Everyone who woke up early this morning to watch MLB Network got to see a helluva game, as the Netherlands advanced to the semi-finals of the World Baseball Classic and knocked Cuba out of the tournament with a 7-6 walk-off win.
Facing a 6-4 deficit in the eighth inning, 23-year-old Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons smacked a two-run homer for the Netherlands that sent the game into the ninth inning tied. From there Andruw Jones reached base on a fielding error by Cuban third baseman Yulieski Gurriel and then scored the game-winning run on a bases-loaded sacrifice fly by Kalian Sams, a 26-year-old outfielder who spent last season playing at Double-A for the Mariners.
The victory was probably extra sweet for the Netherlands, because after they defeated Cuba for the first time in a 6-2 game last week Cuban manager Victor Mesa said: “I don’t think they’re a very good team, to be honest. I think we could’ve scored more. I think we should’ve scored four or five more runs.”
Not sure what that says about Mesa’s team, but either way Cuba and their micro-managing skipper are going home and the Netherlands are going to San Francisco for the semi-finals. They join Japan in the Final Four and await the top two teams from among the United States, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Italy.
Oft-injured pitcher Josh Johnson is retiring from baseball, ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick is reporting.
Johnson, 32, hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2013. The right-hander underwent his third Tommy John surgery in September 2015 but wasn’t able to bounce back.
Johnson spent most of his career with the Marlins, but also pitched for the Blue Jays in the big leagues, as well as the Padres in the minors. He retires with a career 3.40 ERA, 915 strikeouts across 998 innings in the majors, and two All-Star nominations. Johnson led the National League with a 2.30 ERA in 2010, finishing fifth in NL Cy Young Award balloting. One wonders what he could have accomplished if he was able to stay healthy.
The Angels are nearing a multi-year deal with free agent third baseman Luis Valbuena, Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register reports. It’s believed to be a two-year contract with a third-year option.
Valbuena, 31, hit .260/.357/.459 with 13 home runs and 40 RBI in 342 plate appearances in 2016. He missed most of the second half with a hamstring injury, for which he underwent surgery in late August.
Valbuena has played a majority of his career at third base, but also has extensive experience at second base and has racked up innings at first base and shortstop as well. He won’t play every day for the Angels, as Yunel Escobar lays claim to third base and C.J. Cron first base, but he will give them flexibility and a left-handed bat off the bench.