Sunday, March 22, 2009

USA-Japan, Defense Is Important

After some between-round roster restocking (Evan Longoria replaced the injured Chipper Jones), Roy Oswalt looks to shutdown the previous WBC champion, Japan. The US is still starting Mark DeRosa at first-base for some reason, and Jeter at short instead of Rollins (who's DH'ing). My memory of Davey Johnson was that he's a very good manager, but he hasn't shown optimum roster usage thus far (if the goal is to win).

Top 1:
  • Brian Roberts with a drive to dead center-field, and it's gone for a lead-off home run. Two pitches in, and it's 1-0 USA. Looks like someone is ready for the season.
  • After a Jeter groundout, Rollins bloops one into short center that falls just between the center-fielder and the shortstop for a single.
  • Wright grounds out weakly, and then Dunn strikes out looking to end the inning.
Bottom 1:
  • Ichiro! starts things off for team Japan. Slow bouncer to Roberts, who throws him out at first.
  • Oswalt gets the second batter looking with a nice 94 mph fastball on the inside corner.
  • And he starts the next hitter with a 72 mph curveball for a strike. That is a serious adjustment the batters need to make. Groundball to first with a toss to Oswalt covering for the third out.
Top 2:
  • Daisuke Matsuzaka gets a lot of movement on his fastball, but it doesn't have the velocity I expected (88-91 instead of 93-95). He walks McCann, but leaves him stranded.
Bottom 2:
  • A HBP and a singles puts runners on the corners with nobody out.
  • A one-out sac fly ties the game at 1-1, but Oswalt is able to avoid any further damage.
  • At least Roy's looking a lot better on the mound than Dice-K.
Top 3:
  • Roberts chases a splitter (?) out of the zone for Matsuzaka's second K.
  • Jeter grounds out for a second time, before Rollins laces a single into right-field. And Jimmy is first-pitch running, stealing second due some help from a high throw.
  • Wright brings him in with a double to deep right-center field - he gets a slider moving away from him and just flicks his wrists at it. That nice piece of hitting gives the US back the lead, 2-1.
  • With first-base open, Adam Dunn gets what looks like an unintentional intentional walk.
  • There's already some action in the pen for Japan, but they won't need it yet as Daisuke throws a high fastball by Braun for the third out.
Bottom 3:
  • Good job by Wright at third to charge and bare-hand a bunt and throw the runner out by a half-step.
  • Ichiro! tests Wright again with a hard grounder. The third-baseman knocks it down, but his throw goes by DeRosa at first and Suzuki ends up at second.
  • A flyout and a pop-out leaves him there though.
Top 4:
  • First 1-2-3 inning of the day for Daisuke. Bullpen's still warming though.
Bottom 4:
  • Lead-off single just passed a diving Roberts at second.
  • Single to center and Japan has something going again.
  • Kosuke Fukudome grounds what should be a double play ball to second, but the hop eats up Brian Roberts and goes into right-field. The error ties that game at 2-2, and puts runners on the corners with no outs.
  • Flyball to Dunn in right is deep enough (at least with his arm) to bring in the runner from third. Japan is on top, 3-2.
  • Now it's Dunn's range, as he can't run down what would be a routine flyball for Nick Markakis. The resulting triple extends the lead to 4-2. The US pen is getting ready, even though it's been more the defenses fault than Oswalt's.
  • Single to short right makes it 5-2. The WBC isn't double elimination anymore, so if the US loses then they're out.
  • Ichiro! grounds out to third, with Wright having no chance to turn two.
  • Double into right-center on an inside-our swing, and it's 6-2. That's it for Oswalt. Despite pitching OK, they're bringing John Grabow in.
  • Groundout finally ends the inning.
Top 5:
  • Roberts grounds towards second-base, but it's actually the shortstop ranging far to his right that makes the play.
  • Jeter with a line-drive single up the middle.
  • Rollins works a walk. One big swing and the US is right back in the game.
  • Wright goes down looking on a fastball that was at least three inches outside. That'll be Daisuke's last hitter. Despite being generally outpitched by Oswalt, he the one with the lead.
  • Lefty in to face Dunn. The pitcher falls behind 3-1, but comes back to K the Big Donkey and leave a couple runners stranded.
Bottom 5:
  • Grabow sets the side down in order. Now they need some offense.
Top 6:
  • McCann gets a one-out walk, but the US can't score. Still 6-2 Japan.
Bottom 6:
  • Now it's JP Howell's turn to keep the deficit at four. He gives up a pair of singles with a flyout in between.
  • Any more runs, and this game may be out of reach for team USA. Howell is able to get out of the jam, with a groundout and a K.
Top 7:
  • Jimmy Rollins with a two-out triple down the right-field line, but Wright can't bring him in. Outs are getting scarce.
Bottom 7:
  • Matt Thorton is the third consecutive lefty coming out of the pen for the US.
  • He has the best night yet, striking out the side.
Top 8:
  • Braun pulls a one-out double down the third-base line.
  • McCann with a very good at bat, works a free pass.
  • Mark DeRosa doubles down the third-base line. The ball bounces around in left, allowing both runners to score and DeRosa to get to third. Lead is down to 6-4, and Evan Longoria will come to the plate for Granderson as the potential tying run.
  • Longoria's going for it too, taking some big swings at mid-90s fastballs and fouling them back. A diving splitter finally gets him to swing overtop of it.
  • It'll take a hit now to bring DeRosa in, with Roberts comung to the plate. Brian hits a grounball up the middle, but the pitcher is able to snag it and throw him out.
  • They're still down, but with only a two-run deficit (hopefully), they'll have a chance in the ninth.
Bottom 8:
  • And it'll be Joel Hanrahan's job to make sure the score doesn't change.
  • Not a good start, as Fukudome draws a walk.
  • A sac bunt and a groundout moves the runner to third with two down.
  • Grounder to Jeter at short, but his throw pulls DeRosa off the bag at first and the runner from third scores to make it 7-4.
  • Scot Shields relieves Hanrahan, and allows the runner to steal second almost immediately.
  • Basehit by Ichiro! infront of Dunn in right brings the lead back up to four at 8-4.
  • Double into right-center scores Suzuki. 9-4.
  • Groundout to second finally ends the inning. It'll take some mighty big fireworks in the ninth for team USA to come back in this one.
Top 9:
  • Yu Darvish in to close this one out for Japan. Darvish throws pretty hard, and has a very interesting delivery where he almost stops mid-way through.
  • Jeter grounds out to short - one down.
  • Rollins strokes another single into right-field. It'll take a bunch of baserunners to pull this out.
  • Wright can't check his swing and heads back to the dugout - two down.
  • Dunn looks at a 96 mph fastball at the knees - three down.
Dunn's lack of range in right; DeRosa's lack of familiartiy with first-base; Jeter at short instead of Rollins; Roberts being a step down from Pedrioa with the glove (though - in all fairness to Brian - Pedroia is hurt and Roberts has hit well for the team). The difference between these two teams in the game was their defenses. The US made mistakes (or just weren't very good), and Japan didn't (and was). Final is 9-4. Japan moves on to faces Korea for the fifth time in this WBC (they're 2-2 thus far). The US goes home disappointed again. It's kind of interesting that without the versatility of Mark DeRosa, the injuries may have prevented the team from even getting this far. We'll see what happens in 2012.

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