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And That Happened: Sunday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

White Sox 10, Phillies 5: Leury Garcia smacked a grand slam, Eloy Jimenéz hit a three-run shot and Tim Anderson hit a solo shot as the White Sox won easily. What do the Phillies need to do to turn this recent skid around, Bryce Harper?

“Just keep playing Philly baseball,” Harper said. “Keep being the same team.”

Uh, isn’t that part of the problem, dude?

Orioles 6, Blue Jays 5: I got a smoker for my birthday and made ribs for the first time yesterday and they came out awesome. Did a Texas-style dry rub. No brown sugar. No barbecue sauce. I know that’s not everyone’s jam, but it’s my favorite way to eat ’em. Despite never having made ribs myself I was really happy with the results too. I think next time I’m gonna do a dry brine and change up the rub a bit. Yeah, I’m mentioning all of this to keep me from having to talk about a sloppy as hell game between a couple of teams going nowhere that turned on wild pitches and errors more than competent baseball. ProudlyCanadian reads this feature every day and is one of our most active commenters. I’m sure he has opinions about all of it, at least from the Jays perspective, that are way better than anything I could come up with. O’s folks can chime in too. I can’t bring myself to do it. In the meantime, anyone with a good recipe for a smoked chicken or brisket or something, let me know.

Indians 6, Angels 2: Shane Bieber tossed his third complete game of the year, allowing two runs on five hits and was backed by homers from Oscar Mercado, Francisco Lindor and Jason Kipnis, who knocked in three in all. The Tribe sweeps the Angels. After the game Terry Francona said this about Bieber, who has stepped into the ace role that Corey Kluber once held:

“You can go back six or seven years and see everything I said about Kluber, then put Bieber’s name in there and it would be true. You know how we feel about Kluber and his work ethic, so to put Justin in there with him, I meant it as a huge compliment.”

I do realize he meant that as a compliment but I’m getting some “All About Eve” vibes, here, with Kluber in the Margo Channing role and Bieber as Eve Harrington. I’m not sure who the Bill Simpson or Addison DeWitt figure are in all of this, but give me some time and I’ll sketch it out.

Rays 7, Marlins 2: Six straight wins for the Rays. Yonny Chirinos got the start for Tampa Bay and pitched well but had to leave due to an inflammation to his right middle finger. Probably best to keep it isolated and elevated. And that’s whether it’s injured or not, frankly. Mike Brosseau and Jesus Aguilar each homered and drove in a couple.

Reds 6, Braves 4: The Shane Greene acquisition hasn’t worked out so well for the Braves so far. He blew a save in his first appearance for Atlanta on Saturday and yesterday he gave up a three-run homer to Tucker Barnhart in the tenth inning and took the loss. And it wasn’t just the homer. He gave up three singles before that to set the big fly up, so, yah. Sonny Gray tossed seven shutout innings. After he left Josh Donaldson and Ronald Acuña each homered to tie it and force extras. That was pretty exciting. Until it wasn’t.

Mets 13, Pirates 2: Noah Syndergaard allowed one on only three hits over seven. He didn’t need to be that good, as the Mets unloaded a can of whoopass on Joe Musgrove and the Pirates’ staff. J.D. Davis, Michael Conforto and Jeff McNeil all homered. Syndergaard had a couple of hits himself. The only bad thing for the Mets yesterday was Robinson Canó leaving with a messed up hamstring. Right when he was heating up too. The Mets have won nine of ten and are three back in the Wild Card.

Astros 3, Mariners 1: Justin Verlander was Justin Verlander, striking out 10 over six innings to help the Astros win their fourth in a row. They’ve allowed four runs in those games so I’d say their pitching is in order at the moment. And Zack Greinke still hasn’t made his first appearance for Houston. That comes Tuesday.

Twins 3, Royals 0: Devin Smeltzer and three relievers shut the Royals out on two hits, Jason Castro homered and and Eddie Rosario drove in two. That whole “the Twins are collapsing as the Indians surge” thing is not playing out the way it was before. Minnesota has won eight of ten and that three-game cushion seems to be holding steady.

Cubs 7, Brewers 2: Big day for Cubs players who have caught a lot of hell over the past couple of years. Jason Heyward drove in three. He homered as did Kyle Schwarber, and Yu Darvish allowed one run over five. The Brewers have lost six of seven and this three-game sweep shoves them four games back in the Central.

Rockies 6, Giants 2: Two dingers for Nolan Arenado. Trevor Story homered too. It was his fifth straight game with a homer against the Giants. He’s a . . . what’s a good word for someone who constantly does well against Giants? If only someone had an idea for a phrase that describes such a thing? Wait, I’ve got it — he’s a . . . do-gooder-against-Giants-person!

Rangers 9, Tigers 4: A three-game sweep of the Tigers which, once you adjust for it being the Tigers is more of a .75 game sweep, right? Willie Calhoun hit a tie-breaking three-run triple in the seventh. Danny Santana hit a two-run homer earlier. The Rangers won all six games against the Tigers this year.

Athletics 4, Cardinals 2: Tanner Roark made his A’s debut and he did a pretty good job of it, allowing one run over five. Dustin Garneau doubled in a couple. Jurickson Profar homered. A two-game sweep for the A’s. But, like, since when do you have a two-game weekend series? There’s a total glitch in the matrix, man.

Dodgers 11, Padres 10: A wild one. Max Muncy went 4-for-5 with a home run, three RBI and three runs scored, including a walk-off, two-run double to help the Dodgers come back from a late three-run deficit. That wasted Eric Hosmer‘s grand slam and five RBI day. Dodgers take three of four from the Padres and have won five of six.

Diamondbacks 7, Nationals 5: Ketel Marte had three hits including an inside-the-park homer and Adam Jones drove in four, which included a tie-breaking RBI single. That inside the parker was, as a lot of them are, a function of a poor defensive choice, but such is life:

The Nats have lost seven of ten.

Yankees 7, Red Sox 4: David Price couldn’t make it out of the third and was pounded for seven runs on nine hits. New York plated six runs in that third inning with Gio Urshela hitting a two-run home run, Cameron Maybin hitting an RBI double, Mike Ford knocking in a run with a single, and Mike Tauchman hitting his own RBI single. The Yankees complete the four-game sweep and hand the Sox their eighth straight loss, which now has them 14.5 games behind New York and six and a half games back of the Rays for the second Wild Card.

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.