Monday, March 13, 2017

Machado dazzles with leather, adds big hit

Manny Machado continued his assault on the Pool C Most Valuable Player Award Sunday, accounting for runs on both sides of the ball early for the Dominican Republic in its thrilling 10-3, 11-inning win over Colombia at Marlins Park.
Machado is one of the best two-way players in all of baseball, and he showed why against Colombia. He gave the Dominicans a 2-1 lead with an RBI double in the third, scored a run and saved several others with a series of difficult plays at third base, all in the first few innings.
"To me, it's not a surprise, the job that Manny Machado did, because he's one of the best baseball players," Dominican manager Tony Pena said after his team capped a 3-0 run through Pool C to advance to the second round in San Diego. "Nothing that Machado has done surprises me. That young man prepared very well, because last year he was saying, 'I'm going to go to play in the Classic, and he's here and he's doing everything.'"
The Orioles' third baseman seemed to make a highlight-reel play defensively every inning.
It started with the bases loaded and two outs in the first inning and the score tied 1-1 when Machado had to back up on a chopper off the bat of Mauricio Ramos. Machado gloved the ball, fell to his knees, spun, and somehow still had time to complete the play with a long, strong throw across the diamond. All in style, as usual.
Another time, Machado ranged into foul ground to make a backhanded pick behind the third-base bag and made a strong jump-throw to first. It would have been a highlight-reel play, but Dominican first baseman Carlos Santana dropped the throw.
Then in the fifth, Machado started a pretty double play, diving to his left to stab a hot shot off the bat of Giovanny Urshela. Machado spun and sprang to his feet in an instant before unleashing a strong throw to second.
If that wasn't enough, Machado drove in the go-ahead run with his double in the third before scoring an insurance run when Jose Bautista reached on an error a few batters later.

Yes in-Didi: Gregorius powers Dutch past Israel

Four years ago, the Netherlands was the World Baseball Classic's surprise team. Now, the Dutch are an offensive powerhouse, and on Monday, they made life miserable for the surprise team of WBC 2017.
Striking early in a game they had to win, the Netherlands' hitters didn't let up in a 12-2 win over Israel on Monday that was shortened to eight innings by the tournament's early-termination rule. Didi Gregorius of the Yankees doubled, homered and drove in five runs as the Dutch evened their second-round record at 1-1, keeping alive their hopes of advancing to the semifinals for a second straight tournament.
"We wanted to play like it was Game 7 of the World Series," said Netherlands cleanup hitter Wladimir Balentien, who had three hits and drove in three runs. "We had to win."
The Netherlands will need to win again when it faces Cuba at 11 p.m. ET on Tuesday (on MLB.TV and MLB Network), in its final scheduled second-round game. Israel plays Japan in the game that follows, at 6 a.m. on Wednesday, with the Israelis likely needing a win for a chance to advance to the semifinals.
The Netherlands was disappointed by Sunday's 11-inning loss to Japan, but that game of missed opportunities left the Dutch more determined to start strong against Israel.
"We are a great hitting team," Balentien said, "so we believe in ourselves."
Netherlands starter Jair Jurrjens -- who pitched in the Major Leagues for eight seasons with the Tigers, Braves, Orioles and Rockies -- held Israel to one run in six impressive innings. Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons, Balentien and Yurendell de Caster each had three hits for the Netherlands.
"We didn't execute pitches," said Israel manager Jerry Weinstein, whose team beat the Netherlands in a first-round game last week in Seoul. "We fell behind and threw too many non-competitive pitches."
Coco, Coco: Balentien is a local star, having played the past six seasons with the Tokyo Yakult Swallows, and he set a Japanese single-season record with 60 home runs in 2013. So Japanese fans came to Monday's game with signs showing his nickname, "Coco." They also serenaded him with "Coco, Coco Balentien" when he came to the plate. In two games at Tokyo Dome the past two days, Balentien has a home run, three singles and five RBIs.
"I feel like I'm playing at home, even though I'm not playing for my Japanese team," Balentien said. "That gave me more confidence to give the fans what they want to see."
Rough night for Baker: Israel has a strong bullpen, but the Israelis need to get to it with a chance to win. That happened Sunday when Jason Marquis went into the sixth inning against Cuba, but Cardinals right-hander Corey Baker didn't get an out in the third inning against the Netherlands.
Bunting for runs: Netherlands manager Hensley Meulens opted against having Jurickson Profar bunt when the 11th inning began with runners at first and second Sunday against Japan. Profar did bunt with first and second, none out in the third inning Monday. A big difference: Balentien had been removed for a pinch-runner Sunday. He came up behind Profar on Monday and delivered a two-run single.
Didi the DH: There's nothing wrong with the way Gregorius plays shortstop, but Simmons is one of the best defenders in the world at the position. So Gregorius has been the Netherlands' designated hitter for four of the first five games in the tournament. He was 6-for-16 (.412) in the first four games, and he added a run-scoring double and a three-run home run in the first four innings against Israel. More >
"I know right now the guys need some rest, but we're not going to relax. We have to have our A game [against Cuba] so we can beat them and advance to the final round." -- Meulens, on why he would give his team a day off before returning to action
Netherlands: The Dutch team plays its final scheduled second-round game Tuesday at 11 p.m. ET against Cuba.
Israel: Israel will be back in action Wednesday at 6 a.m. ET against Japan.

