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And That Happened: Wednesday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the Scores. Here are the Highlights:

Twins 9, Royals 1: This was a two-run game until the seventh when Miguel Sano came up with three men on. He reached down and upper-cut a triple that went to the deepest part of the park, clearing the bases and breaking the game wide open. This came just after he ended the top of the sixth by snagging a rocket line drive off the bat of Sal Perez that had extra bases written all over it. I feel like this is going to be a big year for Sano.

Orioles 3, Blue Jays 1: Dylan Bundy allowed one run while striking out eight over seven innings while Adam Jones and Chris Davis went deep. It feels like we’ve been waiting for the O’s first round pick in 2011 to arrive for a long time — and last year was a nice preliminary arrival — but if Bundy is the effective starter everyone always hoped he’d be this year, it’ll provide a big boost for an O’s team with questions in the rotation.

Nationals 6, Marlins 4: Ryan Zimmerman homered while Bryce Harper and Matt Wieters each drove in two runs. Tanner Roark started a bit rough but settled down, eventually retiring 13 of the last 14 he faced. “Archer: Dreamland” debuted last night. It too is starting a bit rough — not a ton of laughs in the debut — but I think I’m gonna dig it. It had some surprising depth for a show that usually leads with . . . something less than a lot of depth.

Red Sox 3, Pirates 0: Chris Sale made his Red Sox debut and he didn’t disappoint (7 IP, 3 H, 1 BB, 7K, 0 ER). Jameson Taillon made his season debut and he was equally impressive (7 IP, 5 H, 3 BB, 6K, 0 ER). This would end up scoreless into the 12th inning when catcher Sandy Leon ended things with a three-run bomb off Antonio Bastardo. This was redemption for Leon, who got thrown out at the plate in the third inning after running through third base coach Brian Butterfield’s stop sign.

Braves 3, Mets 1: The Mets are “sniffing around” for starting pitching help, eh? Too bad they don’t still have Bartolo Colon, who allowed one run over six innings in his Braves debut. Jacob deGrom held the Braves scoreless for six, but Hansel Robles blew the save in the seventh. On to the 12th here was well, where Matt Kemp doubled in two. After a bullpen meltdown on Opening Day, Braves relievers tossed six innings of three-hit, zero run ball.

Rays 4, Yankees 1: No 12-inning affair here, as the Yankees and Rays got all the scoring in the game over with by the bottom of the second inning. It was in that frame where Derek Norris singled in two runs and Corey Dickerson singled in a third. In the previous frame Dickerson homered. Alex Cobb and four relievers limited the Yankees to a second inning Jacoby Ellsbury homer.

Reds 2, Phillies 0Brandon Finnegan allowed one hit and struck out nine over seven innings while Joey Votto homered and Zack Cozart singled in a run in the bottom of the seventh just in time to allow Finnegan to register the win. There was a 50 minute rain delay here but they made up for it by getting this one done in a mere two hours and twenty-five minutes.

Indians 9, Rangers 6: The Indians sweep the Rangers to begin the season and they did so with a ninth inning rally. Down 6-4 and facing Sam Dyson, the Tribe loaded the bases with two singles and a walk before Carlos Santana drew another walk to force in a run. Then up came Francisco Lindor, who took Dyson out of the park to right field for a grand slam. Just like Sandy Leon in Boston, Lindor’s heroics made up for a miscue. In the fifth inning Lindor helped Texas take the lead when he was late to the bag on a force play at second that would’ve ended the frame and then threw the ball away in a seeming panic while trying to throw out the batter heading to first, allowing two runs to score. The slam is all he’ll remember.

Brewers 6, Rockies 1Eric Thames, Travis Shaw and Jonathan Villar each homered and Wily Peralta tossed five shutout innings. Thames was never a big success in the bigs but, as you probably know, he spent the past three years in Korea where he hit 147 home runs and drove in 382 with the NC Dinos. While that may have merely been a function of a guy finding a home in a lesser, hitter-friendly league, I suspect it was really a matter of him figuring stuff out. He won’t average 45 homers a year in the majors the rest of his career, but he may prove to be one of the more intriguing signings of the past offseason.

Astros 5, Mariners 3: Another extra innings walkoff homer, this one from George Springer in the 13th inning down in Houston. This one was of the come-from-behind variety, as Seattle had gone ahead by one in the top of the inning. Springer drove in all five of the Astros’ runs last night, having earlier doubled in two to tie things up in the seventh.

