Dominican Republic beats Kimbrel, U.S. to reach WBC semis

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Craig Kimbrel allowed a total of one double in 62 2/3 innings for the Braves last year. Maybe even more impressive, he allowed just one hit with a man in scoring position. He never allowed multiple hits in an inning.

On Thursday, he gave up one double and two hits with men in scoring position in the ninth to take the loss as the Dominican Republic defeated Team USA 3-1 to advance to the World Baseball Classic semifinals.

Team USA and Puerto Rico will meet in an elimination game Friday to determine who joins the Dominican Republic, Japan and The Netherlands in the semis.

Nelson Cruz opened the top of the ninth in a 1-1 game with a double to right. Giancarlo Stanton made a great play to cut the ball off, but he was forced to leave his feet to make the grab, allowing Cruz to proceed to second. After Carlos Santana moved Cruz along with a grounder to the right side, pinch-hitter Erick Aybar hit a line drive single to right to plate the go-ahead run.

Kimbrel bounced back to fan Aledjandro De Aza, but catcher J.P. Arencibia couldn’t complete the strike-him-out, throw-him-out double play as Aybar stole second. Jose Reyes then singled into center to make it 3-1, knocking Kimbrel from the game.

Fernando Rodney went on to pitch a perfect bottom of the ninth to seal the victory.

It was a bad time for Kimbrel to prove mortal after he fanned 116 batters in 62 2/3 innings last season. Still, it didn’t come as too big of a surprise for anyone who saw him struggling earlier this spring. Yet to find his breaking ball, he gave up four runs — three earned — in four innings, posting a 3/4 K/BB ratio, for the Braves before joining Team USA.

Until the Dominicans broke through, no runs had been scored since Hanley Ramirez’s monster homer to left off R.A. Dickey in the second. Team USA got its only run on Eric Hosmer’s bases-loaded walk in the first.

Team USA’s chances of advancing could now hinge on Ryan Vogelsong pitching well Friday. David Wright’s status is uncertain for the game after he sat out with a balky back Thursday, though he said he would have preferred to play. Willie Bloomquist went 0-for-2 with a sac bunt as his replacement. He also committed an error at third base.

Hernandez hits three home runs, powering Dodgers past Cubs 11-1 to win NL pennant

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The Dodgers will appear in the World Series for the first time since 1988 after defeating the Cubs 11-1 in Game 5 of the NLCS on Thursday night. The Dodgers scored early and often, making Thursday’s affair devoid of any stress.

Cody Bellinger drove in a run with a double against Cubs starter Jose Quintana in the first inning. Enrique Hernandez tacked on a solo home run to center field in the second. The Dodgers broke it open in the third, as Quintana allowed hits to all four hitters he faced in the inning: a ground-rule double to Chris Taylor, an RBI single to Justin Turner, and two more singles to Bellinger and Yasiel Puig. Hector Rondon relieved Quintana and, after striking out Logan Forsythe, he served up a grand slam to Hernandez to make it a 7-0 game. Forsythe hit a two-run double off of John Lackey in the fourth pad the lead to 9-0. Hernandez added a third home run, a two-run shot, off of Mike Montgomery in the ninth to push the score to 11-1.

Hernandez is the 10th player to hit three home runs in a playoff game and the fifth to knock in seven runs. The other four were in the American League, so Hernandez’s seven RBI marks a new National League record.

Kris Bryant hit a solo home run off of Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw, but that was it for offense on the Cubs’ side. Kershaw tossed six innings in total, allowing the one run on three hits and a walk with five strikeouts spanning 89 pitches.

Kenta Maeda took over for Kershaw in the seventh, working a 1-2-3 inning. Brandon Morrow got the eighth and worked around a one-out single with three strikeouts.

With a 10-run lead, closer Kenley Jansen took the hill in the ninth. He got Bryant to line out to left field, Anthony Rizzo to fly out, and Willson Contreras to line out to shortstop to seal the 11-1 victory — and the pennant — for the Dodgers.

The Dodgers will wait to see who they will face in the World Series. The Yankees are one game away from punching their ticket, leading the ALCS 3-2. They’ll match up with the Astros in Houston on Friday.

If the Yankees end up being the Dodgers’ World Series opponent, it will be the two clubs’ 12th meeting in the Fall Classic. As Craig noted on Twitter, the Yankees have the upper hand, having won eight of those 11 series.