And That Happened: Wednesday’s scores and highlights

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Tigers 6, White Sox 5: Detroit continues to be ridiculous. Alex Avila was a hero, tying it up at five with a big fly. Carlos Guillen won it with an RBI single in extras. I know there are people who want to pretend that Justin Verlander is single-handedly carrying the Tigers into the playoffs, but it really ain’t so.  They’ve had so many contribute this seasons, especially in the second half.

Blue Jays 5, Red Sox 4: Daniel Bard had a meltdown and the Red Sox lose again.  The tension from up Boston way is palpable.

Orioles 6, Rays 2:  It would be way more palpable if the Rays hadn’t lost a couple in a row to freakin’ Baltimore.

Cardinals 3, Pirates 2; Braves 4, Marlins 1:  Again the Braves and Cardinals stay in lockstep. Advantage: Braves. Pittsburgh clinches its 19th-straight losing season. I know some Pirates fans. Good people. Their plight is evidence that, if God indeed exists, He does not care a lick about professional sports.

Phillies 1, Astros 0: Roy Halladay stifles the Astros as Philly clinches a playoff birth in a two hours, six minute game. Does this put Halladay a step closer to the Cy Young Award? Just watch: Cliff Lee will have a nearly identical start the next time out muddling it all up again.

Angels 4, Athletics 1: Jered Weaver wins his 17th. It took him 115 pitches to do it, however, which is a bit troubling given that Mike Scioscia is thinking about running him out on short rest next time out.

Giants 3, Padres 1: Two homers for Carlos Beltran, giving him 300 for his career. The Giants sweep the Padres.

Royals 7, Twins 3: The Royals have a four-game winning streak on their hands. We’re checking with the judges to see if the fact that multiple wins came against the Twins means that they get to count it as a full four. No, I’m not picking on the Twins unfairly. Luke Hochevar had the freaking flu and he still tamed Minnesota’s bats.

Rangers 9, Indians 1: Josh Hamilton hit a grand slam that gave a bunch of people free carpet and flooring. God, I love America.

Nationals 2, Mets 0: Just looking at the box score, I’m getting the sense that this loss disgusted Mets fans way more than your usual, run-of-the-mill loss. The Mets were eliminated from the postseason, by the way. Not that I think that added to the frustration, what with its inevitability and all.

Reds 7, Cubs 2: Johnny Cueto left early, but the Reds had plenty of firepower to carry through it.  Ramon Hernandez hit a three-run bomb.

Rockies 6, Brewers 2: The Brewers can secure themselves with the knowledge that a team’s record in September does not correlate with playoff success. It’s OK to skid a bit. It’s not ideal, but it’s OK.

Dodgers 3, Diamondbacks 2: Clayton Kershaw had a one-hitter going in the sixth when he was tossed for throwing at Gerardo Parra intentionally even though he said it wasn’t intentional. You know, the Cy Young race is so close between Kershaw, Hallady and Lee, I am inclined to think that a five inning start, however effective it was, is enough to drop Kershaw down a bit.

Mariners 2, Yankees 1: Rodriguez with a walkoff homer lifts the M’s over New York in 12. If that was the story 12 years ago, it would have meant something else entirely. This time: Luis.

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.