Dodgers rout Braves to take 2-1 lead in NLDS

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It was a close back-and-forth affair between the Braves and Dodgers for the first three and a half innings in Game 3 of the NLDS in Los Angeles tonight. The game was tied at four-all, then the Dodger offense woke up, building a lead as large as nine runs entering the bottom of the ninth.

The Braves gave starter Julio Teheran a 2-0 lead in the top of the first on two RBI singles. The right-hander would fork over the lead in the bottom of the second on a sacrifice fly by Dodgers starter Hyun-Jin Ryu followed by a three-run home run by Carl Crawford. The Braves quickly tied the game up in the top of the third on two defensive miscues by Ryu, failing to touch first base covering on a double play attempt, then making a late throw home on a fielder’s choice attempt, allowing the Braves to score a run on each blunder.

In the bottom half of the third, the Dodgers took the lead again on RBI singles by Adrian Gonzalez and Skip Schumaker. They put the game out of reach in the fourth against Braves reliever Alex Wood as Hanley Ramirez hit an RBI triple, Yasiel Puig hit an RBI single, and Juan Uribe blasted an opposite-field two-run home run to put his team up 10-4. The four runs scored in the fourth were all unearned as Crawford reached to lead off the inning, prompting the avalanche.

Neither starter could make it past the third inning. Ryu needed 68 pitches to get through three innings, allowing the four runs on six hits and a walk while striking out just one batter. Teheran needed 66 pitches to get through two and two-thirds, allowing six runs on eight hits and a walk while striking out five.

Chris Capuano came on in relief of Ryu, holding the Braves scoreless over three innings without allowing a hit, though he did walk three while striking out three. J.P. Howell pitched one and one-third scoreless before giving way to Ronald Belisario, who finished the eighth without any damage.

With runners on first and second against Braves reliever Jordan Walden in the eighth, Ramirez lined a single to left-center to plate his team’s 11th run of the game. Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez brought in Luis Avilan to keep the faintest glimmer of hope alive, but Gonzalez hit a grounder back up the middle which Avilan deflected. Second baseman Elliott Johnson was unable to make a play as the Dodgers’ 12th run crossed the plate. Puig lined an RBI single to right field, allowing Ramirez to touch home for run number 13. David Hale came in and finally closed the barn door after the horse had bolted. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly called on Paco Rodriguez in the ninth. The lefty allowed a one-out two-run home run to Jason Heyward and a two-out single to Evan Gattis. Kenley Jansen came in and struck out Brian McCann for out number 27 to wrap up the 13-6 victory at long last.

The Dodgers can wrap up the NLDS at home tomorrow night behind starter Ricky Nolasco, who will oppose Braves right-hander Freddy Garcia in Game 4.

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.