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And That Happened: Thursday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Indians 7, Twins 5: Mike Clevinger allowed only two runs on three hits with nine strikeouts in seven innings and José Ramírez knocked in three as the Indians took the first game in a crucial four-game set against the division-leading Twins, cutting that lead to one game. Minnesota has been in sole possession of first place since April 27 and led the division by 11.5 games on June 3. The Indians are 40-16 since June 4, however, which is the best record in baseball in that span. The Twins’ exclusive hold on the division lead could end tonight.

Yankees 12, Blue Jays 6: Gio Urshela hit two home runs for the second straight game. He’s now hitting .323/.367/.568 in 94 games. I’m struggling to think of any team that could lose a guy like Miguel Andújar and could just plug in a guy doing that kind of damage as if it were nothing, but that’s the 2019 Yankees for you. Mike Tauchman homered too. The Yankees have hit 19 homers over their last four games. It’s getting rather ridiculous. Bo Bichette homered and doubled in a losing cause. The double was record-setting.

Red Sox 3, Angels 0: Does anyone know what to make of Chris Sale‘s 2019 season? Nightmarish in many respects, but he has still been striking guys out like crazy and, on a few occasions, he’s looked like the best pitcher in baseball. Such as here, where he tossed eight shutout innings, allowed only two hits and fanned 13 Angels batters. I guess facing those Angels batters and not the Yankees, as he has the past couple of times out, helps, but that’s likely not the alpha and omega of it. That’s seven straight losses for the Angels. It’s only the second win in 11 games, if you don’t count the other night’s suspended game, for the Bosox.

Tigers 10, Royals 8: Kansas City led by two, then Detroit came back and led by three, then KC came back to lead by one, then it was tied 8-8 heading into the bottom of the ninth when Jordy Mercer came to the plate and walked it off with a two-run homer:

There were eight homers in this game in all, which helps explain all that see-saw action. Also, Royals pitchers walked Tigers batters nine times — nine times? — nine times. Not the sort of thing you should be doing to the worst offense in baseball.

Marlins 9, Braves 2: Miami jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first and piled on five more in the fourth before taking a 9-0 lead the following inning. Which is to say: not a competitive contest. Marlins starter Elieser Hernández had no problem with the usually potent Braves offense, tossing six shutout innings, allowing only two hits while striking out seven. The same could not be said for his counterpart, Dallas Keuchel, who got shellacked for right of those nine runs, giving up ten hits, three of which were longballs. Two of those longballs came off of the bat of Brian Anderson. Starlin Castro had two hits and drove in three while Jon Berti went 3-for-5 with two RBI for Miami.

Cubs 12, Reds 5: Remember, like, two years ago, when it was an odd thing for position players to pitch? It happens all the time now, even in games that, while not competitive, are not the sorts of games that used to see that once-rare occurrence. While it still can be rather amusing to see it happen, I’m increasingly of the notion that there’s something wrong with baseball teams basically surrendering as often as they do. Teams have come back from seven-run deficits, you know. The now-extinct mopup man has, in the past, picked up some wins thanks to some late surges. Now, in the name of efficiency and saving bullpen arms for tomorrow’s eight-reliever game, we get what once was a novelty at least once a week.

In this game we had that, with Reds infielder Kyle Farmer pitching. In response, Javier Báez, an exclusively right-handed hitter, decided to get silly and bat left-handed.

Again, there’s something rather fun about all of that — and impressive, given that Báez managed to make pretty solid contact hitting goofyfoot — but I can’t help but be a bit troubled how common it’s becoming for parts of ballgames to be turned into defacto exhibitions. I’m open to the possibility that I’m just being grumpy here, but I think today’s ever-in-search-of-optimization-even-at-the-expense-of-competitive-baseball front offices aren’t entitled to the benefit of the doubt on this kind of thing.

As for the game: Nicholas Castellanso hit two homers and his now hitting .433/.452/.933 with nine extra-base hits in the week of games he’s played since being traded to Chicago. The Cubs have now won six of seven and have increased their NL Central lead to three and a half games.

