Saturday, August 16, 2008

Team USA Evens Record, Downs Canada, 5-4

By: Dick Cooke
Phew. USA 5, Canada 4.

Perfect weather again, and the sun was shining just a bit brighter after a come-from-behind, nail-biter against the Canadians.

We passed on our scout meeting today, due to how early our game was (10:30), and the fact the scouts were out at games until late last night. Info. was passed on to the coaches via email, plus we had just played them four times in North Carolina before heading over here.

8:30 a.m. - Van leaves for the Wukesong Baseball complex.

9 a.m. - BP in the cages again. Canada is starting a right-hander, so I get Hessman and Barden. Some hitters take the day off from BP.

Hessman is still nursing the bruised heel, although it's better, and he has been given the go-ahead to play from Dr. Mattalino. Davey will use him only if needed in a pinch-hit situation.

Barden has already hit off of Roly, but likes swinging against me as well, as I can keep balls on the outside half of the plate to help him drive the ball the other way.

10:30 a.m. - Another big crowd, as lefty Brett Anderson takes the mound for us facing the Canadian line-up of eight left-handed hitters. It should be a great match-up for us, as Anderson is arguably our best starter and a projected front-of-the-rotation big leaguer.

But today he's not sharp, and Canada jumps out 4-0 after four. Anderson struggles throughout, and afterwards Lach says he's convinced Anderson pitched too much to the scouting report and got away from his strengths.

Pitchers often do this when they have too much information about hitters. When he faced Canada in ,Durham we knew nothing about their hitters, he trusted his stuff and dominated. He does get into the sixth, though, and then Davey brings in lefty Brian Duensing with two outs and a runner on.

Duensing is a starter in Triple-A for the Twins and started our gold medal game versus Cuba in the World Cup last November, but now serves as our lefty out of the pen. This may ultimately be his role when he gets to the big leagues.

Brian Barden puts us on the board in the fourth with a solo homer to right field (see BP...); we tie it at four on a double by Barden off of former big leaguer Chris Reitsma, and then we take the lead on a double by Tyler Tiffee in the seventh.

Duensing breezes into the ninth, but gives up a one-out single to the No. 8 hitter. He strikes out the No. 9 guy then faces USA nemesis Stubby Clapp with two outs and the tying run on first.

On a 3-2 slider, Clapp hooks the ball down the right field line, and the ball lands a good 3-4 inches foul. Tie game if it's fair.

Duensing returns to his fast ball, and Clapp hits the 89 mph pitch on the button but right at left fielder LaPorta to end the game.

A great job by our guys at the plate from the middle innings on, and a stellar job by Duensing. Three and a third innings of scoreless relief.

We're 2-2 now with a day off tomorrow and then China, Chinese Taipei and Japan to complete the first round. We don't think we can stumble again if we want to get to the medal round.

Jayson Nix had surgery after yesterday's game to close the huge gash over his left eye. The surgery went well, and he actually spent the night in the village in the room of one of our docs. He's out for the tourney, although he thinks he could play in a few days if we're still in it. The medical staff is not quite as optimistic. Without Nix we have 11 positional players with Hessman still not 100 percent. We're a bit limited in moves we can make.

The Cooke family arrives tomorrow, if all of their travel plans go according to plan. I went to the CoSport office this afternoon to pick up tickets that they had purchased to other Olympic events.

Using the perk of being on a USA staff, I had a driver take me to the CoSport office - which is on the opposite side of the city - in a USOC van which allowed us to travel in the "Olympic lane" and avoid the stop and go traffic which is the norm here. Had I taken a cab we would have been in that traffic and, if it were like most of the cab rides we've had here, gotten lost.

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