- Dutch eliminated in WBC, 9-3
Team Hollandaise was sent packing in spectacular fashion by the heavy-hitting American team last night. The USA pounded the Dutch pitchers for nine runs on twelve hits, including a two-run homer by Jimmy Rollins and a solo shot by Adam Dunn. The Dutch, on the other hand, eked out a mere three runs (though they also had twelve hits). Things got a little chippy in the eighth, when Bryan Englehardt spent a little too much time admiring his solo shot (the Dutch were down 8-1 at this point) off of reliever Matt Lindstrom. Lindstrom proceeded to throw behind Vince Rooi, and both benches were warned. That was about as close to any actual fighting as the two sides got, and the Dutch would score one more run on a sac fly before the US put the game away in the bottom of the inning.
As I’ve said before, the Americans had a lot more on the line in this game than the Dutch. The US was absolutely embarrassed in the 2006 WBC when they failed to make it past the first round. They had already been humiliated by the Puerto Ricans, and a loss by the underwhelming Netherlands team would have struck a blow to the already-flagging interest in the tournament on the part of American baseball fans. The Dutch, on the other hand, weren’t even expected to win a game in the WBC, let alone knock off a Dominican team that was loaded with major-league talent. Losing to the Americans will do nothing to diminish interest in baseball or the WBC in the Netherlands, considering that there wasn’t much to begin with.
There is some bad news for Team USA (and the Marlins): Matt Lindstrom has a strained rotator cuff and will be unable to pitch for at least 10 days. This isn’t the first time the Americans have suffered injuries in the WBC, Chipper Jones, Ryan Braun, and Dustin Pedroia have all suffered injuries of varying seriousness. While none of these guys are likely miss any of the season, fans and baseball executives alike are all nervous about their favorite players suffering devastating injury in a tournament that isn’t very important to them. This is one of the major criticisms of the WBC: that it is held during spring training, when guys aren’t quite in game-shape and are much more injury-prone. It has gotten so bad that Team USA manager Davy Johnson has threatened to forfeit the tournament if anyone else gets hurt.
- Twins fall to Yankees 5-1
I’m not going to harp on the lack of offensive production in Sunday’s game at Steinbrenner field, considering that the lineup was full of guys who have no chance to make the team this year (though the few regulars who were in did pretty well, except for Denard Span). I’m also not going to rake anyone over the coals for the piss-poor defense, either. While no Twins players were actually charged with any errors, those of us who actually saw the game know better. There were some defensive miscues by the infield, and a dropped pop fly by SS Trevor Plouffe that led to some not-so-earned Yankee runs. While Glen Perkins officially gave up three earned runs on five hits, in truth he probably gave up one earned run on three hits. Other than that, the pitching was really good (aside from Bobby Keppel, but he’s probably going to start the season in AAA). Nick Blackburn pitched two spotless innings in relief, and gave up only one hit while recording a strikeout. Blackburn is scheduled to make his next start on Tuesday, as the soreness in his knee is apparently gone now. Philip Humber will start in his place today against Baltimore.
By the way, Perk is apparently fine after getting hit in the calf by Hideki Matsui’s broken bat (he even got Matsui to sign it). He wanted to come back out and pitch the fourth, but the team decided not to take any chances on the projected fourth starter for a spring exhibition game and put in Nick Blackburn instead. He should make his next start against the Yankees on Friday.
Andy Pettite looked really sharp on the mound for the Yanks, shutting out the Twins for three innings. More importantly, though, Jorge Posada caught three innings without experiencing any pain in his shoulder. He also went 2-for-2 and plated a pair of runs. That is very good news for Yankee fans who already have enough to worry about as it is.