Giants 5, Phillies 0: Madison Bumgarner shut the Phillies down in resounding fashion, tossing one-hit shutout ball for seven innings, with two relievers completing the one-hitter. Mike Yastrzemski homered and doubled in two on a three-RBI night. The Phillies have lost three in a row and four of five. This kind of game — a punchless, almost phoned-in performance against a non-contender — is the sort of game that gets cited when a manager is fired. Just sayin’.

Padres 9, Rockies 3: For the second game in a row and for the sixth time this year, Padres’ super rookie Fernando Tatís Jr. hit a leadoff homer and knocked in another with an RBI single. He also flashed some serious leather in this one for an all-around impressive performance:

I suspect that Pete Alonso will win the NL Rookie of the Year Award, with voter citing Tatís missing time for injury and Alonso’s importance to a team still contending for a playoff spot, but Tatís is a fantastic overall player who will likely be challenging for MVP awards in the not too-distant future. By the end of the year I think there will be some very, very good and lively debates about whether he or Alonso should take home the hardware.

MLBPA: MLB’s ‘demand for additional concessions was resoundingly rejected’

Rob Manfred and Tony Clark
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On Thursday evening, the Major League Baseball Players Association released a statement regarding ongoing negotiations between the owners and the union. The two sides continue to hash out details concerning a 2020 season. The owners want a shorter season, around 50 games. The union recently proposed a 114-game season that also offered the possibility of salary deferrals.

MLBPA executive director Tony Clark said that the union held a conference call that included the Executive Board and MLBPA player leaders. They “resoundingly rejected” the league’s “demand for additional concessions.”

The full statement:

In this time of unprecedented suffering at home and abroad, Players want nothing more than to get back to work and provide baseball fans with the game we all love. But we cannot do this alone.

Earlier this week, Major League Baseball communicated its intention to schedule a dramatically shortened 2020 season unless Players negotiate salary concessions. The concessions being sought are in addition to billions in Player salary reductions that have already been agreed upon.

This threat came in response to an Association proposal aimed at charting a path forward. Among other things, Players proposed more games, two years of expanded playoffs, salary deferrals in the event of a 2020 playoff cancellation, and the exploration of additional jewel events and broadcast enhancements aimed at creatively bringing our Players to the fans while simultaneously increasing the value of our product. Rather than engage, the league replied it will shorten the season unless Players agree to further salary reductions.

Earlier today we held a conference call of the Association’s Executive Board and several other MLBPA Player leaders. The overwhelming consensus of the Board is that Players are ready to report, ready to get back on the field, and they are willing to do so under unprecedented conditions that could affect the health and safety of not just themselves, but their families as well. The league’s demand for additional concessions was resoundingly rejected.

Important work remains to be done in order to safely resume the season. We stand ready to complete that work and look forward to getting back on the field.

As per the current agreement signed in March, if there is a 2020 season, players will be paid on a prorated basis. Thus, fewer games means the players get paid less and the owners save more. MLB has threatened to unilaterally set a 2020 season in motion if the two sides cannot come to terms. It should come as no surprise that the union has responded strongly on both fronts.

There have been varying reports in recent days over the confidence in a 2020 season happening. The MLBPA’s statement tonight doesn’t move the needle any; it simply affirms that the union remains steadfast in its goal to avoid a second significant cut in salaries.

As I see it, the ball is in the owners’ court. The owners can strongarm the players into a short season, saving money but significantly increasing the odds of a big fight in upcoming collective bargaining agreement negotiations. Or the owners can eat more of a financial loss, agreeing to a longer season than they feel is comfortable. The latter would have the double benefit of not damaging overall perception of the sport and would not disrupt labor peace going forward.

The MLBPA statement included a declaration that the players are “ready to report, ready to get back on the field, and they are willing to do so under unprecedented conditions.” If there is no 2020 season, we will have only the owners to blame, not the players.

Update: Cardinals pitcher Jack Flaherty, who has been quite vocal on social media about these negotiations, chimed in: