Jonathan Schoop

Jonathan Schoop powers The Netherlands past Cuba


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.

Maybe Alcides Escobar shouldn’t bat leadoff

Alcides Escobar

Alcides Escobar finished with a .292 OBP this year. He came in at .246 in 117 at-bats in August and .257 in 109 at-bats between September and October, so he wasn’t exactly flying high entering the postseason. Still, that didn’t stop Ned Yost from putting him into the leadoff spot for Thursday’s Game 1 against the Astros.

Yost finally did reconsider hitting Escobar first in September. It took Alex Gordon‘s return to health, plus the previous addition of Ben Zobrist to the lineup, in order to make that happen. However, it didn’t stick. Escobar hit ninth in each of his starts from Sept. 7-26, batting .236 with a .276 OBP during that span. With five games left to go, he was suddenly returned to the leadoff spot. The Royals went on to win all five games. Yost saw it as a sign, even though Escobar went 5-for-22 with no walks in those games.

Escobar went 0-for-4 in Thursday’s loss to the Astros. He did not swing at the first pitch of the game, which probably explains the defeat.

It’s been difficult to argue with Yost since last year’s World Series run and this year’s incredible run out of the game. The blind spot with Escobar, though, gets rather infuriating. One can defend hitting him leadoff against the Astros’ lefties. His career OBP against southpaws is .319 (.316 this year). Against righties, he’s the most obvious No. 9 hitter alive, with a career .258/.290/.342 line (.252/.284/.314 this year). He’s not a pace-setter. He’s not a spark plug. He’s a liability.

Astros top Royals in Game 1 of ALDS

Houston Astros' Jose Altuve, left, celebrates with teammate Luis Valbuena after scoring a run during the first inning in Game 1 of baseball's American League Division Series against the Kansas City Royals, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

After shutting out the Yankees in the AL Wild Card game on Tuesday, the Astros beat the Royals 5-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS on Thursday at Kauffman Stadium. Road teams are now 4-0 to begin the 2015 postseason.

The Astros grabbed an early 3-0 lead against Yordano Ventura through two innings. Chris Young took over for the Royals after a 47-minute rain delay and was very effective for the most part, allowing just a solo homer to George Springer over four innings while striking out seven batters. Colby Rasmus, who homered in the Wild Card game, took Ryan Madson deep in the eighth inning to give the Astros’ bullpen some extra breathing room.

Collin McHugh stayed in after the rain delay and ended up tossing six innings while allowing just four hits and one walk. Kendrys Morales did all the damage against him with a pair of solo homers. He’s the first Royals player to hit two home runs in a postseason game since George Brett in the 1985 ALCS.

The Royals’ offense showed some signs of life in the bottom of the eighth inning with back-to-back two-out hits against Will Harris, but Oliver Perez got Eric Hosmer to foul out to end the threat. Luke Gregerson tossed a scoreless ninth inning to finish off the victory.

Consistent with their identity during the regular season, the Astros won despite striking out 14 times. The same goes for the Royals, as they struck out just four times. Despite putting the ball into play more often, the Kansas City lineup wasn’t able to muster anything aside from the home runs by Morales.

Game 2 of the ALDS will begin Friday at 3:45 p.m. ET. Scott Kazmir will pitch for the Astros and Johnny Cueto will get the ball for the Royals.

George Springer homers to extend Astros’ lead over Royals

Houston Astros' George Springer (4) celebrates with teammates after scoring a run in the first inning in Game 1 of baseball's American League Division Series against the Kansas City Royals, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
AP Photo/Charlie Riedel
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After Kendrys Morales brought the Royals within one run in the bottom of the fourth inning with his second solo home run of the game, George Springer took Chris Young deep in the top of the fifth to extend the Astros’ lead to 4-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS.

According to Statcast, the ball traveled an estimated 422 feet and left Springer’s bat at 109 mph. Royals fans are happy it was just a solo home run. It could have been worse, as Jose Altuve singled to lead off the fifth inning before being thrown out trying to steal second base during Springer’s at-bat.

The Royals will try to answer as we move to the bottom of the fifth inning at Kauffman Stadium.