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Cup of Coffee: September 14, 2023
The Braves clinch another division title, the Nats extend Mike Rizzo, Max Scherzer goes down with an injury, and an escaped convict gets caught.
Welcome to Free Thursday!
Good morning, class. Your teacher is out until October 9 due to a case of Hikingitis. I’ll be your substitute blogger until then. Just like the substitute teacher you had back in middle school, my plan for the next three weeks is to wheel in that big stand with the CRT TV and VCR, put on a movie, kick my feet up on the desk, take a nap, and hope you guys are well-behaved enough not to throw trash everywhere and set stuff on fire.
[Conservative stand-up comedian voice]: Back in my day, CRT stood for Cathode-Ray Tube, not Critical Race Theory!
In case you don’t know me, Craig and I were colleagues at NBC Sports’ HardballTalk. Since NBC gave us the ax a few years ago, we’ve both gone the Substack route, though I took a mental health break and only very recently returned to the newsletter game. If you are so inclined, check out my newsletter Baer In Mind, and give me a follow on Twitter/X and Blue Sky.
I hope Craig has a lot of fun hiking in England, but that is one area where he and I vastly differ: I can’t think of anything I’d like to do less than hike. Doesn’t he know that nature has bugs in it? Gross. As for me, I was an iPad kid before iPads existed. Put a glowing rectangle pumping a nonstop stream of blue light into my eyes and I’m good to go. That was true in 1992, when I was a four-year-old stomping Goombas and memorizing the Konami Code, and it’s just as true today. I’m still stomping Goombas, just in high def now.
On a serious note, I am honored Craig entrusted this newsletter and y’all’s daily entertainment with me. I’m going to try my best to keep the momentum going and not rock the boat too much.
And That Happened
Here are the scores. Here are the highlights.
Braves 4, Phillies 1: The Braves clinched the NL East for a sixth consecutive season with a comfortable, stress-free win in the series finale against the Phillies. They clinched in 146 games, the second-fastest they’ve ever sealed the division, behind only 2002 (141 games). Austin Riley opened the scoring in the first with a two-run home run off of Cristopher Sánchez and brought in another run with a sacrifice fly in the third. Kevin Pillar had an RBI double. Spencer Strider limited the Phillies to a lone run over seven innings on four hits and two walks while striking out nine. Strider now has 259 strikeouts on the season. He’ll likely end the season a bit shy of 300, but the fact that he’s this close is impressive.
Rays 5, Twins 4: Neither starter — Taj Bradley for the Rays and Dallas Keuchel for the Twins — was very sharp, each failing to finish five innings. The top of the Rays’ lineup was the difference-maker, combining to go 6-for-15 with three RBI and a run scored. The game was tied 4-4 in the ninth inning, but in the top-half, Randy Arozarena took Griffin Jax deep for what would prove to be the winning run. Colin Poche and Robert Stephenson teamed up to get the final three outs in the bottom half to seal the deal.
Rockies 7, Cubs 3: The Cubs took a 3-0 lead after three innings, but that would be it for them. Nolan Jones and Elehuris Montero both hit two-run home runs in the bottom of the fifth off of Jameson Taillon. Kris Bryant and Ryan McMahon added solo home runs of their own in the seventh. The Cubs have lost four of their last six games.
Giants 6, Guardians 5 (10 innings): The Guardians put up a four-spot in the first inning, including two from a José Ramírez homer, but couldn’t hang on. J.D. Davis struck the big blow with a game-tying three-run home run in the bottom of the eighth. Then, in the bottom of the 10th with the bases loaded and no outs, Lamonte Wade Jr. lifted a sacrifice fly to left field. Stephen Kwan made a strong and accurate throw home, but Patrick Bailey scored just ahead of the slide for the walk-off win. The Guardians had nothing to lose, so they challenged the call, but it was quickly upheld. It’s the second time in three days Wade gave the Giants the walk-off win over the Guardians.
Mariners 3, Angels 2: Mariners starter Luis Castillo scattered a pair of runs over six innings, allowing three hits and three walks while striking out eight. His ERA on the season stands at 3.08. Julio Rodríguez opened the scoring for the Mariners in the bottom of the third with a line drive RBI double to left field. Cal Raleigh tied the game at 2-2 in the fifth with an RBI single, and Teoscar Hernández knocked in the eventual game-winning run with an RBI single of his own later in the fifth.
