The World Baseball Classic continued today in Miami with Round 2 action. Can you believe they are playing the WBC in a football stadium? Dolphins Stadium is no place for a baseball classic. What is wrong with Minute Maid Park? I would so be there, if it were in Houston.
Venezuela vs. Kingdom of the Netherlands
In this game, both teams did what they do best. The Netherlands pitched well and played good defense. Offensively, the put the ball in play, took advantage of errors and managed to eke out a run. Worth noting: they are starting to hit the ball better. Their grounders found gaps and holes today. They had six hits, but only one run.
Venezuela also pitched well, but they also had two errors. They did not hit often, but they hit big. The difference in this game was three BIG hits: Two home runs and a triple. When the Netherlands put runners on in the eighth to rally, Venezuela brought in K-Rod to shut the door. He did, and Venezuela won 3-1.
However, how amazing is it that the Netherlands has kept all of their games close? Everybody thought it was a fluke when they beat the Dominicans for the first time, but nobody is thinking that now. This is a very good “team”, with “team” being the key word. They play well together. I do not see them making it to the next round, because they need a little more offense, but they are a force to be reckoned with.
USA vs. Puerto Rico
I expected this game to be high and tight. Instead, it was low and away. From the beginning until the abrupt end, Puerto Rico dominated this game. They did everything right. They had five innings of dominant starting pitching from Javier Vasquez, giving up the lone USA run. In his last inning, he threw a hook to Mark DeRosa for a called strike three that looked the ball had been suddenly sucked out of orbit and sent crashing to the earth. If it had been in a movie, it would have looked phony. DeRosa appeared upset that he did not swing, but it did not matter. That pitch was virtually un-hittable.
Puerto Rico hit USA‘s starting pitcher, Jake Peavy, and they hit him hard. By the end of the second inning, Puerto Rico was up 6-0 on six hits (including a double and home run), two walks and a sac fly. Puerto Rico was aggressive on the bases, taking an extra one any time they could.
Defensively, Puerto Rico was solid. After watching, second baseman, Felipe Lopez take more than his fair share of grounders (there were five 4-3 putouts), I may have under estimated Lopez last year when he was with the Cardinals. He looked good on the field, and he got a dinger and a double at the plate.
Carlos Beltran. Wow. I was reminded of why I was so upset when the Royals traded him. He had two singles, a walk, a home run, a stolen base and two RBI’s. Ivan “give-this-guy-a-job” Rodriguez had another good game going three for four with two doubles. Actually, every Puerto Rican hitter had at least a run or an RBI.
I am looking at my scoresheet, trying to think of something positive to say about Team USA‘s performance. I can only come up with Brian McCann who got a single and a RBI double off of Vasquez, the pitcher he usually catches. Seems he can find Vasquez’s pitches with both his glove and his bat.
Puerto Rico scored four in the seventh off Matt Thornton to invoke the mercy rule, winning 11-1. I did not see that one coming. I knew Puerto Rico had lots of great players and really seemed to gel as a team. I thought they could possibly beat Team USA, but not dominate them.
It will be interesting to see if Team USA can bounce back from this devastating loss. They will get their shot at the Netherlands tomorrow. Puerto Rico is emerging as the team to beat, if only because no one has done it yet. On Monday, Puerto Rico will meet a Caribbean rival, Venezuela. In San Diego, Round 2 action will also kick off tomorrow with Japan vs. Cuba and Mexico vs. Korea.