Sloppy USA falls, Japan can not win

August 13th, 2008

At the evening game of Olympic Baseball on first day, Korea proved they can beat USA and Cuba once again show their ability at international baseball.

Game 3: Game Summary(Box Score)

Team          1 2 3  4 5 6  7 8 9   R   H  E LOB
United States 1 0 0  0 2 1  0 0 3   7  12  1   7
Korea         0 2 1  0 3 0  0 0 2   8   9  1   3

From Jeff Faraudo of Bay Area News Group:

The U.S. baseball team had a chance Wednesday to answer Cuba.

But it couldn’t close the deal.

The day after two Cuban players said Japan will be their chief competition for a gold medal in what may be the final Olympic baseball tournament, the Americans dropped their opener, falling 8-7 to South Korea.

The Americans rallied from a 6-4 deficit to take a 7-6 lead on Matt Brown’s two-out, two run single in the top of the ninth but closer Jeff Stevens surrendered two runs in the bottom of the ninth, sabotaging himself with a wild pick-off throw that put the winning run 90 feet from home plate.

The South Koreans capitalized when Lee Jong-wook delivered a sacrifice fly to center to score Lee Taek-keum with the winning run.

Stevens, who pitches in the Cleveland Indians’ organization, came on as the fourth pitcher for the U.S. and immediately gave up a line-drive double down the left-field line to Jeong Keun-woo.

Jeong moved to third on a groundout scored the tying run when second baseman Jayson Nix threw wide to the plate after scooping up a ground ball. Lee was safe at first on the fielder’s choice.

Things went from bad to worse when Stevens fired a pick-off attempt over the head of first baseman Brown, sending Lee to third.

USA Manager Davey Johnson said Brown was listening to instructions from the dugout and didn’t see Stevens’ throw.

“That was basically the ball game,” Johnson said.

The U.S. hit two home runs, the first a solo shot leading off the sixth by Nate Schierholtz, who plays for the Giants’ Triple-A club in Fresno. Mike Hessman blasted a solo shot in the ninth.

The U.S. faces the Netherlands today (Beijing time) and will play the powerful Cubans on Friday (Beijing time). A’s prospect Trevor Cahill is expected to draw the starting pitching assignment against Cuba.

Game 4: Game Summary(Box Score)

Team  1 2 3  4 5 6  7 8 9  R  H  E  LOB
Japan 0 0 1  0 1 0  0 0 0  2  9  1    7
Cuba  0 1 1  0 2 0  0 0 X  4  9  1   12

From AFP Havana, Cubans use win to celebrate Castro’ 82 birthday.

Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro, who has not been seen in public since falling ill two years ago, quietly turned 82 on Wednesday, as many Cubans instead celebrated an Olympic baseball victory.

Castro, who has not been seen in public since a July 2006 stomach operation for an undisclosed illness, maintains local and international influence through comments in newspapers, and has appeared in videos with visiting heads of government.

But Castro’s birthday coincided with an Olympic baseball match in China between Cuba and Japan and many on the baseball-crazy Caribbean island were glued to their radios to follow the game.

“Of course it’s the birthday of the Commandante (Castro) who I respect more than anyone, but it’s also an important match for our baseball team,” said one government worker, celebrating his team’s 4-2 victory.

And losing some best player to Major League Baseball might influence Japan’s Olympic goal, write AP.

If only Daisuke Matsuzaka, Ichiro Suzuki and Kosuke Fukodome had been in China instead of the majors, Japan might have done better against Cuba in their Olympics opener Wednesday night.

Alfredo Despaigne went 3-for-4 with three RBIs and Norge Luis Vera pitched six solid innings to carry Cuba past Japan 4-2 in a rematch of the finals from the inaugural World Baseball Classic in 2006 — and a preview of the finals, if both teams live up to expectations.

“It was a very difficult game,” Cuba manager Antonio Pacheco said. “It’s always important to win your first game in the Olympics.”

Each starting lineup featured five players from the Classic finale, which Japan won 10-6. The teams actually have met since then, with Cuba beating Japan in the semifinals of the lower-profile Baseball World Cup last November.

“Today, just today, they are better than us,” Japan manager Senichi Hoshino said. “But the Japanese team is good.”

The Cubans have owned the Olympics, winning three of the four gold medals, including the last one, and taking silver the other time. With baseball going off the schedule in 2012, and not guaranteed to return after that, Cuba would love nothing more than to go out on top. And Japan, with only one silver and two bronzes, would also like to leave a better impression on the history books.

On Wednesday, Fidel Castro’s 82nd birthday, the weather was miserable — hot, humid and a constant haze that looked like a fireworks show had just ended. Then rain came in the eighth inning, although loud supporters of both teams never stopped cheering and chanting.

The teams made nice before things got started at Wukesong Baseball Field, exchanging pins before the head of Japan’s baseball federation threw the opening pitch to Cuba’s catcher.

Some inside heaters in the early innings set a different tone. So did a fastball to the backstop on the first pitch from hulking reliever Pedro Luis Lazo against Munenori Kawasaki, who was 2-for-2 with two runs at the time, and a hard slide to break up a double play by Hiroyuki Nakajima, Kawasaki’s pinch-runner after he ended up singling off Lazo.

Both teams wasted great chances to break things open in the early innings, but neither pushed more than one run across at a time. Cuba led 1-0 in the second and 2-1 in the third, but Japan tied it again in the fifth.

Japan starter Yu Darvish, likely to join “Dice-K” as a big-league starter one day, got out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the second, then struck out Cuba’s cleanup hitter Alexander Malleta with the bases loaded in fourth. But after opening the fifth with a walk and a hard-hit double, he was gone.

Despaigne greeted reliever Yoshihisa Naruse with a liner to left that drove in both runners.

There were fewer scoring threats after that, with fresh arms from the bullpen dominating hitters possible drained by the muggy weather.

Takahiro Abe opened the ninth with a single off Lazo, but he was stuck there. Lazo retired the next three batters, ending the game with a called strikeout of Nakajima.

Vera (1-0) gave up two runs on seven hits with two strikeouts. Lazo gave up two hits and fanned two in three innings for the save.

“I already know that I have the talent,” Vera said. “Next time, I think I need to have more control.”

Darvish (0-1) allowed four runs in four innings, with four walks, seven hits and six strikeouts.

“He was not in good form,” his manager said. “He didn’t do his job today.”

So first day’s four games is over, unexpectedly Korea let world knows their performance of World Baseball Classic can be reproduced, and Cuba remain one of the favorite team to win another Gold in final Olympics.

As for USA and Japan, they both need to regroup and forgot their lost, and face the other six game at the Preliminaries.

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