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And That Happened: Tuesday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Angels 5, Rangers 1; Rangers 3, Angels 2: It was about 1,000 degrees for Game 1 of this twin bill, with the Angels coming off an extra innings game in which they used eight pitchers, so big ups to Andrew Heaney for going eight innings while striking out a career-high 14 without walking a batter. Mike Trout homered as well, giving him a career-high 42 on the season. The nightcap featured Nick Solak — who made his big league debut in the opener — hitting a homer and hit a hot shot to Albert Pujols at first base in the 11th that turned into an error that allowed Delino DeShields to score from second base and give the Rangers a walkoff win. Still: Angels won the doubleheader under my rules, 7-4.

Braves 5, Marlins 1:  Freddie Freeman hit two home runs and knocked in four and Dallas Keuchel allowed one run over six as the Braves won easily. The Marlins, though, are still the Marlins, and carried over their bullcrap from last season by plunking Ronald Acuña Jr. in the bottom of the first for his crime of being good at baseball. Even if one were to grant that, sometimes, a team needs to put a young star on another team in his place — I won’t grant that, but let’s assume it for a moment — where do the Marlins get off being that team? Maybe stop sucking for, like, five minutes in a decade and we’ll talk. 

Orioles 4, Royals 1: The O’s won a game! Someone check on the space-time continuum and fabric of the universe! Dylan Bundy allowed one run over seven and Hanser Alberto — who I will say is, perhaps, the most anonymous player in Major League Baseball to have played in as many as four seasons — hit a tie-breaking three-run homer in the eighth. If the O’s win again tonight they will have their first winning streak since August 3-4.

Pirates 4, Nationals 1: Basically the same game as the O’s Royals game, with it close until late when someone hit a three-run homer. This someone — Starling Marte — is a bit better-known, of course. And the form of the loss for the Nats is pretty well-known too: Stephen Strasburg pitched a gem, shutting the Pirates out over seven, and then handed it over to two relievers — Wander Suero and Daniel Hudson — who gave up all four Pittsburgh runs before recording the second out in the eighth inning. And the first out was a sacrifice that scored one of the runs. Just brutal stuff.

Mets 9, Indians 2: It was tied at two in the sixth when Joe Panik hit a routine pop fly to Oscar Mercado in left field and Mercado just . . . dropped it, while attempting a lazy one-hand grab. Shane Bieber struck out the next batter — which would’ve been out number three if not for the error — and then Michael Conforto came up and cranked a two-run homer, giving the Mets a lead they’d never relinquish. Earlier in the game Mercado maybe could’ve caught a fly ball that a fan caught instead:

The ruling there was that, while the fan interfered with the ball, Mercado would not have caught it. The Indians didn’t beef about that too much, but sorry, that fan is kind of a jerk. Mostly because of how snotty he was after he caught that. Indeed, he kept taunting Mercado about it and was eventually escorted from the stadium. Can’t wait for netting to go all the way down the lines next year to keep Mr. Blonde there out of the action.

Anyway, three wins in a row for New York and four of five.

Phillies 3, Red Sox 2: Philly jumped out to a first inning 3-0 lead via an RBI double from Jean Segura and an RBI single from Scott Kingery and, thanks to seven strong innings from Aaron Nola — marred only by a two-run shot from Jackie Bradley Jr. — it held up.

Mariners 7, Rays 4: M’s catcher Tom Murphy hit his sixth homer in his last four games, with this one breaking a 4-4 tie in the sixth inning. The M’s scoring was bookended by Kyle Seager hitting a two-run homer in the first and an RBI double in the seventh. Murphy’s homer, by the way, came after a walk to Seager, so it was quite the team-up. Seattle has won six of eight.

Reds 3, Padres 2: Sonny Gray allowed one run over six while striking out ten. The night before Trevor Bauer struck out 11. Which leads to this little stat that, frankly, blew my mind:

I know double-digit strikeout games are ubiquitous now, but they were not SO rare before the last few years to where I ever would’ve guessed that the Reds would’ve gone 51 years between two starters turning one out on back-to-back days. Like, Mario Soto — who struck out a lot of dudes for his time — and Tom Seaver were in the Reds rotation at the same time for cryin’ out loud. But nope. Baseball is pretty neat sometimes.

