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.
Right-hander Junior Guerra will make his first Opening Day start for the Brewers next month, according to a team announcement on Saturday. The veteran righty pitched his first full season of big league ball in 2016 and continued to impress in camp with a 1.80 ERA and a working split-finger fastball.
Guerra, 32, spent the better part of the last decade working his way through various farm systems and independent leagues before landing a major league gig with the White Sox in 2015. He was thrust into the bullpen for a three-game stint, then converted to a starting role in the Brewers’ rotation after getting picked up on waivers in the fall of 2015.
In 2016, he surprised the Brewers with a 2.81 ERA, 3.2 BB/9 and 7.4 SO/9 over 121 2/3 innings, emerging as one of the steadier arms on their pitching staff and making a compelling case for an encore performance in 2017. According to Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell, some of the right-hander’s success hinged on the split-finger fastball that he’d been developing over the last several years. Via FOX Sports Wisconsin:
The split-finger, which is really the pitch that makes him dangerous, it by nature that pitch takes a while to get going. It’s a difficult pitch, that’s why a lot of guys don’t throw it,” Counsell said. “In the age of trying to get a swing-and-miss, it’s a big swing-and-miss pitch if you can master it, if you can get a feel for it and get a handle on it.
Guerra is set to take the mound for the Brewers during their home opener against the Rockies on April 3.
Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun is not a fan of spring training. He thinks it’s too long. Via MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy, Braun said:
My favorite spring training at-bat is a first-pitch line out to center. Or even better, a first-pitch, line drive double play. Because we’re all in the business of saving time. We don’t get paid by the hour. I’m serious. I’m not kidding.
Braun is not the first nor the last to complain about the length of spring training.
The 33-year-old made his Cactus League debut last Friday. He’s played in three spring games thus far, racking up a pair of doubles, a pair of walks, and one RBI in six at-bats. Braun is looking to repeat last year’s performance when he hit .305/.365/.538 with 30 home runs, 91 RBI, 80 runs scored, and 16 stolen bases in 564 plate appearances.