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Snake Bytes, 8/10: Back on the losing trail

We also got the first proper brawl of the 2020 season. And it involved the Astros. This is my unsurprised face.

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MLB: Houston Astros at Oakland Athletics Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports


[AZ Central] Bumgarner serves up four homers, departs after two innings - Diamondbacks left-hander Madison Bumgarner said he awoke in the middle of the night with discomfort in his back. He figured he had been sleeping on it the wrong way and that it likely would go away. But when Sunday morning rolled around, it wasn’t better – it might even have been worse, he said. “Obviously, hindsight is 20/20 here,” Bumgarner said after giving up six runs in two innings of a 9-5 loss at Petco Park. “We’re sitting here and it looks like, obviously, I should not have been out there. At the time, me, I feel like I can find a way and get guys out and keep us in the game. And it just didn’t work out that way.”

[Arizona Sports] D-backs’ Madison Bumgarner lasts just 2 innings in loss to Padres - The Padres’ bats eventually cooled off, with the combination of Widener, Stefan Crichton and catcher-turned-pitcher for a day Carson Kelly holding San Diego scoreless in the final six frames. The D-backs’ offense showed some signs of life thanks a solo home run from Kole Calhoun in the seventh inning and two home runs courtesy of shortstop Nick Ahmed and second baseman Andy Young, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the deficit. Prospect Daulton Varsho recorded his first hit of his career, a double in the ninth inning.

Team News

[The Athletic] Fastball fading and back hurting, Madison Bumgarner returns to Arizona for tests - Bumgarner said he thought his back spasms “had a lot to do” with his velocity against the Padres, but that doesn’t explain his fastball issues in his previous three starts. He said his tests in Phoenix will focus on his mid-back, a nebulous area that contains many muscles involved in the operation of the shoulder, but not his elbow or forearm. “I’ve never really had anything like this before,” he said. “I know we’re going to get it right.” Lovullo said he’s confident that Bumgarner will pitch again this season, quashing any questions about shutting the lefty down as “a little premature.”

[Arizona Sports] Back spasms reason behind Madison Bumgarner's benching - Now, looking at an 0-3 record and an injury, the frustration mounts for the team’s biggest offseason signing in an abbreviated year. “I’ve had my fair share of [frustrating times], but this is for sure up there,” Bumgarner said. “Coming to a new place, wanting to do good. And then this type of season of top of that nothing has worked out the way I wanted it to go. But you got to just roll with it and try to do the best you can. That’s what I’m doing, trying to get to where I want to be and need to be to give these guys a chance to win when I go out there.”

[AZ Central] Selectivity the key to Starling Marte’s hot start for Diamondbacks - The setup to Marte’s first home run of the season was representative of why he believes he has been having success through the season’s first two weeks: He has been making good decisions on when to swing the bat. “Definitely my zone awareness,” Marte said of his hot start, speaking through translator Alex Lorenzo. “I’ve been really working on making sure that I’m swinging at good pitches in the zone and taking the low pitches away, leaving them down. I’m not really chasing outside the zone. I’ve been able to string together a couple of line drives and then really take my pitches and get good pitches to hit in the zone.”

[] Selective Starling staying in the zone - The numbers back up what Marte is saying. His chase percentage -- the percentage of pitches outside of the strike zone that he is swinging at -- is 25%, according to Statcast. Last year with the Pirates, his chase percentage was 33%. The average chase rate in the Major Leagues this year is 28%. “Through the coaches, [Darnell Coles], Drew Hedman, Eric Hinske, we’ve been able to get a lot of work done and really focus in on getting good pitches to hit in the zone,” Marte said. “They’ve helped me tremendously. Pitchers know I like to swing at pitches that are really close to the zone or maybe a bit outside. Thankfully, this year I’ve been able to focus on getting good pitches to hit and on pitches inside the zone.”

And, elsewhere...

