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Dominican Republic dominates USA with 7-5 finish in World Baseball Classic

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Team Dominican Republic secured their second win of the 2017 World Baseball Classic on Saturday, mounting a rally in the eighth inning to take the edge over Team USA, 7-5.

The USA jumped out to an early lead, capitalizing on a couple of fielding errors to score their first run in the third inning. Christian Yelich and Brandon Crawford contributed two RBI singles, padding the USA’s lead to 3-0 by the fifth inning.

In the sixth inning, Giancarlo Stanton muscled an RBI double off of right-hander Jumbo Diaz, then came home to score the USA’s sixth run when Crawford lashed an RBI double of his own off of left-hander Fernando Abad. The Dominican Republic finally responded in the bottom of the sixth inning, taking Tanner Roark deep with a Manny Machado home run and tacking on an extra run with Carlos Santana‘s RBI single.

From there, Team Dominican Republic held the USA hitless. Welington Castillo added an RBI double in the seventh inning, but it was the combined effort of Nelson Cruz and Starling Marte that carried the team to victory in the eighth inning. Cruz and Marte raked in four runs with back-to-back jacks against the indomitable Andrew Miller, cementing the Dominican Republic’s tenth consecutive victory in the World Baseball Classic.

With the loss, Team USA faces several interesting tie-breaker scenarios. Via Andrew Simon of MLB.com:

If Colombia upsets the Dominican Republic and the U.S. defeats Canada, the first three would be 2-1, with Canada eliminated. The tiebreaker rules would determine which team would head to San Diego for the second round — beginning next Tuesday — and which two would battle it out in a tiebreaker game on Monday at 6 p.m. ET in Miami.

However, if the D.R. wins and the U.S. loses, the Dominicans would advance at 3-0. In that case, the tiebreaker rules would determine which 1-2 teams would get to play the tiebreaker game to advance, while the third would be eliminated.

Team Colombia and Team Dominican Republic are currently knotted 3-3 in extra innings. Team USA is scheduled to face off against Team Canada on Sunday evening at 7 PM EDT.

James Paxton will “nerd out big-time” to stay healthy next year

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To the surprise of, well, very few, the Mariners didn’t make the cut for the postseason this year. While they threw their hats in the ring for a wild card berth, their pitching staff just couldn’t stay healthy, from the handful of pitchers who contracted season-ending injuries in spring training to Felix Hernandez‘s shoulder bursitis to structural damage in Hisashi Iwakuma‘s right shoulder. Left-hander James Paxton missed 79 days with a lingering head cold, strained left forearm and pectoral strain. Heading into the 2018 season, the lefty told MLB.com’s Greg Johns that he plans to “nerd out big-time” in order to prepare for a healthy, consistent run with the club.

So far, Johns reports, that entails a new diet and workout program, hot yoga sessions and blood testing. “I just think there’s more I can do,” Paxton said. “I haven’t done the blood testing before. Finding out if there’s something I don’t know about myself. It’s just about learning and trying to find what works for me.”

When healthy, the 28-year-old southpaw was lights-out for the Mariners. He helped stabilize the front end of the rotation with a 12-5 record in 24 starts and supplemented his efforts with a 2.98 ERA, 2.4 BB/9 and 10.3 SO/9 through 136 innings. Despite taking multiple trips to the disabled list, he built up 4.6 fWAR — the most wins above replacement he’s compiled in any season of his career to date. Had he not been felled by a pectoral injury in mid-August — one that came with a five-week trip to the disabled list — the club might have been been able to make a bigger push for the playoffs.

Of course, even if Paxton manages to stay healthy next season, the Mariners still have the rest of the rotation to worry about. They cycled through 17 starters in 2017 and tied the 2014 Rangers with 40 total pitchers over the course of the season. Per GM Jerry Dipoto, their top four starters (Paxton, Hernandez, Iwakuma, and Tommy John candidate Drew Smyly) only contributed 17% of total innings pitched, just a tad below the 40% average. Finding adequate big league arms and compensating for injured aces (both current and former) will be tough. Still, getting a healthy, dominant Paxton back on the mound for 30+ starts would be a huge get for the team — whether or not the postseason is in their future next year.