Daily Dose: Carpenter healthy and thriving

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Some time on the disabled list has kept Chris Carpenter off the NL
leaderboards and All-Star team, but the St. Louis right-hander is
pitching as well as ever in his comeback from significant elbow and
shoulder injuries. Carpenter tossed seven innings of one-run ball
Sunday afternoon to beat the Reds while improving to 6-3 with a 2.32
ERA through a dozen starts.

Carpenter is sporting a fantastic 58/11 K/BB ratio in 78 innings
that would qualify as the best mark of his career, has induced 55
percent ground balls to rank fifth in the league behind only Joel
Pineiro, Jason Marquis, Aaron Cook, and Derek Lowe, and has averaged
92.3 miles per hour with his fastball after never clocking in with an
average above 91.5 mph during his Cy Young-winning prime.

While the Cardinals reclaim the NL Central lead, here are some other notes from around baseball …

* It’s rare to see a last-place team swapping prospects for a
veteran in July, but that’s exactly what the A’s did Sunday by
acquiring outfielder Scott Hairston from the Padres for Craig Italiano,
Ryan Webb, and a player to be named later. Webb is a marginal relief
prospect and Italiano hasn’t really panned out since being a second
rounder in 2005, so it seems likely that the PTBNL will have good
value.

Hairston has hit .273/.332/.524 with 35 homers in 667 plate
appearances for the Padres, which is impressive production while
calling Petco Park home. Oakland isn’t a whole lot better for offense,
but Hairston could play every day and should be immediately picked up
in AL-only leagues. His arrival likely hurts Travis Buck, but opens the
door for prospect Kyle Blanks to see more action in San Diego.

* Chien-Ming Wang left Saturday’s game in the sixth inning and
landed on the disabled list Sunday with a strained right shoulder.
Wang’s overall numbers look miserable because of his historically awful
first three starts in April, but he hasn’t been a whole lot better
since rejoining the rotation last month, going 1-3 with an ugly 6.43
ERA and 20/11 K/BB ratio in 28 innings spread over six outings.

There’s no getting around a 9.64 ERA, but the nuts and bolts of his
performance suggest that Wang is far from a lost cause. He remains one
of the league’s most extreme ground-ball pitchers and his average
fastball of 92 mph nearly matches his career norms. The big changes are
a high rate of fly balls leaving the ballpark and a low rate of runners
stranded, both of which are somewhat luck-based.

AL Quick Hits: Vladimir Guerrero homered Sunday for the second
straight game after going deep just twice through 42 games … Derek
Jeter celebrated getting the nod for his sixth All-Star start by going
4-for-5 with a homer Sunday … Justin Morneau homered Sunday for the
fifth time in seven games … General manager Mark Shapiro said Sunday
that manager Eric Wedge is not in danger of losing his job despite
being the first AL team to 50 losses … Joba Chamberlain was knocked
around for eight runs in 3.2 innings Sunday, although five of them were
unearned … After overtaking Ian Kinsler at the last second in the
All-Star voting, Dustin Pedroia went 3-for-5 on Sunday with his first
homer since May 31 … Nick Blackburn allowed only two ninth-inning runs
in Sunday’s complete-game victory, lowering his ERA to 2.94 … Already
out for the season following surgery on his right shoulder, Coco Crisp
will have his left shoulder operated on as well.

NL Quick Hits: Bronson Arroyo was rocked again Sunday and has
now allowed 37 runs in 38 innings since June 1 amid talk of wrist
problems … Manny Ramirez received Sunday off to rest his sore legs with
Juan Pierre filling in … Joe Blanton shut out the Mets for seven
innings Sunday to help hand Johan Santana another tough-luck loss … Roy
Oswalt allowed just one run Sunday for the third straight start, this
time lasting eight innings … Jimmy Rollins went 2-for-3 with a homer
Sunday and has started this month 7-for-18 (.389) with four extra-base
hits and four walks … Randy Johnson suffered a shoulder injury while
hitting Sunday and left after giving up two homers in the next inning …
Mark Reynolds hit his 24th homer Sunday, moving into a tie for second
place in the NL … Nyjer Morgan was hitless through seven at-bats with
the Nationals, but had two doubles and a steal Sunday … Hanley Ramirez
was scratched from Sunday’s game with a hip flexor.

Marcus Stroman named World Baseball Classic MVP

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United States starter Marcus Stroman was named Most Valuable Player of the World Baseball Classic after helping lead the U.S. to its first ever WBC title on Wednesday night in an 8-0 victory over Puerto Rico. Stroman flirted with a no-hitter through six innings, but gave up a double to lead off the seventh before being relieved by Sam Dyson.

Stroman also pitched 4 2/3 scoreless innings against the Dominican Republic in Pool C play on March 11. He struggled in Pool F play against Puerto Rico last Friday, surrendering four runs in 4 2/3 innings.

The WBC MVP award understandably goes to a player of the winning team. However, Wladimir Balentien of the Netherlands deserves special mention. In 26 at-bats during the WBC, he hit a double and had a WBC-high four home runs, 12 RBI, and 12 runs scored while putting up a .615/.677/.1.115 batting line. That’s MVP-esque as far as this tournament is concerned.

U.S. blanks Puerto Rico 8-0 to win first World Baseball Classic title

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The United States handed Puerto Rico its first loss in the World Baseball Classic, winning 8-0 for its first title in the fourth iteration of the tournament.

Puerto Rico starter Seth Lugo was matching Marcus Stroman zero-for-zero through the first two innings, but the U.S. broke out for a pair of runs when Ian Kinsler deposited a two-run home run just beyond the fence in left-center at Dodger Stadium. The U.S. tacked on two more in the fifth on RBI singles from Christian Yelich and Andrew McCutchen, pushing the lead to 4-0.

Meanwhile, Stroman was dealing. The right-hander, normally seen in a Blue Jays uniform, held Puerto Rico hitless through his first six innings, giving up just a lone walk. The U.S. put together a long rally in the top of the seventh, scoring three runs on three hits, two walks, and a hit batter. Stroman came back out for the seventh but immediately served up a double down the left field line to Angel Pagan. U.S. manager Jim Leyland immediately lifted Stroman from the game, bringing in Sam Dyson who escaped the inning without any further damage.

Pat Neshek allowed a leadoff single to Yadier Molina to begin the eighth, but induced a double-play, then worked around a two-out walk by striking out Kenny Vargas to end the frame.

In the ninth, David Robertson took over. He induced an infield pop-up from Enrique Hernandez. After Pagan singled up the middle, Francisco Lindor sharply grounded out to Eric Hosmer at first base for the second out. Finally, Robertson closed it out, inducing Carlos Correa to ground out to third base, making the U.S. 8-0 victors over Puerto Rico to win the World Baseball Classic.

Puerto Rico had an admirable run, defeating Venezuela, Mexico, and Italy to get out of Pool D undefeated. Then, in Pool F, it beat Venezuela again as well as the U.S. and the Dominican Republic to move to the semifinals. It narrowly edged Netherlands 4-3 in the semifinals to get into the finals.

The U.S. lost to the D.R. but beat Canada and Colombia to get out of Pool C. In Pool F, the U.S. lost to Puerto Rico and defeated the D.R again as well as Venezuela. The U.S. took down Japan in the semifinals to advance to the finals to play Puerto Rico.

The U.S. joins Japan (twice, 2006 and ’09) and the Dominican Republic (2013) as countries to win the World Baseball Classic. The 2017 tournament was a rousing success, setting attendance records, drawing over one million fans to ballparks to take in the games. It will hopefully encourage commissioner Rob Manfred and others to make a concerted effort to make the 2021 tournament bigger and better.