Two Caribbean teams cruised past their opponents to ensure themselves top seating in the next round of the WBC. Next port of call: Miami.
One Caribbean team guaranteed themselves a spot in the next round, but they have one more stop before sailing on to San Diego.
Kingdom of the Netherlands vs. Puerto Rico
This final game of the Pool D should have been between the Dominicans and Puerto Rico, but it was not. Although the story of David (the Netherlands) defeating Goliath (the Dominicans) is compelling, I was a little disappointed the Dominicans never faced Puerto Rico in this tournament. Or, maybe I was just afraid the hot Netherlands would come up with another upset.
I need not to have worried. The Netherlands seemed to fizzle as Puerto Rico handed them a 5-0 shutout. The Puerto Rican win was very much a team effort. Starting pitcher Jonathan Sanchez pitched 4 fine innings, giving up two hits, one walk and striking out four. Not bad from a pitcher that might only be considered the Giants fourth or fifth starter, but when your rotation has three Cy Young winners, it’s hard to break into the top three.
The fine bullpen finished the job. Manager Jose Oquendo used the 4-0 and 5-0 lead to give several relief pitchers some work.
One RBI a piece goes to Beltran, Rios, Rodriguez, Soto and Cora. Only one extra base hit: a triple by Rios. The Netherlands did have a different catcher behind the plate tonight, Sidney de Jong. The Puerto Ricans took advantage of two pitches that got away from de Jong and a missed popped fly. The regular Netherlands catcher, Kenley Jansen, has been stellar behind the plate.
Venezuela vs. USA
In earlier tournament action, Team USA handed Venezuela a decisive loss. In the final game of Pool C, Venezuela got their revenge fueled by a couple of Blancos.
Centerfielder, Gregor Blanco had a three for five day at the plate, including a double, a triple and one RBI. Catcher, Henry Blanco, went three for four with a solo home run that initially put Venezuela on the board. However, Henry Blanco’s biggest play of the day came in the 9th inning.
Down two runs, Team USA‘s Jimmy Rollins gets on with a walk. Dustin Pedroia files out (could it have been that pitch the Playstation claims he can’t hit?). Derek Jeter reaches on an error. So, the tying run is on with one out. With Kevin Youkillis batting, Jeter and Rollins attempt a double steal. Blanco guns down Jeter at second. The wind in Team USA‘s sails just died. The next pitch caught Youkillis swinging at strike three, and it was all over with. Venezuela wins 5-3.
Mexico vs. Australia
Earlier in the tournament Australia handed Mexico a huge loss. Tonight, Mexico returned the favor, very efficiently, in only six innings, winning 16-1.
From Mexico, the Hairston brothers, the Gonzalez brothers and two guys named Ojeda that are not brothers put together a big night. Oh yeah, Karim Garcia went 4 for 4 with 4 RBI’s, too. Two Jorge’s (Cantu and Vazquez) also contributed to the RBI totals.
The Australians seemed to throw every pitcher they had at Mexico, but could not contain their bats. Mexico only needed two pitchers: Jorge Campillo and Rodrigo Lopez
Australia is going back down under, while Mexico will be moving on. They will face a tough Cuban team tonight to determine who will face Japan or Korea in the next round.
Round 2, Pool 2: Miami
In Pool 2, the Venezuelans will face the Netherlands. No one is taking the Netherlands for granted any more, despite the face that Puerto Rico beat them twice, neither game was a rout. I am looking forward to seeing the match-up of both team’s fine pitching.
Also, in Pool 2, Puerto Rico and Team USA will meet. I was rather hoping they would not meet for a while, so I would not have to pick between my country and the team with my favorite Cardinal. With the way, Oquendo has the catchers paired with starting pitchers, it is likely that Yadier Molina will not see action against Team USA. That could help.
I know I am supposed to cheer for Team USA, but there is not a player on Team USA that I feel any type of attachment to. No one from my team or my backup team is playing for Team USA. From my backup backup team, there is Jeter, but the Yankees are my backup backup team because I like to watch Jose Molina behind the plate. Who, of course, is Puerto Rican. I swear, all roads lead to San Juan.
The best I can do is hope for a really close, well played game, where I will neither be completely satisfied by the win nor completely devastated by the loss. Fortunately, this is not an elimination game. Do not judge me too harshly, Puerto Ricans are Americans, too.
The World Baseball Classic does not disappoint, unless you were one of the teams eliminated tonight.
Italy vs. Venezuela
The Italians and Venezuelans played once again. This time facing elimination. In this tournament, the Italians were much better than anyone really expected. Fresh off their elimination of Canada, could they send favored Venezuelan team home?
For the Italians, a Redbird took the mound. Adam Ottavino played for the Double-A Springfield Cardinals last season and earned an invite to the big league camp this spring. Ottavino did the Cardinals proud, pitching three scoreless innings, giving up one hit and one walk, while striking out three. It’s a shame he could not stay in the game. But, a pitching change was made, and the ballgame was all but over by the end of the fourth inning.
In the fourth and fifth inning, the Venezuelans went on an offense attack, scoring four in the fourth and five in the fifth. Take out those two innings, and it is a 1-1 ballgame. Leave them in, and it’s a 10-1 rout.
Venezuela and the USA will meet once again in the Pool C finals tonight.
On a side note: Nice to see former Cardinal, Cesar Izturis play. Nothing against our new shortstop, but I will miss seeing Izturis pick it this year.
Dominican Republic vs. Kingdom of the Netherlands
When the Netherlands upset the Dominicans on Saturday, it was unbelievable. The Dominican lineup is stacked. Loaded. An offensive run-making machine gun. And, who were these Netherlands players? Nobody much that you would have heard of. A couple have some big league experience, but that’s all.
