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And That Happened: Wednesday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Braves 8, Pirates 7: Coming out of a rain delay tied at six, Josh Bell hit a solo shot for Pittsburgh in the top of the ninth. Braves rookie Austin Riley matched him with one of his own in the bottom half, however, sending things to extras. Riley played a part in the win, too, when he was hit by a pitch to lead off the bottom of the 11th. One batter and six pitches later Ozzie Albies doubled in Riley for the walkoff win. That’s six straight for Atlanta and, as of last night, sole possession of first place in the NL East.

Brewers 6, Astros 3: Justin Verlander struck out  15 batters in seven innings but he also gavr up three home runs — to  Ryan BraunYasmani Grandal, and Eric Thames — and ended up with a no-decision as the game went to extras. All the way to the 14th, in fact, where Astros reliever Cionel Pérez gave up a two-run shot to Mike Moustakas, after which Jesús Aguilar knocked in an insurance run. In the end, Astros pitchers struck out 24 Brewers batters. Didn’t matter, though.

Red Sox 4, Rangers 3: The Rangers tied it in the eighth on an unearned run but the Red Sox won it on a walkoff walk to Mookie Betts in the ninth. Futility Advantage: Boston. Andrew Benintendi hit a triple and two doubles, driving in two runs, but this game had no room for conventional offensive contributions. It turned on someone not making pitches or what have you.

I include the video highlight here, not because watching a guy take ball four is exciting, but because of the announcer’s words about how this sent “some outstanding momentum” over to the Boston Garden for the Bruins in the upcoming Game 7. Welp, that didn’t work. Tells you all you need to know about momentum.

Athletics 6, Rays 2: It was tied at two in the eighth when Ramón Laureano socked a grand slam to break it wide open. He had five RBI on the afternoon. Laureano’s comments on the slam:

“I was just trying to put the ball in the air and at least get one run but I got four. I just saw the umpire (signal) home run, and then I’m like `it’s cool.”

That started out like your standard cliche “just trying to put a good swing on the ball” quote but it sort of ended like an alternate verse to “Institutionalized” by Suicidal Tendencies. All he wanted was a Pepsi, just one Pepsi. And she wouldn’t give it to him. It doesn’t matter, I’ll probably get hit by a car anyway.

Wait, it’s more like that “United States of Whatever” song and the “Then, up comes Zafo and I’m like ‘Yo, Zafo, what’s up?'” line. Which I always felt was trying to tap into that “Institutionalized” energy but is a pale, pale imitation. Never settle for anything less than the best.

Reds 7, Indians 2: Nick Senzel and Joey Votto hit back-to-back home runs to start the game. Later Eugenio Suárez and Curt Casali went deep. José Peraza hit an RBI double. That Senzel and Peraza did anything was gravy giving that they collided into one another in the bottom of the first and were lucky to escape serious injury.

Cubs 10, Rockies 1: This one wasn’t close as Cole Hamels struck out nine in seven scoreless innings and the offense — Hamels, who drove in two runs, included — came through big. It was chippy, though, as four batters were hit. Hamels hit Nolan Arenado in the fourth inning and Arenado had to leave the game. In the seventh, Bryan Shaw hit Hamels. In the eighth, Anthony Rizzo was hit by Phillip Diehl. Warnings were issued. In the bottom of the ninth, Brad Brach hit Tony Wolters. Despite the warnings he wasn’t ejected. Which, OK. In the Braves-Pirates game the other night three people were ejected based on someone looking at someone else but here it was carnage and it was all good. Seems cool.

Diamondbacks 2, Phillies 0: Merrill Kelly pitched shutout ball into the eighth and two relievers finished the job. The Phillies got only three hits all day while being blanked. Two of those hits were from Nick Williams, who started in place of Bryce Harper, who got the day off outside of pinch-hitting duties. The game lasted only two hours and sixteen minutes. The Phillies had a plane to catch to Atlanta in advance of a day off tomorrow so maybe they had big plans doing whatever one does in Atlanta. Which I assume is a lot but like most people my primary experience in Atlanta is transferring Delta flights.

Marlins 9, Cardinals 0: Jordan Yamamoto made his big league debut on the hill for Miami. It went well, as he blanked the Cards on three hits over seven and he even bunted in a run. The pen finished the final two innings for the second three-hit shutout on the night. Garrett Cooper hit a grand slam. Curtis Granderson hit a three-run shot. Granderson was, like, getting his driver’s permit when Yamamoto was born, by the way.

Blue Jays 8, Orioles 6: Rowdy Tellez — who, again, I must stress, sounds like the name of a character in Quentin Tarantino’s upcoming epic involving a washed-up TV western star from the 1960s, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood —  hit a grand slam to cap a six-run fifth inning for the Jays. Lourdes Gurriel Jr. knocked in two, Vlad Guerrero Jr. had three hits and the Jays withstood a late O’s rally. The nine runs Toronto scored equalled the number of runs they had scored in their previous five games combined.

