Canada and Mexico brawl figuratively and literally; Canada wins

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Canada kept its second round World Baseball Classic hopes alive with an emphatic 10-3 victory over Mexico today. Coming off an eight-inning 14-4 defeat at the hands of Italy, a game that was called early due to the mercy rule, Canada bounced back with impressive hitting performances by designated hitter Justin Morneau and right fielder Michael Saunders as both logged four hits (including two doubles apiece) and three runs batted in. Third baseman Taylor Green also contributed greatly with three hits and a walk. Starter Chris Leroux was solid over three innings of work before giving way to the bullpen.

The scoring started in the top of the first when Canada tossed up a four-spot behind a Morneau RBI double, a Saunders two-run single, and an RBI single by Chris Robinson. Mexico starter Marco Estrada settled down, though, holding Canada scoreless in his other two innings while his team chipped away. Mexico scored once in the bottom of the first on an error by first baseman Joey Votto, then added two more in the bottom of the fourth on a Gil Velasquez RBI double and Eduardo Arredondo sacrifice fly. Cesar Ramos, in relief of Estrada, pitched well but began to wear down in his third inning of work. In the top of the sixth, Canada added an insurance run on a Pete Orr RBI single to right.

From there, the flood gates opened and Mexico’s bullpen was unable to keep the game close. Canada added two runs in each of the seventh and eighth innings. In the seventh, Morneau drove in a run with another double, then scored later in the inning on a Jimmy Van Ostrand RBI ground out. In the eighth, Morneau singled to right, driving in his third run. Saunders then singled to right, driving in Canada’s ninth run.

Tensions began to flare in the top of the ninth. Leading off the inning, Canada’s Chris Robinson bunted for a hit with his team up by six runs. Reliever Arnold Leon, none too pleased, hit the next batter Rene Tosoni with a fastball, causing both benches to clear. ESPN’s Jim Caple said, “This was not a stand around and look tough fight. There were many punches thrown.”

A Twitter recap of the fracas:

Leon and Tosoni were ejected by home plate umpire Brian Gorman. Jose Cobos came in relief of Leon while Tim Smith replaced Tosoni at first base. During the next at-bat involving Cale Iorg, more chaos ensued:

Iorg ended the at-bat at long last with a fly ball to left field, scoring Robinson for Canada’s tenth run. Tyson Gillies and Green went down in short order to end the inning. John Axford entered the bottom-half of the ninth for the save, shutting down Mexico with a 1-2-3 inning.

Canada, now 1-1, kept their own hopes alive as well as those of the United States. The US and Italy square off at 9 PM ET. Pool D then wraps up Sunday afternoon at 4 PM ET when Canada and the US match up. Mexico will be rooting for Italy against the US, then for the US against Canada, hoping for a three-way tie in which all three teams are 1-2. In such an event, run differential would be used in the tie-breaker. Presently, the US and Canada are tied in run differential at -3 while Mexico lags at -5.

As a side note, the use of run differential in the tie-breaker means that Mexico has no “unwritten rules” ground upon which to stand after taking offense to Robinson’s ninth-inning bunt.

Dodgers acquire Matt Kemp in five-player trade with Braves

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The Dodgers have pulled off their first blockbuster trade of the offseason, sending Brandon McCarthy, Scott Kazmir, Charlie Culberson, Adrian Gonzalez and cash considerations to the Braves for Matt Kemp, per announcements from both teams. The Braves are set to designate Gonzalez for assignment on Monday, making him a free agent.

Kemp, 33, had a down year with the Braves in 2017, hitting a career-low -0.5 fWAR in 115 games with the club. At the plate, he slashed a modest .276/.318/.463 with 19 home runs and a .781 OPS through 467 plate appearances, but was hampered by a nagging left hamstring strain through most of the season. This will be his 10th campaign with the Dodgers.

Whether or not Kemp can rebound during his second stint in Los Angeles is almost beside the point, however. The deal is effectively a salary dump to end all salary dumps. Offloading multiple one-year contracts for McCarthy, Kazmir and Gonzalez should bring the Dodgers back under the $197 million luxury tax threshold and position them to make a run at some of the big fish in next year’s free agent pool. It’s also worth noting that they may not keep Kemp around for long — per Ken Gurnick of MLB.com, the club appears as likely to flip the veteran outfielder as they are to use him. As for the Braves, they not only rid themselves of the $43 million due Kemp through 2020, but added some rotation and infield depth with McCarthy and Culberson and can now give top prospect Ronald Acuna a legitimate tryout in left field.