World Baseball Classic - Pool C - Puerto Rico v Venezuela

Puerto Rico defeats Venezuela, clinches second round berth


In World Baseball Classic Pool C action, Puerto Rico emerged victorious over Venezuela 6-3. Starters Carlos Zambrano for Venezuela and Nelson Figueroa for Puerto Rico matched, each allowing two runs in their respective 3.2 and 4-inning outings.

Venezuela got on the board first, scoring two in the bottom of the third inning. With one out, Omar Infante doubled, then was driven home when Marco Scutaro singled to left field. Later in the inning, with two outs and runners on first and second, Pablo Sandoval doubled to right scoring Scutaro. Asdrubal Cabrera attempted to score as well, but was thrown out at home.

Puerto Rico quickly responded in the top of the fourth. Angel Pagan led off with a double. However, he was quickly erased attempting to advance to third on a ground ball as first baseman Miguel Cabrera fired over to Sandoval for the tag. Zambrano began to get wild, walking Alex Rios to put runners on first and second. He then uncorked a wild pitch, allowing both runners to advance. He got Carlos Beltran to ground out to first for the second out, but walked Yadier Molina to load the bases, the final straw. Zambrano was replaced by reliever Enrique Gonzalez, who promptly allowed a single to Mike Aviles, scoring Irving Falu and Rios. The slow-moving Molina was thrown out at third base by center fielder Gerardo Parra, ending the inning.

The tie was broken by Puerto Rico in the top of the fifth against Henderson Alvarez. Martin Maldonado walked, advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt, then scored on a two-out RBI single to center by Pagan. Puerto Rico broke the game open in the eighth when Alvarez allowed the first two batters he faced to reach base, hitting Rios and a single to Beltran. Juan Rincon entered to try and put out the fire, but Molina singled to right to load the bases. Aviles then plated Rios with a sacrifice fly to center. Venezuela brought in Cesar Jimenez, who struck out Carlos Rivera, then called on Francisco “K-Rod” Rodriguez to get the final out. With a 3-1 count, Luis Figueroa doubled to right, scoring Beltran and Molina to extend the lead to three runs.

Venezuela was unable to mount any offensive threat between the fourth and eighth innings, but attempted a ninth-inning comeback against J.C. Romero. With one out, Salvador Perez and Martin Prado hit back-to-back doubles, bringing the score to 6-3. Fernando Cabrera relieved Romero and ended the threat, retiring Miguel Montero and Infante in the final frame.

Puerto Rico’s win clinches second round appearances for both themselves and the Dominican Republic as both teams are 2-0 while Venezuela and Spain sit at 0-2. Spain and Venezuela match up tomorrow at 12:30 PM ET. Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic will match up and play for seeding at 7:30 PM ET. The winner will play the runner-up of Pool D in the second round while the loser will play the winner of Pool D.

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.