Mexico edges Venezuela but out of Classic

In a wild game with huge implications for Pool D of the World Baseball Classic, Mexico held off Venezuela in an 11-9 victory on Sunday night at Estadio de Beisbol Charros de Jalisco.
As a result, Mexico, Venezuela and Italy all finished with records of 1-2 in pool play. UnderClassic tiebreaker rules, the two teams with the fewest runs allowed per defensive inning among the teams tied during the tournament play a tiebreaker, and the other is eliminated.
Major League Baseball announced that Venezuela (1.11 runs allowed per defensive inning) and Italy (1.05 runs allowed) will play tonight at 9 p.m. ET to determine which team from Pool D joins Puerto Rico in the second round. Mexico filed a protest after the game.
The razor-thin margin that decided the tiebreaker is reflective of how three evenly matched these 1-2 teams are. And given the fact that they all lost to Puerto Rico and allowed at least a run per inning in the games against the other two, no team had an obvious case for advancement.
Mexico protested that ruling based on how those figures were calculated. The general manager of Team Mexico, Kundy Gutierrez, told reporters after the game that discussions regarding the ruling were taking place between MLB chief baseball officer Joe Torre and senior vice president of baseball operations Kim Ng. The ruling was later confirmed, and Venezuela will play Italy for the Pool D tiebreaker.
Mexico finished with 1.12 runs allowed per defensive inning, edged out by the slimmest of margins by Venezuela with Sunday's head-to-head outcome. Even though Mexico gave up five runs in the ninth inning of a loss to Italy on Thursday, only eight defensive innings were counted from that game toward the calculation because an out was never recorded in the ninth.
Mexico jumped out to an early 8-1 lead, thanks in large part to a pair of three-run homers from Esteban Quiroz and Brandon Laird. But Venezuela refused to go quietly, scoring eight times between the fifth and seventh innings.
Martin Prado continued to swing a hot bat for Venezuela, driving in two runs with a single and a double. Robinson Chirinos and Victor Martinez each drove in two, with Martinez homering in the seventh.
Roberto Osuna, who was unable to close out Italy despite a four-run lead in the ninth inning of Mexico's Classic opener, got the final two outs after the tying runs reached base.
Pouncing on Petit: For the second time in four Classic at-bats, Quiroz launched a home run, this one a three-run shot with two outs in the second inning off Venezuela starter Yusmeiro Petit to give Mexico a 5-0 lead. Quiroz battled back from an 0-2 count and capped a nine-pitch at-bat with the blast over the right-field wall.
Primetime Prado: On the heels of a 5-for-5 performance in Venezuela's 11-10 victory over Italy on Saturday, Prado stroked an RBI single to right-center field against Mexico starter Luis Mendoza in the third. Prado drove in another run with a fifth-inning double.
Laird leaves the yard: Laird gave Mexico additional breathing room with a three-run homer to left off Venezuela's Wil Ledezma in the fifth inning, extending the lead to 8-1. Laird, an infielder for the Yankees and Astros from 2011-13, has spent the last two seasons playing in the Japanese Nippon Professional Baseball organization, hitting 73 homers in that span for the Nippon Ham Fighters.
Roberson to the rescue: With Mexico's advantage cut from seven runs to three by the seventh inning, pinch-hitter Chris Roberson delivered a two-run infield single. Second baseman Jose Altuve dove to his left and nearly corralled the sharp grounder, but he could only knock it down in short right field.
'V' is for Venezuela -- and V-Mart: Venezuela responded yet again in the seventh, with Martinez belting a two-run homer just inside the right-field foul pole off Venezuela reliever Sergio Romo. The blast pulled Venezuela to within three runs, at 11-8.
Osuna's redemption: Three days after he was unable to close out Italy despite a four-run lead in the ninth inning, Osuna got the final two outs against Venezuela. The right-hander yielded a single to Alcides Escobar and walked Ender Inciarte, but then struck out Chirinos and got Altuve to fly out.
"The offense had a difficult time coming from behind in all the games. We received runs early, and we have been against a wall all the time. We have done a lot in order to score some runs and come back in games, and that wasn't the mentality that we had or we thought we were going to play with. With the players we have, I thought we were going to play better ball, but it has cost us because we have been coming from behind all the time." -- Venezuela manager Omar Vizquel
Venezuela: A tiebreaker with Italy on Monday at 9 p.m. ET awaits Venezuela, with the winner moving on to Round 2 of the Classic, and the loser eliminated.

