Puerto Rico ousts two-time champ Japan from the World Baseball Classic, heads to Championship Game

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There will be a new World Baseball Classic champ this year, as Puerto Rico eliminated Japan last night, winning 3-1 at AT&T Park in San Francisco.

Alex Rios led the charge, singling in a run in the first inning and hitting a two-run homer in the seventh. Puerto Rico starter Mario Santiago shut down the Japanese on two hits over five innings before leaving with forearm stiffness. Japanese starter Kenta Maeda pitched five innings of four-hit ball, one of those being Rios’ RBI. The homer came off reliever Atsushi Nohmi. Japan’s lone run came when Takashi Toritani was singled in after hitting a one-out triple in the eighth, but they then ran themselves out of the inning.

Puerto Rico clearly had the advantage in talent, with guys like Rios, Mike Aviles, Angel Pagan, Carlos Beltran and Yadier Molina facing a Japanese lineup with no current major leaguers. Still, in the context of international competition it’s an upset.  And if they’re going to win it all, another upset may very well be required: they face the winner of tonight’s Netherlands-Dominican Republic matchup in tomorrow night’s Championship Game.

The Cubs will try to clinch the NL Central on Tuesday

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The Cubs soundly defeated the Cardinals on Monday night, 10-2, sending their magic number down to one. They will try to clinch the NL Central on Tuesday with another win against the Cardinals. Alternatively, if they lose, they can still clinch if the Brewers also lose on Tuesday.

The Cubs, of course, won the Central last year en route to winning their first World Series since 1908. It wasn’t nearly as easy this year as the club was below .500 entering June and was exactly at .500 entering July. A 16-8 July, 17-12 August, and 15-8 September have helped put the Cubs back in position to return to the postseason.

Not to be forgotten, the Cardinals were eliminated from NL Central contention with Monday’s loss. Now they have their sights set on the second NL Wild Card slot and currently trail the Rockies in that race.

The matchups for Tuesday’s action:

Carter Capps to undergo surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome

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Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union Tribune reports that Padres pitcher Carter Capps will undergo surgery this offseason to address thoracic outlet syndrome, which doctors believe caused the right-hander’s blood clots. The Padres hope to have him ready by spring training next year.

Capps, 27, underwent Tommy John surgery last year and didn’t debut this season until August 7. He made 11 relief appearances, yielding nine runs on 12 hits and two walks with seven strikeouts in 12 1/3 innings. He went back on the DL on September 12 due to the blood clot issue.

The Padres acquired Capps from the Marlins last July in the Andrew Cashner trade which ended up having a lot of moving parts. Capps will enter his third and final year of arbitration eligibility this offseason. It’s quite possible the Padres choose to non-tender him.