Red Sox, Rays both win, head into finale tied atop wild card

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Powered by yet another Jacoby Ellsbury blast and Ryan Lavarnway’s first two career homers, the Red Sox beat the Orioles 8-7 to remain in a tie with the Rays in the AL wild card standings.

The Rays topped the Yankees 5-3 thanks to homers from Ben Zobrist and Matt Joyce.  Joyce’s homer was a three-run shot off former Rays closer Rafael Soriano in the seventh inning.

Both clubs won for the 90th time this season.

The Yankees went with their regular lineup, minus only Derek Jeter, and all of their best relievers in this one, but they couldn’t best Jeremy Hellickson and the Rays relief corps.  They had their big chance in the sixth when Russell Martin, who hit a solo homer earlier, hit into a 5-4-3 triple play with the bases loaded, killing the rally.  That was the end of the night for Hellickson, and the bullpen put up three zeroes from there.

Like the Rays, the Red Sox did all of their damage on homers.  Ellsbury hit the first, a two-run shot off Zach Britton in the third.  Lavarnway followed with a three-run blast off Britton in the fourth.  Marco Scutaro made it 7-3 Boston with a two-run shot of his own in the sixth, and Lavarnway hit his second, a solo shot, in the eighth.

Less encouraging for Boston was Erik Bedard’s shaky outing.  He lasted just 3 1/3 innings and gave up three runs.  Fortunately, the invaluable Alfredo Aceves picked the Red Sox up with 3 2/3 innings of one-run ball.

The eighth and ninth brought more trouble.  Daniel Bard gave up two runs in the former, and Jonathan Papelbon, who seemed less than overpowering in this one after throwing 2 1/3 innings Sunday, allowed a run in the ninth before getting Adam Jones to ground out to end it.

The Red Sox and Rays are now set for a one-game playoff on Thursday if they both post the same result in Wednesday’s finales.  Boston will send Jon Lester to the mound on short rest.  He’ll be opposed by Baltimore’s Alfredo Simon. The Yankees are expected to throw a variety of relievers against the Rays, while Tampa Bay will have David Price on the mound.

Theo Epstein named The World’s Greatest Leader

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Fortune Magazine has put out a list of The World’s Greatest Leaders. Not the greatest business leaders, not the greatest leaders in a given industry, but the Greatest Leaders, full stop. The greatest according to Fortune: The Cubs’ Theo Epstein.

For some context, Pope Francis was third. Angela Merkel was 10th. Lebron James was the next greatest sports leader, ranked 11th. Take Fortune’s methodology with a grain of salt, however, given that it has John McCain above Merkel — what, exactly, does he lead now? — and Samantha Bee in the top 20.

So what makes Theo the world’s best leader according to Fortune?

The Cubs owe their success to a five-year rebuilding program that featured a concatenation of different leadership styles. The team thrived under the affable patience of owner Tom Ricketts, and, later, under the innovative eccentricity of manager Joe Maddon. But most important of all was the evolution of the club’s president for baseball operations, Theo Epstein, the wunderkind executive who realized he would need to grow as a leader in order to replicate in Chicago the success he’d had with the Boston Red Sox.

I don’t want to take anything away from what Theo has done — he’s a Hall of Fame executive already in my view — but I feel like maybe one needs to adjust for the fact that this is a baseball team we’re talking about. They’re the whole world to us and their brands are nationally and even world famous, but as an organization, sports teams are rather small. There are guys who run reasonably-sized HVAC companies with more employees than a baseball team and they don’t get the benefit of an antitrust exemption and a rule which allows them to get their pick of the best new employees if they had a bad year the year before.

Really, not trying to throw shade here, just thinking that being the spiritual father for 1.2 billion Catholics or running a foundation that serves 55 million needy children — like the woman who comes in at number 14 — is a bit of a tougher trick.

But this will make a great framed magazine article on Theo’s wall in Wrigley Field.

 

 

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.