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.

Brandon Crawford homers off brother-in-law Gerrit Cole

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You can’t pick your family and no one knows that better than Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford. His sister Amy married Astros starter Gerrit Cole in November 2016, so the two players are brothers-in-law.

The two players have matched up against each other 18 times in the past, as Cole spent his first five seasons in the National League with the Pirates. Cole often won that battle, holding Crawford to four hits — all singles — in 18 plate appearances.

Crawford finally got the better of Cole on Tuesday night, hitting a line drive into the appropriately-named Crawford Boxes at Minute Maid Park for a two-run home run, cutting the Astros’ lead to 5-2.