US starts fast vs. Canada to book Round 2 ticket

Throw out all the tiebreaker scenarios. Team USA is moving on.
The Americans' mission was clear after the Dominican Republic outlasted Colombia, 9-3, in extra innings: Win and get in to Round 2 of the World Baseball Classic. A focused Team USA squad did just that by defeating Team Canada, 8-0, on Sunday at Marlins Park in Miami to punch its ticket to the second round in San Diego. The victory left the Americans with a 2-1 record in Pool C, good enough to claim a Pool F matchup against the Pool D runner-up Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET (6 PT) at Petco Park (live on MLB Network and MLB.TV).
"The expectations for Team USA are high," said manager Jim Leyland, "and I tried to downplay that, but it's a thrill to get out of here. It wasn't easy, to be honest with you. But when you look at it, we won two good games and we lost one tough game where we had a good lead. So, I'm very pleased with the performances and I'm excited to move on."
The U.S. got to business straight away Sunday, scoring three runs in the first and tacking on four more in the second to take a commanding 7-0 lead. Nolan Arenado delivered the big blow with a three-run homer in the second, and Buster Posey also homered as part of a three-RBI day.
That was more than enough offense for U.S. starter Danny Duffy, who struck out seven over four dominant, scoreless innings. U.S. pitchers dominated overall from the first pitch to the last Sunday, striking out 15 batters to tie the single-game tournament record. That total had only been accomplished twice before, by Mexico in 2006 and Japan in 2013.
The loss left Canada winless in the 2017 World Baseball Classic, meaning it will need to qualify the next time the tournament is held. The Canadians have yet to advance to the second round of the Classic in four attempts.
"We came up on the short end and it's unfortunate, but the guys are not going to change," Canada manager Ernie Whitt said of his club. "They're still great, quality people that we have in this system. I can't thank those guys enough for giving up their time and coming and trying to help out and play for their country."
Duffy dominates: Featuring one of the biggest fastballs of any left-handed starter in baseball, Duffy simply overwhelmed a lethargic Canadian lineup. The Royals ace threw first-pitch strikes to nine of the 14 batters he faced, while generating 11 swinging strikes and allowing just one fly ball in fair territory. Duffy left the game with 63 pitches on his ledger, two below the first-round minimum, and he will remain with Team USA to potentially start again in Round 2.
"Every time I go out there and toe the rubber, I just try to keep it simple and as vanilla as possible," Duffy said of his approach. "The punchouts will come when you get them 0-2, 1-2, and just don't play around too much. I just try to give my team as many outs as possible."
Arenado breaks out: Arenado proved Sunday that he could only be held down for so long. His second-inning homer broke an 0-for-9 streak to begin the 2017 Classic, though he did make a major contribution by beating out a dropped strike three against Colombia on Friday. Facing reliever Andrew Albers with two on and one out, Arenado jumped on a first-pitch slider and elevated it to deep left-center for a slump-busting three-run blast.
Arenado's homer was a no-doubt barrel according to Statcast™, leaving the bat with a 104 mph exit velocity at a launch angle of 23 degrees and traveling a projected 404 feet. That was a more familiar feeling for Arenado, who led the Rockies with 43 barrels in 2016 en route to pacing the National League in home runs and RBIs for the second consecutive season. Arenado's blast gave the U.S. an early 6-0 advantage that it would not relinquish.
Posey tacks on: The U.S. still held a comfortable 7-0 lead in the bottom of the seventh when Posey added a powerful dose of insurance. With one out and the bases empty, Posey lifted a 1-2 fastball from Canada reliever Jim Henderson up and over the center-field fence.
It takes serious power to homer to that part of cavernous Marlins Park, but Posey's bop fit the bill. The ball left his bat with a 105.2 mph exit velocity and 27 degree launch angle, a barrel according to Statcast™, and traveled a projected 425 feet. That would have qualified as Posey's longest homer last season, and the second-longest for the Giants catcher dating back to the beginning of the Statcast™ era in 2015.
"This is probably the best, other than getting drafted and getting called to the big leagues, this is by far the best moment in my career. There's nothing better than playing in this and the atmosphere, I never been a part of anything like this." -- Arenado, on getting a taste of playoff-like energy in WBC 2017 for the first time in his Major League career
Though the U.S. had to fight to advance through Pool D, the performance of its starters should give the Americans some confidence heading to San Diego. The trio of Chris ArcherMarcus Stroman and Duffy scattered just five hits over 12 2/3 scoreless innings in the first round, striking out 14 batters while not issuing a single walk.
Team USA: The Americans will switch coasts for Pool F, beginning with a matchup against the Pool D runner-up Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET at Petco Park in San Diego. Who exactly that runner-up will be is still to be determined: Venezuela and Italy will play a tiebreaker to decide that spot on Monday at 9 p.m. ET at Estadios Charros de Jalisco in Guadalajara, Mexico. Watch both games live on MLB Network and MLB.TV.

