Highlights from the 2013 MLB schedule

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MLB released its 2013 schedule with a couple of surprises today. One nice one: a scheduled doubleheader between the Rangers and Diamondbacks on Memorial Day (May 27).

As expected, Opening Day will revert back to Monday next year after midweek openers the last two seasons. There are currently 12 games slated for April 1, including a Red Sox-Yankees matchup and an interleague game featuring the Angels and Reds. After the World Series, ESPN will pick one of those 12 games to move up to Sunday night for its season kickoff.

The Astros will play their first game as an American League team when they host the Rangers on on April 2. It’s the shift of the Astros to the AL, creating two 15-team leagues, that will necessitate daily interleague games throughout the season. However, MLB has still scheduled a chunk of interleague play around the Memorial Day holiday. That week will feature some very unusual back-to-back two-game series between rivals.

As such, the Mets will host the Yankees on Monday and Tuesday and then go to Yankee Stadium for games Wednesday and Thursday. Similar arrangements will play out between the Cubs and White Sox; the Red Sox and Phillies; the Angels and Dodgers; the Orioles and Nationals; and the Giants and A’s, as well as others.

That every division will now have five teams makes for a particularly challenging schedule. Yet MLB has done its best to close the season with as many divisional matchups as possible (which is 12). Next year’s season-ending series will include Angels-Rangers, Red Sox-Orioles, Rockies-Dodgers, Phillies-Braves, Padres-Giants and Cubs-Cardinals. The Yankees will get the Astros to finish the season, while the Tigers will face the Marlins in the final interleague series.

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.