Stephen Strasburg had the worst start of his career last night

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Stephen Strasburg entered last night’s action having allowed seven earned runs combined over his last four starts. So of course he gave up a career-high seven earned runs over just two innings in an 8-3 loss to the last-place Marlins. Baseball, man.

After being handed a quick 3-0 lead, Strasburg really struggled with his control in the bottom of the first inning, as he walked the bases loaded. Marcell Ozuna then made him pay by clearing the bases with a triple. Derek Dietrich followed with an RBI single and was eventually driven in on an RBI single by opposing pitcher Nathan Eovaldi. The five runs were the most Strasburg has ever allowed in one inning. Giancarlo Stanton connected for a two-run homer in the second inning before Strasburg was replaced by Ross Ohlendorf to begin the third. It was his shortest outing since he was pulled from a start on May 31 after two innings due to a lat strain.

Strasburg gave up five hits and four walks while throwing just 33 out of 66 pitches for strikes. The important part is that he’s healthy, but the 24-year-old right-hander told Bill Ladson of MLB.com that he was having mechanical issues.

“It’s frustrating. I threw ball one, ball two. The batters put a good swing [on the ball],” Strasburg said. “I was too much open to home plate to start. That messed everything up from there. It caused me to fly open even more.”

Strasburg will go into the All-Star break at 5-7 to go along with a 2.99 ERA and 109/37 K/BB ratio in 108 1/3 innings over 18 starts. The ERA still looks mighty good, but from a lack of run support to the lat issue, it’s been a frustrating first half. The same can be said for the Nationals, actually.

Marcus Stroman named World Baseball Classic MVP

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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

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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.