Associated Press

Charlie Morton delivers, Zack Greinke doesn’t as Rays beat Astros to force Game 4

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The Astros aces had been the story of this series before today, with Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole shutting down the Rays’ bats in Games 1 and 2. Astros starter Zack Greinke would be the unquestioned ace on most pitching staffs, but he’s third fiddle for Houston. Today he actually pitched like a third starter — maybe one for a non-contender — as the Tampa Bay Rays rocked him for three homers and then continued to pile on for an easy 10-3 win to force a Game 4 in their ALDS matchup with the Astros.

Greinke was staked to a 1-0 lead before he even threw a pitch thanks to a first inning José Altuve home run and he cruised through the first frame against the Rays, needing only nine pitches to do it. That changed in the second, however, when Avisaíl García singled, Greinke hit Travis d’Arnaud with a pitch to put two on and then Kevin Kiermaier pounded on a Greinke changeup with catlike quickness and served it over the right center field fence for a three-run jack to put the Rays up 3-1.

Tampa Bay stayed locked in on Greinke in the bottom of the third when Ji-Man Choi went deep to make it 4-1. Brandon Lowe kept it going, leading off the fourth inning with yet another dinger to make it 5-1. It was the first game since Opening Day with the Diamondbacks in which Greinke had allowed more than two longballs. Today was certainly not his day. A.J. Hinch left Greinke in a bit longer and he walked Willy Adames and that was it for him.

Héctor Rondón came on in relief, gave up a single and was pulled for Wade Miley who promptly gave up an RBI double, and RBI single, with the runs charged to Greinke and Rondón, respectively, to make it 8-1 to end the eighth. Six runs in all were charged to Greinke in three and two-thirds innings of work.

Greinke’s counterpart Charlie Morton had no such trouble with the usually formidable Astros lineup. He pitched five innings with the only damage being that first inning Altuve homer. He struck out nine against two walks and three hits in that time while flashing some filthy, filthy stuff:

After Morton left Chaz Roe allowed Houston to rally for two in the sixth to make it 8-3 but the Rays got one back with their fourth homer of the afternoon — courtesy of Willy Adames — in the bottom of the sixth. A Travis d'Arnaud sac fly in the seventh gave the Rays double digits and 10-3 is where the game would wind up when it was all said and done.

When this day began we had a chance — not a great chance, but a chance — of all four Division Series ending on this day and giving us no baseball until Friday. The Rays win guarantees that there will be a game tomorrow, however, as Houston will try once again to put Tampa Bay away.

Max Scherzer: ‘There’s no reason to engage with MLB in any further compensation reductions’

Max Scherzer
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MLBPA player representative Max Scherzer sent out a short statement late Wednesday night regarding the ongoing negotiations between the owners and the union. On Tuesday, ownership proposed a “sliding scale” salary structure on top of the prorated pay cuts the players already agreed to back in March. The union rejected the proposal, with many worrying that it would drive a wedge in the union’s constituency.

Scherzer is one of eight players on the MLBPA executive subcommittee along with Andrew Miller, Daniel Murphy, Elvis Andrus, Cory Gearrin, Chris Iannetta, James Paxton, and Collin McHugh.

Scherzer’s statement:

After discussing the latest developments with the rest of the players there’s no reason to engage with MLB in any further compensation reductions. We have previously negotiated a pay cut in the version of prorated salaries, and there’s no justification to accept a 2nd pay cut based upon the current information the union has received. I’m glad to hear other players voicing the same viewpoint and believe MLB’s economic strategy would completely change if all documentation were to become public information.

Indeed, aside from the Braves, every other teams’ books are closed, so there has been no way to fact-check any of the owners’ claims. Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts, for example, recently said that 70 percent of the Cubs’ revenues come from “gameday operations” (ticket sales, concessions, etc.). But it went unsubstantiated because the Cubs’ books are closed. The league has only acknowledged some of the union’s many requests for documentation. Without supporting evidence, Ricketts’ claim, like countless others from team executives, can only be taken as an attempt to manipulate public sentiment.

Early Thursday morning, ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported that the MLBPA plans to offer a counter-proposal to MLB in which the union would suggest a season of more than 100 games and fully guaranteed prorated salaries. It seems like the two sides are quite far apart, so it may take longer than expected for them to reach an agreement.