Team Puerto Rico will enter the World Baseball Classic semifinals as one of two undefeated teams on Monday. They dominated Venezuela on Saturday afternoon, capitalizing on a strong showing from starter Jose De Leon and putting up a five-spot in the seventh inning en route to a 13-2 finish.
Jose De Leon and Giovanni Soto combined for five scoreless frames to start the game, limiting Venezuela to just four total baserunners before Hiram Burgos took the mound in the sixth. Team Venezuela promptly bounced back with a two-run homer from Rougned Odor, but failed to build on that momentum during the last three innings of the afternoon.
While Venezuela struggled to find their footing, Puerto Rico tacked on another five runs in the seventh inning. They boosted their advantage to an eight-run lead with a handful of RBI singles from Mike Aviles and Angel Pagan, a double from Rene Rivera and a sacrifice double play off the bat of Carlos Correa. A throwing error gave them an extra run in the eighth inning, and by the ninth, their eight-run surplus had ballooned to eleven runs after Kennys Vargas went deep in Puerto Rico’s only home run of the game.
The semifinals are scheduled to kick off in Los Angeles on Monday, when Team Puerto Rico will take on the Netherlands at 9 PM EDT. The winner of the Dominican Republic-USA game on Saturday night will determine which Pool F runner-up will face Japan (and their undefeated 6-0 record) on Tuesday.
I hope you don’t have any plans tonight at around 10PM Eastern time, because that’s when we get a pitching matchup for the ages as Max Scherzer will take on Clayton Kershaw at Dodger Stadium. When they meet tonight it will be the first time two pitchers with three or more Cy Young Awards have matched up since 2006. That year, and in 2005 and 2000, Roger Clemens faced Greg Maddux. In 2001 Clemens faced Pedro Martinez.
Kershaw won his hardware in 2011, 2013 and 2014, with an MVP award in 2014 to boot. Scherzer collected trophies in 2013, 2016 and 2017. Each has started the 2018 season in Cy Young form. Kershaw is 1-2, but that record is due to poor run support. He has a 1.73 ERA and has struck out 31 batters and has walked only three in 26 innings. Scherzer is 3-1 with a 1.33 ERA and a whopping 38 strikeouts to only 4 walks in 27 innings.
This will be the third time that Kershaw and Scherzer faced each other if you include the playoffs. The first meeting was a decade ago when both were rookies. They most recently faced off in Game 1 of the 2016 NLDS, way back when Scherzer only had one Cy Young Award to his credit. Kershaw beat Scherzer in that playoff game and the Dodgers beat Scherzer’s teams in the two regular season matchups, with neither guy setting the world on fire. As so often happens in baseball, the hype hasn’t been matched by reality.
Still, there’s always a chance it will. And even if, in the end, this turns into a slugfest, the first couple of innings should at least give us some hope of something good. I’ll be watching.