Check-out today’s streaming highlights and sports talk:
LOS ANGELES – (Special to Digital Sports Desk by The Sports Xchange) – The baseball season is nearing.
You can see it in the starting lineups that are being marched out each day in spring training games. They are looking more and more like the lineups you will see next week when the season begins. And yet still the games are not as compelling as the World Baseball Classic games were the previous few weeks.
So, the time for ripping the World Baseball Classic is over.
It has its issues. General managers dread it because they worry about a star player getting injured. Players shrug it off because they believe — correctly — that it holds no meaning close to the postseason. Even management and the players’ union seem a little lukewarm on the thing. And it probably doesn’t get nearly the attention in the United States that it deserves because it goes up against the NCAA Tournament.
But it beats the living daylights out of spring training baseball, the version we saw three weeks ago as well as the incarnation we are seeing now. And for this reason, all in baseball, so worried about bringing in the next generation of fans with all the pace-of-game rule changes, need to start emphasizing the event.
Maybe you watched your favorite team in some spring training games.
New York Yankees fans recently got to see ace Masahiro Tanaka twirl five scoreless innings and first baseman Greg Bird hit a couple home runs. New York Mets fans saw Zack Wheeler throw five shutout innings. Boston Red Sox fans watched inspired play from a slimmed-down Pablo Sandoval. No question, it whets the appetite for the regular season.
However, still there are players in a game that may not play in the big leagues this season, players whose names you hear for the first time, and it takes some air out of the balloon.
Then there was the WBC. Maybe it doesn’t get all the biggest stars right now. No Mike Trout, no Bryce Harper and no Noah Syndergaard in this last one. But the games were played with near All-Star-team-caliber players. They were played passionately by players who cared about competing for their country. And the games were so much more compelling with players who deeply care about their performance because of their patriotism.
Maybe you got a chance to see the World Baseball Classic finale last Wednesday night, and you glimpsed something special. Team USA, behind six scintillating no-hit innings from Toronto Blue Jays ace Marcus Stroman, beat Puerto Rico 8-0 to capture its first title in the fourth tournament.
The Americans popped their USA jerseys and celebrated as if they won a playoff series. They took a victory lap around Dodger Stadium to thank those in the 51,000-plus crowd who remained — riveted — by the performance.
“It was the most fun I’ve ever had playing baseball,” said Team USA outfielder Christian Yelich of the Miami Marlins.
Like tearful Yadier Molina of the St. Louis Cardinals, many of those on Team Puerto Rico stayed on the field and consoled one another rather than retreating to their clubhouse. They applauded the Americans, many of them their Major League Baseball teammates. And the players from Team USA came to them, between the third base dugout and the third base line, and embraced them.
The Major League Baseball postseason has none of this, but isn’t there room, too, for some of the collegial feelings we saw here?
The signature play of the tournament was the Orioles’ Adam Jones of Team USA robbing Baltimore teammate Manny Machado of a home run in the Americans’ (virtual) quarterfinal win over the Dominican Republic. This was spectacular by any measure in any game. And it was cute how they tipped their hats to one another right after the play and something Orioles fans will be enthralled to hear and read about when they are back in camp.
The WBC is not pretending to be the playoffs. But isn’t it better than Grapefruit League action to see a lineup in which the Marlins’ Giancarlo Stanton is batting eighth for Team USA against Dominican Republic starter Ervin Santana of the Minnesota Twins? And playing in a game where the participants feel it is truly worth celebrating after a victory?
“Now, after what we’ve done, the way everybody is buzzing about it on Twitter, and all of the attention it’s getting, you’re going to see everybody in the league want to play in the next one,” Team USA reliever Pat Neshek of the Philadelphia Phillies said after the final. “Everyone’s going to want to be part of this.
“So maybe now the WBC has some momentum. Because it’s only played every four years, we’ll see if that is sustained to the next one.”
When a spring training game ends, many of the starters already have left the stadium. We know they are excited about the coming season, and we’ll see that when it starts. But even they aren’t crazy about spring training games.
The WBC was exciting and a nice change of pace. Let’s hope it gets more attention next time.