- Twins vs O’s
The Twins were hitting! And not stranding that many runners for once! Most importantly, Denard Span went 2-for-3 with a triple, which is his first extra-base hit of the season I believe. Span has been struggling at the plate so far, and it appeared in yesterday’s game against the Yankees as though his timing was off. It was pretty clear that he was seeing the ball well, as he was taking a lot of pitches and was working some deep counts. However, he would end up either grounding out or popping out, and it appeared he was a little in front of the ball. Hopefully Span has finally found his swing. Joe Crede hit a two-run homer in the third with two outs, that put the Twins on top for good. Crede hasn’t been having a good spring, either, but considering that he only played in 91 games last year because of his back, and that he tends to be a bit of a slow starter, it’s a little too early to panic just yet.
And Philip Humber pitched well, giving up no hits and no runs while striking out two in his two innings of work. Actually, the only runs given up by Twins pitchers were by guys who will most likely spend the season in Rochester: Armando Gabino (leadoff homer to Aubrey Huff) and Sean Henn (another leadoff homer to catcher Guillermo Rodriguez). Oh, and Rule 5 draft pick Jason Jones gave up one run on four hits in two innings. I’m not sure if Jones is going to remain on the roster or not. Although the Twins will have to offer him back to the Yankees if they choose to send him down, it doesn’t sound like the Yanks are too interested in him so some sort of deal might be worked out.
- Still No Mauer News
There’s still no official word on what is ailing Joe Mauer. According to the Star Tribune, he was in the clubhouse this morning and seemed to be in a good mood, so maybe there isn’t anything seriously wrong. While it would be nice to know what, if anything, is going on, I doubt it is serious otherwise there would have been some sort of announcement by now. At least that’s what I keep telling myself, anyway.
- Great Googly Moogly: Netherlands upset Dominican Republic in 11 innings
This has to be one of the greatest baseball games I have ever seen, period (boy, am I glad I decided to spring for that MLB.tv subscription even though I don’t have any money). Actually, most of these WBC games have been better than a lot of World Series games in recent years. It’s been a series of stunning upsets so far: Italy over Canada, Australia over Mexico (and nearly over Cuba, too) and now the Dutch have knocked off the Dominican Republic. I don’t think anybody gave Team Hollandaise a chance to win this one, I know I certainly didn’t. I thought the DR lineup was too potent, and that they were going to come out swinging. And I was partly right, they did come out swinging, but unfortunately everything they hit barely made it to the warning track. I wouldn’t exactly characterize this game as a pitcher’s duel; the DR kept threatening to break the game open, but the Dutch pitching staff kept making pitches when they needed to. The Dominican staff was brilliant (somebody give Pedro Martinez a job) through 11 innings, who recorded a combined 15 strikeouts (10 of which were by Ubaldo Jimenez! That has to be some sort of record) and held the Dutch hitters to a mere five hits.
When the Dominicans scored the first run in the top of the 11th on an error by Gene Kingsale, I figured that the Dutch were done for. They don’t have a potent offense, and they hadn’t been able to manufacture any runs against any of the DR pitchers. Carlos Marmol was coming in, and it looked like the game was over. But then Sidney de Jong hit a leadoff double to deep left center, and suddenly the Dutch were back in business. de Jong then advanced to third on a groundout, and all of the sudden the tying run was 90 feet away with only one out. Kingsale, who made the crucial error in the top of the inning quickly redeemed himself by singling to right, and started one of the most miraculous rallies I have ever seen. Kingsale advanced to second on a bad pickoff attempt by Marmol and then came around to score the winning run on an error by first baseman Willy Aybar, who will be known as the Dominican Bill Buckner from now on.
And to Mike Francesca or any other blowhards who whine about how the WBC is essentially a series of meaningless exhibition games: kindly shut the hell up. This game meant a lot to the Dominican Republic, a proud people with a great baseball tradition. And now it sure as hell means a lot to the Dutch.
- Crisis Averted (For Now): Joe Mauer is apparently fine
Further testing has revealed that Joe Mauer simply has an inflamed sacroiliac joint in his back. His doctors are going to put him on stronger medication, and he ‘s going to rest for a few days, and that should be that. The pain he’s been experiencing has nothing to do with his kidney surgery (evidently it is located in his right buttock), and once again, he should be ready by opening day. The good news is that the pain hasn’t been holding him back from participating in most baseball-related activities. He can hit, catch, and throw with ease, but wasn’t able to run very well (which is kind of important if you intend to get on base).
