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And That Happened: Thursday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Twins 5, Indians 4: Max Kepler hit three homers and drove in four en route to a four-RBI night. Which is to say that the Kepler put the ball into orbit multiple times. I mean, there was some serious planetary motion on that horsehide. Just an astronomical night for Kepler.

Rockies 3, Cubs 1: Rockies starter Peter Lambert made his big league debut and all he did was allow one run on four hits over seven innings, striking out nine and beating the Cubs in Wrigley. It gets harder, kid, but enjoy it. And hey, since this was such a nice outing I’ll wait until his next start to observe that “Peter Lambert” sounds less like the name of a big league pitcher than the name of a star of a series of direct-to-VHS action and/or erotic thriller movies from the early 1990s. And I mean that as a compliment. Find the IMDb page for one of those sorts of actors someday and peruse. Those guys friggin’ work. My hat’s off to anyone who works as hard as a ham-and-egger actor worked in the home video age.

Astros 8, Mariners 7: A fourteen-inning marathon in which the winning run scored when Myles Straw led off the 14th inning with a triple and then came home on a Yuli Gurriel sac fly. Not that the Mariners made it easy. The game went this long because Seattle tied it with rallies in the ninth and 10th. They almost prolonged it — or out-and-out won it — by loading the bases in the bottom of the 14th via three walks from Chris Devenski, but he somehow wriggled out of it. After the game A.J. Hinch was quoted saying, “all’s well that ends well.” Which, since I didn’t watch this one, leads me to believe that the game included the betrothal of a low-born healer to a philandering nobleman, a convoluted swap-out of the wife and some virgin he’s trying to seduce, an inexplicable adoption, a superfluous subplot involving some guys pretending to be enemy soldiers to embarrass their cowardly friend and a totally unearned ending that turns on an implausible change of heart. I don’t know. It sounds like it was a problem game.  

Athletics 7, Angels 4: Stephen Piscotty and Ramón Laureano each drove in a couple, Mark Canha reached base four times. Piscotty homered, by the way, and this is how the AP gamer described its place in the game:

Piscotty’s seventh-inning homer was only a grace note on a second straight symphonic display of run production by an offense that can do more than blast the long ball.

As someone who wakes up at 0-dark-thirty to make Shakespeare and Johannes Kepler cracks, I appreciate this anonymous beat writer’s moxie.

Cardinals 3, Reds 1: Starter Dakota Hudson allowed one run on five hits in six and a third. Paul DeJong hit a tie-breaking, two-run homer in the seventh. The Cardinals stole four bases. They’re now tied for the league lead with 37. That’s cool, but I suppose it’s relative. The Cards stole their 37th base on June 6. In 1985 Vince Coleman alone stole his 37th base on June 4. This doesn’t matter, of course. I just like to talk about how different and weird 1980s baseball was sometimes.

Mets 7, Giants 3: Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith hit back-to-back home runs in the first, Pablo Sandoval and Brandon Belt homered later to give the Giants a 3-2 lead and then Todd Frazier homered in the eighth to put the Mets back on top for good. Those two Giants homers were two of only three hits San Francisco had on the day. That’s not gonna get it done.

Padres 5, Nationals 4: Washington jumped out to a 4-0 first inning lead but then starter Patrick Corbin coughed up five runs in five innings and that was that. Rather disorienting for a Nats starter to blow a game as opposed to a Nats reliever, but major leaguers are adaptable that way. Hunter Renfroe hit a two-run homer. Fernando Tatís Jr. returned for San Diego. He singled in the fifth and scored, with his wheels apparently pressuring Anthony Rendon into committing an error that led to two unearned runs. That’s what speed do.

Pirates 6, Braves 1: Mike Foltynewicz continues to struggle. He has given up 15 homers, which is just shy of the league lead at the moment. This from a guy who missed the first month of the season. Yeah, I think the Braves could use Dallas Keuchel. Chris Archer, meanwhile, cruised, allowing one run over six. Josh Bell had three doubles and knocked in two to give him 58 RBI on the year. Pittsburgh took two of three from Atlanta.

Rays 6, Tigers 1: Travis d'Arnaud hit two two-run homers and an opener/bullpen day resulted in Rays pitchers scattering eight hits and allowing one run in total. Will Adames went deep as well. Tampa Bay took two of three from the Tigers in a rare series win for them at Comerica Park. Of course this isn’t exactly the caliber of Tigers team the Rays have tended to face in Comerica Park over the years. Expect such series wins to be less rare for at least the next few seasons.

Red Sox 7, Royals 5: Boston sweeps Kansas City, outscoring the Royals 23-8 over the three-game series. Mookie Betts homered off of Danny Duffy. He is now 7-for-11 with five home runs against Duffy in his career. I’ve owned household appliances less-thoroughly than Betts owns Duffy.

Brewers 5, Marlins 1: Christian Yelich and Mike Moustakas homered in the first and Moustakas went deep again in the third. That was more than enough support for Freddy Peralta, who only allowed one over six. At one stretch of the game Peralta struck out eight of nine batters, most of whom probably had one foot on the charter back to Miami within ten minutes of the National Anthem ending. Milwaukee salvaged the third of the three-game series after getting outscored a combined 24-3 in the first two games.

Yankees 6, Blue Jays 2: Aaron Hicks hit a three-run homer in the second and after that the Yankees cruised. Gio Urshela homered too. J.A. Happ allowed only one run over innings to win his fifth straight decision. The Yankees salvage the finale of the three-game set.

Rangers 4, Orioles 3: A rash of injuries to Baltimore outfielders forced Chris Davis into duty in right field for the first time in three years. It didn’t go well. In the fifth inning, with Isiah Kiner-Falefa on first, Delino DeShields hit a routine single to right, only to have it skip past Davis’ glove. Kiner-Falefa scored the go-ahead run and DeShields ended up on third. He’d then come around to score what ended up being the run that gave the Rangers their margin of victory on a Danny Santana sac fly. Stuff happens, man. You only got so many bodies to put on the field and sometimes one of those bodies is Chris Davis.

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.