Cardinals 1, Orioles 0: Former Oriole Drew Rom outdueled Kyle Gibson, putting up 5 1/3 shutout frames. Kyle Gibson left with two outs in the seventh inning, the lone blemish on his record being a Richie Palacios solo home run in the fourth. The two clubs combined for a meager seven hits. The O’s had just one hit in 3 2/3 against the Cardinals’ bullpen.
Pirates 7, Nationals 6: The Pirates jumped out to an earl 7-1 lead, but the Nationals kept chipping away at their deficit before ultimately falling short. Bryan Reynolds had three hits including a homer for the Buccos. Rookie catcher Drew Millas hit his first career homer for the Nationals. Sadly for him, this game will be remembered more for his errant throw attempting to throw out a base-stealer. Millas’ throw hit Jackson Rutledge — making his first major league start — in the head in the fourth inning. Shades of Ryan Doumit and John Grabow.
Reds 4, Tigers 3: Tigers starter Eduardo Rodriguez struggled with command, walking four en route to giving up four runs over 5 1/3 innings against the Reds. Spencer Torkelson hit his 28th homer of the years in a losing effort. For the Reds, TJ Freidl hit a two-run triple and seven relievers combined to finish out the game with five shutout frames.
Rangers 10, Blue Jays 0: An absolute bloodbath by the Rangers. Nathaniel Lowe, Robbie Grossman, and Mitch Garver all homered while lefty Jordan Montgomery spun seven shutout innings on four hits and a walk while striking out three. Montgomery’s last two starts were clunkers, so the Rangers are ecstatic to see him put up a quality outing.
Mets 7, Diamondbacks 1: The Mets called up Joey Lucchesi from Triple-A to make Wednesday’s start and he more than delivered. The lefty yielded a lone unearned run over seven innings, scattering five hits and three walks while striking out two. Mark Vientos went deep for the Mets. Pete Alonso plated three runs, giving him 108 RBI on the season. Zac Gallen had another clunker for the D-Backs — his third in his last four starts — as he was on the hook for seven runs (six earned) in five innings.
Astros 6, Athletics 2: The lowly Athletics had the chance to do the funniest thing of all time — sweep the reigning champion Astros in Houston — but came up short in the series finale. The Astros’ pitching brought a no-hit bid into the ninth inning, but it was broken up when Drew Noda singled with one out in the ninth inning. Yordan Alvarez, Alex Bregman, and Kyle Tucker all went deep for the Astros. For the 26-year-old Tucker, it was the 100th long ball of his career.
Royals 6, White Sox 1: Struggling second baseman Michael Massey hit what would prove to be the game-winning hit with a two-run home run off of Mike Clevinger in the second inning. It was the only mistake Clevinger made over six otherwise solid innings. The Royals put up a three-spot in the seventh and scored one more in the eighth for some additional insurance en route to an easy win.
Marlins 2, Brewers 0: Braxton Garrett held the surging Brewers scoreless over six innings, limiting the offense to four hits and a pair of walks while striking out seven. Luis Arraez picked up a couple of hits in four AB’s. He’s now hitting .349. Hard to believe he was flirting with .400 as recently as the beginning of August. Since August 1, Arraez is hitting a meager .268.
Padres 6, Dodgers 1: Juan Soto hit a solo shot for his 30th homer of the season. Luis Capusano hit a three-run job in the fourth. The Dodgers had no answers for Blake Snell, who bolstered his NL Cy Young Award case with six shutout innings. He relented just one hit and one walk while striking out eight, lowering his ERA on the season to 2.43. The Dodgers avoided getting shut out when Kolten Wong led off the bottom of the ninth with a solo homer off of Tom Cosgrove, but it was much too little, much too late.
Yankees, Red Sox: Postponed due to inclement weather. Makeup scheduled for Thursday as part of a day-night doubleheader in Boston.
The Daily Briefing
Max Scherzer done for season, likely won’t pitch in the playoffs
Rangers hurler Max Scherzer left in the fifth inning of Tuesday’s start against the Blue Jays. Testing showed that he has a low-grade strain of his right teres major muscle, which is located in the upper arm. He won’t pitch again in the regular season and GM Chris Young deemed it “unlikely” he contributes in the playoffs.
Needless to say, this is a huge blow to the Rangers, who are in a tightly-contested playoff race in both the AL West and the AL Wild Card. They’re a game behind the first-place Astros and a half-game up on the Mariners in the Wild Card standings. The Blue Jays are also in the mix, a game and a half behind the Rangers.
