A few days ago, I wrote about going on a baseball bender when I saw how much baseball there was to see over the weekend. I mentioned that I might have a baseball hangover this morning. They say that the best cure for a hangover is the “hair off the dog that bit you”, so the best thing for a baseball hangover had to be a little more baseball.
Fortunately, Korea and Japan were already playing in the Pool A finals of the World Baseball Classic when my alarm went off this morning. So, I turned on the TV and took my medicine.
Korea vs. Japan
Japan humiliated Korea in their first match up. Korea had their revenge today. Korea plated one run in the fourth, and it was all they needed. Both Korea and Japan will advance to the next round, where they will face the top teams from Pool B (Cuba, Mexico, South Africa and Australia).
Just a couple of aesthetic notes: I love the way the Japanese fans sing to their batter. Also, Japan‘s black batting helmets with the matte finish look tough. Nice change from the shiny ones we usually see.
Canada vs. Italy
This game was going on at the same time as the game between Puerto Rico and Netherlands. I had one of the TV and one on my computer. Very hard to keep track of both, and I admit a bias toward watching the Puerto Rican game.
I do know this: Canada had lots of runners that they could not bring home. Eleven runners left on base. There have been other upsets: Netherlands over the Dominicans and Australia over Mexico. But, this might be the biggest because it eliminates Canada. The Italians will advance to face the Venezuelans once again.
Puerto Rico vs. Netherlands
For an awfully long time in the game, it appeared that the Netherlands would continue their role as spoiler and upset the Puerto Ricans. In their home country. In a 1-0 game. The humiliation would have been unbearable.
The Netherlands eked in a run and pitched seven shut-out innings. Pudge Rodriguez, who had a huge 4-4 game on Saturday, served as DH, and except for a single, the Netherlands pitching had him looking very uncomfortable at the plate.
I will admit I was very frustrated during this game. OK, fine. I became that angry, shouting fan that I so dislike. They sent Bernie Williams from second on a single. I have nothing against being aggressive, but bless his heart, he was dead before he rounded third. Then, there was the wild pitch, and Aviles at 3rd did not go. He could have been in the dugout drinking Gatorade before the catcher tracked down the ball. Instead, he joined the long list of runners stranded. Perhaps, Puerto Rican Manager and St. Louis Cardinals Third Base Coach, Jose Oquendo should have been coaching third, rather like a minor league manager.
I have no problem with small ball and bunting the runners over, but when Oquendo asked Yadier Molina to bunt with a runner at 2nd, I disagreed with the decision. Even though, I could see the point, I loudly disagreed. The bunt was botched. Enough said.
I disagreed even louder when he asked Pudge Rodriquez to bunt. How often do you think Pudge has been asked to bunt? Not a lot, since he is a good hitter. Let him swing away and play to his strengths instead of having him waste two strikes trying to get a bunt down
I should have been more grateful for these debacles, because they set up one of the most beautiful things I have seen in this tournament.
Many of the highlights of this Classic have come from the catchers. Catching runners stealing, pick-offs, blocking wild pitches, clutch hitting, power hitting and even base stealing. This game was no exception. Enter: Gold Glove Catcher, St. Louis Cardinal, proud Puerto Rican, clutch hitter and my personal favorite, Yadier Molina.
First, (because defense comes first with catchers) Molina had a beautiful strike ’em out, throw ’em out double-play to end the seventh inning. The throw was perfection!
Next, in the eighth inning, the Netherlands pitching finally started to crack, walking the bases loaded. With one out, Molina comes to the plate, and drives the second pitch down the 3rd base line for a double, scoring two. This not only puts the Puerto Ricans on the board, but it puts them ahead.
I shouted so loud, my dogs left the room. Not the angry shouting of earlier, but joyous shouting. A giant “YES!” I watched all weekend as various catchers had great games, and I enjoyed every single one, but I wanted MY catcher to have a great game, and he did! Yadi “Clutch” Molina strikes again.
Jesus Feliciano drove in one insurance run, and the Puerto Ricans held on to the 3-1 lead in the ninth to win it. The Netherlands will face the Dominican Republic once again. Puerto Rico will wait to play the winner of that game.
Mexico vs. South Africa
After being blown away by the Australians, Mexico needed to have a win. Not just to stay alive, but to salvage their pride. They got one.
To the credit of the South Africans they managed to stay with in striking distance for much of the game. South African 2B, Gift Ngoepe hit back-to-back triples in his first two at-bats. On his third at bat, he was asked to bunt. What is the deal with asking the hot slugger to bunt? This was the third bunt attempt of the day that I questioned. And, the third one that failed.
I am sure there is some baseball bible that lists the Ten Commandments for when a bunt is called for, based on outs, score and runners on base. I do not know these “rules”. And, if tonight was any indication, I do not think knowing them helps.
In the seventh, Mexico took advantage of a walked in run and a throwing error that scored two. Adrian Gonzalez drove a nail into South Africa‘s coffin with a three-run homer in the eighth. Mexico got the decisive victory they needed, winning 14-3, eliminated South Africa from the tournament. Mexico will go on to face the loser of the game between Cuba and Australia.
