MLB broadcast aesthetics
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MLB broadcast aesthetics haven’t been lacking without fans

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Only once prior to this season did we experience a baseball game played without fans: in April 2015, when the Orioles hosted the White Sox at Camden Yards amid protests following the death of Freddie Gray while in police custody.

You can watch that game in its entirety on MLB’s YouTube. Players, coaches, and members of the media generally described the fan-less experience as surreal. The crack of the bat and the sound of the ball hitting the catcher’s mitt were as clear as day. There was no low hum of the crowd obfuscating those otherwise forgotten sounds.

MLB teams have attempted to address issues with aesthetics as the 2020 regular season got under way on Thursday. Some teams are allowing fans to pay to have cardboard cutouts of their likenesses placed in seats around the stadium. Teams are piping in crowd noise. FOX Sports is going to attempt adding virtual fans into their broadcasts.

These attempts have been met with mixed reactions. To be clear, there’s no right or wrong reaction to the changes. But from watching the Yankees-Nationals game tonight, which went into a rain delay in the top of the sixth inning, as well as the early part of the Giants-Dodgers game, I really didn’t notice a difference. Of course, the cardboard cutouts or otherwise empty seats were noticeable, but they blended into the background quickly. I didn’t notice them unless ESPN was specifically panning around the stadium. While Max Scherzer and Gerrit Cole were on the mound, I was focused on the game, not the background. Your mileage may vary.

The piped-in crowd noise, borrowed from the MLB The Show video game, also felt normal and quickly went unnoticed. I felt that was the case during the exhibition spring training games and it was the case for both of tonight’s regular season games. Those manning the controls did a good job of regulating the volume for the given situations. Amusingly, the biggest broadcast flaw came when ESPN was late to show the first pitch of the Giants-Dodgers game.

We’re getting as close to normal baseball as we can get, given the circumstances. Kudos to those involved for making that happen. All this being said, I reserve the right to retract this sentiment with the virtual fans.

Giants beat Mariners again in road game playing at home

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SAN FRANCISCO — The nomadic Mariners are taking their bats from the Bay Area to Southern California for three more “home games” on the road.

Wilmer Flores hit a go-ahead, two-run triple in the seventh inning of the Giants’ 6-4 win Thursday that sent Seattle to a second home defeat played in San Francisco’s ballpark because of dangerous air quality in Western Washington.

The series was moved because of smoke from all the West Coast wildfires. Now, the Mariners are altering their air travel reservations once more and headed to San Diego for a weekend series at Petco Park.

“It’s disappointing, but its the world we’re living in in 2020,” Mariners starter Nick Margevicius said. “There’s a lot of things we can’t control, a lot of things in the season, a lot of things in the world right now.”

Darin Ruf homered in the second inning to back Giants starter Tyler Anderson, who hurt his own cause when he was ejected in the bottom of the third by plate umpire Edwin Moscoso for emphatically expressing his displeasure with a walk to Kyle Lewis.

“Tyler knows that that just can’t happen,” mangaer Gabe Kapler said. “It puts us in a really tough spot.”

Wandy Peralta followed Anderson and threw 49 pitches over a career-high three innings, and Rico Garcia (1-1) worked one inning for his first major league win. Sam Selman finished for his first career save, stranding two runners when Lewis lined out and Kyle Seager flied out.

“Peralta came up huge for us,” Kapler said. “As tough as that was it was equally rewarding and in some ways inspiring to see him come out and give us the length that he did and battle. It gave us a chance to climb back into the game. I thought our guys continued to be resilient.”

JP Crawford hit a two-run single in the second following RBI singles by Tim Lopes and Phillip Ervin, but Seattle’s bullpen couldn’t hold a three-run lead.

Margevicius was staked to an early lead but Kendall Graveman (0-3) couldn’t hold it. The Mariners capitalized in the second after Anderson hit Seager in the backside.

Seattle has fared better against San Diego this season after losing all four to San Francisco. Manager Scott Servais had prepared himself for the possibility his club might have to stay on the road a little longer.

“I think with our players and everybody else it was going to be a two-day trip. That’s what we were led to believe that everything was going to clear up in Seattle,” Servais said. “We can’t control the weather it’s bigger than all of us and with what’s going on there with the smoke. Certainly understand why we have to go but I don’t think anybody was really prepared for it.”

Brandon Crawford contributed a sacrifice fly and Evan Longoria and Alex Dickerson RBI singles for the Giants.

Austin Slater returned at designated hitter for San Francisco and went 0 for 2 with a walk as he works back from a painful right elbow. Luis Basabe singled in the sixth for his first career hit and also stole his first base.

“I didn’t think about it,” said Basabe, who will gift the special souvenir ball to his mother. “I was just happy to get the opportunity.”

Justin Smoak made his Giants home debut as a pinch hitter in the sixth facing his former club after he signed a minor league deal earlier this month following his release by the Brewers.

Anderson, who was trying to win consecutive starts for the first time this season, received his second career ejection. The other was Aug. 13, 2016, while with Colorado.