Obviously this is great news, though I’m still a little concerned that Mauer might not be ready for Opening Day and that he will continue to have problems throughout the regular season (that awful Dome turf certainly isn’t going to help). The lineup has been struggling to score runs without the M&MVP boys, though they have still managed to win most of their spring training games. The Twins have been stranding a lot of runners, though, especially in today’s game against Baltimore when they left 29 men on base. While the pitching has been good enough to keep them in the games so far, the Twins might as well forget about making the playoffs if they don’t score any runs.
More importantly, whether or not Mauer can stay healthy this year will weigh heavily on the organization’s decision to offer him a contract extension. By all accounts, the Twins are interested in signing him, and Joe reportedly wants to stay, but it doesn’t make sense to spend so much money on a player who might spend half of the season on the DL. I’ve weighed in on the pros and cons of signing Mauer to a long-term deal before, and I’m extremely torn about the idea. On the one hand, Joe is one of the best catchers in baseball, and nobody wants him to remain a Twin more than I do. But not if he isn’t going to be healthy.
The Twins are off today, and there’s no Mauer news yet, so here’s a look at what our guys have been doing in the WBC:
- Justin Morneau: Was completely useless for Canada in his first game against the U.S. While he went 4-for-5 against Italy, it wasn’t enough and the Canucks fell 6-2 at Rogers Centre last night. It was either a stunning upset, or epic failure depending upon which side you were on. Anyway, Morneau will arrive at camp in time for tomorrow’s contest against the O’s and some well-deserved razzing from his teammates.
- Jesse Crain: Made only one appearance for Canada last night, and struck out all four batters he faced. You know, it’s really no mystery why Canada failed to make it past the first round. I mean, look at their starting rotation. Perhaps they should have put Crain in to start. Anyway, I guess I’ll be jumping on that Team USA bandwagon now.
- Nick Punto: Well, Little Nicky hasn’t been that productive at the plate, but his glove has been good enough to help Italy advance to the second round. Um, except in today’s game against the Venezuelans, that is. Punto had a crucial error on a routine ground ball to short that allowed a couple of runs to score and put Italy behind 4-0. Looks like he’s going to be joining his Canadian teammates back in Ft. Myers.
- Luke Hughes: The 3B prospect went 2-for-3 with a solo homer for Australia, helping them upset Mexico in a 17-7 thumping on Sunday night (they also set a WBC record for hits, with 22). He hasn’t been too bad on defense either, turning a double-play to end the second and prevent Mexico from extending what was a three-run lead at that time. I guess somebody wants to go north with the big-league club this year.
- Luis Ayala: Hasn’t had a chance to pitch for Mexico, yet. I guess that’s a good thing in a way, I would hate for him to be the one that gave up umpteen runs to a team that doesn’t even have any major-leaguers on its roster. Still, I would like to see what he has, since he’s probably going to have to carry the bullpen this year. Maybe it would’ve been best if the Twins insisted he stay with the team, but I know they don’t like to deny anyone the chance to represent their country in the WBC.
- Bert Blyleven: The pitching coach for a surprisingly feisty Dutch team. And the Dutch have indeed pitched well so far, limiting their opponents to five runs in the past couple of games. They upset the Dominican Republic on Saturday, and threatened to upset the Puerto Ricans yesterday. However, I think the upcoming game against the DR will be the end of the line for Team Hollandaise. Their offense has been somewhat lacking, having scored an astounding four runs so far. Plus the Dominicans have the whole revenge factor going for them, since they’re still apparently angry over what happened the last time.
In other news, the
Mild Wild will be losing to taking on the Sharks at the X tonight. Well, the Sharks are without Evgeni Nabokov and Rob Blake, so I guess the Wild have a chance to win. Or not.
The last time the Sharks were in town, this happened:
Perhaps our boys will pull off a miracle yet again. Their playoff hopes depend on it.