Correa, Puerto Rico win big to end first round

Team Puerto Rico remained scorching hot at the plate as it beat Team Italy, 9-3, on Sunday afternoon at Estadio Charros de Jalisco in Guadalajara, Mexico, to win Pool D and advance to the second round in San Diego.
Italy (1-2) now faces Venezuela (1-2) in a tiebreaker game at 9 p.m. ET on Monday to determine who will move on to Pool F with Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and the United States.
Carlos Correa smacked a three-run homer for Puerto Rico (3-0), while Astros teammate Carlos Beltran added a run-scoring double. Cubs infielder Javier Baez drove in the first run for the island team, Dodgers utility man Enrique Hernandez added two RBIs and Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor contributed a sac fly.
Puerto Rico completely dominated its competition in Pool D, outscoring its opponents, 29-7, and managing at least nine runs each game.
"I mean, every game, the offense was there, and the pitching was there, so the defense was there," Puerto Rico manager Edwin Rodriguez said. "So we have a very good balanced team in the defense and the offense. We have a very good combination of veteran players and young players with a lot of energy. They are very committed to what we're trying to do here, and they showed that on the field. So we are very confident moving forward."
In fact, Italian manager Marco Mazzieri said he believes Puerto Rico has a good shot to reach the championship round in Los Angeles (March 20-22 at Dodger Stadium).
"I believe so because they are good, good pitching, good fielding, good baseball, and besides, I think that they have the passion that they need to play a tournament like this," Mazzieri said. "They are very proud. They looked good. It's a very strong team. It could be that -- I think they're going to be in the last four games in L.A."
Not surprisingly, Puerto Rico also feels good about its chances in WBC '17.
"From the beginning, from before we started practicing, once we started getting together and knew who the guys on the roster were, there wasn't a doubt that we could get past this first round because our goal is to get to the finals, get to L.A. and win it all," Hernandez said.
Italy scored three early runs, thanks to a two-run shot from Cubs Minor Leaguer John Andreoli in the first inning and a solo shot by Royals catcher Drew Butera in the second.
Puerto Rico's pitching staff shut down the Italians after Butera's homer, as starter Jose Berrios (Twins) and Hiram Burgos (Brewers) combined to record 15 outs in a row before Chris Colabello (Indians) drew a walk with two outs in the seventh.
"I would like to give credit to the pitching of the Puerto Rican team because the first two innings, they adjusted on our hitters, and they started throwing the first pitch for strikes," Mazzieri said. "We couldn't adjust."
Correa goes yard: Correa launched a three-run homer to left to give Puerto Rico a 7-3 advantage in the fourth. Correa took Blue Jays Minor Leaguer Jordan Romano deep for his second homer of WBC '17.
"Well, the quality of the game, the talent, they are young athletes with a lot of energy," Rodriguez said. "Every one of them, one by one, the first, Carlos Correa, today against Italy, that three-run hit, Javier Baez the second night, and defensively, what we were expecting from them, every fan enjoyed it, definitely. I think this short three days here -- because they are fans of each other, as well. They got together, and they played together." More >
Nimmo leaves with injury: Italy starting center fielder Brandon Nimmo was removed from the game in the bottom of the fifth after he appeared to get injured while tracking down Hernandez's RBI triple. The Mets outfielder came up lame as he chased the ball in the gap, but he was able to walk off the field on his own. 
"Actually it's a right hamstring strain, grade 1, so it should take him a couple of weeks," Mazzieri said. More >
Mazzieri told his team after the game that if it doesn't play in the tiebreaker, Sunday would be his last game managing Italy.
"Well, it's not about my career," said Mazzieri, who has managed the Italian national team since 2007. "It's about all the players that played for me, because wins and losses are in the books, but the emotions and the feelings, it doesn't matter 20 years from now, it will be there forever. It's about them, it's not about me. I want to thank all of them through these 10 years that we had in different events and competitions because they made it special." More >
"We're really proud. We have a lot of pride, and what we showed is what we're going to bring to the table. We're going to bring a lot of energy, a lot of passion, and we're going to play hard from the first pitch to the last pitch of the game. What you saw here is what you can expect from us." -- Hernandez, on Puerto Rico's mindset
"I think we gave all out, and I hope that people watching from the stands appreciated that because these guys, they've been all out. They played with their heart, and not only with their heart, their souls and everything. We are pleased with our performances. We're not so pleased with the outcome, but that's sport." -- Mazzieri, on Italy's showing
Italy: Italy faces Venezuela in a tiebreaking game at 9 p.m. ET Monday that decides who moves on to San Diego with Puerto Rico.
Puerto Rico: Puerto Rico is on to the second round in San Diego, where it will play the Dominican Republic on Tuesday at Petco Park. First pitch is scheduled for 9 p.m. ET.

