Angels, Scioscia should be embarrassed

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The Yankees didn’t overpower them. Just once in the series did the Bombers really come out to play and turn a game into a rout. No, the Yankees were the better team going in and should have won this series anyway, but the Angels served it up on a platter.
Most notable were the eight errors, all of them legitimate and several of them costly. Even uglier were the mistakes on the basepaths, none more hideous than Vladimir Guerrero getting doubled on a routine fly to shallow right on Sunday. The hitters got less and less patient as the series went on. Only the pitching remained solid, but it was given so little to work with.
And while the players lost the series, Mike Scioscia’s star definitely lost some luster. Given the chance, he practically always went against the percentages and he had several decisions come back to bite him. And while Scioscia can’t control what happens on the field, the fact is that the team that he had a huge hand in assembling went out and choked. The Angels play the kind of baseball that old vets and writers lap up, but the fundamentals went right out the window against the Yankees.
Oddly enough, it turned out that the player the Angels are all ready to phase out was the star of the series. Guerrero went 10-for-27 with a homer and five RBI against the Yankees. He previously delivered the series-clinching hit against the Red Sox, and he ended up collecting at least one hit in all nine of the Angels’ postseason games. Unfortunately, Sunday’s baserunning blunder might be remembered at least as much as anything else he did against the Yankees.
Many other Angels wilted. The team totaled just three homers in the series, and the running game was pretty much a non-factor, even if Erick Aybar did go 3-for-3 stealing bases (the rest of the team was 1-for-2). Scott Kazmir struggled mightily in his start and threw away the Angels’ chances of a comeback win in Game 6 with a careless toss in his relief appearance. Chone Figgins was the biggest goat on offense, but the Angels should have been prepared for that going in.
Because Guerrero and Alex Rodriguez shined in the ALCS, Figgins perhaps now stands alone when it comes to active postseason futility. He did score one of the team’s runs Sunday after a flare to left off Mariano Rivera that barely eluded Derek Jeter’s glove. That’s about as close to hitting with authority as he came all month. He hit .130 against the Yankees, and he’s at .172/.223/.246 in 122 career postseason at-bats. Scioscia refusal to move him down after so many awful plate appearances hurt the team.
But if standing by Figgins was Scioscia’s worst sin, he would have had a fine series. Scioscia was handed what was essentially a lifetime contract from the Angels prior to this year, and he’s certainly not going to lose his job over a poor series. However, the regular-season success will only go so far.
Scioscia loves ignoring the numbers and playing favorites, and because his clubs keep winning, he gets the benefit of the doubt. It’s something that could begin to change if the October results don’t turn around. Scioscia’s teams have averaged 95 wins the last six years, yet are 2-5 in postseason series. The Angels should have more than the steroid-fueled 2002 championship to show for all of their recent success.

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.