Cardinals 9, Brewers 4: Dexter Fowler hit a bases-loaded double and drove in four runs as the Cardinals broke the game open with a four-run sixth inning against three Milwaukee relievers. Remember when the bullpen was the Brewers’ strength? Oh, and check out this catch from Harrison Bader. It came on the first pitch of the game in Bader’s first game back in the big leagues since being sent down to Memphis for the past three weeks:

Dude covered a lot of ground in a very short amount of time to snag that one.

Anyway, the Cardinals have won nine of their last 11 and maintain a half game lead in the Central. The Brewers have lost six of their last eight and are now four back.

Cubs 5, Giants 3: The Cubs kept pace with St. Louis thanks to two Anthony Rizzo homers and a tie-breaking RBI infield single by Jonathan Lucroy in the fifth. Cole Hamels picked up the win by allowing three over six despite not having his best stuff. I feel like every Cole Hamels win I’ve paid attention to this year has been a “despite not having his best stuff” game, but maybe it’s just observational bias.

Speaking of bias — and a game involving San Francisco — allow me to go on a tangent for a second. Y’all should read this article about a near-miss incident at San Francisco International Airport in 2017. A plane almost landed on a taxiway instead of a runway. If it hadn’t pulled up at the very last second as many as 500 people in 2-3 planes likely would’ve died. As it was, no one was hurt and no one outside of the cockpits of the planes and the control tower even knew anything had happened until way after the fact. Indeed, the passengers just got off the plane that was landing thinking they had had a normal flight. The article walks through the NTSB report and explains how it all happened and how it was averted. The upshot, and what makes it interesting to me, is that it deals with two of my very favorite topics.

First, expectation bias, which is the phenomenon in which what people expect to happen and what they expect to observe often holds so much sway in their heads that they readily ignore even the most obvious contrary evidence right in front of their faces. In this case, the pilots expected to see a runway, not a taxiway, when they looked out their window just so, and continued to try to land on it even though there was every reason to observe that it was, in fact, a taxiway.

The second thing deals with how, in this case, there was not merely one big glaring mistake that led to the near-disaster. It was a series of many little mistakes, any one of which would not be a big deal, but all of which, lined up just so via happenstance, amounted to a cascade of failures that almost created a catastrophe. I have found that almost any disaster — be it an accident, an engineering mishap, a military blunder, a space shuttle exploding, you name it — conforms to this model. We, as humans, always want to find The One Cause and, often, want to attribute it to evil or gross incompetence or the Hand of God or something, when in reality it’s almost always a bunch of near-benign mistakes piling on top of one another.

Anyway, fascinating read. I’ll stop my tangent now.

Astros 6, Tigers 3: George Springer and José Altuve hit back-to-back homers to lead off the bottom of the first, Altuve singled in a run and Michael Brantley doubled in two in the second and it was 5-1 before Tigers starter Spencer Turbull sat down for the second time of the evening. Houston starter Aaron Sanchez wasn’t sharp himself and couldn’t escape the third inning, but five Houston relievers combined to toss six and two-thirds innings of shutout relief to salvage the situation. Martín Maldonado hit a fifth inning homer for some insurance.

Twins 14, White Sox 4: I was worried we’d go a full day without a team scoring a couple of touchdowns, so thank goodness for the Minnesota Twins. Nelson Cruz homered and drove in three, Max Kepler hit a two-run shot and drove in three and Jorge Polanco knocked in a couple himself. Michael Pineda, meanwhile, went seven innings, which he’s done three times this year, apparently, but in my mind he hadn’t done that since he was with the Mariners, oh, approximately 53 years ago. The Twins rattled off 14 hits.

Diamondbacks 8, Rockies 7: In the (estimated) 300th matchup between the Dbacks and Rockies this year, Arizona comes out on top. Eduardo Escobar hit a two-run triple in the sixth inning that was part of a five-run rally for Arizona which gave them an 8-3 lead. The Rockies would rally themselves with three in the seventh and would add one more in the ninth but they fell short. Escobar reached 100 RBI on the season last night too. Which, even if RBI is not the measure of a player’s quality, is still a fun round number that speaks to things that have happened. Nice season for the guy.

