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How the MLB celebrated Jackie Robinson Day, from Washington to Los Angeles

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USA TODAY Sports

How the MLB celebrated Jackie Robinson Day, from Washington to Los Angeles

By Michaela Johnson

Every year since 2004, the MLB has celebrated Jackie Robinson Day to commemorate Robinson’s significant and historic effects on the game of baseball.

On opening day 1947, Jackie Robinson became the first African American Major League Baseball player, breaking the race barrier between the MLB and the Negro leagues of the time.

To honor Robinson, players and team personnel wear the number 42, a jersey number that has been retired from the league since 1997. Robinson was the first athlete in any sport to have his number universally retired.

In addition to playing in No. 42 jerseys, individual clubs and players have their own ways of celebrating Jackie Robinson.

The Nationals took part by holding their annual Black Heritage Day on the same day as Jackie Robinson Day. Nats skipper Dusty Baker, one of two Black managers in the MLB, talked about the significance of this day in a post-game press conference. “Every day is Jackie Robinson Day to me,” Baker said. “If  it weren’t for him I wouldn’t be in baseball and I wouldn’t be working as a player and I wouldn’t have a job.”

Outfielder Bryce Harper shared this photo of his custom cleats.

Orioles outfielder Adam Jones explained what Jackie Robinson Day means to him in an interview with ESPN. “It's a celebration of a man that was ahead of his time and at the forefront for what he believed in,” Jones said. “I always try to ... understand what he's been through and try and treat baseball as the treat it really is.”

Jones also wore custom cleats for the day.

The Dodgers, with whom Robinson spent all ten years of his major league career, unveiled a bronze statue of his signature slide into home plate. The club has moved from Brooklyn to Los Angeles since Robinson's time, but his legacy within the organization lives on just as strong. Robinson’s wife, daughter and a number of extended family members attended the ceremony. The statue at Dodger Stadium is the eighth statue of Robinson in the country, reportedly the most of any American athlete.

Former MLB commissioner Bud Selig officially stated the Jackie Robinson Day would occur annually on April 15 in 2005. The league-wide donning of No. 42 jerseys began in 2009 and has been a tradition ever since.

Here are some other examples of clubs and players honoring Robinson around the league:

Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano: "Jackie is my hero."

The San Francisco Giants used Jackie Robinson Day to look forward to their own African American Heritage night. 

Indians manager Terry Francona put it best, saying, "In my opinion, this is the most important day we salute, or we honor, of any day of the year." 

More MLB: 10 INSANE BALLPARK FOODS YOU'LL SEE IN 2017

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Max Scherzer is having the best month of his career

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Max Scherzer is having the best month of his career

Max Scherzer’s black eye receded from the full-circle package to a dark half-moon before he took the mound in Miami. And his memory reminded him of the last time he was there. It was April 20 and produced his worst start of the season: 5 1/3 innings, 11 hits, six earned runs, a loss to drop his record to 1-3 and raise his ERA to 4.34. The latter number has declined in every start since.

Scherzer’s eight innings of one-run ball Tuesday night against the Marlins drove his ERA down to 2.52. His league-leading strikeout total again increased by 10 for the fourth consecutive game. He walked no one. It took just 94 pitches -- 71 strikes -- to reach that point Tuesday in the Nationals' 6-1 win.

Two questions emerged after the outing: Is Scherzer back in the National League Cy Young Award race? Is this the best month of his career?

The first is an easy yes. His 4.2 WAR (according to Fangraphs) coming into the night was by far the best of any pitcher in the major leagues. National League ERA leader Hyun-Jin Ryu is second in the NL at 3.3. Scherzer leads the National League in innings pitched, strikeouts, starts and strikeouts per nine. He is third in strikeout-to-walk ratio, fourth in WHIP, fourth in OPS against, seventh in batting average against. In a nutshell, Scherzer is again dominating while doing the heavy lifting. He makes every start. He gets into the seventh inning or later 58.9 percent time. He handles all comers.

