Getty Images

And That Happened: Wednesday’s Scores and Highlights

19 Comments

Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Tigers 2, Astros 1: Yesterday this game — Justin Verlander and the mighty Astros taking on the near historically bad Detroit Tigers in Houston — was written about in terms of the gambling odds, with the Astros favored by the sports books more heavily than any baseball team has been favored in any game in the past 15 years. Which is fine for what it is and for the purposes for which oddsmakers set odds. It’s important to note, however, that whatever that all means for gambling, there is no such thing as “a huge upset” in a regular season baseball game in purely baseball terms. If you took the odds out of it and just said to your average baseball fan “a really bad team beat a really good team with a dominant starter on the mound” no one would react in shock. That kind of thing just happens sometimes. Fairly often, actually.

Good for the casinos, I guess, who took a lot of Houston action, but to the extent anyone casts this as an “historic upset” in basic sports terms, as opposed to gambling terms, please ignore them. Those are two different things. To the extent they are conflated they are being done so either by people who know jack crap about baseball or by people who have either a vested interest in importing the lexicon of gambling into the world of straightforward sports analysis. I’m neither one of those kinds of people and neither, I suspect, are any of you. For our purposes this was a ballgame like any other, no matter what it means for an industry for which baseball is merely one of dozens of MacGuffins which drive its central plot, along with horse racing, boxing and the like.

In those purely baseball terms Justin Verlander was, in fact, dominant, tossing a complete game, allowing only two hits while striking out 11. The problem, of course, was that (a) those two hits were solo homers by Ronny Rodríguez and John Hicks; and (b) four Tigers pitchers were better, combining to allow only one run on six hits. The Astros’ one run came on a Robinson Chirinos solo homer. He also doubled and singled and, in the bottom of the ninth he hit one to the gap and . . . got thrown out at third trying to stretch things for a triple. What are the odds of that happening?

Mets 4, Indians 3: Carlos Santana hit a solo homer in the top of the tenth. A few months ago that probably would’ve sent Mets fans to the exits or caused them to click off their TVs. Not these days. Here they stayed to watch the rally. That rally:

  • Amed Rosario led things off in the bottom half of the tenth with a double;
  • Joe Panik sacrificed him to third;
  • Pete Alonso reached on an intentional walk;
  • Michael Conforto reached first on a fielder’s choice on a ball to first that (a) probably should’ve been thrown home to nab Rosario given that it was a one-run game with no one out, but first baseman Santana tried to start a double play instead.  And it could’ve been a completed double play but wasn’t because Indians pitcher Brad Hand neglected to cover first base when Santana was pulled off field the ball. That play erased Alonso, but plated Rosario and was just bad all around for Cleveland;
  • Wilson Ramos reached on an infield single to move Conforto to second; and
  • J.D. Davis walked it off with an RBI single:

This is not your usual Mets team, folks. They got some resilience.

Phillies 5, Red Sox 2: Last week, just before Bryce Harper hit that walkoff grand slam, he was taunted by a Phillies fan sitting behind the dugout, saying he wasn’t worth the money he was making. Last night Boston fans chanted “overrated” at him, among other, more colorful insults, and he went out and hit a two-run homer in the fifth that put the Phillies in the lead to stay. Corey Dickerson later tripled in and then singled in runs to help lead the Phillies to victory. Fans should keep taunting Harper. Seems to be working so well. And maybe Boston fans in particular should take a look at their team, sitting 16 games out of first place and seven games back in the Wild Card race despite high expectations and ask themselves who is really overrated.

Reds 4, Padres 2: Last time out Reds’ ace Luis Castillo was knocked around for eight runs in four and a third. This time out he was much better, allowing one over six. Cincinnati put up three runs in the third, two of which came on bases loaded walks from two different Padres pitchers, with the whole rally being set up by a two base error to lead things off. Not what you want.

Rays 7, Mariners 6: This was a pretty depressing loss for Seattle. The Mariners trailed the Rays 5-3 entering the top of the ninth and rallied for three, taking a 6-5 lead into the bottom half. Kevin Kiermaier led off the inning with a game-tying solo home run, Willy Adames singled, Michael Brosseau doubled and then Ji-Man Choi drew a walk to load the bases. With Tommy Pham at the plate and still nobody out, M’s pitcher Matt Magill threw a two-strike breaking ball in the dirt that skipped away from catcher Omar Narváez and allowed Adames to score easily, giving the Rays a walkoff win on a wild pitch.

Here’s the whole rally:

White Sox 4, Twins 0: Lucas Giolito allowed tossed a complete game shutout — his second of the year — allowing just three hits and walking none while striking out 12 batters. He and Shane Bieber are the only two pitchers in baseball with multiple shutouts this year. Only 21 total pitchers even have one. Giolito is now 14-6 with a 3.20 ERA and a 194/51 K/BB ratio in 151.2 innings on the season. Nice season.

