Team USA keeps hope alive with 6-2 victory over Italy

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David Wright hit a grand slam in the fifth inning of tonight’s contest that resulted in a 6-2 victory for the U.S. over Italy, keeping their hopes alive in Pool D. The U.S. had stayed within striking distance of Italy, trailing 2-1 entering the fifth.

Italy scored twice, once in each of the first and second innings. In the first, U.S. starter Ryan Vogelsong uncorked a wild pitch with two outs, allowing Mike Costanzo to score from third base. In the second, Tyler LaTorre singled with two outs and scored on an Anthony Granato double.

The U.S. chipped away in the fourth after Italy replaced starter Luca Panerati with Marco Grifantini. Ryan Braun led off the inning with a single and quickly touched home on a Joe Mauer double to left. Grifantini lost control in the fifth, walking Adam Jones to lead off the inning, then surrendering a single to Jonathan Lucroy to put runners on first and second. Matt Torra came in to attempt to extinguish the flames, but with one out, Brandon Phillips singled to right to drive in Jones and tie the game. Joe Mauer walked with two outs to load the bases for David Wright, who fouled off a couple pitches before squaring up a change-up, promptly deposited beyond the fence in left-center. The U.S. went up 6-2 and never lost control from there.

Jeremy Affeldt tossed one scoreless inning of relief after Vogelsong’s exit, then Ross Detwiler threw four shut-out innings to close out the game and the victory for his team.

The win brings the U.S. to 1-1 in Pool D, tied with Canada. Italy has already clinched a berth in the second round, but seeding will be determined by run differential. The U.S. and Canada will play for the right to advance tomorrow at 4 PM ET.

Astros talking to Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole about extensions

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It’s extension season and Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports that the Astros — who already agreed to an extension with Alex Bregman — are discussing contract extensions with Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole.

Funny thing about Verlander, by the way: when he got his current $180 million deal, most people fell into the “oh, there’s an overpay!” column. What’s more, this past winter, when everyone was talking about how bad it is to give guys big long term deals, Verlander’s name was notably absent in the conversation despite the fact that his deal has turned out to be quite good. I suppose that says something about how good the anti-long-term deal folks are at cherrypicking.

That being said, Rosenthal says “it would be an upset” if either Verlander or Cole signed extensions. I can see that. Verlander is locked up this year and has a vesting option for 2020, and a lot can happen in a year or two. Cole is a Scott Boras client and Boras clients tend to hit the market rather than sign extensions. Perhaps their former teammate, Dallas Keuchel‘s, terrible experience on the free agent market this winter will alter that calculus. Hard to say.