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Stanton’s homer, Jones’ leap carry US into WBC semifinals

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SAN DIEGO (AP) — Giancarlo Stanton hit a go-ahead homer and the United States eliminated the Dominican Republic at the World Baseball Classic, beating the defending champions 6-3 Saturday night to earn a spot in the semifinals.

Stanton’s two-run shot into the third-floor balcony of the Western Metal Supply Co. Building in the left-field corner at Petco Park gave the United States a 4-2 lead in the fourth inning. It put a charge into the sellout crowd of 43,002 and helped send the Americans to the championship round at Dodger Stadium, where they will face Japan in a semifinal game Tuesday night.

Three innings later, San Diego native Adam Jones made a spectacular, leaping catch over the fence in the deepest part of the park in right-center to rob Baltimore Orioles teammate Manny Machado of a home run. Machado tipped his helmet to Jones.

Robinson Cano then homered to left to pull the Dominican Republic to 4-3.

Andrew McCutchen gave Team USA some breathing room with a two-run double in the eighth, and Luke Gregerson pitched a perfect ninth to close it out.

This is the second time in four editions of the WBC that the United States has advanced to the semifinals. It lost to Japan in 2009.

The Dominican players, who rallied to beat the United States one week earlier in Miami in the first round, will disperse back to big league camps. They finished 1-2 in the second round after going 3-0 in the opening round.

Brandon Crawford hit a two-out single to left-center ahead of Stanton’s homer, which was estimated at 403 feet and chased Dominican starter Ervin Santana.

Stanton’s shot was reminiscent of his Home Run Derby victory at Petco Park on July 11, when he peppered the far reaches of the big downtown ballpark, including hitting one onto the top of the 108-year-old brick warehouse.

Earlier on Saturday, Puerto Rico completed a 3-0 run through Pool F by beating Venezuela 13-2. Puerto Rico clinched first place in the pool with a 6-5 victory against the United States on Friday night and will play the Netherlands in the semifinals Monday night at Dodger Stadium. The championship game is Wednesday night.

The Dominicans jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first on an RBI double by Cano and an RBI single by Carlos Santana. One run was unearned due to Crawford’s throwing error at shortstop. Crawford threw out Nelson Cruz trying to score on Starling Marte‘s grounder, though.

The United States tied it in the third on Ian Kinsler‘s RBI grounder and Christian Yelich‘s run-scoring double.

The Dominicans had three more scoring chances but failed each time.

Gregory Polanco singled and Welington Castillo doubled to open the second before Danny Duffy retired the side.

They threatened again in the fifth when Machado hit a leadoff single to chase Duffy. Cruz hit a one-out double off Pat Neshek, who then retired Carlos Santana on a popup and struck out Marte. Neshek pumped his fists as he walked off the mound.

Duffy allowed two runs, one earned, and six hits in four-plus innings. He struck out one and walked one.

Santana gave up four runs and six hits in 3 2/3 innings. He struck out two and walked none.

Rob Manfred offers little insight, shows contempt for reporters in press conference

Rob Manfred
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Commissioner Rob Manfred spoke at a press conference, addressing the Astros cheating scandal and other topics on Sunday evening. It did not go well.

To start, the press conference was not broadcast officially on MLB’s own TV channel (it aired the 1988 movie Bull Durham instead), nor could any mention to it or link to the live stream be found anywhere on MLB.com. When the actual questions began, Manfred’s answers were circuitous or simply illogical given other comments he has made in the past. On more than one occasion, he showed contempt for reporters for doing their jobs — and, some might argue, doing his job — holding players and front office personnel accountable.

Last month, Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal broke a story about the Astros’ “dark arts” and “Codebreaker” operation, based on a letter Manfred sent to then-GM Jeff Luhnow. Diamond was among the reporters present for Manfred’s press conference on Sunday. Per The Athletic’s Lindsey Adler, Manfred addressed Diamond, saying, “You know, congratulations. You got a private letter that, you know, I sent to a club official. Nice reporting on your part.” MLB’s response to the depth of the Astros’ cheating ways was lacking and, without Diamond’s reporting, we would have known how deeply lacking that response was. It is understandable that Manfred would be salty about it, since it exposed him as doing his job poorly, but it was an immature, unrestrained response from someone in charge of the entire league.

Onto the actual topic at hand, Manfred said he felt like the punishment doled out to the Astros was enough. Per Chris Cotillo, Manfred said Astros players “have been hurt by this” and will forever be questioned about their achievements in 2017 and ’18. Some players disagree. Former pitcher Phil Hughes even suggested the players have a work stoppage over this issue.

Manfred defended his decision not to vacate the Astros’ championship, saying, “The idea of an asterisk or asking for a piece of metal back seems like a futile act.” The commissioner devaluing the meaning of a championship seems… not great? Counterintuitive, even? The “piece of metal” is literally called the Commissioner’s Trophy. Manfred went on to brag about the league having “the intestinal fortitude to share the results of that investigation, even when those results were not very pretty.” Be careful, don’t hurt yourself patting yourself on the back for doing the bare minimum.

Manfred said there was no evidence found that the Astros used buzzers and added that, since the players were given immunity, he doesn’t think they would continue to hide that when asked about it. He said, “I think in my own mind. It was hard for me to figure out why they would tell us, given that they were immune, why they would be truthful and admit they did the wrong thing and 17, admit they did the wrong thing and 18, and then lie about what was going on in 19.”

The commissioner expects the league to implement “really serious restrictions” on access to in-game video feeds for the 2020 season.

There has been some recent back-and-forth between the Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger and the Astros’ Carlos Correa. Manfred isn’t a fan of the sniping through the media. He said, “I’m sort of a civil discourse person. It must be because I’m old. But, yeah, I think that the back and forth that’s gone on is not healthy.” The reason Bellinger and others are speaking publicly about the issue, attempting to hold the Astros accountable, is because the league did not do a sufficient job doing that itself. Bellinger wouldn’t feel the need to speak up in defense of himself, his teammates, and other players affected by the cheating scheme if he felt like the league had his and his peers’ backs.

Because the players involved in the Astros’ cheating scheme weren’t punished, some — like Larry Bowa — have suggested intentionally throwing baseballs at Astros players to exact justice. Manfred met with managers who were in attendance today to inform them that retaliatory beanballs “will not be tolerated.” He added, “It’s dangerous and it is not helpful to the current situation.” Manfred has done nothing about beanball wars in the past, but it will now give the Astros somewhat of an advantage since pitchers will now be judged closely on any pitch that runs too far inside on Astro hitters.

Manfred also spoke about the ongoing feud with Minor League Baseball and basically reiterated what he and the rest of the league have disingenuously been saying since it was revealed MLB proposed cutting 42 minor league teams. Manfred’s talking point is that MLB is concerned about substandard facilities being used by minor league players, but not all of the 42 teams on the proposed chopping block have anything close to what could reasonably be considered substandard.

Lastly, Manfred was asked about the Orioles and tanking, and more or less danced around the issue by expressing confidence in the club’s ownership. The Orioles have won 47 and 54 games in the past two seasons. Payroll dropped by more than $50 million. The Orioles saw over 250,000 fewer fans in attendance in 2019 than in ’18. The O’s also saw a decline of over 460,000 fans in attendance from 2017 to ’18. But, yeah, it’s going well.

All in all, this press conference could not have gone worse for Manfred. The press found it condescending and the comments he made rang hollow to the players. Manfred seemed on edge and unprepared addressing arguably the biggest controversy baseball has faced since the steroid era. This is a dark time for the sport.