Diamondbacks 8, Giants 6: San Francisco led 4-1 heading into the bottom of the fifth but the Snakes added three runs that inning and two more in both the six and seventh. A.J. Pollock went 3-for-5 with an RBI and Yasmany Tomas had two hits and an RBI. Chris Owings got two hits, walked twice and stole two bags.

Angels 5, Athletics 0: Garrett Richards made his return but had to leave early due to tightness in his biceps. Not a great sign — that can often be caused by overcompensating for a sore elbow — but Richards and the Angels said it was no big deal after the game. We’ll see. As it was, he pitched shutout ball before leaving in the fifth. The Angels spoiled Jharel Cotton‘s season debut with RBI singles from Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Danny Espinosa and an RBI double from Andrelton Simmons.

Dodgers 3, Padres 1: Rich Hill allowed one run over five somewhat rocky innings — he walked three and gave up a homer — but the Padres couldn’t make more hay out of it and relievers Sergio Romo, Alex Wood and Kenley Jansen shut them down over the final four frames. Yasiel Puig hit a homer.

Cubs vs. Cardinals; Tigers vs. White Sox — POSTPONED:
I’ve been loving you a long time
Down all the years, down all the days
And I’ve cried for all your troubles
Smiled at your funny little ways

We watched our friends grow up together
And we saw them as they fell
Some of them fell into Heaven
Some of them fell into Hell

I took shelter from a shower
And I stepped into your arms
On a rainy night in Soho
The wind was whistling all its charms

 

WBC’s extra-innings rule cheapens Puerto Rico’s win, sadly

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Puerto Rico is headed to the finals of the World Baseball Classic after walking off 4-3 winners in 11 innings of captivating baseball that started on Tuesday night and ended early Wednesday morning in the Eastern time zone. Well, the first 10 innings were captivating, the 11th and final inning was not.

WBC rules stipulate that, in extra innings starting with the 11th, each team will start its inning with runners on first and second base. The rule is meant to speed the game along because, after all, it is an exhibition game and these players have commitments to professional teams. Managers can’t get two innings out of relievers because of the risk of injury. That was the case in the ninth for Netherlands as Kenley Jansen pitched a perfect inning on nine pitches but did not return for the 10th, as the Dodgers had an agreement in place. One can understand that aspect of the rule, as unfortunate as it is for fans.

The rule is also designed to try to make games more interesting. Fans don’t like 18-inning games, we’re told, so this rule is designed to make sure games end in the 11th or 12th innings, if possible. The result, though, is a predictable and boring affair.

Here’s how things went for Netherlands in the top of the 11th: Three bunt attempts, the last of which was successful in advancing both runners. Intentional walk. Ground ball double play.

Here’s how things went for Puerto Rico in the bottom of the 11th: Successful bunt on the first try. Intentional walk. Sacrifice fly.

Wow. Exciting. Puerto Rico fans were understandably ecstatic that their team had advanced into the finals. Other baseball fans were snoring and not because it was 1:30 AM. The game was otherwise exciting. Both teams traded homers to open the first inning. There were several outstanding defensive plays by both sides. The 10th inning had some benches-emptying drama.

Unfortunately, the extra-innings rule cheapened Puerto Rico’s victory over Netherlands. Part of the beauty of baseball is strategy. By giving both teams runners on first and second to start their offensive half of the inning, the strategy has already been decided. When the Dominican Republic and Colombia went 11 innings on March 12, the D.R. also elected to bunt to lead off the 11th. Colombia didn’t because the D.R. went on to score seven runs, but it would have had the deficit only been one or zero runs. Also on March 12, Japan led off the top of the 11th with a bunt. Because Japan scored twice, Netherlands did not bunt to lead off its inning. Four out of four teams in a classic position to bunt elected to do so. Three of those four teams saw their next hitter intentionally walked.

Bunting is not fun to watch. With fields that usually stretch about 330 feet down each foul line, seeing a player intentionally hit the ball into the ground 10 feet in front of home plate feels like a waste. Doing it as a predetermined strategy only makes it more boring.

Fans also watch the game because they want to see the talent of the players. How can they see that if two of the players are put on base for free, then the outcomes of the next two at-bats are almost 100 percent predictable? (Bunt, intentional walk.) If I were a fan of a team in the WBC, especially one with players not commonly on an international stage, I’d feel robbed by this rule.