The upset seemed a fluke. It seemed less of a fluke, when the Netherlands nearly upset the highly favored Puerto Rican team. By the time that the Netherlands took the field for the third time at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan Puerto Rico, people were starting to take them seriously.
The rematch was tense. The pitching was fantastic. Ten scoreless innings. Rockies pitcher, Ubaldo Jimenez for the DR was amazing, fanning ten batters, a WBC record. Netherlands starting pitcher, Tom Stuifbergen, was not as flashy as Jimenez, but the result was the same: Four scoreless innings. Stuifbergan, a 20-year-old pitcher in the Twin organization, who pitched 12 innings in the Gulf Coast League in 2007, faced down some of the biggest major league all-star bats and came out on the winnings side.
Finally, in the top of the 11th the Dominicans took advantage of an error to plate one run. Would it be enough? No. In the bottom of the 11th, the Netherlands took advantage of two Dominican errors to plate two runs and eliminate the Dominicans from the tournament.
It is no secret that in this bracket, I favor the Puerto Ricans. Just a few days ago, if you had said that Puerto Rico would be playing the Netherlands in the final of this game. I would have said, “Sweet”. Last night, I was rather hoping the Dominicans would win. I think I would rather take my chances with them. This Netherlands team is scary good. I can only hope that the 11 inning game wore them down, rather than warmed them up.
Cuba vs Australia
Australia gave the favored Cuba team a run for their money. It appeared that the Aussies might pull off another upset when they scored three in the sixth to go ahead 4-2. But, those were the last runs they would score. Cuba managed to get one in seventh and two in the eighth to pull ahead, winning 5-4.
Just in the category of things you do not see very often: a slick, unique play. The Cuban second baseman backhanded a grounder up the middle. The shortstop runs over and gets in position to receive the shuttle throw straight from the glove of the second baseman. The shortstop then throws to first getting the out. It was a 4-6-3 that was not a double-play.
I had to wonder if the shuttle toss was really faster than the second baseman turning and throwing. The announcers said that the Cubans practice this play all the time, so I would have to think so. The shortstop is definitely in a position to make a better throw to first, but that little shuttle throw out of the glove seems dangerous. Still, it was very cool to watch, more like a fast break drill in basketball.
Mexico will have their chance at revenge against the Aussies in the elimination round, while Cuba waits to play the winner.
Another side note: I find it hard to pull for Cuba when the score on the screen truncates Cuba and makes it Cub. Can I buy an “a”, please?
St. Louis Cardinals Notes
Kyle Lohse had another fine outing today against the Tigers, giving up 1 run in 4.1 innings of work. Chris Duncan made a case for his cause to be on the opening day roster with 3 RBI’s. Jason Motte took the ball in the 9th, showed command of two pitches other than his blazing fast ball and got the save. The best part: No Cardinal errors today. And, oh yeah, we won 5-2.
Korea vs. China
Korea eliminated China handily 14-0 in 7 1/2 innings. I did not make it up at 5:00 am today to watch it. Score one for my sanity.
Cuba vs. Republic of South Africa
Cuba, hitting a WBC record six home runs, topped the Republic of South Africa . The Cuban looked like the Cubans should. In a moral victory, the South Africans avoided a shut out when Jonathan Phillips hit a 2-0ut RBI single in the ninth inning to put them on the board. Final score 8-1.
Dominican Republic vs. Panama
The Dominicans looked like the Dominicans should. Bouncing back from their surprise loss to the Netherlands, the Dominican Republic shut out Panama 9-0, thereby handing them their second loss and eliminating them from the Classic. The Dominican Republic had a beautiful strike ’em out, throw ’em out play in the first. Pitcher Johnny Cueto, and catcher Miguel Olivo erased a runner and a batter in a matter of seconds. Olivo also had a big day at the plate, stroking two home-runs.
The other Dominican with a big night was not one of the names the most people know…yet. I know it because last year Nelson Cruz played for the Triple-A Oklahoma City Redhawks, before a Rangers call up late in the season. Last July, in a game against the Memphis Redbirds, I saw Nelson Cruz hit 3 home runs. One was a monster, leaving the park altogether and bouncing off the parking garage beyond left field. This year he is hitting home runs on a much larger stage.
Then the surprises begin:
USA vs. Venezuela
For the first five innings, this game went as I expected. I expected Venezuela to be a formidable opponent for Team USA. I expected their pitching to keep USA‘s All-Star bats somewhat under control. They did, until the sixth, when Team USA broke the game open, putting up eight runs in an inning that went on forever. The Venezuelans could not recover. Final score 15-6.
Mexico vs Australia
I honestly did not make it to the end of this game (very late), but I wish I had. I did see the favored Mexicans jump out to an early lead, but from the fifth inning on, the game belonged to the Aussies. They shut down the Mexican offense and starting putting up three and four runs an inning. The game was called at the end of the eighth at a score of 17-7.
And, down in Florida?
St. Louis Cardinals vs. Florida Marlins
When I said yesterday that 99% of the news coming out of the Cardinals camp had been positive, I must have jinxed them. I will not elaborate because I do not really want to talk about it. I will just leave you with today’s ugly box score:
R H E
FLA 9 9 0
STL 8 8 6
Because my remote has a hard time navigating to any channel besides the MLB Network, I have seen the following commerical dozens and dozens of time. Yet, I still smile every time I see Tim Lincecum training his video game replica. I wonder how much Tim Lincecum’s clone could make on the free agent market? I dare say that it would be significantly more than the 650K that real Timmy is getting this year.