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.

Indians activate Francisco Lindor

Francisco Lindor
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The Indians activated shortstop Francisco Lindor in advance of their doubleheader against the Braves, the club announced Saturday. Veteran DH Hanley Ramírez has been designated for assignment in a subsequent roster move.

It’s a welcome change for the Indians, who lost Lindor to a right calf strain at the outset of spring training and saw his recovery timetable extended by a left ankle sprain during one of his rehab games. When healthy, however, the 25-year-old has been nothing short of spectacular. During his 2018 campaign, he received his third consecutive All-Star nomination and finished the season batting .277/.352/.519 with 38 home runs, 25 stolen bases, and a career-best 7.6 fWAR through 745 plate appearances.

Things haven’t gone nearly as well for Ramírez since he inked a minor-league deal with the club in late February. Although he managed to stay relatively injury-free during his first few weeks of the 2019 season, the 35-year-old infielder slashed an underwhelming .184/.298/.327 with three extra bases and eight RBI in 57 PA. Whether or not he’ll find another major-league gig this year remains to be seen.