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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.

If 2020 season is cancelled, which players would be hurt the most?

Miguel Cabrera
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Last week, I went over a few teams that stood to be hurt most if there were to be no 2020 season as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19). Today, we will look at some players who may be adversely effected by a lost year.

Milestones

Players chasing milestones, especially those towards the end of their careers, would be stymied by a lost season. Tigers DH and future Hall of Famer Miguel Cabrera is the first one that comes to mind. He is 23 home runs short of joining the 500 home run club. Though he hasn’t hit more than 16 in a year since 2016, he would likely have at least hit a few this year and would have had an easier time getting there in 2021. He turns 37 years old in 10 days. Cabrera may be under contract through 2023, but it is not clear that his age and his health would allow him to play regularly such that he would be able to reach 500 home runs if the 2020 season were to be cancelled. (Cabrera is also 185 hits shy of 3,000 for his career.)

Mike Trout has 285 home runs for his career. It’s almost a given that he would get to 300 and beyond in 2020. He is currently one of only 13 players with at least 250 home runs through his age-27 season. The only players with more: Álex Rodríguez (345), Jimmie Foxx (302), Eddie Mathews (299), and Ken Griffey Jr. (294). Trout likely would have also reached 1,000 runs for his career, as he is currently at 903. Losing a full season could really make a difference where he winds up on the all-time leaderboards at the end of his career.

Veteran catcher Yadier Molina will be a free agent at season’s end, though he and the Cardinals have expressed interest in a contract extension. He turns 38 this summer and is 37 hits shy of 2,000 for his career. Even if this season never happens, Molina will likely join the 2,000 hit club in 2021 whether or not he signs a multi-year extension. Molina is also 84 RBI shy of 1,000 and 21 doubles shy of 400.

Free Agents

Dodgers outfielder Mookie Betts and Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto headline the free agent class heading into the 2021 season. Even if there eventually is a 2020 season, or something resembling it, teams are losing money across the board and that will result in stinginess in the free agent market. Make no mistake, Betts and Realmuto, as well as Trevor Bauer, Marcus Semien, and Marcus Stroman will still get paid handsomely, but they likely won’t get as much as they would following a typical year. The players that really stand to get hurt are the mid-tier free agents, whose cost won’t match their relative upside — players like James McCann, Howie Kendrick, Yuli Gurriel, DJ LeMahieu, Didi Gregorius, Andrelton Simmons, Justin Turner, Michael Grantley, Marcell Ozuna, Jackie Bradley Jr., Jay Bruce, and Josh Reddick.

2020-21 Draftees and International Free Agents

At the end of March, MLB and the MLB Players Association reached an agreement on a deal covering issues including service time, pay during the pandemic, and the amateur draft. In exchange for players on active rosters getting credit for a full year of service time whether or not there is a 2020 season, the league got the right to shorten the 2020 draft to five rounds and the 2021 draft to 20 rounds. The league also gained the right to delay the start of the 2020 and 2021-22 international signing periods.

The MLBPA effectively sold out what will be their future union members. A shortened draft this year and/or next year would mean that players who would otherwise have been drafted this year will go undrafted and thus will either become unsigned free agents or return to the draft next year as part of a crowded pool of players. Likewise, pushing back the international signing period will add more players to the market at the same time. This, obviously, benefits ownership as a surplus of labor diminishes those laborers’ leverage.

Bounce-back Candidates

Players coming off of injuries or otherwise down years in 2019 were hoping to use 2020 to bounce back, reestablishing themselves in the league. Angels two-way player Shohei Ohtani didn’t pitch at all last year after undergoing Tommy John surgery and was hopeful to rejoin the starting rotation at some point in the first half of a normal 2020 season. We learned yesterday that Ohtani is expected to throw off a mound “soon.” If a 2020 season does happen, it likely wouldn’t begin for another couple of months at minimum, which should afford him enough time to get into pitching shape.

Ohtani’s teammate and perennial Gold Glove Award candidate Andrelton Simmons played in only 103 games last season due to an ankle injury. He mustered a meager .673 OPS as well, compiling just 1.9 WAR, his lowest total in any season since debuting in 2012. In 2017, he peaked at 7.8 WAR and put up 6.3 the following season. Simmons will become a free agent after the 2020 season, so he most certainly needed a healthy and productive 2020 to maximize his leverage on the market.

Reds first baseman Joey Votto, now 36 years old, is coming off of the worst offensive season of his career. He hit .261/.357/.411 with 15 home runs and 47 RBI in 608 plate appearances, continuing a downward trend. He registered a 167 adjusted OPS as recently as 2017, but that declined to 126 in ’18 and 98 last year. The Reds, back to being competitive, were definitely banking on a bounce-back year from Votto. (Votto, by the way, is also 56 RBI short of the 1,000 milestone for his career.)