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.

Angels hire Brad Ausmus as special assistant to the GM

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Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register reports that the Angels have hired former Tigers manager Brad Ausmus as a special assistant to GM Billy Eppler.

Ausmus, 48, managed the Tigers for four seasons, accruing a 314-332 (.486) record. The Tigers fired him after the 2017 season and hired former Twins manager Ron Gardenhire in his place.

Ausmus will assist with scouting and evaluations of players in the Angels’ system, amateurs, and players in other organizations.