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Venezuela rallies in 9th inning to defeat Italy 4-3 in WBC tiebreaker

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Team Venezuela defeated Team Italy 4-3 in Monday night’s Group D tiebreaker, earning the right to advance to the second round — Pool F — of the World Baseball Classic.

Italy took an early 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning when John Andreoli doubled and promptly scored on a Daniel Descalso RBI single off of Venezuela starter Omar Bencomo.

Venezuela finally crossed the plate in the top of the sixth as Alcides Escobar led off with a walk and Odubel Herrera reached on a throwing error. Then, after Escobar was forced out at third base on a grounder, Ender Inciarte grounded a single to right field on a ball deflected by first baseman Chris Colabello, plating Herrera to tie the game at one apiece.

Andreoli broke the tie in the seventh inning, drilling a solo home run to right-center field off of Jose Alvarado, giving Italy a 2-1 lead.

Italy reliever Tiago Da Silva kept Venezuela off the board in the eighth, but Mike De Mark started the ninth by serving up a game-tying solo home run to Miguel Cabrera. DeMark then walked Victor Martinez and allowed a long go-ahead RBI single to Rougned Odor that was several inches from becoming a two-run home run. Odor thought it was a homer off the bat, which is why he didn’t run hard and was held to a single. Lefty Frailyn Florian relieved DeMark and gave up a single to right field to Carlos Gonzalez. Gonzalez tried to stretch it into a double and was tagged when he slid off the bag. Alcides Escobar then laid down a suicide squeeze bunt to give Venezuela an insurance run at 4-2.

The drama didn’t end there. With veteran MLB closer Francisco Rodriguez on the hill attempting to nail down the game, Alex Liddi led off the bottom of the ninth by crushing a solo home run to center field, cutting Italy’s deficit to 4-3. From there, Rodriguez was able to settle down, getting Gavin Cecchini, Drew Maggi, and Andreoli to ground out consecutively to end the game in a 4-3 victory for Venezuela.

Venezuela (2-2) joins Puerto Rico (3-0) from Pool D into Pool F, along with the Dominican Republic (3-0) and the United States (2-1) coming from Pool C. Venezuela kicks off play in the second round on Wednesday night at Petco Park against the United States.

Indians trade Corey Kluber to the Texas Rangers

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The Cleveland Indians have traded two-time Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber to the Texas Rangers. In exchange, Texas is sending center fielder Delino DeShields and pitcher Emmanuel Clase to the Indians. There are reports that the Indians will be getting more than just those two players, but no word yet. The deal is pending physical.

Kluber made only seven starts this past year thanks to a broken arm and a strained oblique muscle. When he did pitch he was no great shakes, posting a 5.80 ERA and 44 hits in 35.2 innings. Those were freak injuries that do not suggest long-term problems, however, so there’s a good reason to think he’ll bounce back to useful form, even if it’s a tough ask for him to return to the form that won him the 2014 and 2017 Cy Young Award.

Before his injury-wracked 2019 campaign, Kluber pitched over 200 innings in each of his previous five seasons so mileage could be an issue. For his career he’s 98-58 with a 3.16 ERA (134 ERA+), a 2.99 FIP, and a K/BB ratio of 1,461/292 over 1,341.2 innings in nine big league seasons.

Unless there is cash coming from Cleveland in the deal, the Rangers will be paying him $17.5 million this year and a 2021 option of $14 million pursuant to the five-year, $38.5 million contract he inked with Cleveland before the 2015 season.

DeShields, 27, is a career .246/.326/.342 hitter (76 OPS+) and that’s about how he performed in 2019 as well. He was demoted to Triple-A Nashville in May. Clase, who will turn 22 before next season, pitched 21 games, all but one in relief, for the Rangers in 2019 and will still be considered a rookie in 2020. He has been used mostly as a reliever in the minors as well.

Pending what else the Tribe is going to be getting, this appears to be a light return for a pitcher who, despite his 2019 injuries, should be expected to come back and be a workhorse. Unless there is some real talent coming back, in addition to DeShields and Clase, it would seem to be a salary dump for Cleveland and a steal for Texas. It is likewise perplexing how any of the many, many teams who could use starting pitching — the Angels and the Mets, among others, come to mind — could not top the package Texas offered.