And this is why Team USA won’t ever win a WBC

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Of the 223 players with at least 350 plate appearances in 2012, J.P. Arencibia ranked 169th in wOBA. Among those players born in the United States, he’s not one of the top 100 hitters. Maybe he’s in the 100-150 range.

Yet there was Arencibia getting what may well have been the biggest at-bat for Joe Torre’s team in Friday’s game against Mexico. Team USA was down 5-1 with two on and none out in the bottom of the fifth. A right-hander was on the mound for Mexico. Arencibia is right-handed.

The U.S. is carrying three catchers. Joe Mauer was DHing, but there was little danger in batting for Arencibia and putting in Jonathan Lucroy afterwards. That would actually be an upgrade. Lucroy is a better player than Arencibia.

Of course, Buster Posey and Matt Wieters are also better players than Arencibia. They’re not here. A.J. Pierzynski, Alex Avila and John Jaso are better players than Arencibia. I’d probably argue for Chris Iannetta, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and A.J. Ellis, too.

Which is why Team USA is never going to win the World Baseball Classic as its presently constructed. It’s not just that many of the country’s best players don’t want to play. It’s that those in charge do a lousy job of picking the players that do. And then it does an even worse job of employing the players who are picked.

Gio Gonzalez is Team USA’s second best pitcher. He’s not even going to be used in Round 1, since it’s such a given that the team is going to advance to Round 2 (except that’s hardly the case). Eric Hosmer, starting for the ailing Mark Teixeira, is the wrong fallback to the wrong choice to play first base in the first place. Don’t even get me started on Heath Bell.

Willie Bloomquist was on the provisional roster, for crying out loud.

And there was Arencibia. He’s not one of the United States’ five-best catchers. It’s arguable whether he’s in the top 10. Yet there he was starting against Pool D’s toughest opponent in Friday’s opener. Because he’s handled a couple R.A. Dickey bullpen sessions. And then he was left in to take a crucial at-bat in the fifth, even though Dickey had already been pulled.

As I’m writing this, Team USA is still in the game against Mexico. Maybe it will come back. Maybe it will still advance to Round 2.

But winning the tournament? That’s not happening. Team USA wasn’t designed with any thoughts of winning the World Baseball Classic. It’s just there to get taken down by a more interested team.

Astros push ALCS to Game 7 with 7-1 stunner against Yankees

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There’s just something about playing in your home ballpark. The Astros decimated the Yankees at Minute Maid Park on Friday, riding seven scoreless innings from Justin Verlander and a pair of big runs from Jose Altuve to win 7-1 and force a Game 7 in the American League Championship Series.

Through the first four innings, however, the teams looked equally matched. Luis Severino no-hit the Astros through 3 2/3 innings, losing his bid on Carlos Correa‘s line drive single in the fourth. The Astros returned in the fifth to do some real damage, drawing two walks and plating the first run of the night with Brian McCann‘s ground-rule double off of the right field wall. Things didn’t get any easier for Severino. Jose Altuve lined a two-RBI base hit into left field, upping Houston’s advantage to three runs.

Verlander, meanwhile, muted the Yankees’ offense with seven innings of five-hit, eight-strikeout ball. While he didn’t come close to matching his complete game effort in Game 2, he was still plenty dominant against a struggling New York lineup. No player reached past first base until the sixth inning, when a pair of base hits from Chase Headley and Didi Gregorius gave the Yankees their first runner in scoring position. That didn’t last long, though, as Gary Sanchez grounded out on a 3-0 slider to end the inning.

In the seventh, Houston’s ace got into another spot of trouble. He walked Greg Bird on six pitches to start the inning, then plunked Starlin Castro on the wrist. Aaron Hicks struck out, in part thanks to a questionable call by home plate umpire Jim Reynolds, but it was Todd Frazier who presented the biggest threat after returning an 0-1 fastball for a 403-foot fly out to left field. Luckily for Verlander, George Springer was there to bail him out with a leaping catch at the wall.

The Yankees kept things exciting in the eighth, too. Aaron Judge ripped his third postseason home run off of Brad Peacock, taking a 425-footer out to the train in left field to spoil the Astros’ shutout. That was the only real break the Yankees got, however, as Altuve, Alex Bregman and Evan Gattis returned in the bottom of the inning to tack on another four runs, including Altuve’s solo shot off of David Robertson:

Ken Giles handled the ninth, expending 23 pitches and giving up a base hit and a walk before retiring Frazier and Headley to end the game. Thanks to Houston’s winning efforts, the two teams will compete in their first seven-game Championship Series since 2004 — and this time, at least one of them is guaranteed to come away with a win.

Game 7 of the ALCS is set for Saturday at 8:00 PM ET. Houston right-hander Charlie Morton (14-7, 3.62 ERA) is scheduled to face southpaw CC Sabathia (14-5, 3.69 ERA).