World Baseball Classic - Pool D - United States v Italy

Team USA keeps hope alive with 6-2 victory over Italy

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David Wright hit a grand slam in the fifth inning of tonight’s contest that resulted in a 6-2 victory for the U.S. over Italy, keeping their hopes alive in Pool D. The U.S. had stayed within striking distance of Italy, trailing 2-1 entering the fifth.

Italy scored twice, once in each of the first and second innings. In the first, U.S. starter Ryan Vogelsong uncorked a wild pitch with two outs, allowing Mike Costanzo to score from third base. In the second, Tyler LaTorre singled with two outs and scored on an Anthony Granato double.

The U.S. chipped away in the fourth after Italy replaced starter Luca Panerati with Marco Grifantini. Ryan Braun led off the inning with a single and quickly touched home on a Joe Mauer double to left. Grifantini lost control in the fifth, walking Adam Jones to lead off the inning, then surrendering a single to Jonathan Lucroy to put runners on first and second. Matt Torra came in to attempt to extinguish the flames, but with one out, Brandon Phillips singled to right to drive in Jones and tie the game. Joe Mauer walked with two outs to load the bases for David Wright, who fouled off a couple pitches before squaring up a change-up, promptly deposited beyond the fence in left-center. The U.S. went up 6-2 and never lost control from there.

Jeremy Affeldt tossed one scoreless inning of relief after Vogelsong’s exit, then Ross Detwiler threw four shut-out innings to close out the game and the victory for his team.

The win brings the U.S. to 1-1 in Pool D, tied with Canada. Italy has already clinched a berth in the second round, but seeding will be determined by run differential. The U.S. and Canada will play for the right to advance tomorrow at 4 PM ET.

Report: Astros remain in contact with the Athletics on Sonny Gray

OAKLAND, CA - AUGUST 06: Sonny Gray #54 of the Oakland Athletics pitches against the Chicago Cubs during the first inning at the Oakland Coliseum on August 6, 2016 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
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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.

President Obama Welcomes the Cubs to the White House

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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.