The Dominican Republic defeated Puerto Rico 4-2, earning first place in Pool C and the right to play Pool D winner Italy in the second round. They staked starter Wandy Rodriguez to a 1-0 lead in the first inning after stringing together three consecutive one-out singles, the RBI provided by Edwin Encarnacion.
Puerto Rico took the lead in the fourth. Alex Rios singled to lead off the inning, but Rodriguez retired Carlos Beltran to get the first out. At that point, though, Rodriguez had thrown 61 pitches, reaching the pitch count limit and had to be taken out. Lorenzo Barcelo entered in relief and immediately surrendered a two-run home run to Mike Aviles. Barcelo escaped the frame without any further damage.
Robinson Cano immediately tied the game in the top of the fifth, leading off with a solo home run. The D.R. would tack on two more runs, one in the sixth on an Alejandro De Aza double and one in the seventh on a Nelson Cruz ground out.
The Dominican Republic bullpen was lights out, holding Puerto Rico to three hits — all singles — in the final four frames. Fernando Rodney breezed through the ninth inning, retiring Aviles, Eddie Rosario, and Pedro Valdes for the save.
Puerto Rico will play Pool D runner-up United States.
The Astros remain in contact with the Athletics on starting pitcher Sonny Gray, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports. The Astros have added Charlie Morton this offseason, but the club has been trying to add a big-name starting pitcher to put at the top of the rotation behind Dallas Keuchel.
Gray, 27, was limited to 22 starts in the 2016 season due to a forearm issue. His stats left a lot to be desired, as he finished with a 5-11 record, a 5.69 ERA, and a 94/42 K/BB ratio over 117 innings. Considering how Gray pitched in the previous three years, he’s a good bet to bounce back.
Gray is under team control through 2019, which is a big draw for the Astros. Needless to say, the Athletics would want a haul in terms of prospects. Gray will earn $3.575 million in 2017, having avoided arbitration in his first year of eligibility.
As we noted last week, The Chicago Cubs took the unusual step of not waiting until the summer after winning the World Series to make their customary White House visit to meet the president. They did it today, seeing President Obama a few short days before he leaves office.
Despite the fact that Obama is a White Sox fan, he met the Cubs with diplomacy and grace. It’s almost as if he’s been in that business for the past eight years. In return, he was given some gifts by the Cubs: Theo Epstein presented Obama with a No. 44 Cubs jersey, a tile from the center field scoreboard at Wrigley Field, and a lifetime pass to Wrigley as well.
Obama is staying in D.C. after he leaves office this week, hanging around so his daughter can finish high school in the same place she started. Even so, he’s likely going to be back to Chicago a good bit over the rest of his life, so he’ll likely be able to put the free pass to work. Assuming it comes with, like, six companion passes for his Secret Service detail.