His June blitz, in particular, has put him back in the Cy Young discussion. Following Tuesday night’s man-handling of Miami, Scherzer has a 0.97 ERA in the month. He’s struck out 54 and walked five. His WHIP is 0.70. Each start has lasted seven innings or more. He’s thrown 70 percent of his 536 pitches for strikes.

Why is he so diabolical? Look at the first three innings Tuesday against the Marlins. A 14-pitch first included some effort and 10 fastballs. Scherzer picked up no swinging strikes on those fastballs, which meant the eager Marlins were getting a good look at the pitch. So, he changed.

In the second inning, Scherzer threw five four-seam fastballs, four sliders/cutters, (Scherzer calls his 90-mph pitch often identified as a “cutter” his “power slider”), three changeups and three curveballs. That mix produced five swinging strikes.

In the third inning, six fastballs, five sliders, one changeup, three swinging strikes.

Which is the complication for the opposition. He will move off whatever is not working and immediately dispatch a fresh bouquet. He can command all of it, throw any of it when he wants, and he’s been obsessing over it for almost a week. Good luck.

An age-35 season is not supposed to be a time of ascension, but, as he is wont to do, Scherzer appears to be running against perceived norms. 

June of 2017 is the only month of his career to challenge June of 2019 for personal supremacy. The numbers that month: 0.99 ERA, 36 ⅓ innings pitched, 51 strikeouts, six walks, a 0.55 WHIP. He made five starts that month. He’s already made five this June, struck out more batters and walked fewer while carrying a lower ERA.

Scherzer has a start remaining this month. It comes against one of his former teams, the Detroit Tigers. No major-league club has scored fewer runs. That mix should further define this as the best month of Scherzer’s Hall-of-Fame bound career and help answer the Cy Young question, too.

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Ryan Zimmerman is ready to rejoin Nationals, but in what capacity?

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Ryan Zimmerman is ready to rejoin Nationals, but in what capacity?

Key for Ryan Zimmerman was the simplistic act of staying on his grumpy feet for nine innings. The idea had been elusive for weeks. Zimmerman last played a full baseball game on April 27. Plantar fasciitis sent him to this fate, and each time he progressed, an ache pulled him back.

Monday, Zimmerman played nine innings for Double-A Harrisburg. He picked up two hits, but more vital was the ability to play a full game his third time on the field in four days. Zimmerman played Friday and Saturday before taking Sunday off. Tuesday becomes decision day: is Zimmerman ready to join the team Wednesday or does he have to wait? He'll wait at least another day since he is in the Senators' lineup as the designated hitter Tuesday.

There's a benefit to waiting. Washington goes to Detroit for interleague play this weekend. That affords them a chance to use the designated hitter and a window to play both Howie Kendrick and Zimmerman throughout the series without greatly taxing either.

Bringing Zimmerman back sooner also has the benefit of putting his glove on the field and expanding bench options for manager Davey Martinez. The veteran can be protected in a rotation at first base. The Nationals have Brian Dozier hitting and fielding well. Kendrick hits line drives whenever he is in the lineup. Matt Adams provides a powerful matchup option. This is how things were supposed to work from the start of the season. But, they did not come to order until late June.

Zimmerman's injury has also decided the fate of his $18 million club option for next season. It has graduated from unlikely to no chance. Though, he appears open to coming back at a much lower price. Zimmerman's body has forced him into a position of being a part-time player only, at this stage. He said last week his body "felt great" outside of the plantar fasciitis issue in his foot. Don't be surprised if he and the Nationals work something out for one more season.

For now, the club has to decide when Zimmerman will be back on the field. If he felt good Tuesday following another rehabilitation game, he could be ready as soon as Wednesday. Which prompts another decision: Do they release spirit animal Gerardo Parra to make space? Would they entertain a change for Michael A. Taylor? Something has to give if Zimmerman is finally ready.

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