Thursday, August 14, 2008

Rain Halts Play, but Strasburg Blanks the Netherlands, 7-0

By: Dick Cooke
After Wednesday's heart breaker against Korea, all the focus and conversation at this morning's staff meeting was on forgetting about that game and concentrating on the task at hand, which was the Netherlands.

A 7-0 win indicates we did a nice job of that but, when your starting pitcher has a perfect game through 4 1/3 innings and a no-hitter through 6 2/3, it's much easier.

Steven Strasburg, a rising junior at San Diego State and, as I mentioned earlier, the only college player ever to make the professional nation team since it's inception, came up big. Seven innings, one hit, one walk, 11 strikeouts, 94 pitches.

There has been a great deal of hype about him and, with our loss last night, the pressure increased ten fold on his outing today. He settled in quickly, striking out the side in the first, and it was a very comfortable game most of the way.

Interestingly, though, as dominant as Strasburg was, he threw a first pitch strike to only eight of the 23 hitters he faced. But he has great mound presence, likes to pitch inside, has command of a good slider and is a strike thrower. Combine all of that with a fastball which ranges from 92-96+, and he makes any hitter uncomfortable. He will likely be the first player taken in next year's draft.

A long home run by Matt Brown got us on the board in the second, and then we tacked on four more in the fourth led by a three-run homer by Matt LaPorta.

Our lead increased to 6-0, when the rains came after the 7th. We were delayed one hour, then went back out to try and finish. We added a run in the 7th; Casey Weathers pitched a scoreless 8th, and then the rains came yet again in the bottom of the ninth.

Blaine Neal was on to finish it up and, after two hits and a walk, he was suddenly in a bases loaded, no one out jam, when they finally called us off of the field for what proved to be the final time.

We never should have started the bottom of the ninth, as the mound was unsafe, and Neal was adjusting his delivery to prevent slipping, which can be disastorous for the health of a pitcher's arm. After a 90 minute wait, the game was ruled complete, and we are now 1-1.

The format for this Olympic baseball tournament is a bit different than in years past and similar to the qualifier in Cuba. Rather than pool play, which is the standard in most team sports, baseball plays a simple round robin format.

Eight teams in the event, you play everyone once (seven games) then No. 1 plays No. 4, No. 2 plays No. 3, the two winners play for the gold, and the two losers play for bronze. It's impossible to tell at this point what your record may need to be to advance to the medal round.

The eight teams in the event are Cuba, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Canada, Netherlands, China and the USA. Japan, who has sent 24 of their major league players, and Cuba are the favorites.

Korea is obviously talented, having shut down their professional season during the Olympics to send their best. There are no easy games. China and Korea were 0-0 today in the 5th when their game got suspended, and Cuba edged Canada 7-6 tonight.

We bounced back well today, and now have to gear up for Cuba tomorrow, which is always a huge game. The international stage is what the Cubans live for. They have been together a long time and are playing very well right now. They opened up by beating Japan 4-2, in addition to tonight's win over Canada.

We'll send Trevor Cahill to the mound against them. You must pitch in side against them, throw your breaking ball for strikes and stop their running game.

Scout meeting tomorrow at 9:30 a..m.; first pitch against Cuba at 11:30.

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