Monday, August 18, 2008

Ejections and Hospitalizations, as Tempers Flare in Team USA's 9-1 win over China

By: Dick Cooke
9 a.m. - The Cooke family heads to the Forbidden City, which is at the northern part of Tiananmen Square. As we enter, a Chinese woman asks us if we would like a tour guide. We contemplate the offer ($35 US) and decide to take her up on it. She is a travel agent who does this on certain days. She becomes our personal guide for two hours and does a great job. It's an amazing place, and her English is good enough that we're able to understand most of the history she shares about the Forbidden City, Tiananmen, Chinese dynasties, etc.

We head back to the hotel as we have our scout meeting at 2, and Susan and the girls are heading to their first Olympic competition - weight lifting - which begins at 3:30.

2 - Scout meeting about China. Carl Moesche of the Major League Scouting Bureau presents the information on China. We receive all of this info. prior to the meeting either by email or hard copy, so the meeting moves quickly.

We've played them twice here, and we know they should struggle offensively, but they have two or three decent pitchers who can keep them in the game. They have played well in this tournament and are now a dangerous team to play in what is a critical game for us.

After Moesche finishes, Davey meets with the coaches to talk about the lineup. He and I had talked at length in the morning, and there maybe a couple of adjustments made as he searches for what he thinks is the right combination.

3:15 p.m. - Van to the stadium. As is the case everey day, we exit the van, the van is searched, and we walk through the security check point. They check everything thoroughly each day and, as time has moved on, they have become more timely in getting us through so we can get to the locker room.

4:15 - Stretch.

4:35 - BP. This is the first normal pre-game routine we've had since the opener, and our first night game since then. Our players show a ton of energy in BP;  all of the infielders get a ton of groundballs and make more throws across the diamond than normal, and it just feels right to be in a normal pre-game rhythm.

7 p.m.  - USA 9, China 1.

Apparently no game we play will lack in drama. Jake Arrieta starts for us and gives us six solid innings in his first appearance since we were in Cary. His command is spotty at times, but he allows only two hits and throws 94 pitches. Lach was hoping for five innings, so this helps our bullpen.

It's a 1-0 game until the fifth. Their starter has done a nice job pounding our hitters inside with 83-85 mph fastballs, and he doesn't make any mistakes over the plate. He tires in the fifth, and John Gall hits a big two-out bloop double off of the China reliever to make it 2-0.

Laporta walks to make it first and second, and Taylor Teagarden laces a ball into the right field corner. Gall scores, and Eck waves Laporta home. The catcher has the ball as Laporta arrives; he lowers his shoulder; there's a collision; the catcher holds on to the ball - safe.

We're not sure how, but the umpire determines LaPorta was never tagged. Replays later show he may have been correct. The catcher leaves with a knee injury, and we take a 4-0 into the sixth.

Now the fireworks pick up. Runners at second and third, 0 outs. Tiffee lofts a shallow flyball to center field; Schierholtz tags at third. Schierholtz takes off; the throw is on line, but inexplicably cut off by the pitcher. The pitcher turns to throw to the plate, and as the catcher waits for the throw, Schierholtz knocks him into the next county. He's safe; the ball goes to the backstop, and the benches begin to clear. Clean play when the catcher doesn't have the ball? Depends who you talk to.

Their manager Jim Levebvre is ejected; order is restored, and we end the inning up 5-0. In the eighth, Laporta is at the plate, and the count is 0-2. They go up and in, and he gets hit in the head. They've tried to pitch inside all night, but given what happened two innings ago, tempers flare. Laporta is down; the docs tend to him. The China pitching coach - former big leaguer Steve Ontiveros - is ejected and Davey is furious.

The game finishes without incident; the teams shake hands, and Laporta goes to the hospital.

We're all exhausted when we get back to the hotel, and now it's time to think about Chinese Taipei. We win, and we clinch a spot in the medal round. If we lose we would have to beat Japan. Seiler and company will get little sleep tonight.

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