LOS ANGELES — An Adam Jones ground ball drove in Brandon Crawford with the tiebreaking run in the eighth inning, and the United States advanced to its first World Baseball Classic title game with a 2-1 victory over Japan at Dodger Stadium on Tuesday.
The U.S. meets Puerto Rico in the championship game Wednesday. Puerto Rico (7-0) makes its second straight trip to the finals after losing to the Dominican Republic in 2013. The U.S. lost to Japan in the 2009 semifinals.
Crawford singled off Kodai Senga (1-1) with one out in the eighth, and Ian Kinsler followed with a double that hit midway up the left-center-field fence in a game that was played in a steady drizzle.
Jones hit a weak grounder to drawn-in third baseman Nobuhiro Matsuda, who looked to the plate but lost control of the ball for a moment and had only one play at first as Crawford — running on the play — scored. Pat Neshek stranded runners on first and second base with two outs in the eighth inning and Luke Gregerson pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for his third save of the WBC. There were more umpire reviews (four) than hits (three) in the first three innings before the U.S. scored an unearned run in the fourth inning to take a 1-0 lead.
Christian Yelich reached second base when second baseman Ryosuke Kikuchi could not handle a hard ground ball with one out. Eric Hosmer walked with two out before McCutchen singled to left field to drive in Yelich. Kikuchi’s one-out homer on a 98 mph fastball from reliever Nate Jones tied the game at 1 in the last of the sixth inning.
U.S. right-hander Tanner Roark made his second appearance and first start of the WBC, giving up two hits and no runs in four innings before being replaced by Jones.
HOW THE GAME WAS WON: U.S. relievers Andrew Miller, Sam Dyson, Mark Melancon, Pat Neshek and Luke Gregerson combined to get the final 11 outs after Japan tied the game on Ryosuke Kikuchi’s homer with one out in the sixth inning. Dyson, Neshek and Gregerson have not been scored upon in four WBC outings apiece. Melancon was making his first appearance after joining the team Monday.
MISSED OPPORTUNITY: Japan had runners on first and second with two outs in the eighth inning but cleanup hitter Yoshitomo Tsutsugo lined out to right. Japan had runners in scoring position in the first and third innings but starter Tanner Roark stranded both.
TIP OF THE CAP: Japan right-hander Tomoyuki Sugano gave three hits and one (unearned) run in six innings and reliever Kodai Senga struck out five while giving up a tainted run in two innings. Sugano may not have the name of previous Japanese WBC pitching stars such as Daisuke Matsuzaka, Yu Darvish and Kenta Maeda, but he was the MVP of the Japan Central League with the Yomiuri Giants in 2014 and was 9-6 with a 2.01 ERA with the Giants in 2016.
UP NEXT: The U.S. meets Puerto Rico in the championship game Wednesday night at Dodger Stadium. Puerto Rico, the only team in the Western Hemisphere to win at least four games in each of the four WBCs, was shut out 3-0 by the Dominican Republic in final 2013 final. Puerto Rico beat the U.S. 6-5 in pool play Friday. Puerto Rico is also trying for its first WBC title
NEW YORK – (special to Digital Sports Desk by The Sports Xchange) – New York Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorius injured his throwing shoulder over the weekend and will not play for the Netherlands in the final round of the World Baseball Classic.
Gregorius had a preliminary MRI exam on Sunday and was traveling back to the Yankees’ spring training headquarters in Tampa, Fla., for further tests.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi told reporters Monday that the MRI revealed the 27-year-old Gregorius has a hematoma of the subscapularis muscle in his right shoulder.
“It’s obviously not what you want to hear. Hopefully it’s something short,” Girardi said. “The evaluation from the doctor was his strength was really good, but we’ve got to see him. He’ll have more MRI tests tomorrow.”
Gregorius batted .348 (8-for-23) with four doubles, a home run and eight RBIs in six games to help the Netherlands advance to the WBC semifinals.
