Cuba Survives, Japan wins

August 14th, 2008

At the evening games of Olympic Baseball Second Day, Cuba defeat Canada 7-6 despite less hits, and Chinese Taipei once tie with Japan but failed at the 9 inning and got an 1-6 lost.

Game 7: Game Summary(Box Score)

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

From Bob Duff of Canwest News Service:

As Yogi Berra might say, it was deja vu all over again for Canada’s Olympic baseball team.

Here they were, late in the game, holding a two-run advantage over Cuba, positioned to deliver the upset.

Then the Cubans upset those plans.

Two-run homers by Alexander Malleta and Alfredo Despaigne in the sixth inning erased a 5-3 Canadian lead, powering Cuba (2-0) to a 7-6 victory over Canada (1-1) on the second day of the Olympic tournament.

So close, but once again, no Cuban cigar.

“We know when we come out here, we’re in a game,” said Canadian second baseman Stubby Clapp of Windsor, Ont. “You can’t let up on them. They always come back.”
Usually, to haunt the Canadians.

“This is the type of game of we play every time,” Clapp said. “We’re just one hit away, one swing away from winning the game.”

The outcome was starkly familiar to the semifinal of the Olympic baseball tournament four years ago in Athens. In that game, Canada carried a 3-2 lead into the eighth inning before the Cubans exploded for six runs, then held on for an 8-5 triumph.

Emotionally devastated, Canada performed dismally in an 11-2 loss to Japan in the bronze-medal game.

While disappointing, at this stage of the tournament, this setback shouldn’t set Canada back in similar fashion.

“It’s better to lose a game like this early in the tournament than later on when you can’t do anything about it,” said Canadian manager Terry Puhl, a native of Melville, Sask.

“That’s the best part,” added Clapp. “We got it over now.

“It’s our turn next.”

Two games into the tournament, the Canadians have displayed plenty of power. Outfielder Mike Saunders of Victoria has homered in both games, while outfielder Nick Weglarz of Stephensville, Ont., clouted two homers against the Cubans.

After Cuba grabbed a 3-0 lead in the second inning, Weglarz completed a Canadian rally, tying the score at 3-3 when he hit a solo shot to lead off the fourth inning, a long homer that banked off one of the flagpoles in centre field. His two-run bomb in the sixth gave Canada a 5-3 advantage.

“On the first one, I was looking for my pitch and I got it,” Weglarz said. “The one I hit to right field, I was just trying to get the runner over.

“We’ve got a lot of power on this team. We’re a good hitting team.”

While they’ve displayed a propensity for the long ball, the Canadians’ ability to come up with the timely hit spelled their demise against the Cubans, stranding five runners in scoring position.

“That’s baseball,” Weglarz said. “You can’t always execute.”

The Cuban game was the beginning of a gauntlet of baseball powers for Canada in this tournament. The Canadians play South Korea (1-0) on Friday. The Korean game against China on Thursday morning was halted by rain and will be resumed Sunday.

Following that, it’s showdown with the United States (1-1) on Saturday, then after an off day, a showdown with Japan (1-1) on Monday.

The top four teams in the eight-team tournament through round-robin play advance to the medal round.

“Yes, this is one we let get away,” Puhl said of the loss to the Cubans. “But if we continue to play with this kind of intensity, we’re going to be in the medal round.”

Game 8: Game Summary(Box Score)

Team            1 2 3  4 5 6  7 8 9   R  H  E LOB
Japan           0 0 0  0 1 1  0 0 4   6  9  1  8
Chinese Taipei  0 0 0  1 0 0  0 0 0   1  4  0  3

From China post:

Taiwan’s baseball team was defeated by Japan 1-5 in a long 9-inning battle at the Beijing Olympic Games.

The Taiwanese team was rated an underdog versus the strong Japanese team for the evening game, but the players managed to take an early 1-0 lead over Japan at the end of the 4th inning while pitcher Hsu Wen-hsiung successfully held the Japanese scoreless.

Hsu was relieved by left-hand pitcher Ni Fu-teh at the end of the 5th inning after a solo homerun by the Japanese catcher to tie the game 1-1.

After a Japanese player reached 2nd base, Ni was replaced by the third pitcher Chang Chih-chia.

Chang struck out a Japanese batter, but was unable to stem the next hitter who allowed Japan to take the lead 2-1 in the 6th inning.

Both teams were unable to score in the 7th inning. However, the Japanese team widened its lead to 6-1 to wrap up the intense competition.

This was the first defeat for the Chinese Taipei team after they blanked the Netherlands in a 5-0 victory Wednesday that also saw Cuba beat Japan 4-2.

The Taiwanese players are scheduled to take on the Chinese baseball team at 10:00 a.m. in Beijing today.

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.

