Stronger Sandoval leads beatdown of LA


Stronger Sandoval leads beatdown of LA


SAN FRANCISCO The apparent story in the hours beforeMonday nights archrival showdown at AT&T Park was about Buster Posey, andwhether Giants manager Bruce Bochy would really sit his cleanup-hitting catcheragainst the NL West leaders.

The actual story was in an antechamber off the Giantsclubhouse, where hitting coach Hensley Bam Bam Meulens and Pablo Sandovalhuddled around a monitor, watching video.

Sandoval was coming off a simply hacktastic series inOakland. He was overaggressive, hitting off his front foot, swinging throughhigh fastballs. He was a rather unremarkable .275 hitter with one extra-baseknock in 14 games since coming off the disabled list. He wasnt making animpact.

He did Monday night. He dented the baseball, and the Giantsmade their own dent in the NL West standings. Fueled by Sandovals 3-for-3,two-double, three-RBI night, theyoverwhelmed the Dodgers in the first two innings and coasted to an 8-0 victorythat brought them within two games of first place the closest theyve beensince the second day of the regular season.

Sandoval had multiple extra-base hits for the first timesince May 1, when he broke the hamate bone in his left hand. He even had the temerity to turn and burn on a 3-0 pitch; he drove it to the opposite-field warning track for a sacrifice fly.

He'll always be an aggressive hitter. But he picked the right spots this time.

The last couple days for me were tough, Sandoval said. Iwas swinging hard.

His left hand remained on his mind. He wasnt feeling pain,per se, but the strength wasnt there quite yet. He didnt say it, but maybe hefelt he needed to cheat a little bit on fastballs, get his bat going a littlequicker to compensate. Its hard to do that and be moderately selective at thesame time.

But now

When you have the power in your hands and wrists, you donttry to do too much, said Sandoval, who came back from this hamate fracture aweek quicker than he did a year ago, when he had the identical injury in hisright hand. Its getting better every day, so well see what happens.

What happens next could be very, very big for the Giantsoffense.

Sandoval had a long talk with Meulens that also helped toclear Sandovals mind.

Ive got a great hitting coach, said Sandoval, who did allhis damage batting left-handed. He knows the things I can do. He let me know. We talked about a lot of things. I dont want to say what we walked about. But we watched videos, and I put it all together today.

Sandoval has taken a lot of public grief over the pastseveral weeks, especially after Bochy did not hide he and the organizationsdispleasure at the third basemans weight and conditioning. Sandoval has beenpulled for Joaquin Arias late-inning defense as recently as last weekendagainst the As, and in Matt Cains perfect game, too. Those things arent loston players, and they have to sting a little bit for a player like Sandoval, whowas second in Gold Glove voting among coaches and managers last season.

Then there is the legal issue in Santa Cruz, which is ongoing. (Although the investigation should be wrapped up by the end of the week, I'm told.)

Say what you want about Sandovals fluctuating waistline,but this much is unassailable: When he is challenged, he responds. And he putsin the work.

Sandoval did postgame conditioning every day during theGiants last road trip, and his defensive play has improved markedly since hisfirst couple of rough games off the disabled list.

When Sandoval is productive and confident, he is adifference maker. Thats been true of him going back to the minor leagues, whenhe served as a buoy at every stop.

That was great, said left-hander Barry Zito, who gaveSandoval his Kung Fu Panda nickname back in 2009, and benefited from the runsupport while shutting out the Dodgers through seven innings. Its the Pablowe know. He just brings a whole lot of intensity to both sides of the game. Hesjust really igniting the whole offense.

Bochy said he was encouraged, too.

I really was, the manager said. He was quieter and moredisciplined and he wasnt overswinging today. Thats what hed been doing, morethan anything. Today, (his swing) was shorter and he threw out some greatat-bats.

Moving within two games of the Dodgers after trailing by 7 at one point? That was a good sign for the Giants. But theyll need to keepclimbing and keep winning, and the Arizona Diamondbacks are applying their ownhot breath.

So perhaps the most encouraging sign Monday night, amid the BeatLA chants, was the sight of Sandoval ripping his double off the bricks. Morethan any position player on the roster, he has the ability to carry a club. Hishands are getting strong enough for that task, and by all signs hes got thewill to match.

Team USA dominates Puerto Rico to win 2017 World Baseball Classic

Team USA dominates Puerto Rico to win 2017 World Baseball Classic

LOS ANGELES -- Marcus Stroman tossed six hitless innings, Ian Kinsler slugged a two-run homer and the United States routed Puerto Rico 8-0 on Wednesday night to win its first World Baseball Classic in four tries.

Stroman dominated the tournament's highest-scoring team. Puerto Rico lost for the first time in eight games after outscoring the opposition 55-26. The U.S. territory finished runner-up for the second time, having lost to the Dominican Republic in the 2013 final.

Stroman, who was named the tournament's MVP, avenged his shakiness in the Americans' 6-5 loss to Puerto Rico during pool play. The right-hander from the Toronto Blue Jays retired the side on three grounders to open the game. In all, he gave up one hit, struck out three and walked one on 73 pitches.