The Rangers acquired Scherzer from the floundering Mets in late July ahead of the trade deadline, giving up prospect Luisangel Acuña (brother of the Braves’ Ronald Acuña Jr.) in a one-for-one swap. In a smaller sample, Scherzer’s results as a Ranger were much improved over his Mets numbers, posting a 3.20 ERA in 45 innings spanning eight starts. In 107 2/3 innings over 19 starts as a Met, Scherzer had a 4.01 ERA.
The Mets signed Scherzer as a free agent after the 2021 season, inking him to a three-year, $130 million contract. He is owed $43.33 million for the 2024 season, of which the Mets will pay $20.83 million.
Nationals sign Mike Rizzo to multi-year extension
On Wednesday morning, the Nationals announced that they signed GM and president of baseball operations Mike Rizzo to a multi-year contract extension. The exact terms of the deal have not yet been made public. Rizzo, 62, has been with the Nationals since 2006. While the club has endured many losing seasons during his tenure, the team also won four division titles and ended their championship drought in 2019 when they defeated the Houston Astros.
The Nationals could finish at the bottom of the NL East for the fourth consecutive season. That being said, there are things to like about this Nationals team under Rizzo. 22-year-old CJ Abrams has greatness written all over him, as he’s mashed 22 doubles and 18 home runs while stealing 41 bags and playing solid defense at shortstop. 24-year-old catcher Keibert Ruiz is much improved. Lane Thomas was a great find, acquired from the Cardinals in the Jon Lester trade back in 2021. The Nats also have a handful of good bullpen arms. If they can find a couple of solid starting pitchers, they could start taking a crack at .500 sooner rather than later.
All this being said, the vibes aren’t all good with the Nationals. As Craig noted last week, the club’s retirement plan with pitcher Stephen Strasburg has gone sideways. The Nats were going to hold a retirement press conference with him, but that was cancelled as the two sides are now “hammering out details,” apparently of the financial nature. Rizzo recently called the controversy “the most misinformed, miscommunicated non-issue of the season.”
The Nationals also cleaned out their scouting department and saw the scouting director, who is a close friend of Rizzo’s, resign.
Rizzo certainly has his work cut out for him, but it won’t be anything he hasn’t already done, and succeeded at doing, with the Nationals.
Rob Thomson wants Ronald Acuña Jr. to act like he’s “been there before”
Braves outfielder and NL MVP candidate Ronald Acuña Jr. broke a 1-1 tie in the fifth inning of Tuesday’s game against the Phillies with a two-run home run off of Zack Wheeler. He punished Wheeler, who hung an 0-1 slider over the middle of the plate, as the ball caromed off of a sign hanging in front of the second deck in left field at Citizens Bank Park.
As Acuña rounded the bases, he held his arms out and flapped like a bird, perhaps a reference to Philadelphia’s football team, the Eagles. It’s kind of a deep cut on Acuña’s part. [Edit: It’s been brought to my attention they’ve been doing this all year. Which makes Thomson’s offense even weirder.] When the Phillies aren’t playing well, such as during this four-game series against the Braves, the fans have been known to break out into an E-A-G-L-E-S-Eagles! chant.
Per Philadelphia radio station WIP-FM, Phillies manager Rob Thomson wasn’t a fan of Acuña’s antics. “I like our guys to act like they’ve been there before,” the 60-year-old skipper said.
This is hilarious for three reasons:
Acuña has been there before. If anyone has earned the right to have an obnoxious home run celebration, it’s Acuña. He’s only 25 years old yet already has a Rookie of the Year Award and two Silver Sluggers on his mantle, and is a four-time All-Star. There’s a chance he also wins the 2023 NL MVP Award. Acuña has 111 postseason plate appearances to his name, and that’s despite missing the Braves’ entire championship run in 2021. Dude has been there, done that.
Thomson’s players celebrate home runs all the time. Remember when Rhys Hoskins slammed his bat into the ground after ripping a three-run homer off of Spencer Strider in Game 3 of the NLDS last year? To be fair to Thomson, I guess, Hoskins hadn’t “been there before.” How about this relatively meaningless solo home run Kyle Schwarber celebrated against the Marlins on Sunday?
If Thomson doesn’t want opposing hitters to celebrate home runs, then his pitchers shouldn’t leave meatballs over the middle of the plate.
