Thursday, August 21, 2008

Team USA Earns No. 3 Seed in Medal Round with 4-2 Win over Japan

By:Dick Cooke
Both we and Japan have clinched spots in the medal round going into tonight's game, so we'll be playing for the No. 3 and 4 seeds. Tonight's winner plays Cuba; the loser gets Korea, who is undefeated.

3 p.m.  - Scout meeting to review Japan. They have great pitching, great defense, speed in every spot in the order, but have not swung the bats very well in this tourney. They were the favorites coming in.

No one knows who will pitch, as both clubs will most likely throw a number of guys to prepare for the medal round. The dilemma we face is trying to win the game, but also not overextend pitchers so they are all available Friday.

We will start Trevor Cahill, and we decide to limit him to three innings or a 45 pitch maximum. Japan's best arm is a right-handed pitcher named Darvish, but the scouts doubt he will pitch tonight and will go in the medal round opener.

Laporta is still not 100 percent, nor is Nix, but both will take BP today. Once again we have 10 available positional players. Everyone is asking who we would rather play - Cuba or Korea, and it truly doesn't matter. We played both close in this tourney, so we'll take them as they come.

3:45 p.m. - Van to Wukesong. Later departure today, as we are the visitors so there will be less down time before the game.

5:20 - BP. We think they may throw a lefty, so I throw to the first group. We only have two groups of five hitting, since we're down two positional players.

After BP we spend time with Bob Costas, who has joined the NBC president, who is throwing out the first pitch. Costas is a great baseball fan and knows a lot about our team as minor leaguers in addition as to how we've done thus far.

7 p.m. - Surprise. Japan starts their ace Darvish, but he only goes two innings as a tune up. 94 mph fastball, 86 mph slider, change-up, split finger, strike thrower.

Their next two pitchers shut us down holding us to just two hits through 10, both of which are by Dexter Fowler. Cahill goes three scoreless for us and is followed by Cummings for two, Duensing for one, and Neal and Stevens for two.

We enter the 11th scoreless with five hits total between the teams. Here comes the dreaded IBAF tie breaker.

We start the 11th with, as expected, Donald and Fowler at first and second, and Barden at the plate - the same set-up we used against Cuba.

 Everyone in the ballpark waits for the bunt by Barden. Davey lets him swing, and he drives a fastball up the middle to score Donald and move Fowler to third. Guts of a burglar.

By the time the inning ends, we have scored four and effectively taken away Japan's ability to bunt in the bottom half. Casey Weathers comes on for the 11th and strikes out the first hitter.

First and second, one out. Fly ball to center for the second out, as the runner advances to third. Base hit, and it's 4-1, runners on the corner.

Single to left, 4-2, runners at first and second, winning run at the plate. Passed ball, then an intentional walk to load the bases, tying run at second, winning run at  first. Weathers throws an 0-1 86 mph slider and gets a pop-up to end it.

Good result, but still no one cares for the new format. It has come into play in at least five games in this tourney.

We're 5-2, we're tired, we're glad we won and now have Cuba at 6 p.m. Friday. Steven Strasburg on the mound.

Off day tomorrow and, with rain expected, Davey cancels our workout. It will be a long wait until Friday.

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