Puerto Rico defeats Venezuela, clinches second round berth

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In World Baseball Classic Pool C action, Puerto Rico emerged victorious over Venezuela 6-3. Starters Carlos Zambrano for Venezuela and Nelson Figueroa for Puerto Rico matched, each allowing two runs in their respective 3.2 and 4-inning outings.

Venezuela got on the board first, scoring two in the bottom of the third inning. With one out, Omar Infante doubled, then was driven home when Marco Scutaro singled to left field. Later in the inning, with two outs and runners on first and second, Pablo Sandoval doubled to right scoring Scutaro. Asdrubal Cabrera attempted to score as well, but was thrown out at home.

Puerto Rico quickly responded in the top of the fourth. Angel Pagan led off with a double. However, he was quickly erased attempting to advance to third on a ground ball as first baseman Miguel Cabrera fired over to Sandoval for the tag. Zambrano began to get wild, walking Alex Rios to put runners on first and second. He then uncorked a wild pitch, allowing both runners to advance. He got Carlos Beltran to ground out to first for the second out, but walked Yadier Molina to load the bases, the final straw. Zambrano was replaced by reliever Enrique Gonzalez, who promptly allowed a single to Mike Aviles, scoring Irving Falu and Rios. The slow-moving Molina was thrown out at third base by center fielder Gerardo Parra, ending the inning.

The tie was broken by Puerto Rico in the top of the fifth against Henderson Alvarez. Martin Maldonado walked, advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt, then scored on a two-out RBI single to center by Pagan. Puerto Rico broke the game open in the eighth when Alvarez allowed the first two batters he faced to reach base, hitting Rios and a single to Beltran. Juan Rincon entered to try and put out the fire, but Molina singled to right to load the bases. Aviles then plated Rios with a sacrifice fly to center. Venezuela brought in Cesar Jimenez, who struck out Carlos Rivera, then called on Francisco “K-Rod” Rodriguez to get the final out. With a 3-1 count, Luis Figueroa doubled to right, scoring Beltran and Molina to extend the lead to three runs.

Venezuela was unable to mount any offensive threat between the fourth and eighth innings, but attempted a ninth-inning comeback against J.C. Romero. With one out, Salvador Perez and Martin Prado hit back-to-back doubles, bringing the score to 6-3. Fernando Cabrera relieved Romero and ended the threat, retiring Miguel Montero and Infante in the final frame.

Puerto Rico’s win clinches second round appearances for both themselves and the Dominican Republic as both teams are 2-0 while Venezuela and Spain sit at 0-2. Spain and Venezuela match up tomorrow at 12:30 PM ET. Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic will match up and play for seeding at 7:30 PM ET. The winner will play the runner-up of Pool D in the second round while the loser will play the winner of Pool D.

Clayton Kershaw might return to the Dodgers’ rotation next week

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Dodgers southpaw Clayton Kershaw is nearing his return to the mound, according to club manager Dave Roberts. Both Kershaw (left biceps tendinitis) and fellow lefty Rich Hill (left middle finger blister) are scheduled to toss simulated games on Saturday; depending on the outcome, Roberts says Kershaw could forgo a minor league assignment and slot back into the rotation by Thursday.

Kershaw, 30, was diagnosed with biceps tendinitis as the team closed out their Mexico Series at the start of the month. He has not made a start in several weeks, but was finally able to resume throwing on Sunday and managed to get through two successful bullpen sessions. Though Dodgers’ ace hasn’t been completely injury-free over his 11-year career in the majors, this is the first significant issue he’s had with his pitching arm so far. The team is expected to take every precaution with the lefty, and will likely limit him to just four innings during Saturday’s simulated game.

Prior to his injury, Kershaw was working on another dominant run with the club, sporting a 2.86 ERA, 2.0 BB/9 and 9.8 SO/9 through his first 44 innings of the season. While Kershaw, Hill and left-handed starter Hyun-Jin Ryu served their respective terms on the disabled list this month, the Dodgers utilized a combination of relievers Ross Stripling and Brock Stewart, both of whom impressed during their limited time in the rotation.