DR downs resilient Colombia in 11 to win pool

It wasn't easy, but the reigning World Baseball Classic champions are a step closer to defending their title. The Dominican Republic completed its undefeated run through pool play Sunday and will now move on to San Diego after holding off a relentless Colombia team, 10-3, in 11 innings at Marlins Park.
Welington Castillo's two-run single off William Cuevas brought home the go-ahead runs in what ended up as a seven-run Dominican 11th inning, fueled by the Classic-specific rule that places runners on first and second starting in the 11th inning. Castillo's heroics capped a remarkable two-inning performance for the catcher, who played a huge role in saving the game for the Dominicans in the ninth when he made an exceptional tag at the plate to complete a double play and send the game into extras. Jean Segura's three-run double later in the 11th broke the game open and prevented Colombia, which mounted comebacks all afternoon, from doing so again.
The Dominicans finished pool play 3-0, narrowly avoiding a nightmare situation with the win. Had Colombia stolen the game from the heavy favorites, it would have automatically advanced to the second round while potentially forcing the D.R. to play a tiebreaker with the United States. Instead, Colombia dropped to 1-2 and was eliminated when Team USA defeated Canada later Sunday night.
"The team was unified, it was a family," Colombia manager Luis Urueta said. "They came for a purpose. After the first game, the motivation was automatic. And now after you lose, it's not what I would tell them but rather what they say."
While Sunday was Colombia's final Classic moment, the first-time qualifier made quite a mark on the tournament by pushing the defending champions to the brink. Coming off its comeback win over the United States on Saturday, the D.R. didn't figure to be seriously pushed by Colombia, a team made up mostly of Minor Leaguers with no Major League experience.
The Dominican lineup Sunday featured five MLB All-Stars, with two more on the bench and five more in the bullpen. But Colombia fought back from a 3-1 deficit, using Mauricio Ramos' RBI double to inch closer in the sixth and Jorge Alfaro's eighth-inning homer off Fernando Rodney to tie it.
Colombia then loaded the bases against Hansel Robles in the bottom of the ninth, but came up inches short when Oscar Mercado was tagged out at the plate by Castillo on a throw from Jose Bautista, the back end of a dramatic double play that sent the game to extras and sparked multiple ejections.
"It hurts a lot, of course," Urueta said. "We were 90 feet from surprising the world, from shocking the Dominicans. But it is a satisfaction, as I said, and that they jumped up with happiness and so much emotion."
The Dominicans' all-world lineup managed precious little against four Colombian relievers in the meantime. After starter Nabil Crismatt allowed three runs over the first three innings, Karl Triana, Ernesto FrieriDayan Diaz and Tayron Guerrero combined to throw seven innings of scoreless relief that made Colombia's comeback possible. But the Dominican bats woke up in the 11th, when RBI hits by Castillo, Segura and Carlos Santana resulted in a final score that doesn't come close to encapsulating the drama.
