Jonathan Schoop powers The Netherlands past Cuba

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Diegomar Markwell pitched six innings of one-run ball and Jonathan Schoop knocked in four runs with a homer and a double as The Netherlands bested Cuba 6-2 in the start of Round 2 WBC play.

Markwell surrendered nine hits in his six innings of work, but was aided by five double plays and a botched sacrifice bunt. The only run he surrendered came on Alfredo Despaigne’s second-inning homer.

Schoop was involved in four of the double plays and was the offensive MVP, giving The Netherlands room to breathe with his three-run blast in the sixth. He finished the game 3-for-6.

First baseman Curt Smith also homered for The Netherlands. Andrelton Simmons went 2-for-4 with a walk and had a brilliant defensive game, factoring into all five double plays.

Cuba, meanwhile, was very sloppy, committing two official errors, botching a couple of other infield plays and failing in its attempt to play small ball.

The Netherlands’ victory was slightly marred by a terrible call on a foul popup to end the eighth. Smith tried to go into the camera well to catch the ball, but it obviously went off his glove and hit the cement floor. He then picked the ball up with his glove, making no attempt to suggest he caught it, and home-plate umpire Alfonso Marquez gave him the out call, at which point he turned around and headed to the dugout. Cuba disputed the call, but first-base umpire Gerry Davis failed to follow the play and no one else was in any sort of position to overrule Marquez.

The call, as bad as it was, hardly figured to be a game-changer. No one was on base at the time, and Cuba appeared to have mailed this one in a few innings earlier. Cuban manager Victor Mesa made himself the main attraction tonight, trying to rub up baseballs with his batting gloves while making pitching changes and then fuming after Marquez forced the pitchers to switch baseballs afterwards. He warranted ejection on a couple of occasions, and he certainly would have been tossed if he were managing any other team.

The Netherlands will next face the winner of Chinese Taipei and Japan as it attempts to advance to the semifinals of the World Baseball Classic. Cuba moves on to the loser’s bracket in the modified double-elimination round.

The Mets are a mess

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The Mets lost again on Thursday afternoon, suffering a 7-5 defeat at the hands of the Braves. It’s their sixth consecutive loss and the club is now in last place in the NL East. Not exactly the start the Mets envisioned.

Matt Harvey got the start, but lasted only 4 1/3 innings. He gave up six runs on five hits and five walks with only one strikeout. After the game, Harvey said he was tight and that he threw yesterday expecting to start on Friday instead, per Matt Ehalt of The Record. Sounds like no one communicated to Harvey that he’d be starting this afternoon until it was too late for him to properly prepare.

Harvey started because Noah Syndergaard was scratched due to a “tired arm.” Syndergaard blew reporters off after the game, according to Mike Puma of the New York Post. Puma then added that Syndergaard ripped Mets P.R. guy Jay Horwitz for letting reporters approach him.

By the way, the Mets also lost outfielder Yoenis Cespedes to a hamstring injury. Not much else can go wrong in Queens.

Joey Votto isn’t on board with the latest fly ball trend among hitters

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If you haven’t heard, fly balls — not ground balls or line drives — are all the rage among hitters these days. Tigers outfielder J.D. Martinez summed it up perfectly last month when he said, “I’m not trying to hit a [freaking] line drive or a freaking ground ball.” The goal is to maximize damage. Last year, for example, fly balls became hits about 17 percent less often than ground balls (7.4% versus 24.6%), but hitters had a slugging percentage more than twice as much as on ground balls (.539 versus .267). This refocusing has helped hitters like Martinez as well as Ryan Zimmerman reinvigorate their careers.

Reds first baseman Joey Votto, who is as much a student of new age analytics as anyone in the game, doesn’t feel that this approach is necessarily a good one, as Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. Votto said:

Where I get concerned is the guys that make this attempt and burn out too much of their time and don’t get a chance to be their best selves, and either don’t make it to the big leagues or don’t perform their best in the big leagues because they’re always attempting this new style of hitting. I see it with a lot of guys. Everyone tells the good stories, but there’s a lot of s—ty stories of guys who are wasting their time trying things.

Votto added that while the fly ball approach is working right now, pitchers will soon adapt and the fly ball approach won’t be so good anymore. And he’s right. Baseball has always been a game of adjustments. For example, as teams have gotten comfortable with shifting their infield, hitters like the Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Schwarber have both dropped bunts down the third base line for easy hits. Knowing that hitters are aiming to hit fly balls now, pitchers may stay higher in the strike zone more often as one possible solution.

Votto is just trying to stay as well-rounded as possible. He says that he wants to become “unpitchable.” Votto wants to be like Angels outfielder Mike Trout, whom he describes as a guy “who can do absolutely anything he wants” and “at all times [has] all options.”

So far, Votto is having another productive season despite a relatively pedestrian batting average and on-base percentage. He’s hitting .238/.330/.563 with seven home runs and 16 RBI in 94 plate appearances. Coincidentally, he’s been hitting way more fly balls than usual as he’s currently carrying a 42.3 percent rate compared to his 33.1 career average, according to FanGraphs. His line drives are way down to 16.9 percent compared to his 25.4 percent career average.