And That Happened: Sunday's Scores and Highlights

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Albert Pujols running.jpgCardinals 9, Cubs 1: Things people were doing for about ten seconds and then suddenly pretending that they never did: (1) listening to swing music; (2) playing poker; and (3) wondering if it was possible that Albert Pujols was no longer the best player in baseball. Pujols: 3 for 3 3 HR, 4 RBI; Cherry Poppin’ Daddies, awful, your story about that miracle draw on the river of that hand you shouldn’t have even been in anymore, still boring as hell.

Tigers 10, Athletics 2: I once got stuck in Toledo for a two-week trial, and when I came back I appreciated my non-Toledo existence as the precious gift from The Maker that it truly is. Life felt fresh again and, for a little while at least, I approached my responsibilities with a renewed sense of purpose and gusto. I think Max Scherzer feels the same way (5.2 IP, 2 H, 14K).  Oh, and becoming father for the second time agrees with Miguel Cabrera: 4 for 5 with a double a homer and 4 RB. Cabrera is 8 for 13 with four homers in the three games since the birth of his daughter.

Marlins 1, Phillies 0: The Phillies’ offensive woes were forgotten for a minute thanks to Roy Halladay’s perfect game, but the fact is that they still only scored four runs in three games on their trip to Florida. Sure, the Marlins only scored three, but they’re not the ones who were supposed to pummel the opposition all year.

Braves 5, Pirates 2: I wrote a proto-epitaph for Chipper Jones on Thursday, and in the four games since then he’s gone 6 for 12 with 5 RBI, including yesterday’s pinch hit job, which proved to be the game-winner. All but one of those hits were singles so I suppose we could still ask where Jones’ power is, but let’s not bury the guy just yet.

Giants 6, Diamondbacks 5: Stop me if you’ve heard this one: the opposing team rallied off the Dbacks’ bullpen and went on to win the game.  That makes seven straight losses for Arizona, who was outscored 23-6 in the series.  Oh, and Buster Posey starts out his 2010 major league season by going 6 for 10 with two doubles and four RBI for the Giants.

Angels 9, Mariners 7: Three-run walkoff homer for Howie Kendrick in the bottom of the ninth. No Los Angels of Anaheim were injured in the celebration of this event.

Padres 3, Nationals 2: Two homers for Ryan Zimmerman, but the pinch hit RBI single from the Padres’ Nick Hundley in the 11th was the bigger blow. By the way, it’s fun to look at box scores with names like Gwynn and Hundley and Stairs in it. Gives me a retro-90s vibe. Oh wait, I forgot: Matt Stairs is the same dude from the 90s. Nothin’ retro about that.

White Sox, 8, Rays 5: Jayson Nix came off the bench to hit a grand slam and help the Sox earn a split with the Rays. Tampa Bay went 2-5 in the past week. Why they need to go and screw up my power rankings like that I have no idea, but it’s pretty darn inconsiderate.

Dodgers 4, Rockies 3: I like the nine strikeouts in five innings from Clayton Kershaw, but I don’t like the 97 pitches in five innings. It’s a win and wins are nice, but having to use five pitchers when your ace takes the hill is the kind of thing that has to make managers tear their hair out. Oh, and it was Manny Ramirez’s birthday yesterday. Joe Torre didn’t give him the start, though, because he correctly presumed that Ramirez would be distracted all afternoon thinking about all the places he’d go after the game to get free stuff.

Blue Jays 6, Orioles 1: See, that’s how you pitch efficiently: Ricky Romero: CG, 6 H, 1 ER, 7K, 102 pitches.

Red Sox 8, Royals 1: David Ortiz hit a homer, Jon Lester was solid for seven and Mike Cameron doubled twice and drove in two, capping an 18-11 month for the Bosox.

Mets 10, Brewers 4: Apart from not fooling Rickie Weeks — who hit two homers — R.A. Dickey had himself yet another nice game (7 IP, 9 H, 4 ER). Helps when you don’t walk anybody.  The Mets’ ten runs on 16 hits was their biggest offensive game of the season.

Yankees 7, Indians 3: The Bombers were down 3-0 entering their half of the seventh and then they were all, like, Derek Jeter two-run single and Mark Teixeira three-run homer. The Yankees fans were all “cool” and the Tribe fans were all like “dude . . .”

Astros 2, Reds 0: It was ugly hot and humid here in Columbus yesterday, and a good rule of thumb is to add approximately 4.7 misery points to the Columbus, Ohio icky and muggy scale in order to find out what it’s like in Cincinnati. Based on that formula — and based on the fact that the game was scoreless for the first nine innings, but not scoreless in a “wow these pitchers are awesome” kind of way — I am quite pleased that I passed on the tickets I was offered to this game.

Twins 6, Rangers 3: Tough game. Derek Holland left in the second inning with shoulder soreness and the ninth inning closed with Denard Span slamming into Orlando Hudson as Span made the game-ending catch.

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.