Link-O-Rama: Lester or Beckett in Game 1?

Leave a comment

* Sean McAdam of the Boston Herald reports that the Red Sox will likely start Jon Lester in Game 1 of the ALDS, followed by Josh Beckett, Clay Buchholz, and Daisuke Matsuzaka.
Beckett was MVP of the World Series in 2003 and MVP of the ALCS in 2007, and has a sparkling 7-2 record and 2.90 ERA in 87 postseason innings. Then again, Lester has been the Red Sox’s best pitcher this season and has a 2.25 ERA in 36 postseason innings himself. Can’t go wrong either way, really.
* On a related note, Brad Penny turned in another strong start last night, holding the Cubs to one run over eight innings. Penny and John Smoltz now have a combined 3.24 ERA in 11 starts back in the NL after going 9-13 with a 6.24 ERA in 32 starts for the Red Sox. Helluva league, that NL.
* After a decade with the Orioles and the 10th-most games in franchise history, Melvin Mora is preparing for life away from Baltimore once his $8 million option for 2010 gets declined. Mora was a 28-year-old utility man when the Orioles got him from the Mets as part of the haul for Mike Bordick in mid-2000, but since then he’s been one of the best third basemen in the league while making two All-Star teams and hitting 158 homers.
* David Brown of Yahoo! Sports did a great interview with Denard Span, who has emerged as one of the best all-around players in the league after once looking like a bust.
* Brandon Webb reiterated yesterday that he’s not interesting in an incentive-laden contract, so if the Diamondbacks want to keep him from becoming a free agent they’ll need to pick up his $8.5 million option for 2010. “I’ve got to go out and see what’s best for me,” Webb said. “I think I can get [$8.5 million] anywhere I want.” And he’s probably right.

Marcus Stroman named World Baseball Classic MVP

Denis Poroy/Getty Images
8 Comments

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

Harry How/Getty Images
10 Comments

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.