World Baseball Classic Update

March 18, 2009

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Pool 1

Game 1: (Sunday) Japan vs. Cuba
Japan beat Cuba 6-0 behind the arm of Daisuke Matsuzaka. Matsuzaka threw 61 of his 86 pitches for strikes, allowing five hits and no walks over six innings of work. Although Matsuzaka had a great year for Boston last year, there had been some concerns that he had been lucky, and that his high walk totals would cost him in future years. Matsuzaka has displayed good control in the WBC, though. 3 relievers each allowed a hit, but none of them walked a batter, either.

On the offensive side, Japan played small ball, with only one of their 12 hits going for extra bases (a double by Kenji Jojihma). Shuichi Murata had two RBI, with four other players chipping in one RBI each.

Game 2: (Sunday) Mexico vs. Korea
Korea’s Tae Kyung Kim drove in three runs (including a solo homer) and Bum Ho Lee and Young Min Ko also homered for Korea as Korea wins 8-2. Mexico faces Cuba in game 3, with the loser eliminated and the winner remaining alive to face the loser of Korea/Japan.

Game 3: (Monday) Mexico vs. Cuba (loser eliminated)
Cuba stayed alive in the tournament with a 7-4 win. Frederich Cepeda continued his outstanding WBC with a three run double. Cepeda finished with four RBI in the game. Cepeda is 12 for 20 with 3 homers and 10 RBI in 20 at bats (5 games) in the WBC. That’s a 1.786 OPS.

Game 4: (Tuesday) Japan vs. Korea (winner qualifies for semifinals)

Korea jumped on Japan starting pitcher Yu Darvish early, manufacturing three runs in the first inning. Those three runs held up as Korea won 4-1 behind a masterful pitching performance by Korea’s Jung Keun Bong, who allowed one run on three hits in 5 1/3 innings. Darvish settled down after the first inning, allowing three runs on four hits in five innings. Korea clinches a spot in the semifinals. Japan will face Cuba in game 5. The loser of that game will be eliminated, and the winner will face Korea in game 6 to determine semifinal seeding.

Pool 2

Game1: (Saturday) Netherlands vs. Venezeula
The Netherlands played another close game. In the opening round, they won games by scores of 2-1 and 3-2 while losing games by scores of 3-1 and 5-0 (both losses against Puerto Rico). In this game, they lost 3-1 to Venezuela.

Venezuela starter Carlos Silva went seven strong innings, allowing just one run on four hits. After two other relievers each recorded an out, Venezuela turned the game over the K-Rod, and he delivered a four-out save, including two strikeouts.

The pitching for the Netherlands was pretty effective, with the exception of a couple of mistakes. They allowed just three hits (and three walks) all day. Unfortunately those three hits were homers by Miguel Cabrera and Jose Lopez and a triple by Endy Chavez (Chavez scored on a groundout).

Even with the loss, the Netherlands continues to rise their profile during this World Baseball Classic.

Game 2: (Saturday) USA vs. Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico beat the USA 11-1. Javier Vasquez went five innings for Puerto Rico, allowing one run on four hits, while not walking anyone. USA starting pitcher Jake Peavy gave up six runs on six hits and two walks in just two innings. Hopefully my Colorado Rockies will watch tape of Peavy’s outing so that we can hit him this well in the regular season. Felipe Lopez and Carlos Beltran hit homers for Puerto Rico, but this was a team victory, with Puerto Rico piling up 13 hits and four walks. The USA managed just six hits, including two apiece by Adam Dunn and Brian McCann.

I’m not suggesting that we make Puerto Rico the 51st state for the sole purpose of adding their players to the USA’s WBC team, but it would be a nice benefit of statehood for Puerto Rico.

Game 3: (Sunday) Netherlands vs. USA, loser eliminated
A little tidbit surfaced during the game. The highest paid Netherlands player made $40,000 last year (their 42 game season is ¼ the length of MLB). The players received $20,000 for advancing to round two of the WBC.

The Cinderella story ends in round two, however. The US won this game 9-3. Jimmy Rollins drove in four runs and had a homer and a triple. Brian Roberts, filling in for the injured Dustin Pedroia, had a great game, falling just short of a cycle with a single, double, triple, and two walks.

On the pitching side, Roy Oswalt gave up no runs on five hits and no walks over four innings. The Netherlands did managed seven hits in a span of 2 2/3 innings off Shields, Ziegler, and Lindstrom, pushing three runs across the plate.

Game 4: (Monday) Venezuela vs. Puerto Rico, winner clinches semifinal berth
Venezuela’s Felix Hernandez struck out seven batters in 4 2/3 innings and K-Rod closed the door with 1 1/3 perfect innings. Ramon Hernandez drilled a homer as Venezuela wins the game 2-0. Ian Snell is the hard luck loser for Puerto Rico, allowing a run on five hits in four innings of work.

Game 5: (Tuesday) USA vs. Puerto Rico, winner clinches semifinals, loser eliminated
There was no joy in Mudville entering the bottom of the ninth with the US trailing 5-3. Two singles and a sacrifice fly cut the score to 5-4. Two more walks loaded the bases for David Wright, who delivered the decisive blow, a two run single that ended the game. Kevin Youkilis homered earlier in the game for the US, and Alex Rios and Carlos Delgado homered for Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico is eliminated from the tournament. The US will have a rematch against Venezuela to determine seeding for the semifinals.

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