If I don’t survive the night, I love you all

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I’m not gonna lie to you. I’m totally freaked out. I’d be way better off if the Braves were already eliminated. As anyone who has suffered profound grief can attest, the shock, denial, anger and bargaining stages are harder to get through than the depression and acceptance part.  Or not. I don’t know. I’m just trying to grasp on to anything here.

OK, I’m overplaying that. In all honesty, this is about as wonderful as baseball gets. Partially because there’s the possibility for the horrible. If you’re a Red Sox, Rays, Braves or Cardinals fan tonight, your stomach should be doing flip flops. It’s good for the soul in some strange way.  Unless your happiness is way too closely tied to your favorite team’s performance you should appreciate that the all-or-nothing aspects to this make it thrilling.

Sure, I want my team to win and I want the Cardinals to lose.  But I’d be lying if I said that there wasn’t a part of me that wants a game 163.  And that, even if it kills another part of me, I think the Cardinals winning the wild card would be a good thing because it will be a neat happening to consider.

OK, maybe not a good thing, but certainly an interesting thing, and interesting things make life better.  Interesting things are of just as much if not more value to a person than some vicarious triumph of someone we consider to be part of our tribe. I mean, the Braves don’t know who I am and don’t care about my happiness beyond how that translates into support they can quantify.  Fandom is almost always one-sided. If we as fans value the interesting as much as we value the rah-rah stuff at least we’re being repaid somehow.

Not that I will abandon the rah-rah.  I imagine — if my stomach allows me to anyway — I’ll be on Twitter tonight cracking wise and scared and happy and angry depending on what the Phillies hitters are doing to poor Tim Hudson.  I’ll say something like “Yay! Go team!” if the Braves win and something like “Oh drat” if they lose. But then I’ll wake up tomorrow and know that we have the playoffs and the offseason and the spring and then another summer ahead of us when everything is reset and begins anew.  And then I’ll realize, nothing truly permanent was lost, even in defeat.

But seriously: screw the Cardinals. I hope they get no-hit by Brett Myers tonight and that Tony La Russa pulls a muscle during his 19th pitching change.

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.