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#pounditThursday, August 13, 2020

Baseball

A’s Matt Chapman aiming for cardboard cutouts between innings

MLB players are having to get used to playing games without fans, which involves some habits that usually make sense not really happening during the 2020 season. One of those is the practice of tossing baseballs into the stands at the end of a half inning so fans can take home a souvenir.

That hasn’t stopped Oakland Athletics third baseman Matt Chapman, who has made a game out of it for himself in which he tries to take out the cardboard cutouts that many teams have placed in seats in lieu of fans.

Those things are tough. We’ve seen that it takes a pretty good shot from a home run ball to even dent one of them.

Empty stadiums are a strange environment for players to be playing in. It explains why there have been amusing efforts to treat the cardboard cutout fans like they’re the real thing on more than one occasion.

Alex Verdugo does not like being compared to Mookie Betts

Alex Verdugo is working hard to carve out his own path in Boston.

Addressing the media Friday after a two-homer game against the Toronto Blue Jays, Verdugo, the centerpiece of the Red Sox’s return package for Mookie Betts, said he did not like being compared to the former AL MVP.

“I don’t think about Mookie,” he said, per Brook Smith of Dodgers Nation. “I think he’s a great player, he did a lot for Boston, he’s going to do a lot for the Dodgers. I think about me being here, what I’m going to do, what I’m going to bring to this team. It’s not a comparable thing, I don’t like comparing it, I don’t like it when people bring it up. But obviously the nature of the trade, it’s going to happen, people are going to say it … I don’t care about shoes to fill or anything like that.

“It’s one of those things I think it’s weird that so many media or fans everybody wants to bring it up like it’s such a big deal,” Verdugo added. “To me, I don’t think of it like that. Like I said, he’s not here. I’m not replacing him. Like yeah I was part of the trade … I don’t think about it.

The 24-year-old Verdugo is hitting .294 with three homers and four RBIs in his first 11 games for the Red Sox, settling in as the team’s every-day right fielder. He was acquired from the Dodgers in February along with Jeter Downs and Connor Wong as part of the package for Betts and David Price.

Betts was a big fan favorite, and Boston fans were not happy about the trade. But all Verdugo can do is focus on his own production, and he seems to be doing a good job of that so far.

Report: Cardinals’ series against Pirates likely to be canceled

The postponements stemming from the COVID-19 outbreak within the St. Louis Cardinals’ organization are set to extend into a second week.

As of Friday, the Cardinals had nine players and seven staff members who had tested positive for the coronavirus within the last week. The team has not played since July 29 due to the outbreak, and according to Mark Saxon of The Athletic, that layoff is going to get even longer.

This would be the fourth series postponed or canceled due to the Cardinals’ outbreak. It also means their earliest possible restart date would be August 13, 15 days since their most recent game. It also means their schedule, already difficult due to previous opponents, will represent an incredibly difficult thing to juggle logistically.

The organization has had to deal with rumors that an unauthorized casino trip helped spark the outbreak, though team president John Mozeliak has said there is no evidence at this point to back that up.

Astros trolled with funny ‘Asterisks’ banner in Oakland

The Houston Astros are getting a rather icy welcome for their weekend series against the Athletics in Oakland.

While the Astros were taking batting practice ahead of Friday’s opener, a funny “Houston Asterisks” banner was flying in the sky above the Oakland Coliseum, per Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle.

Here is a look at the banner in action:

The Astros and the Athletics are AL West rivals, and the latter lost the division to the former when they were confirmed to have cheated during their 2017 title year. This is the first time the two sides have met this season.

Indeed, the Astros are being shamed up and down the league this year, and they can expect plenty more of it to come, even in a shortened season.

The Houston Astros are confirmed cheaters and deserve an asterisk. Send that message by wearing our Houston Asterisks T-shirt! You can buy it here:

Ex-Angels employee Eric Kay charged with fetanyl distribution in Tyler Skaggs’ death

A former Los Angeles Angels employee has been charged with distributing the fentanyl that contributed to the death of pitcher Tyler Skaggs a little over a year ago.

Skaggs, who was 27, died after choking on his own vomit in a hotel room with fentanyl, oxycodone and alcohol in his system on July 1, 2019. A grand jury launched an investigation back in March into Skaggs’ death, and former Angels director of communications Eric Kay was charged on Friday with distributing fentanyl to Skaggs. Nathan Fenno of the Los Angeles Times has more of the details.

Kay had previously admitted to federal investigators that he provided oxycodone to Skaggs and used opioids himself. He also said two other former Angels employees knew about Skaggs’ drug use. The Angels released a statement on Friday saying an independent investigation showed that “no one in management was aware, or informed, of any employee providing opioids to any player, nor that Tyler was using opioids.

The Angels could have faced a significant fine if it was determined that they were aware of Skaggs using opioids. It’s unclear if the league also conducted an investigation and came to the same conclusion as the Angels.

Matt Harvey reportedly impressing Royals officials

Matt harvey

Matt Harvey signed a minor league contract with the Kansas City Royals less than two weeks ago, and apparently the right-hander has already impressed the team with the way he has thrown the ball.

Royals officials have been impressed with what they’ve seen from Harvey over the past two weeks, MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan reports. It’s unclear how he will fit into the team’s plans going forward, but Harvey is at least generating some positive attention.

Harvey compiled a 7.09 ERA in 59.2 innings with the Los Angeles Angels last season. He also struggled in 2018, when he made 28 starts in time split between the New York Mets and Cincinnati Reds and went 7-9 with a 4.94 ERA.

Harvey appeared to have interest in playing in the Korean Baseball Organization at one point, but the Royals thought he was worth a closer look. Anything they can get out of the former Cy Young candidate would be a bonus.

Christian Yelich relieved after ‘luckiest home run in baseball history’

Christian Yelich

Christian Yelich had some self-deprecating humor on Thursday after getting a much-needed big hit.

Yelich entered the Milwaukee Brewers’ game against the Chicago White Sox with only three hits and 16 strikeouts in eight games this season. In the top of the fifth inning, he hit a fly ball to left field that bounced in fair territory and allowed him to get his first career inside-the-park home run.

The homer tied the game and was part of a nice effort for Yelich, who walked four times and scored three runs.

After the game, Yelich called the homer the “luckiest in baseball history” and said he had been “awful” all year.

He’s been so bad that all it took was one hit to get him over .100 for the season. The 2018 NL MVP is now batting .111/.256/.306 this season. Sometimes all it takes is one lucky shot like that to turn things around. Maybe he could use another visit with the home run king too.