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And That Happened: Thursday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Astros 11, Mariners 9: Yesterday I got into a dumb, way longer than necessary argument with a guy who runs a Braves blog who decided, in light of the Braves being in first place, to go back to my tweets and posts from last winter criticizing the Braves front office and do the whole “this aged poorly, take the L, dude” thing. Which I totally expected would happen if, in fact, the Braves did well this year.

Thing was, I expected the Braves to do well this year. They won the division last year and were a very talented team on paper. I criticized the front office last winter, not because I thought the team would suck, but because (a) they could’ve made themselves even better if they had tried, and they should have tried because the competition in the division improved itself; (b) they were not trying to do that, even though they had the financial resources to do so; and (c) their stated reasons for not doing so were obvious lies which revealed a contempt for the fan base and a greater interest in profits and the team’s real estate interests than the product on the field.

These are criticisms I stand by today despite the Braves being in first place. See, I want my team not merely to be in first place, but to be the best it can possibly be. To be dominant if possible and to not be content to enter the season with obvious holes and second or third best options at various places on the roster if it can be avoided. I’d rather them look like the 1998 Yankees than the 2012 Yankees, even though both of them finished in first place, and I’d prefer it if the guy who ran the team didn’t blatantly lie about his intentions and strongly imply that fans who cared more about baseball than “glide slope,” whatever the hell that is, are idiots. I would’ve hoped that this was not a controversial position to take, but apparently it was.

Anyway, the dumbest part of that argument was when the guy found a tweet of mine from February saying that I thought the Braves should’ve tried to sign Michael Brantley to play right field. He threw it back at me yesterday and said “this aged poorly,” in a manner meant to mock me. I’m not sure why that “aged poorly” given the fantastic season Michael Brantley has had — a far better season than Nick Markakis has had, obviously — and I’d still want him on the Braves if I could snap my fingers and make it happen because I’d rather they have 90+ wins right now rather than 87. Again, kinda figured this would be obvious too, but I guess not.

In related news, the Astros came back from an early 7-0 hole to tie it in the eighth via a Michael Brantley sac fly and then Brantley hit a walkoff two-run homer in the bottom of the 13th inning to win it:

Brantley is now hitting .324/.384/.524 on the season. But don’t listen to me about it. I apparently don’t know anything.

Braves 4, Nationals 2: Max Fried was masterful, spinning seven one-hit shutout innings backed by a homer from Ronald Acuña Jr. and RBIs from Ozzie Albies, Freddie Freeman and Brian McCann. The Nats plated two via a Víctor Robles two-run homer in the ninth, but it was too little, too late. The Braves extend their NL East lead to eight games. They wouldn’t say so, but I’d guess the Nats, in their heart of hearts, knew before this game that they were a Wild Card team, not a division winner. I’m guessing they might actually be saying so out loud by Sunday afternoon.

Athletics 10, Angels 6: The other day the Mets were winning big and then gave up a seven-run ninth inning rally to lose the game. It made national headlines. This one won’t make national headlines because far fewer people care about the Angels than the Mets, it didn’t happen in prime time and it didn’t happen in the ninth inning, but it was a pretty hellacious collapse all the same. Leading 6-1 after the top of the seventh, the Angels coughed up seven runs in the bottom half, thanks in part to a Josh Phegley homer, a Robbie Grossman triple and not one but two bases-loaded walks. Mike Trout hit his 45th homer in the loss. The people responsible for surrounding the best player since Willie Mays with such garbage ought to be tried for their crimes at The Hague.

Wait, I’m sorry, one of them just got a contract extension. Oh well, at least the weather in Orange County is nice.

Cardinals 10, Giants 0: Dakota Hudson tossed six one-hit, shutout innings Génesis Cabrera finished off the final three frames to complete the shutout. Hudson also [all together now] helped his own cause with an RBI. The Cardinals have won six of seven. “We’re just keeping the gas down,” Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said. Last night I was reading a book written in 1939 in which the lead character drives a car with a hand throttle. They don’t make those anymore, but I wonder if you pressed it down or forward or what and, no matter how you did it, I wonder how that fit in with the “keeping the gas down” saying. “We’re keeping our hands on the accelerator” doesn’t sound right. Neither does “we’re pushing gently forward with two fingers while keeping the other three on the wheel, you know, for safety” is all wrong too. And I guess they’d be on the left? Otherwise how would you shift? I dunno. People always say if they had a time machine they’d go back and bet on sports or discover the Beatles or something, but I’d probably just go to the 30s or 40s and look at mundane bits of forgotten everyday life.

