Chien-Ming Wang pitches Chinese Taipei past Australia in WBC opener

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Thanks to six shutout innings from Chien-Ming Wang, Chinese Taipei took a huge step towards advancing in the World Baseball Classic in Saturday’s opener, beating Australia 4-1.

South Korea is viewed as the lock to advance from Pool B. The winner of today’s opener was in a great position to earn the other spot, with The Netherlands likely to have a tough time winning any of its three games.

Wang managed to get through six innings despite the 65-pitch limit starters work with in round one of the World Baseball Classic. He walked none and got three double play balls before taking a seat. Another familiar name, Hong-Chih Kuo, pitched in relief for Taiwan, throwing a perfect inning.

Both Wang and Kuo are auditioning for spots with big-league clubs during the WBC. Wang made 10 appearances with the Nationals last year, while Kuo was out of the league after developing the yips in his final year with the Dodgers.

Australia got down 3-0 early in the contest and simply didn’t have the offense to make its way back. Cleanup man Stefan Welch homered for the team’s only run. Oft-injured, ex-major leaguer Chris Snelling, batting eighth, singled in his first at-bat and was immediately removed for a pinch-runner because of a leg strain.

Chinese Taipei got a homer from first baseman Cheng-Min Peng. Astros outfielder Che-Hsuan Lin went 2-for-3 with a double.

Ramón Laureano made an absolutely ridiculous play yesterday

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I talked about it in the recaps, but dear lord does Oakland A’s outfielder Ramón Laureano’s play in yesterday’s game against the Blue Jays deserve it’s own post.

Jays first baseman Justin Smoak led off the second with a single Then Teoscar Hernández then came up and hit a long drive to center. In what, in and of itself, would’ve lead the highlight reels yesterday, Laureano ranged back to the wall and reached over to rob Hernández of a homer.

Laureano is known best for his arm, though, and that’s when he unleashed that hose, attempting to double off Smoak at first base all the way from the warning track. The throw was not on target — indeed, it sailed way past first base — but that was itself impressive as all get-out. As A’s pitcher Brett Anderson said after the game, he’s pretty sure the throw went farther than Hernández hit the ball in the first place. The arm strength on display there was simply phenomenal. But it was also lucky.

Lucky because the throw went so far into foul territory that it gave Smoak the courage to break for second base. Laureano was not the only one playing great defense on the play, though: A’s catcher Nick Hundley backed up the play, got Laureano’s errant throw and fired it down to second, nailing Smoak. And heck, Hundley’s throw was nothing to sneeze at either:

That did not go as an outfield assist for Lauerano, obviously, as his bad throw — which would’ve been an error had Smoak managed to advance, we must admit — broke that up. So, in the books it goes as an F7 and then a separate 2-4 putout. Still, it just shows Laueano’s incredible defensive abilities, both with the leather and with that cannon he has for an arm.

An arm that, this play not withstanding, gets him plenty of assists. Indeed, he has has five assists this season already and has 14 assists in just 70 games, which is a lot. To put it in perspective, it usually takes somewhere between 12-18 to lead the league in a full season with 20 being an outlier of sorts, only seen once every five years or so.

So, if you’re gonna hit it to center against the A’s, make sure you hit it all the way out. And if Laureano gets to it, for god’s sake, don’t run on him.