Girardi said the five-year veteran initially felt pain in his shoulder while throwing before Saturday’s WBC exhibition game against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
“That’s always your concern when guys play in the WBC, is they’re not with you,” Girardi said. “They’re not in your hands and that’s the hard part. I mean, arm injuries can happen, that’s the bottom line. The thing is, he hasn’t played a ton of defense.”
Gregorius batted .276 with 20 home runs and 70 RBIs in 153 games for the Yankees last season, setting career highs in hits (155), doubles (32), homers, RBIs and extra-base hits (54).
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman told ESPN that even if Gregorius is out to begin the season, top prospect Gleyber Torres will not be the team’s Opening Day shortstop.
Torres, 20, entered Monday hitting .444 in 27 spring training at-bats but is expected to start the season at Double-A Trenton.
SAN DIEGO – (Special to Digital Sports Desk by The Sports Xchange) – The United States has made it to the final round of the World Baseball Classic for the second time. Giancarlo Stanton hit a tie-breaking two-run homer in the fourth inning. Andrew McCutchen added two-run double in the eighth and the U.S. avenged a first-round loss to the Dominican Republic with a 6-3 elimination victory in the second round of the WBC at Petco Park on Saturday.
The U.S advanced to face two-time champion Japan in a semifinal game at Dodger Stadium on Tuesday, after Puerto Rico meets the Netherlands in the first semifinal Monday. Puerto Rico and Japan, both 6-0, are the only unbeaten teams in the tournament.
The Dominican Republic, the defending WBC champion after winning all eight of its games in 2013, took a 2-0 lead in the first inning Saturday but could not hold on. It overcame a 5-0 deficit to beat the U.S. 7-5 in first-round play last week.
Manny Machado reached on an error by Brandon Crawford with one out in the first inning and scored on a Robinson Cano double off Danny Duffy (2-0). Carlos Santana singled in Cano.
Stanton and Jonathan Lucroy singled to open the third inning for the U.S. off Ervin Santana (0-1), and Stanton scored on Ian Kinsler’s forceout at second. Christian Yelich’s two-out double tied the game at 2. Yelich has seven hits and three walks in six games.
Crawford singled with two outs in the fourth inning before Stanton hit the next pitch into the second balcony of the Western Metal Supply Co. building down the left-field line for a 4-2 lead.
Cano’s homer made it 4-3 in the seventh, one batter after U.S. center fielder Adam Jones leaped up and reached over the wall in right-center field to take homer away from Machado.
Yelich walked and Alex Colome hit Eric Hosmer before McCutchen doubled with one out in the eighth for a 6-3 U.S. lead.
Sam Dyson got five outs, and Luke Gregerson pitched the ninth for a save.
HOW THE GAME WAS WON: U.S. manager Jim Leyland started right fielder Giancarlo Stanton for the first time in the second round, and the move proved prescient. Stanton singled and scored in a two-run third inning and hit a long homer in the fourth. He had been 1-for-10 in the WBC. Danny Duffy pitched out of a second-and-third, no-out situation in the second inning by retiring Jose Reyes, Manny Machado and Robinson Cano to keep the U.S. deficit at a manageable 2-0.
MISSED OPPORTUNITY: The Dominican Republic left runners on first and second with one out in the first inning and runners on second and third with no outs in both the second and fifth innings. All told, the Dominicans left six runners in scoring position. A runner was held at third base while running from first on a double into the left-field corner with no outs in both the second and fifth.
TIP OF THE CAP: Dominican outfielder Gregory Polanco had three hits — a double and two singles — and finished the tournament 11-for-19 with two doubles, a homer and a stolen base. Fernando Rodney threw 1 2/3 scoreless innings, getting out of a two-on, one-out situation with a double-play grounder in the fifth inning.
UP NEXT: The United States will play Japan in the second WBC semifinal Tuesday at Dodger Stadium. The Dominican Republic’s players will head to Arizona and Florida for the final two weeks off spring training. Manager Jim Leyland had said the U.S. might get the services of starter Jeff Samardzija and reliever Mark Melancon for the final round
SAN DIEGO – (Special to Digital Sports Desk by The Sports Xchange) – Second baseman Javier Baez singled, stole three bases and scored a run as Puerto Rico advanced to the final round of the World Baseball Classic with a 6-5 victory over the United States on Friday night at Petco Park. Puerto Rico (2-0) strung together six singles in a four-run first inning, and a throwing error by U.S. third baseman Nolan Arenado gave them two unearned runs and a 6-3 lead in the sixth.
