Gio Gonzalez pitches brilliantly and David Wright drives in five as USA defeats Puerto Rico

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Gio Gonzalez was in mid-season form and David Wright continued his recent run of heroics as Team USA topped a punchless Puerto Rico squad 7-1 on Tuesday night at Marlins Park in Little Havana.

Gonzalez went five scoreless innings, allowing only three hits, walking none and fanning five. His fastball hit 93-94 mph consistently and his curve looked as sharp as it did throughout his dominant 2012 major league campaign with the Nationals. The Miami native threw 48 of his 69 pitches for strikes (the pitch-limit in the second round of the WBC is 80).

Wright plated a run on a groundout in the bottom of the third inning, added an RBI single with the bases loaded in the fifth inning and slugged a double to deep right-center with the bases loaded in the eighth inning, scoring more three runs. “Captain America,” as MLB Network play-by-play man Matt Vasgersian has taken to calling him, now boasts 10 RBI in just four 2013 World Baseball Classic games. Joe Mauer drew three walks and drove home a run with a double to left-center in the first inning and Adam Jones added a tally on a single up the middle in the seventh.

The defense from Team USA was sharp all around. As was the bullpen, with Jeremy Affeldt throwing a scoreless sixth and Vinnie Pestano tossing a scoreless seventh. Puerto Rico’s Jesus Feliciano was hit by a Steve Cishek pitch in the eighth inning and came around to score after Eddie Rosario doubled and Angel Pagan hit into a fielder’s choice groundout. But that was the only run that Puerto Rico could muster.

Team USA will face the Dominican Republic on Thursday at 7:00 p.m. ET for a berth into the WBC’s four-team Championship Round, which will be hosted at San Francisco’s AT&T Park from March 17-19. Puerto Rico will take on Italy in a winner-stays-alive game on Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. ET in Miami. It’s all on MLB Network.

32,872 fans showed up to Tuesday night’s game. Marlins Park averaged 27,401 fans per game in 2012.

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Former U.S. Senator and Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Bunning dies at age 85

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Jim Bunning, Hall of Fame right-handed pitcher and former U.S. Senator, died on Friday at age 85. He suffered a stroke in October 2016 and was in hospice care when he died, according to former Senate chief of staff Jon Deuser.

Bunning rose to prominence in Major League Baseball during his first full season with the Tigers in 1957, recording 14 complete games and a league-leading 20 wins. The following year, Bunning pitched his first career no-hitter against the Red Sox, just the fourth no-hitter in franchise history. During his first season with the Phillies in 1964, Bunning followed up his no-hitter with a perfect game against the Mets, marking the first National League perfecto in the 20th century. By the time he retired in 1971, he boasted seven All-Star nominations, 2,855 strikeouts (maintaining his second-place ranking on the all-time strikeout list from 1967-1971) and a 224-184 record over 17 seasons.

Following a storied major league career, Bunning entered politics at age 46, serving 12 years in the House and eventually getting elected to the Senate at age 67, where he served two terms. The Republican senator was famously outspoken for his opposition to steroids in baseball, illegal immigration and an extension of unemployment benefits, among other issues, and drew criticism within his party for his ornery nature and controversial statements. He declined to run for a third term in 2010, citing a lack of financial support from the National Republican Senatorial Committee and choosing instead to throw his weight behind fellow candidate Rand Paul.

Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred issued a statement following news of Bunning’s death on Saturday:

Jim Bunning led an extraordinary life in the National Pastime and in public service.  He was a consistent winner and workhorse pitcher for the Detroit Tigers and the Philadelphia Phillies.  Jim threw no-hitters in both leagues, pitched a perfect game on Father’s Day in 1964 and, at his retirement, had more strikeouts than any pitcher in history except Walter Johnson.

“In his baseball career, Jim was proud of always taking the ball.  The work ethic that made him a Hall of Famer led him to the House of Representatives and the United Stated Senate.  He served the state of Kentucky for more than two decades and became the only Hall of Famer ever to serve in Congress.

“On behalf of Major League Baseball, I send my deepest condolences to Senator Bunning’s family, friends, constituents and the many fans who admired his career in our game.

Homer Simpson was inducted in the Baseball Hall of Fame

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Twenty-five years ago, “Homer at the Bat” became one of the most iconic Simpsons episodes of all time. Legendary talents like Roger Clemens, Wade Boggs, Ozzie Smith, Jose Canseco, Mike Scioscia, Steve Sax, Don Mattingly and Ken Griffey, Jr. lent their talents to the episode while their cartoon doppelgängers were put through the ringer, leaving only Homer Simpson and Darryl Strawberry to clinch the city softball championship for the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant squad. On Saturday, the show’s creators were recognized when Homer Simpson was awarded a long-overdue membership in the Hall of Fame.

The full text from Homer’s honorary plaque is below:

Inept safety inspector turned city-wide softball hero. Right fielder led Springfield nuclear plant to city championship game, then sacrificed his body to win it all. Nearly supplanted by lineup of all-world superstar ringers, came through in a pinch — and came to in time for the next episode. Girthy right-handed hitter powered many a mighty wallop during celebrated 1992 season with “Wonderbat” — his secret weapon. Lack of mobility in the field was no match for moves atop the dugout. Found fame as bush league mascot phenom, parlaying his “elephant walk” into a taste of the majors. Unacquainted with scientific concepts, only isotopes of which he was aware played at Duff Stadium, where uncanny knowledge of southwestern palate exposed team’s impending move to Albuquerque.

“Homer at the Bat” will be enshrined in Cooperstown with a special display, featuring the plaque alongside some of the more memorable moments of the episode.