Sloppy defense allows Braves to tie, but Dodgers quickly retake lead in third

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Carl Crawford delivered a gut-punch to the Braves in the bottom of the second, sending a three-run home run over the fence in right field to put the Dodgers up 4-2, but starter Hyun-Jin Ryu and some sloppy defense allowed the Braves to quickly tie the game at four apiece in the top of the third. But the relentless Dodger offense continued their assault to retake the lead.

Leading off the top of the third inning against Justin Upton, Ryu quickly fell behind 3-0, but battled back to 3-2 before Upton laced a line drive to center for a single. Freddie Freeman followed up with a single of his own, putting runners at first and second with nobody out. At the end of an 11-pitch at-bat that included seven foul balls, Gattis blooped a single to center to load the bases for Brian McCann. McCann hit a weak ground ball to first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, who fired to second to attempt a double play, but when shortstop Hanley Ramirez fired to Ryu covering first, Ryu couldn’t find the bag with his foot. Upton scored on the play, bringing the score to 4-3 in favor of the Dodgers.

Ryu made another miscue against Chris Johnson. The Braves third baseman hit a weak dribbler that bounced a few feet down the first base line. Ryu dashed off the mound, picked up the ball and fired home in an attempt to get Freeman, but the throw was a couple seconds too late. The gaffe allowed the Braves to tie the game at four-all. Andrelton Simmons mercifully grounded into a 5-4-3 double play to end the inning. Ryu is at 68 pitches through three innings.

The Dodgers continued attacking the Braves, however, retaking the lead in the bottom half of the third. Hanley Ramirez doubled to lead off the inning against Braves starter Julio Teheran. Adrian Gonzalez promptly knocked him in with a line drive single to left, putting the Dodgers back on top 5-4. Yasiel Puig beat out a double play attempt by the Braves infield, then advanced to second base on a throwing error by Johnson. Juan Uribe struck out for the second out of the inning, but Skip Schumaker gave the Dodgers some insurance with a line drive single to left field, scoring Puig to put the Dodgers up 6-4. A.J. Ellis then lined a single to right field, bringing Ryu to the plate.

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly pinch-hit Michael Young for Ryu, ending his night. His line: 3 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 1 BB, 1 K on 68 pitches. Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez brought in Alex Wood in relief of Teheran, ending his starter’s night. Teheran’s line: 2.2 IP, 8 H, 6 ER, 1 BB, 5 K on 66 pitches. Wood struck out Young to, at long last, end the third inning.

All in all, an eventful third inning in Game 3 of the NLDS. This game could have a huge impact on the final two games (if necessary) of the series since both teams will need at least six innings out of their respective bullpens to get through the night.

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.