Lim Chang Yong not for Olympic

July 4th, 2008

Because Daniel Rios did not pass drug test, South Korean closer Lim Chang Yong is not get permission to play Beijing Olympics, according to Kyodo.

The Yakult Swallows have refused to release South Korean closer Lim Chang Yong to play for his country at the Beijing Olympics, senior Yakult official Kesanori Kurashima said Friday.

”We were gladly willing to have Lim go to the Olympics, but then we had the unexpected doping test failure by Daniel Rios, making it difficult for us to release him,” Kurashima said. ”Lim has agreed to our decision.”

Last week, Yakult announced the release of Rios after the right-handed starter was handed a one-year suspension for failing a drug test.

Yakult has informed the Korea Baseball Organization of its decision.

Lim joined Yakult this season on a two-year, $800,000 deal with a club option for a third year after posting a 104-66 career record with 168 saves in South Korea. He has earned 19 saves and had a 2.17 ERA as of Thursday.

Not good news for Korea Team.

Team Japan to warm up vs NPB stars

July 1st, 2008

According to Yomiuri Shimbun, Japan’s Olympic team to warm up vs NPB stars

Japan’s Olympic baseball team plans to play a pair of warmup games against selected players from the Central and Pacific leagues in August, just ahead of the Beijing Games, it was announced on Monday.

The Olympic team, made up of Nippon Professional Baseball’s top stars, plans to take on a select group of 24 players at Tokyo Dome on Aug. 8-9. The opener starts at 6 p.m., while the second game is slated for 2 p.m. the next day.

There will be no limit on the number of foreign players for the all-stars, to be headed by Nippon Ham skipper Masataka Nashida and Yomiuri manager Tatsunori Hara. Tickets for both games will go on sale to the public on July 12.

I believe it will draw lots of crowd at Tokyo Dome on Aug. 8-9.

Team Japan names 39 final candidates

June 20th, 2008

According to Kyodo, Japan release their 39 final candidates of 2008 Beijing Olympic Baseball Team.

Japan manager Senichi Hoshino kept Uehara, who has pitched in major international events such as the Athens Olympics and the World Baseball Classic, on the roster although he has been sent to Yomiuri’s farm team and is recovering from leg problems after a rocky start to the season.

But Lotte Marines right-hander Hiroyuki Kobayashi, Rakuten Eagles left-hander Kohei Hasebe and Chunichi Dragons infielder Masahiko Morino were left out of the roster because of disappointing showings this season as Hoshino and coaching staff reduced the team’s roster to 39 from 81.

The three players were on the team that won the Asian Championship in Taiwan last December to earn an Olympic berth.

”We had a hard time picking 39 guys because so many players are injured. I hope the members will compete with each other without picking up injuries,” Hoshino said.

The team is scheduled to announce the final 24-man roster in mid-July.

Japan will face three-time gold medal winner Cuba in its opening game of the Beijing Olympic tournament. Japan is looking for its first Olympic gold medal since baseball became an official medal sport in 1992. The country has won a silver and two bronzes with one fourth-place finish.

Japan’s roster

Pitchers — Koji Uehara (Yomiuri Giants), Kenshin Kawakami, Hitoki Iwase, Kazuki Yoshimi (Chunichi Dragons), Minoru Iwata, Kyuji Fujikawa, Tomoyuki Kubota (Hanshin Tigers), Yu Darvish (Nippon Ham Fighters), Yoshihisa Naruse, Shunsuke Watanabe (Lotte Marines), Tsuyoshi Wada, Yuki Kume, Toshiya Sugiuchi (Softbank Hawks), Masahiro Tanaka, Hisashi Iwakuma (Rakuten Eagles), Hideaki Wakui (Seibu Lions)

Catchers — Shinnosuke Abe (Yomiuri Giants), Akihiro Yano (Hanshin Tigers), Ryoji Aikawa (Yokohama BayStars), Yoshiyuki Ishihara (Hiroshima Carp), Tomoya Satozaki (Lotte Marines), Toru Hosokawa (Seibu Lions)

Infielders — Michihiro Ogasawara (Yomiuri Giants), Masahiro Araki, Hirokazu Ibata (Chunichi Dragons), Takahiro Arai (Hanshin Tigers), Shuichi Murata (Yokohama BayStars), Shinya Miyamoto (Yakult Swallows), Tsuyoshi Nishioka (Lotte Marines), Munenori Kawasaki (Softbank Hawks), Hiroyuki Nakajima, Yasuyuki Kataoka (Seibu Lions)

Outfielders — Yoshinobu Takahashi (Yomiuri Giants), Kazuhiro Wada (Chunichi Dragons), Norihiro Akahoshi (Hanshin Tigers), Norichika Aoki (Yakult Swallows), Atsunori Inaba (Nippon Ham Fighters), Saburo Omura (Lotte Marines), Takahiko G.G. Sato (Seibu Lions)

Can’t wait for the final 24.

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