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And That Happened: Sunday’s Scores and Highlights

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Hi. I’m back. I was in Los Angeles on vacation. I saw a Dodgers game. The Dodgers lost but the sky was beautiful and a friend I hadn’t seen in a while joined me. Often times the best thing about a ballgame has very little to do with the actual ballgame.

Anyway, here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Phillies 9, Braves 4: J.T. Realmuto hit a grand slam and Bryce Harper, Rhys Hoskins and Adam Haseley all went deep as the Phillies avoided the sweep at the hands of the Braves. Aaron Nola was dominant for six innings but got tagged for four in the seventh so his line score looked worse than his game. A pretty decent finish to the series for Philly given that they lost the first two games of the three-game set by a combined 24-9.

Royals 9, Indians 6: This game will be remembered as the Trevor Bauer meltdown game. He got shellacked, giving up eight runs — seven earned — in four and a third and when Terry Francona came out to the mound to take him out of the game he had a little temper tantrum and threw the baseball over the fence in center field:

Francona asked Bauer “What the f**k is wrong with you?” After all these years watching Bauer be, well, Bauer, I don’t know that anyone has a good answer for that. For what it’s worth, here’s what Bauer had to say after the game:

“I’m an intense competitor and that fire is what drives me. Today it completely consumed me and took over. I just wanted to say I’m sorry for how I behaved. It won’t happen again.”

I guess those of us who had cranky toddlers didn’t realize that we really just had “intense competitors” the whole time. And here I missed out on sending my then-three-year-old son off to play baseball at the highest levels. My loss.

Rays 10, Blue Jays 9: Toronto led 4-0 and 8-1 but the Rays fought back. Ji-Man Choi and Guillermo Heredia each hit two-run home runs and Willy Adames tied the game with a solo shot in the eighth. Joey Wendle drove in the tie-breaking run with a bases-loaded groundout in the ninth. There was just as much action in the executive suites, as Eric Sogard was traded from the Jays to the Rays in the middle of the game. Sadly no one had the hustle to get him a Rays uniform fast enough for him to play for both teams in the game. I dunno, maybe that’s not even allowed. It should be, though. We need more exciting crap like that to happen.

Mets 8, Pirates 7: New York jumped out with six runs in the fourth and, while not enough to win the game, they won the game anyway. Michael Conforto hit a two-run homer. The Mets scored three unearned runs. That’s a four-game winning streak for the Mets, who are now 10-5 since the All-Star break. The Pirates, meanwhile, are terrible and have lost eight in a row and 14 of 16. After the game the Mets acquired Marcus Stroman. Which would mean they’re going for it. Whatever “it” is for a team six and a half out of the Wild Card with many teams in front of them and who are likewise strongly rumored to be trading away Noah Syndergaard despite the fact they acquired Stroman. I guess enjoy the winning streak while it lasts because anything beyond the moment at hand for the Mets is an utter mystery.

Marlins 5, Diamondbacks 1: Elieser Hernández and four relievers combined to toss a four-hit, one-run game against the Snakes, who have alternated wins and losses over their last seven games. It’s like a Dutch 200 for baseball. Wait, can we say “Dutch 200” anymore? I know you’re not supposed to say “let’s go Dutch” if you’re splitting the check, but a “Dutch 200” was definitely a thing we youth bowlers tried to do back in the day. I hope you can still call it a Dutch 200. Although maybe I shouldn’t care. Anyway, Miguel Rojas, Brian Anderson and Harold Ramírez all went deep for the Fish.

Reds 3, Rockies 2: Alex Wood made his 2019 debut and, though he didn’t qualify for the win, he pitched well enough for four and two-thirds. Tucker Barnhart hit a tie-breaking single in the sixth inning to push the Reds to victory. Cincinnati took two of three.

