Puerto Rico boots the U.S. out of the World Baseball Classic

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Puerto Rico starter Nelson Figueroa was in top form in an elimination game tonight against the United States. The well-traveled right-hander tossed six shut-out innings, holding the opposition to four base runners on two hits, one walk, and one error. He was staked to an early 1-0 lead when Mike Aviles hit a two-out RBI single to right in the top of the first, setting the tone.

U.S. starter Ryan Vogelsong was otherwise solid through five and two-third innings, allowing one runner on a walk in the sixth before being taken out in favor of reliever Vinnie Pestano. It was not Pestano’s night. He immediately surrendered a single to Aviles, then walked Alex Rios to load the bases. No matter what he did, he could not find the strike zone. He walked Carlos Rivera to force in a run, bolstering Puerto Rico’s lead to 2-0. Andy Gonzalez put the exclamation point on the offensive surge with a two-out, two-run double to left, chasing Pestano in the process. Jeremy Affeldt came in to get the final out of the inning, but it was too late.

With Figueroa out of the game in the bottom of the seventh, the U.S. finally got on the board against reliever Giovanni Soto. Joe Mauer tripled with one out and was promptly plated on a Giancarlo Stanton single to left. Adam Jones struck out looking — on a questionable judgment by home plate umpire Mark Wegner, it should be noted — representing the tying run with runners on first and second and two outs to end the threat.

The U.S. wouldn’t go down without a fight. Against Jose De La Torre, the U.S. strung together three consecutive hits — two singles and a double — to bring the score to 4-2. Xavier Cedeno came in to relieve De La Torre and walked Joe Mauer before being quickly lifted. The right-handed Fernando Cabrera came on for the favorable platoon match-up against Stanton and got him to pop up, preventing any runner advancement. However, he then walked Zobrist to force in a run and bring the game to 4-3. Puerto Rico brought in its fourth pitcher of the inning, lefty J.C. Romero. Romero got Eric Hosmer to ground out, squelching the threat at long last.

Romero came back out for the ninth, striking out Adam Jones and Shane Victorino, and getting Jimmy Rollins to fly out to center field to seal the 4-3 victory for Puerto Rico.

With the loss, the U.S. is eliminated from the Classic. The win keeps Puerto Rico’s hopes alive as they will play the Dominican Republic at 1 PM EST tomorrow for the right to play the Netherlands in the semifinals at AT&T Park in San Francisco on March 18.

Giants release Cameron Maybin

Cameron Maybin
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The Giants have released outfielder Cameron Maybin, per a report Friday. Maybin inked a minor league contract with the club in mid-February, but will no longer be competing for a roster spot this spring following a rough start in the Cactus League and a DUI arrest. According to NBC Sports Bay Area’s Dalton Johnson, the latter incident was not said to affect the Giants’ consideration of Maybin for a starting or backup role in 2019.

Last season, the 31-year-old rounded out a full dozen years in MLB after taking two back-to-back gigs with the Marlins and Mariners. He batted a combined .249/.326/.336 with four home runs, 10 stolen bases (in 15 chances), and 0.5 fWAR over 384 plate appearances, and was granted free agency shortly after the end of the 2018 regular season.

The Giants, meanwhile, will continue to push forward with a combination of outfielders Steven Duggar, Mac Williamson, Gerardo Parra, Matt Joyce, and Austin Slater, among a smattering of smaller names. It’s not immediately clear who they’ll tag for a backup position in center field, though there’s still time to pull in more talent — as they demonstrated after signing free agent Joyce to a minor league deal on Wednesday.