He allowed just three balls past the infield until Angel Pagan's double in the left-field corner leading off the seventh, when Stroman departed to a standing ovation, having staked the Americans to a 7-0 lead.

Stroman walked Carlos Beltran leading off the second, but the defense helped him out. Yadier Molina hit the ball to shortstop Brandon Crawford, who started a double play before Stroman struck out Javier Baez to end the inning.

The U.S. pounded out 13 hits and finished with a 6-2 record while making the final for the first time in front of 51,565 at Dodger Stadium.

Kinsler homered off an 0-1 pitch from Seth Lugo into left-center field in the third, scoring Jonathan Lucroy, who singled leading off.

Lugo of the New York Mets allowed four runs and five hits, struck out seven and walked four in four innings. The right-hander won his first two starts of the tournament, including in the second round against Stroman and the U.S.

In that game, Stroman gave up six consecutive singles in a four-run first inning and took the loss against Puerto Rico last Friday in San Diego.

The Americans made it 4-0 in the fifth on RBI singles by Christian Yelich and Andrew McCutchen.

Fans wore flags of both countries as capes and decorated their faces in team colors. Puerto Rico boosters pounded cowbells, tooted horns and blew whistles early on before their team fell behind 4-0.

Fans were on their feet chanting "U-S-A" when the Americans loaded the bases in the seventh with two outs. They were rewarded with Crawford's two-run single that chased J.C. Romero, extending the lead to 6-0.

The U.S. tacked on another run on Giancarlo Stanton's RBI single off Hiram Burgos past diving shortstop Francisco Lindor.

Burgos' wild pitch moved runners to second and third before he walked Lucroy to load the bases a second time. Kinsler flied out to end the inning.

The Americans led 8-0 in the eighth on McCutchen's RBI single with two outs.

The U.S. defeated two-time champion Japan, while Puerto Rico beat the Netherlands to reach the final.

The three games at Dodger Stadium drew 109,892.

Puerto Rico in scarce supply of hair dye amid World Baseball Classic fever

Puerto Rico in scarce supply of hair dye amid World Baseball Classic fever

AN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- Pharmacies and beauty stores across Puerto Rico are running out of hair dye with even a top economist joining men going blond in support of the island's baseball players who bleached their hair ahead of the World Baseball Classic.

What began as a joke among team members playing in California has spread across the island in a trend that spiked Tuesday just hours after Puerto Rico beat the Netherlands in 11 innings to reach the championship game undefeated in the tournament, which is held every four years. Puerto Rico will play Wednesday night in the final against the United States, which defeated Japan.

"Ever since they began winning, this has not stopped," said Myrna Rios, a manager at a Sally Beauty Supply store in the capital of San Juan. "We have run out of the product in most of our stores."

Copper blond, platinum blond, golden blond - all shades of blond (even burnt orange) are turning heads in a U.S. territory where the majority of men have thick, dark hair. Bald men dyed their beards or goatees in a nod to Puerto Rico coach Carlos Delgado.

"We have been able to unite our country with our blond hair," said star Carlos Correa, who hit a two-run homer and scored the winning run against the Netherlands. "That's what we want as players to unite our country, our people, and give them the best."

Men ranging from news anchors to university students to professionals have embraced a trend that has sparked the rallying cry of "Team Rubio!" or "Team Blond" in Spanish.

Among them is civil engineer Christian Rodriguez, who dyed his beard Saturday after visiting four different pharmacies to find the product he needed. At first, he didn't dye his hair as well because he thought it would be too much at church on Sunday. But he noticed six male churchgoers had dyed their hair blond and decided to take the plunge, calling a hair stylist friend to help him go platinum.

Rodriguez complained of an intense burning sensation during the two-hour process and sent pictures to his wife, who responded with the emoticon of a monkey with its eyes covered.

"Anything for my island!" he said as he lifted his arm to cheer the team.

Rodriguez then sent a picture of his dyed hair to his mechanic, who responded with a selfie taken underneath a car of him smiling with a bleached beard.

Puerto Rico's undefeated run to the championship has boosted the spirit of an island mired in a decade-long recession that faces a rocky recovery amid looming austerity measures for its government. Even young students have been sporting blond do's, prompting public schools to suspend them until the island's education secretary stepped in and said in a letter made public Tuesday that they should be allowed to dye their hair during the tournament.

"We wanted to do this to unite the team, and then the people of Puerto Rico, they started dying their hair, too," pitcher Edwin Diaz said. "I saw that there were some students that were suspended from school. I think they shouldn't be doing that because it just means that we have united our nation."

Even the prominent Puerto Rico-based economist Sergio Marxuach joined the trend, sporting yellow hair as he walked into a seminar in Puerto Rico on Wednesday, drawing laughs.

"My youngest son asked me, 'Why did you paint your hair like Donald Trump?'" he recalled with a laugh. "If this team can give us hope, we're going to need it given what's coming down the pipe."