Nationals 11, Dodgers 4: Stephen Strasburg won his seventh consecutive start and his 14th game overall by tossing seven innings of one-run, two-hit ball. Meanwhile, Brian Dozier and Juan Soto each homered and Anthony Rendon had three hits and four RBI. The Nats salvaged one in the three-game set and broke a three-game losing streak. Now they start a three-game set against the Braves, who they trail by five and a half.

Cubs 11, Brewers 4: Kyle Schwarber hit a second inning grand slam that went about eleventeen miles and then hit a three-run homer in the fourth to give the Cubs a 7-0 lead all by his lonesome. Victor Caratini helped out with a three-run homer later.

Twins 11, White Sox 1: The Twins jumped out to a 5-0 lead and led 9-0 before the fifth was over. Miguel Sanó Jorge Polanco, Jonathan Schoop and Max Kepler all went deep as the Twins completed a three-of-four-games pounding of the White Sox to maintain their thin lead over the Indians in the Central, which is now at two games. It was one when yesterday began. While on my vacation I had lost track of almost all baseball except for that game I went to in L.A. and, I’ll have to admit, realizing how close the AL Central has gotten over the past couple of weeks snuck up on me.

Astros 6, Cardinals 2: George Springer led off the game with a home run because of course he did and Jose Altuve and Yordan Alvarez socked homers as well. Altuve had three hits. Paul Goldschmidt‘s streak of six straight games with a home run came to an end. Houston has won nine of 11.

Angels 5, Orioles 4: Matt Thaiss opened the scoring in the game with a second inning two-run homer. He also ended the scoring with a walkoff solo homer. In between those two Albert Pujols hit his 650th career longball. Only 646 more for Thaiss to tie Pujols. Thaiss’ heroism kept the O’s from completing a four-game sweep of the Angels which, frankly, would’ve been embarrassing.

Giants 7, Padres 6: Mike Yastrzemski had four hits, two RBI and scored the go-ahead run and Madison Bumgarner pitched seven solid enough innings to win his last game before the trade deadline. If the deadline, in fact, matters as the Giants are surging and now stand only two and a half back in the Wild Card race. Do they still sell off? Probably, but I have no idea.

Mariners 3, Tigers 2: J.P. Crawford hit a walkoff single with one out in the 10th inning to carry the M’s to their fifth straight win. The teams combined to use eleven pitchers in an 3-2 game. Thats quite the dang thing but that’s 2019 for ya.

Athletics 6, Rangers 5: A third AL West walkoff win, this one coming after a two-run rally with the first run scoring when Matt Olson singled in Chris Hermann. That was followed by a walkoff walk to Khris Davis. Marcus Semien is the one who scored on the walk. Earlier he homered. Tough loss for the Rangers, who rallied from a 4-2 deficit in the eighth to take a 5-4 lead.

Yankees 9, Red Sox 6: I didn’t watch this one even though I was home because “A Place in the Sun” was on TCM and I’d rather watch Monty Cliff and Liz Taylor do their thing for two hours than watch the Yankees and Red Sox do their thing for over three and a half. Although, on some level, you sort of know what you’re getting with both of these. Shelly Winters, as usual, ends up dead in the water — seriously, that happens in like four of her movies — and the ESPN booth spends more time talking about other stuff than the game in front of them. Frankly, I’ll take Cliff, Taylor and dead Shelly Winters over New York and Boston. Although maybe we could trade away Raymond Burr, who seems to be acting in a completely different movie, for Mookie Betts. Ah, yes. Mookie Betts as the prosecutor in “A Place in the Sun” would make it even better. He’d never smash that rowboat. He’d have Cliff on death row way easier than that.

Wait. Where was I? Oh yeah, the ballgame:

Chris Sale continues to be terrible, allowing six runs in five and a third. It’s the fourth time in his last six outing he’s allowed at least five. Austin Romine and Didi Gregorius homered to give the Yankees a 4-0 lead early and after that it appeared from the box score anyway to be kind of a snooze fest of bad pitching and defense. Again, I stress, “A Place in the Sun” was the way better choice.

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.