Thoughts on Yanks-Sox: Slide Jorge!

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090806_posada_collision.jpgSome thoughts from the Yankees-Red Sox game Thursday night:

— The game was nearly four hours long, coming in at 3:52. About an hour of it was interesting. Basically, the Chamberlain-Smoltz matchup/disaster, plus the Pedroia plunking in the 8th. (You think Josh Beckett will have something to say about that on Friday?)

— The game was so long, I was hearing calls for umpire Derryl Cousins to widen his strike zone to actually encompass the entire plate. With a strike zone like that, even Yuniesky Betancourt could have drawn a walk.

— *The game was so long, John Smoltz had surgery, underwent rehab and returned to watch the final three innings.

*This is not true, but might be something to consider.

— Speaking of Smoltz, it may be time to pull the plug, and he knows it. “I’m not doing it right now. I’m a big enough man to stand up here and say I’m not doing it. Time may not be on my side if this continues. I’ve been here before, but not like this.”

— I know Jorge Posada was one of the heroes and all (3-for-5, one mammoth 3-run homer), but how could he not slide on that play at the plate in the second inning? He was tagged out easily while sort of gently bumping Victor Martinez. If you remember, Posada was the guy who helped create the Derek Jeter legend by tagging out a non-sliding Jeremy Giambi in the 2001 playoffs. Talk about not learning from history.

— Not sure if he was praising the Yankees, ripping Yankee Stadium, or a little bit of both, but Terry Francona said: “That’s an unforgiving lineup in an unforgiving ballpark.”

— In going 0-for-5, David Ortiz played as if Saturday’s press conference is weighing on his mind.

— Lost in the shuffle: Casey Kotchman hit a two-run home run in his first start for Boston, and Kevin Youkilis played passably well in left field.

— If you Twitter, you can often find me there at @bharks.

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.