It doesn’t take much when you’re the better team. A slight edge, a tiny gift can be the difference between winning and losing. When your team boasts a lineup as powerful as the Domincian Republic, you take the handouts and you do your best to capitalize.
There is no way to sugarcoat intentionally walking a hitter — any hitter — in the first inning with a runner on third to face the opposition’s cleanup hitter. Especially when the cleanup hitter in question is fresh off a 42 home run season and also possesses extreme fly ball tendencies and only grounded into six double plays all season.
But that is what Puerto Rico did and it cost them dearly, as Edwin Encarnacion doubled over the head of Angel Pagan in center field. Two runners scored (including the intentionally walked Robinson Cano) and the Dominican Republic was off to the races.
The two runs were all they needed in clinching their first World Baseball Classic title, beating Puerto Rico 3-0 to sweep the event and bring the title back to the Caribbean baseball hotbed.
The vaunted Dominican offense only posted one more run against Puerto Rican pitching but thanks to starter Samuel Deduno, the superlative DR bullpen, and some old-fashioned San Francisco drizzle, it was all they needed. Samuel Deduno pitched incredibly well for his nation, getting the start and going five strong innings, striking out five while giving up three walks and two hits.
The heralded bullpen did exactly what they’ve done all tournament long: they blew people away. None more spectacularly than Pedro Strop of the Orioles, who throws his two seam fastball to lefties in a way that defies space and time.
That is entirely too much movement for a pitch moving at 95 mph. Strop combined with Octavio Dotel, Santiago Casilla, and the irrespressible Fernando Rodney to essentially end the game after the five inning. The four relievers struck out five hitters in their four innings, allowing just a single hit and two walks. Both Strop and Rodney struck out two each in their single inning of work.
The Dominican side electrified the tournament, injecting the proceedings with fun and infectious fervor, celebrating and dancing their way through the event. Their success inevitably sparked a tepid debate over the role of “fun” in baseball, as if the eight game tournament and 162 game grind of a regular season (with two months of Spring Training added for good measure) are in any way analogous.
Now that the tournament is over, the debates and bizarre outright scorn/desperate proselytizing of the World Baseball Classic should thankfully die off as well. Seems everywhere I turned I found people alternately exhorting fans to ignore or embrace the WBC, two separate campaigns with zero benefit to anyone.
Did you enjoy the WBC? I did. It was great fun. Period. Now it’s over. The regular season is just around the corner. The World Baseball Classic will not go down in the history books as an epoch-changing event forever altering the course of baseball history. It was two fun weeks in March.
Some funny stuff happened. Canada and Mexico kicked the crap out of each other. Italy and the Netherlands advanced much farther than expected. Andrelton Simmons did awesome stuff. Pedro Strop made believers. Jose Reyes plays for the Toronto Blue Jays, to the amazement of thousands. Honkbal. Fun. Period.
Four years from now, it will be fun again. I will look forward to it at that point. Maybe some format change or intense conscription program will bring the cherished “big names” into the fold. Whatever. Fun. I like fun. This is good clean fun. Who doesn’t like fun?
And the rest
Robinson Cano was named WBC tournament MVP. Get that checkbook ready, Cashman! [WBC.com]
The last word on national rivalries in the WBC goes to Ted Berg of USA Today
People acting like a potential Dominican-Puerto Rican rivalry is a new thing did not go to my high school.
— Ted Berg (@OGTedBerg) March 19, 2013
This is very, very interesting: the BUBBA system. [Scouting Baseball]
Despite striking out eight batters in just 7.1 WBC innings, the Process Report is concerned Fernando Rodney is tipping his pitches [TPR]