Tigers 3, Royals 2: Brandon Dixon hit a tiebreaking sacrifice fly in the eighth for the winning margin. Two of the Tigers’ three runs came via sac flies, with Miguel Cabrera popping in a run as well. Both teams hit the airport after this one, but even if they’re getting away, they’re not getting away from each other. They face off tonight in Omaha, for that College World Series game/classic/whatever thingy. Sometimes reporters get quotes from major leaguers in these kinds of off-site games about what it’s like to play in small towns like Omaha. Given how young and green the rosters of these Royals and Tigers teams are, I’m gonna say it’s not gonna feel radically different than what most folks involved are used to.

Mariners 9, Twins 6: Seattle went 1-for-17 with runners in scoring position and left 11 men on base. Almost every time you see those kinds of numbers you’re talking about a team that lost. You ask for miracles, Theo, I give you the Twins’ defense. Minnesota committed two errors in the tenth inning that led to three unearned Seattle runs. They committed five errors in all, in fact, leading to four unearned runs on the game. Miguel Sanó had two of those errors on one play in the tenth:

Not a game to remember for anyone, really.

Giants 4, Padres 2: Kevin Pillar homered, Donovan Solano had two hits and two RBI and Evan Longoria drove in the go-ahead run with an infield single in the sixth. The Padres rallied in the ninth but Giants closer Will Smith remained perfect in save opportunities on the year, locking down his 16th save in 16 chances. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Giants’ lone All-Star representative this year.

MLB execs go to bat in favor of shrinking minor leagues

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Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports published an article this morning in which he quotes several executives of MLB teams, including Diamondbacks GM Mike Hazen and Blue Jays president and CEO Mark Shapiro, defending the league’s proposal to cut 42 minor league baseball teams.

We first learned of the idea about a month ago. The proposal was widely panned, even drawing scorn from Congress as more than 100 members of Congress — including Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren — signed a letter condemning the league. In the time since, MLB has spent considerable time defending itself amid the public scrutiny. MLB also got into a bickering match with Minor League Baseball.

To generally sum up what was said in Brown’s column: the GMs echoed what MLB previously said in defensive of its proposal, which is that cutting 42 minor league teams (mostly in short-season and rookie ball) would free up more money to pay players more and improve their working conditions, including food and travel as well as facility conditions.

It is hypocritical for the league and team executives to express concern for the salaries and the quality of life for minor league players. After all, Major League Baseball spent millions of dollars lobbying Congress in order for language in the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to be amended. Doing so allowed the league to classify minor leaguers as seasonal workers and thus not owed things like a minimum wage and overtime pay, among other worker protections. This all happened because MLB is the defendant in a class-action lawsuit, originated by Aaron Senne and several other former minor league players, alleging that the league violated state and federal minimum wage laws with minor league players.

Shapiro is not a fan of Sanders’ constant harping on the league’s proposal. Shapiro said, “I’m never going to go toe-to-toe with him on domestic policy. But I will go toe-to-toe with Bernie Sanders on professional baseball.” As Brown explains, Shapiro is among those who believes that having a smaller minor league system would allow his organization to offer greater focus to each player remaining within that system. With the increased focus, the team would be better able to develop major league-caliber prospects. As we know, teams love prospects because their salaries are artificially depressed for the first six years of their careers.

One anonymous GM harped on the fact that “minor league baseball is not a moneymaker.” It didn’t sound like he was complaining; rather, simply recognizing how their parent teams view the situation. Another anonymous GM, however, said that the 42 teams are on the chopping block “for a reason.” He added, “I’m guessing that reason isn’t because they had overwhelmingly positive gate turnouts or that their facilities were in good shape. I think that’s been the criteria.”

As I pointed out last month, there are two teams that, at minimum, disprove the shabby-facility talking point. The Lowell Spinners (short-season) have had multiple renovations done in recent years. Team owner Dave Heller called his team’s stadium “arguably the best facility in the New York-Penn League.” The Quad Cities River Bandits, as another example, have earned awards from BallparkDigest.com for “Best Ballpark Improvement” and finished in third place as recently as two seasons ago for “Best View in the Minors.”

As for attendance, BallparkDigest has the 2019 numbers for all 160 teams here. The four Double-A teams on the chopping block — the Binghamton Rumble Ponies, Chattanooga Lookouts, Erie SeaWolves, and Jackson Generals — ranked 91st, 74th, 80th, and 130th, respectively. Only one of those teams is significantly below the 50th percentile. Furthermore, one of the High-A teams on the list, the Frederick Keys, ranked 57th in attendance this past season, close to being in the top one-third of the entire minor league system.

The arguments are obviously facile. We should expect nothing less, however, as these execs do the bidding of their team’s ownership. Their jobs necessitate developing players efficiently and thoroughly. Chopping 42 minor league teams would have the double benefit to them of helping reduce overhead so the owners can report higher profits, as well as making their system run more efficiently (or so they think). So be it if thousands of jobs in towns across the U.S. get slashed in the process. So be it if small towns lose a central focus of their local economies and cultures. So be it if baseball becomes significantly less accessible across the nation.