Looking ahead to ALDS Game 2: Tigers-Athletics

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Backed by 11 strikeouts over seven innings from AL Cy Young favorite Max Scherzer, the Tigers topped the Athletics 3-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS at O.Co Coliseum. The two teams will meet for Game 2 this evening at 9:00 p.m. ET. The game will be broadcast on TBS.

Here’s a quick look at the pitching matchup and some random notes:

Already down one game in the series, the Athletics will turn to rookie right-hander Sonny Gray. A first-round pick in 2011, the 23-year-old right-hander has been mighty impressive since making his major league debut in July, posting a 2.67 ERA and 67/20 K/BB ratio over 64 innings in 10 starts and two relief appearances. We may have seen the starting rotation arranged differently if A.J. Griffin was healthy, but Athletics manager Bob Melvin wanted to give Gray the start at home as opposed to Comerica Park.

After facing Scherzer in Game 1, things don’t get any easier for the A’s tonight, as Justin Verlander will be on the hill for Detroit. While Verlander had somewhat of a down season for his lofty standards, posting a 3.46 ERA in 34 starts, he finished September by striking out 22 batters in 12 scoreless innings over his final two starts. Not good news for an A’s team which set a franchise playoff record by striking out 16 times in Game 1.

As for the Athletics’ lineup, John Hickey of the Bay Area News Group speculates that Daric Barton could be benched for Game 2 while Brandon Moss starts at first base and Seth Smith serves as the designated hitter. Barton went 0-for-3 with three strikeouts in Game 1 and had a pair of defensive miscues.

There probably won’t be any major changes for the Tigers. Andy Dirks made the start in left field last night, but it’s possible we’ll see Jhonny Peralta out there there for Game 2. Then again, O.co Coliseum can be pretty tricky to navigate, so it might not be the best setting to experiment. Miguel Cabrera was removed for defensive purposes in the eighth inning last night, but he told Paul Hagen of MLB.com after the game that he “felt good.” He went 1-for-4 with an RBI single before exiting.

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.