The U.S. and the Dominican Republic, both 1-1, will play for the fourth and final WBC semifinal berth on Saturday night. Two-time winner Japan and the Netherlands already have qualified. The final round begins Monday in Los Angeles.
Brandon Crawford hit a two-out, two-run triple off Edwin Diaz in the ninth before Josh Harrison struck out to end the game.
Buster Posey and Adam Jones had bases-empty homers for the U.S., each hitting his second of the WBC.
Angel Pagan, Francisco Lindor and Carlos Correa began the parade of singles in the first inning off Marcus Stroman (0-1), with Correa driving in the first run. Carlos Beltran singled in Lindor and Yadier Molina followed with a single to drive in Correa.
Baez singled to load the bases before Eddie Rosario’s sacrifice fly to left field made it 4-0. Molina tagged and beat the throw to third but was tagged out when he came off the back, blunting the rally.
Arenado doubled and Eric Hosmer singled to make it 4-1 in the U.S. second off Seth Lugo (2-0). Posey’s homer in the fifth made it 4-2 and Jones’ homer in the sixth made it 4-3.
Baez was hit by a pitch and stole second in the sixth before Rosario walked. The two then pulled a double steal. Andrew Miller struck out Enrique Hernandez before Pagan grounded to Arenado, whose one-hop throw got past Hosmer at first base.
HOW THE GAME WAS WON: Stroman gave up three hits in 4 2/3 scoreless innings in his previous start against the Dominican Republic, but the top of the Puerto Rican lineup aggressively attacked him in the first inning. Most of their six singles were hit hard, some weren’t, but they all counted. Before giving up two runs in the ninth, Puerto Rico’s bullpen had pitched nine scoreless innings in this round.
MISSED OPPORTUNITY: Daniel Murphy, DHing for the second time in the U.S.’s five WBC games, grounded into a double play with runners on first and second with the score 4-1 game in the second inning. Nolan Arenado has won four straight Gold Gloves with Colorado, but his uncharacteristic throwing error gave Puerto Rico two insurance runs in the sixth.
TIP OF THE CAP: San Diego native Adam Jones hit his second homer in as many games at Petco Park, trimming the gap to 4-3 in the sixth inning. Andrew Miller struck out two after replacing Mychal Givens in the sixth.
UP NEXT: Puerto Rico has quick turnaround, playing Venezuela (0-2) at 12:30 p.m. PDT Saturday. The United States (1-1) will meet the Dominican Republic in the final game of the second round on Saturday night, with Royals left-hander Danny Duffy scheduled to face Twins right-hander Ervin Santana with a berth in the semifinals on the line
SAN DIEGO – (Wire Service Report) – Miami Marlins third baseman Martin Prado is slated to undergo an MRI exam on Saturday after suffering a right hamstring injury during the World Baseball Classic.
Prado was injured while playing for Venezuela on Wednesday in San Diego. He was en route to South Florida on Friday and the Marlins want their medical team to determine the severity of the injury.
“He’s getting an MRI tomorrow,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly told reporters Friday. “We’ll let our doctors see him and make a decision, and we’ll see where we think he’s at right now.
“There is no reason to speculate at this point. Obviously, it’s a hamstring. Those things take a little time.”
The 33-year-old Prado signed a three-year, $40 million contract in the offseason. He batted .305 with eight homers and 75 RBIs last season.
The Marlins see no reason to rush Prado back to action.
“Hamstrings take a little bit of time, and we’ll let the doctors determine what grade it is and see what we’re going to have to do,” Mattingly said. “You’re just guessing at a timeline with guys getting back. Hopefully, it’s a minor Grade 1, and we’ll kind of continue moving and have him ready. We’ll have to wait and see.”