My copy of the video game, MLB 2K9, arrived yesterday. I only played for a short time, but as with most PS2 games, I was pretty horrible. Adam Wainwright and I were starting to get the hang of pitching, and my fielders were starting to get to the ball although they have to stop and think which button they need to hit to throw. Oh wait, that’s me.
However, I can not figure out how to get the batters to swing the bat. It has something to do with the joysticks because every once in a while I could get one to swing, then I would try the same thing on the next pitch and my batter would just stand there. I know, I am a retard. Anyone know how to hit the ball?
There is a two page list of commands, but no where does it tell you how to swing. It does tell you how to bunt, but we all know how I feel about that.
Photo Credits: Getty Images/Al Bello
The pitching duels of the first two days of the series gave way to a slugfest on Day Three.
Venezuela continues to dominate the series, keeping their winning streak intact by defeating the Puerto Ricans 5-2. The Venezuelans were more efficient scoring 5 runs on 8 hits, while the Puerto Ricans scored 2 runs on 7 hits. The Venezuelans did not hit homers. They got the job done with several doubles and 2 stolen bases. Can this team lose?
The Puerto Rican team just cannot seem to get their offense going, and now have a disappointing record of 0-3. Can this team win?
The slugfest came in the late game between the Dominican Republic and Mexico. The score was back and forth until Mexico finally prevailed, winning 12-9. The Mexican effort was led by the Padres’ Adrian Gonzalez who hit three home runs. A power outage that delayed the game for 50 minutes did not cool the bats.
As it stands this morning, Venezuela is 3-0, Mexico is 2-1, the Dominican Republic is 1-2 and Puerto Rico trails 0-3.
The action continues today with match-ups between the Dominican Republic and Venezuela as well as Mexico vs Puerto Rico.
Two aesthetic characteristics of note make this series different from American baseball games: uniforms and music. The uniforms and batting helmets are covered with sponsor advertising, not unlike a Nascar uniform. Fittingly enough, on the back of the Mexican uniforms in the spot where a player’s name would be, you’ll find the word, “Corona”. Although, I think it is fine in this league, I hope Major League Baseball never comes to this. I do not want to see a beer advertisement on a Cardinals uniform, not even if it is, appropriately, Budweiser.
Now, the music is something I like. Except for the 5 seconds when the batter stands in and the pitch is delivered, the music seems to be going constantly. Some of it is Caribbean such as the distinctive Reggaeton beats I heard during the Puerto Rican games. Some of it is American, such as “Who let the dogs out” or “Another one bites the dust” after a strike out. The music makes the atmosphere festive and alive.
Only three days left in this six-day series, then it’s a quiet week until pitchers and catchers report.
Good news! There is baseball to watch this week. Or, maybe, it’s beisbol. The Caribbean World Series is underway in Mexico. Ah, why are we not there? There is sun. There is baseball. What more does a person need?
In the Caribbean World Series, four countries face off: Mexico, Puerto Rico, Venezuela and the Dominican Republic, playing round robin style.
My knowledge of Caribbean baseball is limited, so my expectations were formed by the Caribbean natives I watch most:
Albert Pujols – Expectation: Big slugging from the Dominicans.
Yadier Molina – Expectation: Extraordinary defensive Puerto Rican catching
Cesar Izturis – Expectation: Great Venezuelan defense, speed and contact hitting
There are no Mexican Cardinals, so I held no preconceived notions. Overall, I predicted the Puerto Ricans and Dominicans to dominate this series.
Thus far, nothing has been what I expected. The dominant pitching has been the biggest surprise. The first four games have been low scoring battles to eke a few runs across the plate. All have been one point games, with no team scoring more than 3 runs in a game.
The Dominicans, who I thought would put up big offensive numbers, have only scored 4 runs in two games. Although, it was a 2-run homer that made the difference in their game against Puerto Rico, so I guess they are sluggers. They have a 1-1 record, losing to Venezuela and defeating Puerto Rico.
Surprisingly, the Puerto Ricans are down 0-2 in the series, losing to Mexico and the D.R. In the game against Mexico, I did not see the excellent catching that Puerto Rico boasts. A stolen base and a pitch that got away contributed to runners getting in scoring position. In a 3-2 game, everything counts–either for or against you.
The Mexican pitching has been stellar, giving up only 3 runs, yet they have a 1-1 record, having defeated Puerto Rico and lost to Venezuela.
Venezuela has been the biggest surprise. They are leading with a perfect 2-0 record. Last night they won an amazing pitching duel with a power shot. In the bottom half of 11 scoreless innings, Venezuelan first baseman, Hector Gimenez hit a 2-out solo home run to end the game. Slugging was not on my list of Venezuelan expectations.
For more on the Caribbean World Series, you can visit these links:
If you do not have the MLB Network, but would like to watch the Series, you can pay $9.95 at the site below and watch all the games live and on demand until February 15th. I did have some problems with logging in, but I believe they have me fixed up now. Be sure to pay and log in exclusively to either the English or Spanish page. The broadcasts are separate. Also, when you pay, be sure to save the email address on the receipt. It was the only contact I could find when I was having problems. However, once I emailed, my problem was solved quickly.