Pablo Sandoval’s three-homer game is most impressive in postseason history

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Before Pablo Sandoval got to Justin Verlander twice and Al Alburquerque once for his first ever three-game game in the World Series opener, eight players in major league history had hit three homers in a postseason game:

Babe Ruth (NYY) – Game 4, 1926 WS – 3-for-3, 4 RBI, 2 BB
Babe Ruth (NYY) – Game 4, 1928 WS – 3-for-5, 3 RBI
Bob Robertson (Pit) – Game 2, 1971 NLCS – 4-for-5, 5 RBI, 2B
Reggie Jackson (NYY) – Game 6, 1977 WS – 3-for-3, 5 RBI, BB
George Brett (KC) – Game 3, 1978 ALCS – 3-for-5, 3 RBI
Adam Kennedy (ANA) – Game 5, 2002 ALCS – 4-for-4, 5 RBI
Adrian Beltre (Tex) – Game 4, 2011 ALDS – 3-for-4, 3 RBI
Albert Pujols (StL) – Game 3, 2011 WS – 5-for-6, 6 RBI

Kennedy may yet rank as the most unlikely of the three-homer games, considering that he’s not a power hitter at all. He’s homered once in his 24 other career postseason games.

However, once factoring in the quality of the competition, Sandoval’s seems just as unlikely. And it’s the most impressive of this whole bunch.

– Including the postseason, Verlander had given up 21 homers in 262 2/3 innings this season or one every 12 2/3 innings. Sandoval hit two in four innings off him tonight.

– Albuquerque has never allowed a homer in 56 2/3 innings in the regular season. He did surrender one to Robinson Cano in the ALDS a year ago.

– No one homers in AT&T Park. The Giants hit 31 and allowed 53 there this year. Sandoval was the first person to hit three homers there since Kevin Elster did it in the park’s inaugural game 12 years ago. Only four players hit two homers in a game there this year, and the lone Giant to do it was Sandoval.

Besides Sandoval, Brett probably had the toughest assignment in getting to three homers; he was facing Hall of Famer Catfish Hunter when he did in 1978. However, it was in a losing cause in the ALCS, so that costs him some points. Jackson’s three-homer game was more crucial, coming in a Game 6 that clinched the 1977 series for the Yankees. Pujols was the one player to hit three homers and still add two more hits.

But Sandoval’s game seems to me to the most impressive of the bunch. To get to those two pitchers in that ballpark in a World Series Game is maybe the highlight of the 2012 season to date.

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.