[Yahoo] A’s brawl with Astros after Laureano HBP - Sunday’s game between the Houston Astros and Oakland Athletics turned into a melee when A’s outfielder Ramón Laureano charged Houston’s dugout after being hit twice by Astros pitchers. Laureano was hit in the seventh inning, took exception that it happened again, jawed a bit with the Houston dugout then charged in when prompted by Astros hitting coach Alex Cintrón.

[CBS Sports] Cleveland pitcher Zach Plesac issues apology for breaking MLB's coronavirus protocols in Chicago - Cleveland sent right-hander Zach Plesac home on Sunday for violating health and safety protocols, the team announced. Plesac violated team rules and the league's protocols by reportedly going out with friends in Chicago on Saturday. Cleveland is in Chicago for series against the White Sox and Cubs. "I would like to apologize to my teammates, the entire Cleveland organization and all of our fans for my actions Saturday evening," Plesac said in a statement. "I realize I made a poor choice to leave the hotel, which broke protocols and could have endangered other people. I understand that in these times of uncertainty, I need to be more vigilant and responsible."

[ESPN[ 25 years ago tonight, MLB had its last forfeit - Nobody is quite sure why Los Angeles Dodgers fans started throwing souvenir baseballs onto the field in the seventh inning on Aug. 10, 1995, but in the absence of an instigating event, the simplest explanation is: Because baseballs want to be thrown.

Avengement (2019)

Rating: B+
Dir: Jesse V. Johnson
Star: Scott Adkins, Craig Fairbrass, Nick Moran, Thomas Turgoose

Adkins may be the best action star you’ve never heard of: this may blow your socks off. It’s rare for an action film also to have a well-written script and performances which deliver rounded-out characters, as well as copious bone-crunching action, yet this delivers on just about every level. Though I am still trying to work out what the hell “avengement” means, and why the makers apparently bothered to make up a generic-sounding nonsense word. There were surely plenty of perfectly acceptable ones they could have used.

Former boxer Cam Burgess (Adkins) escapes from his prison guards when on a brief furlough to see his cancer-stricken mother, and heads for the private club where the minions of his brother, Lincoln (Fairbrass) hang out. Holding the customers and barmaid hostage, as they wait for Lincoln to arrive, it becomes apparent that Cam is on a mission of vengeance, Lincoln having put a hit on his brother in jail, for having grassed on the highly-dubious family business. But the fact Cam survived – albeit at the cost of his teeth, and much of the skin on his face – shows he has the skills to pay back those who betrayed him, and anyone who gets in the way.

Credit first to the script, by Johnson and Stu Small, which largely unfolds in flashback. This can often be a bit of a cheat, but here, it’s played honestly, and to good effect, filling in the reasons for Cam’s actions. The dialogue is also cracking (“Looks like someone set fire to your head and put it out with a shovel”), often dripping with sarcasm and reminiscent of early Guy Ritchie. Extra amusement is provided by the Netflix subtitles and their struggle with the heavily-accented colloquialisms e.g. “backside” instead of “boss-eyed” and “tough” instead of “Taff”. Then there’s the actors, who all do their lines justice, with special nods to Lincoln’s lieutenant Hyde (Moran) and brassy barmaid, Bez (Kierston Wareing), called that because… Never mind. The film explains it better than I could.

These, however, are all bonuses, because you are here for the arse-kicking, which is almost non-stop, and very well-staged. The British setting reduces the need to explain the lack of fire-arms, though these do show up for a couple of high-impact moments, the sawn-off shotgun in particular. Instead, it’s mostly fisticuffs, with the intensity amped up to eleven, and Cam typically fighting off multiple opponents, more or less at once. About the only real one-on-one battle sees him going up against the corrupt police officer who triggered the hit, and this makes some sense. Cam is painted as such an unstoppable force, no single person could realistically pose much of a challenge. Or indeed, no single army.

Still, despite his invulnerability, if there has been a better British action film, I’m hard-pushed to think of one. Maybe some of the top-ranked 007 movies, though they are really almost a genre of their own. This is top-notch stuff.