Sandy Alcantara has a sprained UCL
Per Jordan McPherson of the Miami Herald, Marlins starter Sandy Alcantara has a sprained ulnar collateral ligament. Manager Skip Schumacher held out the possibility of Alcantara returning to the mound, which seems to indicate it’s a mild sprain. A UCL sprain is the type of injury that, for some pitchers, calls for Tommy John surgery.
Alcantara, 28, last pitched on September 3, when he went eight innings in a win over the Nationals. The reigning NL Cy Young Award winner has made 28 starts this year, accruing 184 2/3 innings with a 4.14 ERA and a 151/48 K/BB ratio. Compared to 2022, most of Alcantara’s important stats have become worse: strikeout rate (down 3.5%), walk rate (up about 1%), home run/fly ball rate (up about 4.5%), and hard hit rate (up about 8%).
The Marlins are still very much in the mix for the NL Wild Card. They’re a half-game behind the Diamondbacks and Reds for the third Wild Card slot.
Danilo Cavalcante finally captured
I live in southeastern Pennsylvania, roughly a half hour drive outside of Philadelphia, and have for my entire life. It’s a pretty boring area. The most interesting thing that usually happens around here is an Olympian will practice at IceWorks, an ice-skating rink in Aston. Otherwise it’s an area comprised mostly of bars and strip malls, a place you pass through to get to somewhere more interesting like Philly or West Chester.
At the end of August, 34-year-old Brazilian native and convicted murderer Danilo Cavalcante escaped the Chester County Prison (about an hour west of Philly), crab-walking up to the roof of the building. He was on the lam for a good two weeks before his capture on Wednesday morning. Police dedicated thousands of man-hours to finding him and offered a $25,000 reward for details leading to his arrest. At the time, they advised Chester County residents to stay inside with their doors and windows locked.
The whole ordeal generated a noticeable buzz in the area. Obviously, people were concerned for the safety of themselves and their loved ones, but there was also a jolt of energy amongst the residents, like, “We’re part of something!” People were listening to police scanners as if it was a Netflix drama. Now that Cavalcante is in custody, we’re forced to return to our dumb, boring lives.
It’s also funny, at least to me, that the common refrain given to those who want to defund or dismantle the police is that cops are great at solving crime. The state of Pennsylvania put upwards of 500 cops on the Cavalcante case, but it took them two weeks to catch one guy with nothing but the clothes on his back. In his efforts to evade capture, Cavalcante stole a van, broke into a garage and stole a .22 rifle, and stole a pair of work boots off of someone’s porch. It took them days afterwards to catch him, and it was a police dog that ultimately led to his capture.
If anything comes of this ordeal, it should be that cops are generally not great at their jobs, don’t prevent or solve crime, and are a giant waste of taxpayer money. But the institution of policing is sacrosanct, so despite this public embarrassment in which they were completely outwitted by an escaped convict for two weeks, PA police will probably end up with even more funding amid a teacher shortage.
Lauren Boebert “caused a disturbance” at Beetlejuice musical
It was reported on Wednesday that Representative Lauren Boebert (R-CO) was escorted out during the Beetlejuice musical performance in downtown Denver on Sunday evening. Boebert reportedly “caused a disturbance” by vaping, singing, and recording, per John Aguilar of the Denver Post. She was initially given a warning following complaints from three different patrons before ultimately being escorted out of the venue.
A security report said that Boebert and another unnamed patron who was also thrown out were argumentative, pulling the “Do you know who I am?” card as well as the “I’m on the board” and “I will be contacting the mayor” cards.
None of this is surprising if you’ve followed Boebert’s political career. In her first month in office back in 2020, she went through freshly-installed metal detectors. When they sounded, because she was carrying a gun, she refused to turn her bag over to Capitol Police. She had previously vowed to carry firearms while in D.C.
Boebert and Majorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) also heckled President Joe Biden during the State of the Union address last year. Biden was just about to talk about his son Beau, a veteran of the War in Iraq who died of brain cancer in 2015.
Last summer, Boebert’s husband threatened their neighbors and ran over their mailbox with his car. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, because the conflict between the Boeberts and their neighbors apparently escalated when they asked the Boeberts’ son to stop speeding — over 50 MPH, allegedly — around the neighborhood in his dune buggy.
Boebert said on Twitter about the Beetlejuice incident, “I plead guilty to laughing and singing out loud.”
InternetHippo on Twitter was really onto something when they said that the “new right wing thing is describing crimes as generically as possible to pretend like they're not crimes.”
Have a great day, everyone.