Monday, March 16, 2009

Venezuela-Puerto Rico, Hey Paella Man...

Venezuela vs. Puerto Rico! It's not team USA, but at least it's baseball. And Melvin Mora! Goooooal!!!


Rich Sutcliffe is going through the position players for each team and saying which has the advantage at each spot. Miguel Cabrera (Ven.) over Carlos Delgado (P.R.) at first - correct. Jose Lopez (Ven.) over Felipe Lopez (P.R.) at second - correct. And so on. For RF, the comparison was Bobby Abreu (Ven., 1.5 WAR last year) vs. Alex Rios (P.R., 5.4 WAR last year). Rios' defense was worth 2.31 wins. That is more than Abreu's offense (2.27 wins). It's no contest - Rios is way better. On the way through the positions I kept saying "don't pick Abreu, don't pick Abreu, don't pick Abreu." Then he picked Abreu. And I yelled "I knew he was going to pick Abreu!," and yet that knowledge didn't make me feel any better. It was like a Lewis Black moment. To the game:

Top 1:
  • I had absolutely no idea that Ian Snell was Puerto Rican - I always assumed he was white (and American). This happens all the time in baseball and it's always weird. I remember when I found out that Khalil Green was white - that one was really shocking, for some reason. (It goes the o
  • 95 mph on the black to K Gregor Blanco. Snell's bringing some heat in this one.
  • Down 0-2, Melvin inside-outs a pitch to right for a single. Very nice piece of hitting.
  • Magglio Ordonez is apparently friends with Hugo Chavez. That's pretty funny, but not to some Venezuelan fans.
  • Abreu can't check his swing on a slider and is Snell's second strike-out victim. Even #1 fan Rick Sutcliffe said he went around.
  • Miguel Cabrera leisurely swings at a slider and hits it ~420 ft off the wall in center for a double. Melvin stops at third and may be limping. Dammit. At least he's staying in the game.
  • Snell throws a 95 mph fastball past Carlos Guillen to strike-out the side. Maybe Pittsburgh won't be the worst team in the majors this year. (No, they probably still will be.)
Bottom 1:
  • It's King Felix on the mound for Venezuela. As USSMariner says, Happy Felix Day. Go Felix!
  • Mora is out at third on defense, but he still doesn't look right.
  • 1-2-3 and down goes Jesus Feliciano on a nasty slider.
  • Curveball on the outside corner (just off the corner really) gets Ramon Vazquez looking.
  • Just misses low with a couple fastballs to Beltran, who draws a walk.
  • Doesn't miss to Delgado, who knew it right away. Two half-innings; six K's. Now this is some serious baseball.
Top 2:
  • Maggs is greeted by some boo's (due to the Chavez connection), and then some more heat from Snell that he swings through. And then looks at it. Fourth K on the day.
  • Snell loses some command and walks Jose Lopez (who walked 27 times total in 2008 - that was a pretty good month for Barry Bonds at the end of his career).
  • Ramon Hernandez flies out (at least he put it in play) and Marco Scutaro singles to right to put runners on the corners.
  • Slow roller back to the mound bare-handed by Snell. He throws Blanco out at first to end the inning.
Bottom 2:
  • Rios apparently had a disappointing season in 2008, despite his 5.4 WAR (5.0 in '07). Because his HR went down and his doubles went up. And Sutcliffe didn't even start that one. Nice commentating, guys. Alex lines a fastball through the left side for a single, and may be running.
  • Rios is indeed off, on a hit-and-run (maybe - Sutcliffe doing his job well saying that it was likely a straight steal since Rios never looked back to the plate. Good job, Rick). Ivan Rodriguez hits a grounder towards second that gets kicked by Rios as he slides, though the ump didn't see it. The Puerto Rican manager argues, and the umps confer before coming to the conclusion that Rios is indeed out (the home-plate ump saw the play clearly).
  • Felipe Lopez flies out on the first pitch, and the youngest of the Catching Molinas (Yadier) walks.
  • Savvy veteran Alex Cora up. Wicked breaking-ball just low for ball one. Cora shrewdly flies out to left to leave two on. Snell and Feliz really are matching each other pitch for pitch.
Top 3:
  • It looks like the strike-zone has gotten a little bit smaller in the last couple frames.
  • After Mora flies out, Abreu works a walk.
  • Miguel Cabrera strikes out swinging on an 0-2 slider in the dirt, but Abreu steals second despite Molina making a pretty good throw from his knees.
  • Carlos Guillen lines a single passed a diving shortstop to give Ven. a 1-0 lead.
  • Ordonez flies out on the first pitch, but giving Felix even a small lead is always big.
Bottom 3:
  • Man, does Felix have some wicked stuff. I notice that I've used that adjective a couple of times, but I think it's quite apt. I can't wait till the O's have a guy that can approach this level of awesomeness on the mound.
  • A flyout and strike-out (swinging at a high tailing slider) brings Beltran to the plate. Carlos doubles down the third-base line passed a largely immobile Mora (I hope he's OK).
  • Delgado walks while Beltran steals third (with no throw). I don't think I've ever seen a guy run on a 3-2 count when he wasn't forced, and steal it on a walk.
  • And Felix may now be injured. He'll pitch to Rios, but his first pitch bounces in the left-handed batter's box.
  • After falling behind 2-0, Hernandez pounds the zone with a couple of strikes and then gets Rios to flyout to Abreu in right. Two more stranded.
Top 4:
  • Ramon Hernandez with a one-out single, and the P.R. team has the bullpen working.
  • Snell keeps the score at 1-0 by getting a groundout and a pop-up.
Bottom 4:
  • One pitch-one out, as Felix gets Pudge to ground to second.
