Puerto Rico ousts two-time champ Japan from the World Baseball Classic, heads to Championship Game

7 Comments

There will be a new World Baseball Classic champ this year, as Puerto Rico eliminated Japan last night, winning 3-1 at AT&T Park in San Francisco.

Alex Rios led the charge, singling in a run in the first inning and hitting a two-run homer in the seventh. Puerto Rico starter Mario Santiago shut down the Japanese on two hits over five innings before leaving with forearm stiffness. Japanese starter Kenta Maeda pitched five innings of four-hit ball, one of those being Rios’ RBI. The homer came off reliever Atsushi Nohmi. Japan’s lone run came when Takashi Toritani was singled in after hitting a one-out triple in the eighth, but they then ran themselves out of the inning.

Puerto Rico clearly had the advantage in talent, with guys like Rios, Mike Aviles, Angel Pagan, Carlos Beltran and Yadier Molina facing a Japanese lineup with no current major leaguers. Still, in the context of international competition it’s an upset.  And if they’re going to win it all, another upset may very well be required: they face the winner of tonight’s Netherlands-Dominican Republic matchup in tomorrow night’s Championship Game.

Royals fire manager Mike Matheny after 65-97 end to season

Minnesota Twis v Kansas City Royals
Getty Images
2 Comments

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Manager Mike Matheny and pitching coach Cal Eldred were fired by the Kansas Cty Royals on Wednesday night, shortly after the struggling franchise finished the season 65-97 with a listless 9-2 loss to the Cleveland Guardians.

The Royals had exercised their option on Matheny’s contract for 2023 during spring training, when the club hoped it was turning the corner from also-ran to contender again. But plagued by poor pitching, struggles from young position players and failed experiments with veterans, the Royals were largely out of playoff contention by the middle of summer.

The disappointing product led owner John Sherman last month to fire longtime front office executive Dayton Moore, the architect of back-to-back American League champions and the 2015 World Series title team. Moore was replaced by one of his longtime understudies, J.J. Picollo, who made the decision to fire Matheny hours after the season ended.

Matheny became the fifth big league manager to be fired this year.

Philadelphia’s Joe Girardi was replaced on June 3 by Rob Thomson, who engineered a miraculous turnaround to get the Phillies into the playoffs as a wild-card team. The Angels replaced Joe Maddon with Phil Nevin four days later, Toronto’s Charlie Montoyo was succeeded by John Schneider on July 13 and the Rangers’ Chris Woodward by Tony Beasley on Aug. 15.

In addition, Miami’s Don Mattingly said late last month that he will not return next season.