Rockies 7, Diamondbacks 2: Tim Melville, drafted by the Royals 11 years ago and sent on a long, mostly minor league odyssey — and who started the season in independent ball all of all places — pitched seven innings of two-hit ball to pick up his first big league win. He also He smacked a two-out, fourth-inning single that knocked in two, giving him his first RBI as a big leaguer. Without slighting him or his future unduly, it’s not unreasonable to say that this could be the absolute highlight of his major league career and it’s pretty special to see a guy who, I presume, many people forgot about have a moment in the sun like this. He should contact Getty Images and get large prints of these for his rumpus room. I sure would.

Rangers 8, Angels 7: Hunter Pence drove in three runs, including a walkoff RBI single in the ninth to help power Texas to victory and to take three of four in the series. All three of those wins came on their final at bat. This one was set up by Elvis Andrus leading off the ninth with a single and then making it to third base via two wild pitches. The Angels and the Mariners should have a conference call to talk about all of this or something.

Orioles 8, Royals 1: A Baltimore winning streak! Two in a row! Here Aaron Brooks pitched one-run ball for five and three O’s relievers combined for four shutout innings to seal it. Baltimore’s hitters brought the power, with Jonathan Villar hitting a two-run shot in the second, Anthony Santander and Renato Nunez hitting back-to-back home runs in the fifth, and  Hanser Alberto smacking a three-run blast in the sixth. The O’s will host Tampa Bay tonight in an effort to keep the roll going. The last time they won three in a row was almost a month ago, July 25-27 against the Angels.

Nationals 11, Pirates 1: Washington scores in double digits for the fifth time in seven games while Patrick Corbin tosses eight shutout innings, allowing only three hits. The offensive damage was done via a three-run homer from Asdrúbal Cabrera, two knocked in by Anthony Rendon and Yan Gomes and RBI hits from Corbin himself, Adrián Sanchez, Adam Eaton and Trea Turner. Pittsburgh lost for the 29th time in 37 games since the All-Star break. I’d say they’re mailing in it, but that would be an insult to people who mail things in.

Braves 5, Marlins 0: Julio Teherán tossed seven shutout innings, two relievers completed the blanking. For their part, Marlins pitchers held the Braves to only three hits but when two of them were two-run homers from both Adeiny Hechavarría and Ronald Acuña Jr., well, that’s not gonna work. The Braves nab their fourth straight win and their 14th out of 18 against the Marlins this year. Their last game against one another on the season is tonight.

Brewers 5, Cardinals 3: Mike Moustakas homered and Keston Hiura drove in a pair to help the Brewers knock the Cardinals out of first place in a rain-shortened, eight-inning affair. Milwaukee broke a six-game losing streak against the Cardinals, who fall a half game behind the Cubs because . . .

Cubs 12, Giants 11: . . . the Cubs won a wild one. We’ll start at the end: Kris Bryant hit a go-ahead, two-run homer in the eighth inning to close the scoring. Before that Nicholas Castellanos and Kyle Schwarber each went deep. Castellanos was 4-for-5, has homered in three straight games, has eight homers in 19 games since coming to Chicago and is now batting .392 (31-for-79) with the Cubs. I’d say it was a decent pickup. You? For the Giants, Evan LongoriaMike YastrzemskiStephen Vogt and Kevin Pillar homered, but they nonetheless have lost three in a row.

Athletics 6, Yankees 4: Khris Davis and Marcus Semien each hit two-run homers, Mike Fiers was steady, and J.A. Happ — who allowed five runs in four innings for New York — will no doubt be the subject du jour for all the Yankees fans I follow on Twitter. And, for random reasons, I happen to follow a lot of them. If you just paid attention to Yankees Twitter, though, you’d think the Yankees were 40 games out of first place because the “god, Happ sucks” content from my Yankees friends comes in at about about ten times the volume (and volume) of the good stuff. I guess it’s understandable. I’d be cranky if I lived in a building where I don’t have control over when the heat comes on and is turned off and if I didn’t have a garbage disposal. New York can make a certain kind of person into a real negative Nancy.

Dodgers 2, Blue Jays 1: Walker Buehler shut the Jays out for seven, Joe Kelly made it eight, but Kenley Jansen couldn’t close it out in the ninth, giving up a game-tying solo shot to Rowdy Tellez to force extras. That was OK, though, because Max Muncy hit a walkoff bomb in the tenth:

It was the Dodgers’ 11th walkoff win this year. Their 50th win at home. They’re a juggernaut.

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

Getty Images
11 Comments

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.