Alvarez, Smoak highlight Team USA roster for World Cup

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Team USA released its roster for next month’s baseball World Cup and there are some interesting names among the 23 players who will try to repeat as champions, with a mix of minor-league veterans and top prospects with limited pro experience.
“We have what we think is a solid mix of young players and veterans on this team,” general manager Bob Watson said. “For the first time in over 30 years we head into a World Cup as the defending champion, and we think this team is more than capable of returning to the medal stand.”
Two years ago the team included Evan Longoria, Colby Rasmus, and Andy LaRoche, and this year’s roster also has some star power. Four of the top 20 picks in the 2008 draft are on the team, including No. 2 overall pick Pedro Alvarez of the Pirates and No. 11 overall pick Justin Smoak of the Rangers.
Alvarez and Smoak are both among the top dozen or so hitting prospects in baseball and could be in the majors to stay at some point next season, with Jason Castro of the Astros and Ike Davis of the Mets joining them from the 2008 top 20.

Battle of the Aces: Max Scherzer takes on Clayton Kershaw tonight

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I hope you don’t have any plans tonight at around 10PM Eastern time, because that’s when we get a pitching matchup for the ages as Max Scherzer will take on Clayton Kershaw at Dodger Stadium. When they meet tonight it will be the first time two pitchers with three or more Cy Young Awards have matched up since 2006. That year, and in 2005 and 2000, Roger Clemens faced Greg Maddux. In 2001 Clemens faced Pedro Martinez.

Kershaw won his hardware in 2011, 2013 and 2014, with an MVP award in 2014 to boot. Scherzer collected trophies in 2013, 2016 and 2017. Each has started the 2018 season in Cy Young form. Kershaw is 1-2, but that record is due to poor run support. He has a 1.73 ERA and has struck out 31 batters and has walked only three in 26 innings. Scherzer is 3-1 with a 1.33 ERA and a whopping 38 strikeouts to only 4 walks in 27 innings.

This will be the third time that Kershaw and Scherzer faced each other if you include the playoffs. The first meeting was a decade ago when both were rookies. They most recently faced off in Game 1 of the 2016 NLDS, way back when Scherzer only had one Cy Young Award to his credit. Kershaw beat Scherzer in that playoff game and the Dodgers beat Scherzer’s teams in the two regular season matchups, with neither guy setting the world on fire. As so often happens in baseball, the hype hasn’t been matched by reality.

Still, there’s always a chance it will. And even if, in the end, this turns into a slugfest, the first couple of innings should at least give us some hope of something good. I’ll be watching.