T.J. Rivera

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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.

Puerto Rico’s 6-5 win sets up must-win for U.S. against Dominican Republic

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SAN DIEGO (AP) Puerto Rico is squeezing every bit of fun it can out of this World Baseball Classic.

Come Monday night, the party moves on to Dodger Stadium.

Yadier Molina and Puerto Rico advanced to the WBC semifinals after scoring four runs in the first inning and then holding on for a wild 6-5 win against the United States on Friday night.

When Edwin Diaz struck out Josh Harrison to end the game with Brandon Crawford standing on third base, players raced out of the Puerto Rico dugout to join the celebration on the infield. After a few minutes in the clubhouse, the team returned to the field waving small flags and ran over to celebrate with a large group of fans on the first-base side who were chanting, beating drums, rattling noisemakers and waving flags.

“We are happy for the job all the guys have done,” Carlos Beltran said. “I think the boys have done a good job playing for their country. We’re happy for our country and for our people. They are very proud of us and we hope to God we finish the mission.”

Puerto Rico advanced to the championship round for the second straight WBC. It reached the championship game in 2013 before losing to the Dominican Republic.

By clinching Pool F with a day to go, Puerto Rico (2-0) will play the Netherlands on Monday night at Dodger Stadium.

The other semifinal spot from Pool F will go to the winner of Saturday night’s game between the United States (1-1) and the Dominican Republic (1-1). That team will play Japan on Tuesday night.

Puerto Rico took a 4-0 lead in the first, watched Buster Posey and Adam Jones hit impressive home runs, and then benefited from a two-run, two-base, two-out throwing error in the sixth by third baseman Nolan Arenado, who won the Gold Glove Award in each of his first four big league seasons.

With most of the 32,463 fans on their feet and chanting in the top of the ninth, a U.S. rally fell just short. Crawford hit a two-run triple to the left-center gap off Diaz with two outs to pull the Americans within a run and spark chants of “U-S-A! U-S-A!”

Diaz then struck out Josh Harrison for his second save to send the Puerto Ricans into a frenzy. Backup catcher Roberto Perez carried a Puerto Rican flag with him onto the field.

Puerto Rico can sweep the pool when it plays Venezuela (0-2) on Saturday afternoon. Puerto Rico beat the Dominican Republic 3-1 on Tuesday night.

“They are a very good team and they are doing a lot of things right,” U.S. manager Jim Leyland said. “You tip your hat to them.”

The United States will have to regroup to face a Dominican Republic team it lost to one week earlier in the opening round in Miami. In that game, Nelson Cruz hit a go-ahead, three-run home run in the eighth as the Dominicans rallied from five runs down to win 7-5.

Puerto Rico took a 4-0 lead on six straight singles and a sacrifice fly in first inning off Marcus Stroman.

Carlos Correa, Beltran and Molina had RBI singles in Puerto Rico’s opening onslaught. Stroman finally got an out when Rosario hit a sacrifice fly to make it 4-0. Molina tried taking third on the play but overran the bag and was tagged out. Stroman got Rivera to fly out to right to end it.

“The first inning was just incredible,” Beltran said. “It gave us so much confidence for the rest of the game.”

The United States pulled to 4-3 on Eric Hosmer‘s RBI single in the second and then homers by Posey leading off the fifth and Jones with one out in the sixth, both off starter Seth Lugo. Posey’s second homer of the tourney went an estimated 398 feet to left-center. Jones, who played at San Diego’s Morse High, homered for the second time in two games.

Puerto Rico regained a cushion in the sixth on the error by Arenado, who short-hopped a throw to first after fielding a grounder by Angel Pagan that took a high bounce.

Leadoff batter Javier Baez was hit by a pitch from Mychal Givens and stole second. Andrew Miller came on and walked Eddie Rosario. With T.J. Rivera batting, Baez and Rosario pulled a double steal. Rivera and pinch-hitter Kike Hernandez struck out. Pagan’s grounder took a wicked hop and Arenado fielded it above his shoulders. He got set, but his throw skipped past Hosmer, and Baez and Rosario scored.

“That is just part of the game,” Leyland said. “That is the human element of it. That is a great third baseman. I have no problem whatsoever with that.”

Lugo (1-0) allowed three runs and five hits in 5 2/3 innings, struck out two and walked one.

Stroman (0-1) allowed four runs and eight hits in 4 2/3 innings, struck out two and walked one.

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.