U.S. rallies late against Canada to advance in WBC

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The U.S. rallied late against Canada to advance out of Pool D to the second round in the World Baseball Classic. Canada got on the board early thanks to a two-run home run by Michael Saunders off of U.S. starter Derek Holland. Holland was otherwise solid, allowing just the two runs over five innings of work, striking out four while walking one.

The U.S. tied the game in the fourth against Canada starter Jameson Taillon. Joe Mauer singled and David Wright walked to quickly put runners on first and second to lead off the frame. Ben Zobrist dropped a bunt towards third baseman Taylor Green, forcing him into making  a throwing error and allowing Mauer to score. Wright would score on an Adam Jones sacrifice fly to bring the game to 2-2.

Glen Perkins relieved Holland in the sixth and immediately got into trouble, walking Joey Votto and surrendering a single to Justin Morneau. He bounced back, getting Saunders to strike out and Chris Robinson to fly out, but Adam Loewen hit a two-out single to right to put Canada back on top 3-2.

The U.S. took its first lead of the game in the eighth with an emphatic rally after Joe Mauer singled and David Wright walked against Canada reliever Jimmy Henderson. Zobrist again bunted, but this time had poor results as he popped up to the catcher, appearing to snuff out a rally before it even began. However, Adam Jones picked up his teammate, doubling to center scoring both pinch-runner Willie Bloomquist and Wright to put the U.S. up 4-3. An insurance run was added on a two-out Shane Victorino bloop single to left.

Canada tried to fight back in the bottom-half of the inning, but only managed one run after loading the bases with one out. Adam Loewen grounded out to second base, allowing Canada’s fourth run to score, but that was all U.S. relievers David Hernandez and Steve Cishek would allow.

The U.S. got back that insurance run and more in the top of the ninth. Jonathan Lucroy singled to right with one out, driving in Brandon Phillips, who had doubled to lead off the inning. Wright walked and Zobrist hit an infield single to load the bases. With two outs, Eric Hosmer doubled to center, clearing the bases and staking the U.S. to a 9-4 lead.

Craig Kimbrel, who had begun to warm up when the U.S. was up 5-3, entered with a five-run lead. Baseball’s best reliever shut down Canada in 1-2-3 fashion, striking out Votto to seal the victory.

The U.S. and Italy advance out of Pool D into the second round. Beginning on Tuesday, they will do battle against the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico.

Joe DiMaggio’s hitting streak ended 78 years ago today

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There’s nothing special about a 78-year anniversary. It’s not a round number or anything and we tend to like round numbers. But (a) I was reminded of this today; and (b) we have no idea if the Martians will have invaded and taken over the planet come 2021, so I feel like it’s best to run this now than wait for the 80th anniversary. Cool? Cool.

Anyway: on this day in 1941, Joe DiMaggio’s still-unbroken and possibly unbreakable (see below) 56-game hitting streak came to end. The game took place in Cleveland in front of a staggering 67,468 fans. Not bad for a Thursday night. The way the streak ended, courtesy of an ESPN Classic post from Larry Scwartz back in 2003:

Third baseman Ken Keltner makes two outstanding plays, grabbing DiMaggio smashes down the line in the first and seventh innings and throwing him out at first base. In between these at-bats, left-hander Al Smith walks DiMaggio in the fourth.

The Yankee Clipper has one more chance to extend his streak when he bats in the eighth with the bases full against Jim Bagby, a young right-hander who just enters the game. DiMaggio hits the ball sharply, but shortstop Lou Boudreau plays a bad hop perfectly and turns the grounder into a double play.

Stuff happens.

To be clear: 56 may not be broken in my lifetime or yours. It’s obviously a SUPER difficult task to string together a hitting streak of considerable length. As we saw when guys like Pete Rose or Paul Molitor or whoever have come within spitting distance of DiMaggio’s record — long spitting distance — the pressure ramps up and it’s hard to do you job with a lot of pressure. Add in the fact that simple base hits are harder to come by in today’s game than they used to be due to prevalent hitting, pitching and defensive trends, and it’d be no shocker whatsoever if no one ever does it.

But I draw the line at “unbreakable,” simply because, as noted above, stuff does happen. And because there’s nothing structural preventing it from happening. It’s not like Cy Young’s 511 wins or something which fundamental changes in the game have made basically impossible. No one is going to win 26 games a year for 20 years straight or what have you. Heck, CC Sabathia is baseball’s current gray hair among pitchers and only has a few dozen more career starts than that. It’s just a different game.

Hitters do play in 150-160 games now, though, and the good ones do average more than one hit per game. Putting them in the right arrangement may never be likely, but doing so is only a matter of stars aligning, not breaking the fundamental rules of engagement. It could happen. Maybe. Because, unlike some other records, it did before under broadly similar circumstances.

OK, that aside, I’ll offer up my favorite and most maddening DiMaggio hitting streak fact.

During his streak, which lasted from May 15-July 17, DiMaggio went 91-of-223, which is a .408 average. Between April 15-September 28 (i.e. the whole dang season) Ted Williams hit .406. And when it was all said and done he was substantially better in virtually every other batting category as well.

Joe DiMaggio won the MVP Award.