Chavez injury takes chunk out of Seattle's great D

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Seattle’s new regime made defense a priority during the offseason,
acquiring elite fly-catchers Franklin Gutierrez and Endy Chavez to team
with Ichiro Suzuki for a three-center fielder outfield and the results have predictably been dramatic.

Last season the Mariners ranked 11th among AL teams in runs allowed,
but so far this year they’ve been by far the best team in the entire
league at preventing runs while slicing their ERA from 4.73 to 3.59.

Improved pitching has obviously played a big role, but a dramatic
change in the quality of the Mariners’ outfield defense has been an
overlooked component. Or at least it was. Chavez suffered a torn ACL in a collision Friday with Yuniesky Betancourt, knocking him out for the remainder of this season and possibly part of 2010.

Chavez is a corner outfielder who was hitting just .273/.328/.343, so
at first glance you might think that his injury would actually help the
Mariners, but his glove in left field was a huge asset. In fact, with
Chavez, Gutierrez, and Suzuki playing 80 percent of the left field,
center field, and right field innings Ultimate Zone Rating ranks the Mariners’ outfield as the best in baseball defensively at 22.2 runs above average.

Jarrod Washburn is one of the most extreme fly-ball pitchers in the league, so it’s no coincidence
that his ERA has improved from 4.67, 4.32, and 4.69 in his first three
years in Seattle to 3.29 this season. Washburn hasn’t become a new man
at the age of 34 and his secondary numbers show him as the same
mediocre pitcher, but having three center fielders chasing down
everything in the gaps made him look a lot better.

Seattle’s outfield defense will still be plenty strong without Chavez,
because Gutierrez is an amazing center fielder and Suzuki will probably
win his ninth straight Gold Glove in right field, but with Wladimir
Balentien now in left field they’ve gone from spectacular to merely
very good amid rumors that Washburn is on the trading block.

Vanderbilt defeats Michigan 8-2 to win College World Series

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Vanderbilt defeated Michigan 8-2 in a decisive Game 3 on Wednesday night to win the College World Series. It’s Vanderbilt’s first championship since 2014 when the school defeated Virginia 3-2. Surprisingly, the 10 combined runs made this the highest-scoring College World Series-clinching game since 2009 when LSU beat Texas 11-4.

Michigan got on the board early, beginning the top of the first with three consecutive singles to take a 1-0 lead. Vanderbilt tied it at 1-1 with a solo homer from Pat DeMarco.

Vanderbilt took control of the game in the third and fourth innings, scoring three and two times, respectively. In the third, DeMarco drew a bases loaded walk and Stephen Scott followed up with a two-run single to make it 4-1. In the fourth, Vandy got a run on an RBI single from J.J. Bleday and a sacrifice fly from Ethan Paul. Harrison Ray added an RBI single in the seventh to pad the lead to 7-1. After Michigan scratched out another run in the top of the eighth, Vanderbilt got it right back in the bottom half thanks to an RBI single by Philip Clarke.

On the pitching side of things, Mason Hickman delivered six strong innings for Vandy. He yielded the lone run on four hits and three walks while striking out 10. He gave way to Jake Eder in the seventh, who worked a 1-2-3 frame. Eder remained in the game for the eighth, relenting a run on a two-out double, but it was too little, too late for Michigan. Going out in the ninth inning for a third inning, Eder worked around a two-out walk to close out the ballgame in an 8-2 victory for Vanderbilt.