U.S. rallies late against Canada to advance in WBC

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The U.S. rallied late against Canada to advance out of Pool D to the second round in the World Baseball Classic. Canada got on the board early thanks to a two-run home run by Michael Saunders off of U.S. starter Derek Holland. Holland was otherwise solid, allowing just the two runs over five innings of work, striking out four while walking one.

The U.S. tied the game in the fourth against Canada starter Jameson Taillon. Joe Mauer singled and David Wright walked to quickly put runners on first and second to lead off the frame. Ben Zobrist dropped a bunt towards third baseman Taylor Green, forcing him into making  a throwing error and allowing Mauer to score. Wright would score on an Adam Jones sacrifice fly to bring the game to 2-2.

Glen Perkins relieved Holland in the sixth and immediately got into trouble, walking Joey Votto and surrendering a single to Justin Morneau. He bounced back, getting Saunders to strike out and Chris Robinson to fly out, but Adam Loewen hit a two-out single to right to put Canada back on top 3-2.

The U.S. took its first lead of the game in the eighth with an emphatic rally after Joe Mauer singled and David Wright walked against Canada reliever Jimmy Henderson. Zobrist again bunted, but this time had poor results as he popped up to the catcher, appearing to snuff out a rally before it even began. However, Adam Jones picked up his teammate, doubling to center scoring both pinch-runner Willie Bloomquist and Wright to put the U.S. up 4-3. An insurance run was added on a two-out Shane Victorino bloop single to left.

Canada tried to fight back in the bottom-half of the inning, but only managed one run after loading the bases with one out. Adam Loewen grounded out to second base, allowing Canada’s fourth run to score, but that was all U.S. relievers David Hernandez and Steve Cishek would allow.

The U.S. got back that insurance run and more in the top of the ninth. Jonathan Lucroy singled to right with one out, driving in Brandon Phillips, who had doubled to lead off the inning. Wright walked and Zobrist hit an infield single to load the bases. With two outs, Eric Hosmer doubled to center, clearing the bases and staking the U.S. to a 9-4 lead.

Craig Kimbrel, who had begun to warm up when the U.S. was up 5-3, entered with a five-run lead. Baseball’s best reliever shut down Canada in 1-2-3 fashion, striking out Votto to seal the victory.

The U.S. and Italy advance out of Pool D into the second round. Beginning on Tuesday, they will do battle against the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico.

Aledmys Diaz is trying to improve his defense with strobe glasses

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MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch reports that Cardinals’ shortstop Aledmys Diaz has been sporting a new look around Busch Stadium with a pair of “strobe glasses,” technology-enhanced specs designed to help athletes focus on the ball. Like a strobe light, the lenses of these glasses affect a player’s vision by rapidly changing opacity, giving its wearers the illusion that the objects they see are moving more slowly than normal. Once a player adjusts to the new speed of play, they gain a greater sense of control and are able to time their actions with more precision.

Diaz isn’t the first MLB player to utilize the technology, just the first Cardinals’ player to do so. It’s been tested by Bryce Harper, Corey Brown, Tommy Joseph, Austin Hedges and Joe Mauer, among others around the league, and has been used for everything from refining a catcher’s reflexes behind the plate to tweaking a hitter’s ability to track a pitch. Per Langosch, Diaz has been using the glasses to hone in on the ball during pregame drills, increasing both his confidence and response time on the field and improving his defense at short.

The shortstop has been the focus of some concern this season after seeing a sizable dip in his production at the plate, and his five fielding errors, 0.6 UZR and 0.6 fWAR haven’t helped matters, either. He sustained a minor thumb injury during an at-bat on Friday night, and was left off of the Cardinals’ starting lineup on Saturday, though manager Mike Matheny didn’t rule out his ability to pinch-hit during the series. While the strobe glasses are a good start, Diaz will need more than a pair of specs to match the spotlight-worthy performance he turned out during his rookie season in 2016.

Eduardo Rodriguez could rejoin the Red Sox rotation in July

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Red Sox’ left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez may finally get a chance at cracking the rotation again, assuming all goes well in Double-A Portland first. Rodriguez took the field prior to the club’s afternoon session with the Angels, firing 68 pitches in a simulated game as he prepared for an upcoming rehab assignment in Portland on Thursday.

The 24-year-old southpaw suffered a right knee subluxation during pregame warmups on June 1, and it’s been a slow path to recovery ever since. It’s not the first time Rodriguez has had issues with his right knee — he sustained a similar injury during spring training last year — and this time around, the Red Sox weren’t about to gamble with their starter’s health. Ian Browne of MLB.com reports that Rodriguez was put in a knee brace and underwent exercises designed to help him regain some mobility and stability while he worked back up to full strength on the mound.

He’ll still need to prove he can throw a 75- to 80-pitch outing in Double-A, and barring any significant setbacks, will likely rejoin the Red Sox’ pitching staff when they visit the Rangers next month. In the meantime, the club will continue to cycle starters through the No. 5 spot, which has seen no fewer than three different pitchers since Rodriguez hit the disabled list. The lefty is 4-2 in 10 starts this season after logging a 3.54 ERA, 3.1 BB/9 and career-high 9.6 SO/9 through his first 61 innings.