  • Felipe Lopez goes down looking at a fastball tailing back over the inside corner.
  • Ramon actually playing defense, jumping out in front of the plate to throw Molina out on a short grounder.
Top 5:
  • Snell's gone, with some drop-down righty I've never heard of out there.
  • Mora grounds up the middle, but Cora runs it down and easily throws Melvin out at first.
  • Abreu flies out to deep left, and Miguel Cabrera strikes out on three pitches.
  • Alvarado (the pitcher) looks like he's tough on righties because of his motion, but not very good otherwise.
Bottom 5:
  • Felix and his mostly untucked shirt are still on the mound.
  • Cora goes down looking on a 3-2 slider. That pitch is really, really effective for Hernandez.
  • Case in point; Feliciano swings over the top of it for Felix's seventh K.
  • Vazquez gets a fastball in the middle of the plate that he rockets to deep right. Abreu and his -23 run defense (from '08) can't get to it and Ramon ends up on third with a triple.
  • Now the Venezualan pen is warming.
  • Ramon Hernandez blocks a ball in the dirt and the announcer talk about the lack of passed balls in the WBC. Oh, the irony.
  • Felix has actually reached the max pitch-count, so Beltran (who walks) has to be his last hitter. He pitched really well, and has put his team in position to win and move on to round three.
  • Lefty Carlos Vazquez comes in and strikes out Delgado swinging to leave two stranded (again).
Top 6:
  • 1-2-3 goes Venezuela in the sixth.
Bottom 6:
  • Enrique Gonzalez in to face Rios. A flyout to Abreu, and then another by Pudge.
  • Felipe Lopez grounds back to the mound. Quick inning for Gonzalez.
Top 7:
  • Alvarado is still out there for Puerto Rico.
  • Perhaps one batter too long. Ramon Hernandez crushes the ball to left, and it looks like it's a home run. (It was on a mostly straight 89 mph fastball right down the middle.) The ball bounces back from over the wall and the umps think it's in play. Ramon ends up at third, but the umps get together again. They have instant replay available, and the finally decide to use it. This is a first for me, seeing the technology in action. It seems that it's just a lot of waiting around until the umpire that's reviewing the play comes back onto the field. The ball clearly went over the scoreboard, so I don't know what's taking so long. Maybe the umps decided to take the opportunity to use the restroom or something. Finally they're back out, and rule it a home run. 2-0 Venezuela. Ramon takes a Molina-like six minutes to round the bases.
  • Marco Scutaro tries to bunt his way on, but slides into first and is pretty easily out. How very Melvin Mora of him.
  • JC Romero in to set up the lefty-lefty match-up with Blanco. Gregor bunts and is also easily thrown out at first despite not sliding.
  • Mora flies out to deep center to end the inning. I was kind of hoping he'd drop one down too, just to shows these guys how it's done.
Bottom 7:
  • Molina draws a lead-off walk, but is erased on the base-paths when Cora grounds to first. Alex beats the relay from second though, so the tying run is still coming to the plate.
  • Feliciano also rounds to first, but Cabrera just takes the force at the bag this time instead of making a throw.
  • Gonzalez gets Ramon Vazquez swinging on a 3-2 pitch for the third out. That was pretty big, with Beltran and the middle of the order coming up.
Top 8:
  • Abreu grounds weakly to first, but Romero didn't get to the bag in time to receive Delgado's throw and Bobby beat it out.
  • Saul Rivera relieves Romero, and gets Miguel Cabrera to flyout to a gliding Carlos Beltran in center. Beltran takes a lot of heat from some NY fans, but the guy is a great player.
  • Slow grounder to short, but Cora is able to charge it and throw Guillen out at first.
  • Ordonez grounds back to the mound to end the inning.
Bottom 8:
  • Ramon Ramirez is the latest Venezuelan reliver, and he starts his night by walking Beltran (who may try to steal another base).
  • Delgado lines out to second, with Beltran barely getting back to first.
  • Rios gets his second single of the day. Puerto Rico may not get a better chance to come back in this game, with Pudge coming to the plate and K-Rod warming up in the pen.
  • Rodriguez flies out, and the Ven. team is stalling a bit to give Frankie some more time to get ready.
  • With a 2-1 count on Felipe Lopez, Luis Sojo is going to bring in K-Rod. That's interesting - especially since Rodriguez doesn't have the best control on the mound and will start behind in the count.
  • An off-speed pitch gets Lopez, and the P.R. team has left two runners stranded yet again.
Top 9:
  • Ramon Hernandez with a one-out single. I've said a lot of bad things about Ramon, but he's really a pretty good player, and I was a fan of his going back to the Oakland days.
  • A pinch-runner steals second (barely - Molina made it really close despite back-handed the pitch in the dirt before throwing), and Scutaro works a walk.
  • That was former Oriole Fernando Cabrera on the mound for the start of that inning.
  • Pedro Feliciano relieves him and gets Alex Cora to ground into the inning ending double play.
Bottom 9:
  • Molina pops out - one down. The Venezuela fans are getting loud.
  • Cora watches a 94 mph fastball go by on the outside corner - two down.
  • Groundball to second; throw to first to end the game.
  • Venezuela shuts out Puerto Rico 2-0, and is moving on to the third round. P.R. faces the US tomorrow with the winner advancing and the loser going home.
  • Players of the game are Ramon Hernandez with his 3-4 day (including that HR) and Felix Hernandez with 7 K's in 4.2 innings.

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