And That Happened: Thursday's Scores and Highlights

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kids at Huntington Park small.JPGRays 11, Royals 1: The Rays are good the Royals are bad and you all know
that, so there’s no sense in dwelling on it here. Let’s take things in a
different direction: My wife and I took the kids to the Columbus
Clippers-Charlotte Knights game last night, which the Clippers won 9-7. 
My daughter is six, and she thought it was quite hilarious and a little
bit cute that there was a
player with the last name of “Flowers”
and a
player with the first name of “Shelley”
playing in the game. My son,
who is 4, decided that he wanted to boo the Charlotte Knights because
“they’re not from around here.” Later he decided to boo a couple that
came in and sat down three innings into the game “for bein’ late to the ballgame.”  I was a bit uneasy with the former booing, but
strongly approved of the latter.

Tigers 3, Twins 0:  D-Train beats the Twins’ Morneau and Mauer-free lineup, shutting them out over six innings. Given that he couldn’t even get the ball over the plate this time last year I got nothin’ but kudos for the guy, and would even if it was an American Legion lineup from Minnetonka.

White Sox 7, Rangers 5: Paul Konerko homered twice, the second of which put the Sox’ lead out of reach. That brings him up to 10 which leads the league. Great Moments in Energy Conservation: Michael Young checked his swing in the fifth, and the ball traveled so short a distance that A.J. Pierzynski was able to pick it up and tag Young before he had even left the batter’s box.

Yankees 4, Orioles 0: Robbie Cano had two homers and Marcus Thames had three hits, but after all these years we’re used to those two legends carrying this storied franchise on their broad shoulders.

Blue Jays 6, Athletics 3: John Buck was a 50% better hitter than Paul Konerko and Robbie Cano last night, blasting three bombs. The Athletics have lost seven of 10, shifting them back towards the “not for real” side of the ledger. The Jays can tell them all about it. And bad news for the Athletics as Justin Duchscherer had to leave the game with an injured hip, which appears to be serious.

Reds 4, Astros 2: Four in a row for the Redlegs. Pfun Pfact, courtesy of Red Reporter: despite the fact that Bronson Arroyo and Roy Oswalt have pitched in the same division for the past 4 seasons, last night was the first time they have faced each other in nine years, back when Arroyo was with the Pirates. How they’ve avoided each other for so long is just one of them things, I guess.

Diamondbacks 13, Cubs 5: Kelly Johnson was 4 for 5 with a homer — his NL-leading 9th — and three RBI. Adam LaRoche hit two homers and drove in five.  We’re basically one Mark DeRosa hitting streak and a Jason Marquis no-hitter away from me becoming more interested in rooting for the Braves alumni club more than I root for the Braves themselves.

Cardinals 10, Braves 4: A six RBI day for David Freese as the Cardinals win easily. Again. It’s bad enough that the Braves have dropped nine straight, but now they’re racking up injuries to go along with their futility. Jair Jurrjens left the game with a sore hamstring. Yunel left with a strained left adductor. Bobby Cox has a blown gasket: “It was a lousy trip. It’s been a horrible experience to endure,” Cox
said of the Bravos 0-7 road trip.

Padres 9, Brewers 0: Death by a thousand cuts: the Padres had seven straight singles in the fifth inning.  In fact, all 13 of the Padres hits in the game were singles, a good number of them which were chancey kind of things like the ball hitting off someone’s shoe and stuff.

Pirates 2, Dodgers 0: The Pirates score both of their runs when Matt
Kemp O-lays what should have been a single off the bat of Ryan Doumit
into a two-run “triple.” It’s a shame that Kemp would go from where he
was a year ago to
revert back to when the ball goes up in the air and you’re not sure
where it’s going, or if it’s going to get caught.

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.