SAN DIEGO – (Wire Service Report) – Gregory Polanco and Nelson Cruz hit solo home runs, and the Dominican Republic improved its chances of reaching the World Baseball Classic’s semifinals by posting a 3-0 win over Venezuela on Thursday in San Diego. Edinson Volquez struck out six in 4 1/3 scoreless innings as the Dominican starter. Five relievers completed the eight-hit shutout. Jeurys Familia allowed two hits in the ninth but struck out three to earn the save.
The defending champion Dominican team, a 3-1 loser to Puerto Rico on Tuesday, improved to 1-1 in the second-round pool. Venezuela, which lost its pool opener 4-2 to Team USA, slipped to 0-2 and is all but eliminated.
Polanco opened the scoring with a blast off Venezuela starter Jhoulys Chacin in the fifth inning. It was the only run Chacin allowed in 4 1/3 innings.
Robinson Cano hit an RBI single in the seventh inning, and Cruz added an insurance run in the eighth by homering off Arcenio Leon.
Team USA faces Puerto Rico on Friday and the Dominican Republic on Saturday. Puerto Rico opposes Venezuela on Saturday. The top two teams from the pool will join Japan and the Netherlands in the semifinals next week at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles
SAN DIEGO – (Special to Digital Sports Desk by The Sports Xchange) – Adam Jones and Eric Hosmer homered in the eighth inning and the United States overcame a two-run deficit for a 4-2 victory over Venezuela in the second round of the World Baseball Classic at Petco Park. Jones, a native of San Diego, homered off Hector Rondon (0-1) to lead off the eighth inning and tie the game at 2. After Christian Yelich singled and Nolan Arenado flied out, Hosmer hit a 418-foot homer to right-center field for a 4-2 lead.
Pat Neshek (1-0) pitched a 1-2-3 eighth inning and Luke Gregerson pitched the ninth for the save.
The United States and Puerto Rico won their first games in Pool F, and the top two teams will advance to the semifinals in Los Angeles next week. Japan and the Netherlands already have qualified.
Rougned Odor homered and Felix Hernandez pitched five scoreless innings for Venezuela. Hernandez gave up three singles, struck out three and walked none. He also threw 61 pitches.
United States left-hander Drew Smyly gave up three hits and a run while striking out eight in 4 2/3 innings. He was removed after throwing 61 pitches. The pitch limit in this round is 80.
Venezuela took a 1-0 lead in the third inning when Carlos Gonzalez singled and took third when Smyly fielded Robinson Chirinos’ bunt single and threw it past first base, putting runners on second and third. Ender Inciarte followed with a sacrifice fly. Odor made it 2-0 in the seventh with a solo homer.
In the bottom of the seventh, Hosmer singled, took second on Odor’s second error of the game and came around to score on fly balls by Andrew McCutchen and Jonathan Lucroy.
HOW THE GAME WAS WON: The United States played long ball through the notorious marine layer at Petco Park, with home runs by Adam Jones and Eric Hosmer in the eighth inning. Jones’s shot went to deep left-center, and Hosmer’s drive went to right-center. Drew Smyly was dynamic in 4 2/3 innings, giving up only an unearned run while striking out eight.
MISSED OPPORTUNITY: Venezuela had its best chance in the third inning after Ender Inciarte’s sacrifice fly drove in the first run of the game. With a runner on second base, Jose Altuve flied to right field and Martin Prado struck out against Smyly. Miguel Cabrera walked with one out in the ninth inning but Victor Martinez hit into a shift-induced double play to end the game.
TIP OF THE CAP: Felix Hernandez looked like the Cy Young King Felix, striking out three without a walk in five scoreless innings. He gave up three singles. Left-hander Jose Castillo, who pitched at Class A Lake Elsinore last sesaon, stuck out Christian Yelich and Nolan Arenado with runners on first and second to get out of the sixth inning with a 1-0 lead.
UP NEXT: Team USA will finish Pool F play against Puerto Rico on Friday and the Dominican Republic on Saturday night. Venezuela will be finishing against Puerto Rico on Saturday. If a tiebreaker is needed, it would be played Sunday