Athletics 6, Yankees 2: The Homer Baileyssaince has certainly been something to behold. A few months ago I would’ve predicted that Bailey starting against the New York Yankees would lead to double-digit runs but here he holds them to one run on seven hits while working into the sixth inning. For the A’s, Matt Olson and Mark Canha each homered in the first inning Marcus Semien doubled in a run in the second and Cameron Maybin committed a two-run error in the outfield in the sixth. The A’s have won five of six.

Dodgers 16, Blue Jays 3: Clayton Kershaw was not at his sharpest — Bo Bichette touched him for not one but two homers — but he didn’t need to be given this level of run support. He did get the win, of course, and in so doing passed Sandy Koufax on the all-time Dodgers list. As for that offense: A.J. Pollock, Will Smith, Joc Pederson, Chris Taylor, and Max Muncy all went deep. Taylor drove in four. Cody Bellinger didn’t homer but knocked in three. Pederson drove in three as well to help the Dodgers snap a modest two-game losing streak.

Justin Verlander laughed at after saying Astros were “technologically and analytically advanced”

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Justin Verlander was at the annual Baseball Writers Association of America banquet last night, on hand to accept the 2019 Cy Young Award. Normally such things are pretty routine events, but nothing is routine with the Houston Astros these days.

During his acceptance speech, Verlander made some comments about the Astros’ “technological and analytical advancements.” The comments were greeted by some laughter in the room as well as some groans. At least one person on hand claimed that other players present were visibly angry.

It’s hard to tell the context of it all without a full video — maybe Verlander meant it as a joke, maybe the reactions were more varied than is being described — but here’s how reporters on hand for it last night are describing it:

If it was a joke it was ill-timed, as not many around the game think the sign-stealing stuff is funny at the moment. Especially in light of the fact that, despite having several opportunities to do so, Astros players have failed to show any accountability for their cheating.

And yes, that includes former Astros Dallas Keuchel, who was praised for “apologizing” at a White Sox fan event on Friday, but whose “apology” was couched in a lot of deflection and excuse-making about how it was just something that was done at the time and about how technology was to blame. Keuchel also tried to minimize it, saying that the Astros didn’t do it all the time. Which is rich given that the most prominent video evidence of their trash can-banging scheme came from a blowout Astros win in a meaningless August game against a losing team. If they were doing it in that situation, please, do not tell me they weren’t doing it when games really mattered.

Anyway, I’d like to think Verlander was just trying to take a stab at a joke here, because Verlander is the wrong guy to be sending to be sending any kind of messages diminishing the cheating given that he has a pretty solid track record of holding other players’ feet to the fire when they get busted.

For example, here he was in 2018 after Robinson Canó got busted for PEDs:

Of course, consistency can be a problem for Verlander when his teammates are on the ones who are on the hook. Here was his response to Tigers infielder Jhonny Peralta being suspended in the wake of the Biogenesis scandal:

“Everybody makes mistakes. He’s my brother. We fight and bleed and sweat together on the baseball field. If my brother makes a mistake, especially if he owns up to it and serves his time, I don’t see how you can hold a grudge or anything like that. “It’s one thing to step up and be a man and own up to his mistake.”

Verlander, it should also be noted, was very outspoken about teams engaging in advanced sign-stealing schemes once upon a time. here he was in 2017, while still with the Tigers, talking about such things in a June 2017 interview with MLive.com.

“We don’t have somebody, but I’m sure teams have a person that can break down signals and codes and they’ll have the signs before you even get out there on the mound.  It’s not about gamesmanship anymore. It used to be, ‘Hey, if you can get my signs, good for you.’ In the past, if a guy on second (base) was able to decipher it on a few pitches, I guess that was kind of part of the game. I think it’s a different level now. It’s not good.”

Which makes me wonder how he felt when he landed on the Astros two months later and realized they had a sophisticated cheating operation underway. If the feelings were mixed, he was able to bury the part of them which had a problem with it, because he’s said jack about it since this all blew up in November. And, of course, has happily accepted the accolades and the hardware he he has received since joining Houston, some of which was no doubt acquired by virtue of a little extra, ill-gotten run support.

Anyway, wake me up when someone — anyone — associated with the Astros shows some genuine accountability about this.