred citing minor league pay as a basis for the proposal is laughable. His own league successfully lobbied Congress to amend language in the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, classifying minor league players as seasonal workers. That means they are not entitled to a minimum wage or overtime pay, among other worker protections. If the pay of minor league players was so important to Major League Baseball, it wouldn’t have pressured the government to legally ensure they didn’t have to pay them a living wage. Every baseball team is worth at least a billion dollars. The league has set year-over-year revenue records for 16 consecutive years, crossing $10 billion in 2018. Minor leaguers could be compensated well without robbing Peter to pay Paul.

Lastly, it is true that a majority of minor league players will never reach the major leagues. That doesn’t mean that their presence in the minor leagues or their effort to realize their dreams have zero value. Lopping off the bottom 26 percent of minor leaguers might nominally increase the level of skill on each roster, but it eliminates so many jobs — well over 1,000. Furthermore, there are few incentives for athletes to want to slog through several years of the minors as it is, as Kyler Murray recently showed, but there would be even fewer incentives by shrinking the minors (and, consequently, the draft). Shrinking the minors and the draft could lead to more minor league free agents, but if baseball is actually interested in a free market (it’s not) then it should abolish the draft entirely as well as the arbitration system.

These reasons, each uniquely fallacious, hide the real reason behind the proposal: shifting money around so Major League Baseball can say it will award pay raises to minor leaguers, ending a years-long stretch of bad P.R., without actually cutting into profits. MLB could have afforded to pay minor leaguers a living wage years ago and it chose not to. MLB could have chosen not to lobby Congress for the ability to continue underpaying minor leaguers years ago, but it chose to do so. Everything since has been the league trying to avoid lying in the bed it made for itself.