Dominican Republic downs Yankees 8-2 in exhibition

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The Dominican Republic is glad Hiroki Kuroda decided to sit out the World Baseball Classic. He’s the only pitcher with any luck slowing their offense the last two days.

Kuroda, a native of Japan, struck out four in three scoreless innings Wednesday, but the Dominican Republic scored in every frame afterwards on its way to an 8-2 win over the Yankees.

The Dominican team has total 23 runs and 39 hits in the 15 innings not pitched by Kuroda the last two days.

Leading the Dominican offense today was supposed weak link Ricardo Nanita. Starting in left field with Jose Bautista absent from the roster, Nanita went 3-for-5 with two doubles and two runs scored in this one.

Nanita and Moises Sierra, both Blue Jays players oddly enough, will likely platoon in left field for the Dominican team in the WBC. Nanita, a left-handed hitter, batted .306/.353/.465 at offense-heavy Triple-A Las Vegas last season. Sierra, a right-hander, hit .289/.360/.472 in 377 at-bats for Las Vegas and .224/.274/.374 in 147 at-bats in the majors. Neither was considered a candidate to make the Blue Jays this spring.

Jose Reyes, Edwin Encarnacion and Carlos Santana (finally a non-Blue Jay) all had two hits apiece for the Dominican Republic today. Yankees farmhand Vidal Nuno was the starting pitcher after being loaned to the Dominican Republic for the day. He pitched four hitless innings in what was essentially an intrasquad game for him.

Dominican second baseman Robinson Cano went 1-for-3 with an RBI while facing his Yankees teammates today.

A.J. Hinch: “We’ll use every pitcher in Game 7 if we have to”

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It’s not entirely clear why the Astros threw Ken Giles into the ninth inning of Game 6 of the ALCS. With a six-run advantage and the bottom half of the Yankees’ lineup due up, pushing the series to its seven-game capacity looked like a sure bet. Giles may be one of Houston’s better bullpen arms, but he’s not their only option, and it would have made more sense to keep him fresh for a do-or-die Game 7 on Saturday night.

Of course, there’s no such thing as a sure bet when it comes to postseason baseball. That’s more or less what Astros’ manager A.J. Hinch had to say after the game, telling reporters that he had envisioned a quick three outs from his closer as they tried to pull back from the brink of elimination. “We didn’t have the luxury of limping into that inning,” Hinch said. “We’ve seen how these guys can explode in these innings.”

It’s not difficult to recall the Yankees’ explosive drive in the eighth inning of Game 4, when they exploited the holes in Houston’s ‘pen and evened the series with Gary Sanchez‘s go-ahead double off of Giles. Back home in Minute Maid Park, however, there was a slightly different feel to the eighth and ninth innings of Game 6. Jose Altuve led off the eighth with a solo home run, followed by Alex Bregman‘s two-run double and Evan Gattis‘ sac fly. In the ninth, Giles labored through a 23-pitch outing to lock down the win, handing out a base hit and a seven-pitch walk before eventually whiffing Chase Headley on three straight pitches for the last out.

So, while Hinch’s decision to lean on Giles in Game 6 may have felt wasteful, his concerns were not entirely unfounded. He’s prepared to roll with the same strategy during Saturday’s series finale, too, leaving nothing on the table as the Astros battle for their first World Series showdown since 2005. According to Dallas Keuchel, that means all hands on deck — except for Justin Verlander, whose four wins, 24 strikeouts and 1.46 postseason ERA have gotten the Astros as far as he could possibly be expected to take them. “No pitcher is going to be in the dugout,” said Keuchel. “They’re all going to be in the bullpen, myself included. Any way we can help out, we’re trying to get to the World Series, the same way the Yankees are, and that’s a nice feeling to have.”

Does that mean Giles will be available for a Game 7 appearance? Stranger things have happened. Joe Sheehan notes that the right-hander has pitched in back-to-back days 13 times this year, though he’s never thrown as many as 23 pitches on Day 1. Granted, he likely doesn’t have enough left in the tank for another 20+ pitch run on Saturday, but with the World Series on the line, any help he can offer will be invaluable.