Reds 4, Phillies 3: J.T. Realmuto — another guy I was apparently dumb for thinking the Braves should’ve tried to acquire but whom I still would love to see playing for Atlanta — hit a game-tying homer in the top of the eighth to force extras — but Phillip Ervin smacked a walkoff solo homer in the bottom of the 11th to give the Reds the win. The Phillies are now four games behind the Cubs for the second Wild Card.

White Sox 7, Indians 1: Cleveland is out of the Wild Card picture for the time being too, falling a game back of the A’s for the second slot on the AL thanks to Reynaldo López tossing a one-hitter complete game while striking out 11. Wellington Castillo hit a two-run homer and knocked in three while Yolmer Sánchez and Adam Engel each knocked in two.

Tigers 6, Royals 4: This one, of course, had no playoff implications. The Royals had an early three-run lead but homers from Brandon Dixon, Dawel Lugo and Jordy Mercer put the Tigers ahead 4-3 and they’d not relinquish that lead. That snaps a four-game losing streak and means that, hey, they can’t lose their 100th game until at least Sunday. Little victories!

Rangers 3, Orioles 1: This time yesterday I’m pretty sure I didn’t even know who Kolby Allard and Nick Solak were, and now I’m talking about how the former had a solid start and the latter hit a go-ahead, two-run homer in the seventh inning to win this game. You learn new things every day.

Marlins 10, Pirates 7: In “The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract” — which is now somehow pushing 20 years-old — James wrote about the top 100 players at every position. Some of the blurbs were short, some of them were long, some of them were funny and almost all of them were insightful. When he got to the then still active Jeff Bagwell, however, James wrote “Pass” and went on to the next guy. He may have explained some time over the years why he did that but I don’t recall seeing it. My impression, then and now, was that he simply wasn’t all that interested in talking about Bagwell. Not for any personal reason but just because he saw his name sitting there next to a blinking cursor and couldn’t muster any passion for expounding on the guy.

As someone who writes these recaps all year, it’s not uncommon for me to see a game for which I honestly don’t care about digging into the box score. I don’t care about the teams enough, the game is sort of meaningless and the score implies that there were just as many failures on the part of pitchers or fielders than there were triumphs by anyone involved. I almost always put that feeling aside and dig in, but you know what? I don’t have to. So, as far as the Marlins and Pirates game from September 5, 2019 is concerned: Pass.

Cubs 10, Brewers 5: Kyle Schwarber hit a grand slam to cap the Cubs’ five-run sixth inning and give them the win in the opener of a must-win series for Milwaukee. Joe Maddon on the Schwarber slam: “That ball was kilt. It was K-I-L-T, kilt.” You can take the man out of Pennsylvania, but you can’t take Pennsylvania out of the man.

Twins 2, Red Sox 1: Tired: walkoff homers. Wired: walkoff 7-2 putouts off The Green Monster:

I know it’s not far from the wall in left to the plate at Fenway, but that was a fantastic play and throw by Eddie Rosario. The Twins only had two hits all night but still won, thanks in part to nine walks. Nine? NINE. Woof.

Rays 6, Blue Jays 4: Austin Meadows broke a 4-4 tie with a homer and later hit an RBI double for insurance. Bo Bichette had two homers in a losing cause. There have been a lot of losing causes for Toronto lately: they’ve dropped four straight and 13 of 16. They have a fair chance of losing 100 games. Four teams in the AL could lose 100 this year. With a merely mild run of bad luck, maybe even five. What a farce.

Pirates hire Ben Cherington as their new general manager

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The Pittsburgh Pirates have hired Ben Cherington as the team’s new general manager. They do so after the general manager meetings ended, but better late than never.

Cherington served as GM of the Boston Red Sox for four years, winning the World Series in 2013, but resigned during the 2015 season after Dave Dombrowski was named Boston’s new president of baseball operations. Which was a defacto demotionn for Cherington who, until then, had the final say in baseball decisions. Dombrowski, of course, was fired late in the season this year. Cherington went on to work for the Toronto Blue Jays as a vice president, but was seen as biding his time for another GM position. Now he has one.

Cherington takes over in Pittsburgh for executive vice president and general manager Neal Huntington, who was fired after a 12 years at the helm. Also fired was team president Frank Coonelly. Travis Williams replaced Coonelly recently. While the Pirates experienced a few years of contention under Huntington and Coonelly, they have slid out of contention in recent years as the club has traded away promising players for little return, all while cutting payroll. There’s a very big rebuilding job ahead of Cherington.

The first move he’ll have to make: hire a manager, as the team still hasn’t replaced Clint Hurdle since he was dismissed in the final weekend of the regular season.