Rene Rivera

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Puerto Rico steamrolls Venezuela 13-2 in World Baseball Classic

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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.

Madison Bumgarner has built a legacy off of his postseason performances

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Giants starter Madison Bumgarner has never won a Cy Young Award. In fact, he has never even finished in the top-three in voting, though that might change when the results come in for the 2016 season. But with his track record in the postseason, Bumgarner is absolutely the No. 1 pitcher opposing hitters do not want to see.

Entering Wednesday night’s start against the Mets in the National League Wild Card game at Citi Field, Bumgarner had a career 2.14 ERA with a 77/15 K/BB ratio in 88 1/3 innings in the postseason. He had twice pitched a complete game: in the 2014 Wild Card game against the Pirates and in Game 5 of the 2014 World Series against the Royals.

Bumgarner added another playoff shutout to his ledger, holding the Mets to four hits and a pair of walks with six strikeouts on 119 pitches. The closest the Mets came to scoring was in the bottom of the fifth when T.J. Rivera led off with a double. Rivera was quickly erased when he made a base running blunder on a Rene Rivera fielder’s choice ground out.

Bumgarner now has a 1.94 ERA in the postseason and has already won three World Series rings. We’re at the point now where Bumgarner isn’t maybe one of the best postseason starters of all time. He is one of the best of all time.

Curt Schilling, considered by many to be at least the greatest postseason starter of the last 25 years, compiled a 2.23 ERA and a 120/25 K/BB ratio across 133 1/3 postseason innings between 1993-2007. That includes four complete games of which two were shutouts. He won three World Series rings.

Josh Beckett tossed three shutouts across 13 playoff starts, including the World Series Game 6 clincher for the Marlins in 2003 against the Yankees. Overall, he has a 3.07 ERA with a 99/21 K/BB ratio over 93 2/3 innings.

Cliff Lee made 11 postseason starts for the Phillies and Rangers between 2009-11, putting up a 2.52 ERA and an 89/10 K/BB ratio in 82 innings. Three of those starts were complete games.

John Smoltz had a 2.67 ERA with a 199/67 K/BB ratio in 209 playoff innings between 1991-2009. He completed the game on three occasions, including one shutout (Game 7 of the 1991 NLCS against the Pirates).

The Cardinals’ Chris Carpenter finished with an even 3.00 ERA and a 68/36 K/BB ratio in 108 innings spanning 18 starts. One of those starts was a shutout.

Orel Hershiser made 18 postseason starts and four relief appearances for the Dodgers, Indians, and Mets from 1985-99. The right-hander spun a 2.59 ERA with a 97/43 K/BB ratio in 132 innings. Four complete games, two shutouts.

Dave Stewart made 22 postseason appearances for the Dodgers, Athletics, and Blue Jays and compiled a 2.77 ERA with a 73/48 K/BB ratio over 133 innings. That included three complete games of which one was a shutout. Stewart has three World Series rings.

Bob Gibson only made nine postseason starts but threw 81 innings to the tune of a 1.89 ERA and a 92/17 K/BB ratio for the Cardinals between 1964-68.

Whitey Ford made 22 postseason starts for the Yankees between 1950-64. He owned a 2.71 ERA with a 94/34 K/BB ratio in 146 innings. He completed seven starts including three shutouts. Ford earned the most World Series rings of anyone on this list at six.

Of course, it’s hard to top former Yankees closer Mariano Rivera, who limited the opposition to 11 earned runs (0.70 ERA) with a 110/21 K/BB ratio in 141 playoff innings en route to five World Series rings. But it might be proper to separate starters and relievers for this conversation, as Rivera never had to pitch the ninth inning with a pitch count over 100.

As you can see, Bumgarner’s numbers are, in one way or another, better than everyone on this list. He is only 27 years old but we may be looking at the best postseason starter of all time. We’ll have to see where the next decade takes him before we write that in ink rather than pencil, however.

The lineups for tonight’s NL Wild Card game

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Your lineups for tonight’s battle between the Mets and the Giants are as follows:

GIANTS

1. Denard Span (L) CF
2. Brandon Belt (L) 1B
3. Buster Posey (R) C
4. Hunter Pence (R) RF
5. Brandon Crawford (L) SS
6. Angel Pagan (S) LF
7. Joe Panik (L) 2B
8. Conor Gillaspie (L) 3B
9. Madison Bumgarner (R) P

The most notable thing being chattered about regarding the Giants this afternoon is who Bruce Bochy might use out of the bullpen. Some are saying that, if Bumgarner goes seven innings, the first reliever out after him would be . . . Johnny Cueto. Which isn’t the worst idea ever as far as overall pitching quality goes, but is weird considering he is far, far worse in the first inning than he is in any other inning. Guess we’ll see.

METS

1. Jose Reyes (S) 3B
2. Asdrubal Cabrera (S) SS
3. Yoenis Cespedes (R) LF
4. Curtis Granderson (L) CF
5. T.J. Rivera (R) 2B
6. Jay Bruce (L) RF
7. Rene Rivera (R) C
8. James Loney (L) 1B
9. Noah Syndergaard (L) P

Yes, T.J. Rivera is hitting fifth in a do-or-die playoff game and James Loney is starting at first base. Lucas Duda isn’t even on the roster, in fact. Which is likely because he’s hurt. As for the relief corps, starters Bartolo Colon and Robert Gsellman will be available in the bullpen.