With a star-studded roster and a rabid following that flooded Marlins Park this weekend, the Dominicans brought expectations of dominance into this Classic. So far, they have delivered on those expectations, finishing pool play having outscored their three opponents, 26-8.
To extras! The game came down to a fly ball off the bat of Reynaldo Rodriguez in the bottom of the ninth. With one out, the bases loaded and the score tied, Rodriguez lined a medium-depth fly to Bautista in left field. Pinch-runner Mercado tagged from third. Bautista's throw home pulled catcher Castillo up the line and into Mercado, who Castillo collided with immediately after receiving the throw. Mercado was called out in a bang-bang play. He appeared to never reach the plate. But several members of the Colombia team left the dugout to argue vehemently with home-plate umpire Trip Gibson III, who ejected outfielder Tito Polo and Rodriguez. 
"For me, he was out. I don't see anything controversial. Maybe the emotions got hold of the players," Ureuta said. "They were a few inches from qualifying over the Dominican Republic and the U.S., [which] would have been a feat." More >
Get excited, Phillies fans: Alfaro launched his game-tying homer 398 feet and at 109 mph, according to Statcast™, leading off the eighth against Rodney, one of the most accomplished Classic pitchers of all time. Alfaro muscled a high changeup over the left-center-field wall, and shot celebratory arrows -- Rodney's signature celebration -- upon returning to the dugout. But that wasn't the only way he made an impact Sunday. Alfaro also showed off his grade 70 arm throwing out Gregory Polanco attempting to steal second in the sixth. Alfaro is the Phillies' No. 3 prospect and No. 72 prospect in all of baseball, according to More >
Manny is the man: Manny Machado's masterful tournament on both sides of the ball continued. He seemed to make a highlight-reel worthy play every inning and accounted for two of the D.R.'s three runs offensively. Machado's third-inning double drove in the go-ahead run and he scored later in the inning. In the first, he likely saved two runs by deftly snagging a bad-hop bouncer with the bases loaded. He added two more sensational plays in the third and fifth. He hit .357 in pool play. More >
Crazy caught-stealing: His team down by a run in the seventh, Polo tried to swipe second after leading off with a walk against Dellin Betances. Runners were 21 for 21 last season stealing bases against Betances, whose delivery makes him slow to the plate. So Polo ran, and D.R. catcher Castillo made a strong throw to second. But shortstop Segura was late covering, and had to dive across the base to catch Castillo's throw and tag Polo in what ended up being an important, spectacular, bang-bang play. More >
Dominican Republic: The defending World Baseball Classic champions are moving on to the second round. They'll travel to San Diego, where Round 2 begins Tuesday against Puerto Rico, the winner of Pool D.