Fortunately, the extra-innings rule isn’t coming to Major League Baseball anytime soon. Commissioner Rob Manfred suggested the rule, but it was broadly panned, and he retracted any enthusiasm for the idea. It will be implemented in the minors, but it has more practical application there since games don’t carry nearly the same weight of importance.

The extra-innings rule, though, is just a symptom of an underlying problem: timing. Having WBC games in March clashes with the Major League Baseball schedule as it coincides with spring training. Players on MLB teams are therefore caught in a bind: Do they participate and show pride for their countries? Or do they consider their futures with their MLB teams — which provide them their livelihood — choosing to either not participate or, in Jansen’s case, participate in a limited capacity? As mentioned, part of the intent of the extra-innings rule is to make it so teams don’t need to rely on any particular reliever for six innings of work because the game went 18 innings and the team had run out of pitchers. If the WBC were held, for example, in the winter (hosted, obviously, in more tropical climates), players and teams on their behalf might be more willing to go a little longer.

Maybe with some more scheduling creativity, we might see an 11th-inning walk-off sequence that goes triple-single or double-double rather than bunt-intentional walk-sacrifice fly. That would leave us all with a better taste in our mouths.

Puerto Rico walks off against Netherlands in 11th inning to advance to WBC finals

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The World Baseball Classic’s extra-innings gimmick helped decide which of the two teams playing Tuesday night into early Wednesday morning would advance to the finals. Puerto Rico ultimately walked off a 4-3 winner in the bottom of the 11th against the Netherlands.

The game started off interestingly enough with both teams trading two-run home runs. Wladimir Balentien crushed his off of Jorge Lopez in the top half at Dodger Stadium. Carlos Correa returned the favor, victimizing Rick van den Hurk in the bottom half.

Puerto Rico broke the 2-2 tie in the bottom of the second when T.J. Rivera swatted a solo home run to left field, also off of van den Hurk.

Netherlands tied it with a two-out rally in the fifth. Balentien doubled — and very nearly homered again — Jonathan Schoop was intentionally walked to bring Shawn Zarraga to the plate. Zarraga lined a double to left field, plating Balentien, but Schoop was out at the plate on an umpire-reviewed play at the plate.

From there, it was five innings of both teams’ pitching shutting down the opposition. The game went to extra innings after Kenley Jansen pitched a perfect ninth inning for the Netherlands. Edwin Diaz started the 10th for Puerto Rico and things got interesting after Jurickson Profar struck out. Balentien swung hard and fouled off a first-pitch fastball from Diaz. He stared Diaz down and nodded as if to say, “You got away with that one.” Diaz threw him another fastball — this one at 100 MPH — and Balentien again fouled it off. He again stared down Diaz, nodding, and then saying a few words. With his third pitch of the at-bat, Diaz threw up-and-in at Balentein. Neither Balentien nor his teammates liked the pitch all that much and some Netherlands players scattered onto the field. Order was quickly restored and home plate umpire Lance Barksdale issued warnings to both benches. Diaz ended the at-bat by painting the outside corner with a 99 MPH fastball. Schoop struck out to end the inning.

Puerto Rico put its leadoff runner on base in the bottom of the 10th, but Carlos Correa grounded into a double play and Enrique Hernandez struck out against Loek Van Mil to send the game to the 11th.

The 11th inning, of course, features an abnormal rule. From the 11th inning on, each team will start with runners start on first and second. Needless to say, most managers choose to bunt to put the go-ahead run on third base. Netherlands executed this in the top of the 11th, so Puerto Rico intentionally walked Yurendell Decaster to load the bases with one out. Curt Smith then grounded into an inning-ending double play.

Puerto Rico took advantage of its opportunity in the bottom half. Yadier Molina moved Carlos Correa to third and Xander Bogaerts to second with his bunt, so Netherlands chose to intentionally walk Javier Baez, bringing up Eddie Rosario. Rosario lifted a fastball to shallow center field. Jurickson Profar caught the ball and fired home, but it was a weak throw and Correa scored easily, securing the 4-3 walk-off victory for Puerto Rico.

Netherlands is eliminated after a valiant run through the WBC. Puerto Rico is headed to the finals, playing the winner of Tuesday night’s game between the United States and Japan.