Yasiel Puig, Jason Kipnis named Players of the Month for June

14 Comments

One guy is not a surprise. The other guy doesn’t get nearly the recognition he deserves. But Yasiel Puig and Jason Kipnis are your Players of the Month.

Puig’s exploits are well known at this point. He made his debut in June and in 26 games completely wrecked the opposition. He led the Majors with a .436 (44-for-101) batting average, posted a .467 OBP and a .713 slugging percentage while smacking seven home runs. His 44 hits ranked as the second-most all-time for a player in their debut calendar month, four behind Joe DiMaggio’s 48 hits in May 1936. He also, quite obviously, led all rookies in every category that mattered, garnering NL Rookie of the Month honors too.

Kipnis doesn’t get a scintilla of the press Puig gets, but he’s a fine, fine player. Maybe the most underrated or, at the very least, unknown stars in the game. The Indians second baseman hit .419 (39-for-93) with 12 doubles, one triple, four home runs, 25 RBI, 17 runs scored and 30 walks in 27 games. That all amounted to first in the AL in batting average and on-base percentage (.517), tied for first in hits, second in doubles, RBI, slugging percentage (.699) and extra-base hits (17), tied for second in walks. Kipnis reached base safely in each of his 27 games played in June and has an overall streak of 33 straight games.

Good job, gentlemen. Feel free to take tomorrow off.

[Wait, what? Oh … OK]

No, don’t take tomorrow off. Your teams need you.

Marcus Stroman named World Baseball Classic MVP

Denis Poroy/Getty Images
1 Comment

United States starter Marcus Stroman was named Most Valuable Player of the World Baseball Classic after helping lead the U.S. to its first ever WBC title on Wednesday night in an 8-0 victory over Puerto Rico. Stroman flirted with a no-hitter through six innings, but gave up a double to lead off the seventh before being relieved by Sam Dyson.

Stroman also pitched 4 2/3 scoreless innings against the Dominican Republic in Pool C play on March 11. He struggled in Pool F play against Puerto Rico last Friday, surrendering four runs in 4 2/3 innings.

The WBC MVP award understandably goes to a player of the winning team. However, Wladimir Balentien of the Netherlands deserves special mention. In 26 at-bats during the WBC, he hit a double and had a WBC-high four home runs, 12 RBI, and 12 runs scored while putting up a .615/.677/.1.115 batting line. That’s MVP-esque as far as this tournament is concerned.

U.S. blanks Puerto Rico 8-0 to win first World Baseball Classic title

Harry How/Getty Images
6 Comments

The United States handed Puerto Rico its first loss in the World Baseball Classic, winning 8-0 for its first title in the fourth iteration of the tournament.

Puerto Rico starter Seth Lugo was matching Marcus Stroman zero-for-zero through the first two innings, but the U.S. broke out for a pair of runs when Ian Kinsler deposited a two-run home run just beyond the fence in left-center at Dodger Stadium. The U.S. tacked on two more in the fifth on RBI singles from Christian Yelich and Andrew McCutchen, pushing the lead to 4-0.

Meanwhile, Stroman was dealing. The right-hander, normally seen in a Blue Jays uniform, held Puerto Rico hitless through his first six innings, giving up just a lone walk. The U.S. put together a long rally in the top of the seventh, scoring three runs on three hits, two walks, and a hit batter. Stroman came back out for the seventh but immediately served up a double down the left field line to Angel Pagan. U.S. manager Jim Leyland immediately lifted Stroman from the game, bringing in Sam Dyson who escaped the inning without any further damage.

Pat Neshek allowed a leadoff single to Yadier Molina to begin the eighth, but induced a double-play, then worked around a two-out walk by striking out Kenny Vargas to end the frame.

In the ninth, David Robertson took over. He induced an infield pop-up from Enrique Hernandez. After Pagan singled up the middle, Francisco Lindor sharply grounded out to Eric Hosmer at first base for the second out. Finally, Robertson closed it out, inducing Carlos Correa to ground out to third base, making the U.S. 8-0 victors over Puerto Rico to win the World Baseball Classic.

Puerto Rico had an admirable run, defeating Venezuela, Mexico, and Italy to get out of Pool D undefeated. Then, in Pool F, it beat Venezuela again as well as the U.S. and the Dominican Republic to move to the semifinals. It narrowly edged Netherlands 4-3 in the semifinals to get into the finals.

The U.S. lost to the D.R. but beat Canada and Colombia to get out of Pool C. In Pool F, the U.S. lost to Puerto Rico and defeated the D.R again as well as Venezuela. The U.S. took down Japan in the semifinals to advance to the finals to play Puerto Rico.

The U.S. joins Japan (twice, 2006 and ’09) and the Dominican Republic (2013) as countries to win the World Baseball Classic. The 2017 tournament was a rousing success, setting attendance records, drawing over one million fans to ballparks to take in the games. It will hopefully encourage commissioner Rob Manfred and others to make a concerted effort to make the 2021 tournament bigger and better.