What we're watching: Rangers run up against King Felix

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– Felix Hernandez will attempt to cool off the Rangers, who have won
seven of their last eight games and have gone 5-0 against the Mariners
this season. He’s 4-9 with a 4.35 ERA lifetime against Texas, but he
did pitch seven scoreless innings in a no-decision versus the Rangers
back on May 14. The Rangers will throw Tommy Hunter, who has given them
two straight positive outings since coming up to replace the injured
Matt Harrison. He’s 1-1 with a 3.18 ERA in three starts overall. It
seems like a pretty good guess that Andruw Jones will be in the lineup
tonight, though he was held out of both of King Felix’s previous starts
against the Rangers. He hit three homers last night, giving him five in
his last four games.

– Tim Lincecum can add to his case for starting the All-Star Game
for the NL squad by beating the Padres tonight. However, that’s not
been such an easy assignment for him in the past. Even though he has a
1.43 ERA in 10 starts versus San Diego in his career, he’s just 3-2
against the team. When he faced the Padres on May 21, he allowed one
run in seven innings, only to take a no-decision in a 3-2 loss. On
April 12, he was handed one of his two losses when he gave up four runs
in 5 1/3 innings versus San Diego. Of course, Lincecum is throwing a
whole lot better now than he was then. He’s allowed just one run over
25 innings in his last three starts, all of which were wins. He’s 9-2
with a 2.23 ERA.

Game of the Night

Atlanta vs. Colorado – Who isn’t excited to see Tommy Hanson try to
match Jung Keun Bong? If Hanson wins tonight, he’ll become the first
Braves rookie to start his career 5-0 since the Korean left-hander did
so in 2003. Hanson took a no-decision last time out despite giving up
just one run in seven innings. He has a 0.90 ERA in five starts since
getting roughed up in his major league debut on June 7. Pitching for
Colorado will be ace Aaron Cook, who is already riding a five-game
winning streak. He has a 2.47 ERA in his last nine starts.

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.