Throughout the year, I’ll be posting updates of a simulated league from Out Of The Park Baseball 2016 made up of national “dream teams” to determine what the greatest baseball country on Earth is… or something like that. The introduction can be found here.
The 2015 International Baseball Competition got off to an early start. As in, 4:05 AM Eastern levels early, as Liam Hendriks of the Blue Jays organization delivered a ball to Korean center-fielder Yong-Kyu Lee. It would be Yong-Kyu who would have the inglorious fate of being the first player in the IBC to be hit by a pitch later in that at-bat:
Well, everyone has to be famous for something, I guess. And history would record that the next hitter, Yong-Taek Park, would be the first player in IBC history to strike out, and that Dae-Ho Lee would be the first player to get a hit: a single up the middle, moving Yong-Kyu to second. Sadly for Korea, Yong-Kyu, no doubt thinking more of great fame and firsts, then tried to become the first player in IBC history to steal a bag… only for Matt Kennelly to ensure he would only be known as the first player to be caught stealing.
Such is fame. Byung-Ho Park flew out to left, and the first half-inning of the competition was in the books.
To the mound for Korea was Hyun-Jin Ryu, the Dodgers pitcher. And aside from a 2-out walk to Justin Huber, he pitched just like the MLB pitcher people expected in that first inning.
The same couldn’t be said for Hyun-Jin in the second inning, however. After Hendriks got through the top of the inning one-two-three, Ryu gave up a single to 2008 Phillie Brad Harman, a groundball single to Braves farmhand Matt Kennelly, and then a sharp lining double down the left-field line from Matt’s brother, Tim. And so, Tim Kennelly’s name would go down in history as the first hitter to drive a runner in in the International Baseball Competition.
And that would not be the end of the scoring: the next batter, Mitch Dening, blooped a short outfield single to bring home Matt Kennelly. It was only after that that Ryu found his old form again and got the last three batters out, 1-2-3.
The game then entered a time of relative nothingness, as both pitchers calmed down, with nothing happening in the third or fourth innings. In the press box, however, some sports writers turned on to the Continuum Baseball News Network livestream to see that Puerto Rico and Japan had started in the Tokyo Dome.
Liam Hendriks luck would keep going until the 6th inning, and then the wheels came off. The radio call by Ned Kelly O’Shaughessy, Australian announcer who would soon go viral as the “Drunk Aussie Hawk Harrelson”, is too vulgar to be printed here, but here’s what appeared online at Continuum Baseball News’ gametracking service:
Yong-Taek Park’s go-ahead HR, of course, was the first in the history of the International Baseball Competition. Fans in Australia never heard the rest of the inning, however, because Ned Kelly O’Shaughessy, in a fit of rage destroyed his mic. However, fans in the greater Sydney area were able to hear him simply because his screaming after Byung-Ho Park escaped the rundown was just that loud.
Sadly, this also meant that Australians were unable to hear Tim Kennelly tie it up in the bottom of the inning with a groundball single. Whoops. Happily, that also meant they missed the Bum-Ho Lee pinch-hit single in the top of the 7th that put Korea ahead 4-3. So, eh, call it a mixed bag.
Meanwhile, in Tokyo, the Yuya Hasegawa scored on a Tetsuto Yamada sac-fly to put Japan up 1-0 in the bottom of the 4th inning. In Taipei, Cuba and Taiwan started.
The game went on, but the score stayed the same in Australia, and so, the first game in IBC history ended, 4-3 South Korea.
But other games went on.
In Japan, Masahiro Tanaka finished off 8 innings of shut-out ball, giving up only 4 hits to Puerto Rico. And then, his AL East countryman, Koji Uehara, came in and slammed the door, striking out Kennys Vargas, Javier Baez and Carlos Beltran in order for the save.
At Sinjhuang Stadium, the homestanding Taiwanese won 3-1 behind a nice start by Wei-Yin Chen and some timely hitting against Cuba.
And, like that, suddenly there were no games going on. Well, there were no games going on until 1:05 PM, when the European powers would face off at Stadio Steno Borghese. And, after two fairly uneventful innings, Italian starter Alex Maestri- who pitches in Japan- walked Xander Bogaerts and then foolishly gave Wladimir Balentien a fat fastball that he deposited 447 feet into center field to give the Honkballers a early 2-0 lead. It would prove to be perhaps the only major offensive highlight of the game, because the eventual 3-0 Dutch victory would see it’s major star be on the mound, as Rick Vandenhurk 1-hit the Italians over 8.2 IP while striking out 12.
And so, after four games on three continents, the International Baseball Competition finally got to the Western Hemisphere, and with a doozy: Venezuela at the Dominican. Felix Hernandez vs. Johnny Cueto. Every player in the starting line-ups an MLB player, with the exception of Jose Lopez, who now plays in Japan but had once been an All-Star for one year with the Mariners.
It started less than ideal for the Dominican, as Jose Reyes airmailed a Jose Altuve grounder into the first-base seats, allowing Altuve to get to second on the E6. Victor Martinez- who was asked to catch this game- then ripped one to right for an RBI single. 2 batters in, no outs, Venezuela led 1-0.
Johnny Cueto then struck out Miguel Cabrera, Oswaldo Arcia and Carlos Gonzalez to get out of the inning. Pedro Martinez, in the booth, said something funny. People laughed.
In the bottom of the second, the Dominican would get back at the Venezuelans with a vengeance, as Adrian Beltre followed up a Nelson Cruz single with a 2-run dinger to put the DR up on top 2-1… which Johnny Cueto promptly prepared to hand right back. He walked Gregor Blanco, Altuve singled, Blanco moved to third on a fielders choice, and then, inexplicably, Cueto plunked Miguel Cabrera. Pedro Martinez, in the booth, made a grim joke. Everybody laughed, nervously. Oswaldo Arcia came to the plate… and then promptly hit a sac fly at the first pitch he saw. 2-2. Carlos Gonzalez then grounded out, and Cueto escaped danger again.
At 7:05, as the top of the 4th ended in Santo Domingo, two more games started, as Team Rest-of-World came to the plate against Panama and Clayton Kershaw took the mound against Colombia. The greatest pitcher on Earth welcomed Colombia to Fenway Park by striking the first three hitters out swinging, and Team USA scored it’s first run of the year in the bottom of the 1st on a Giancarlo Stanton sacrifice fly.
In Panama, the home team drew first blood with a Ruben Rivera 3-run bomb.Back in Fenway, young Dilson Herrera of the Mets organization led off the top of the second with a triple to right, taking advantage of his speed and a funny hop to get third. Giovanny Urshela of the Indians organization then doubled him home to tie it up. This affront to American Baseball led Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports to begin a column about how it meant something, or something like that. Of course, the USA got the run right back on a Evan Longoria sac-fly in the bottom of the second, so he had to start the article all over again. And then Colombia tied it again in the top of the 3rd on a Reynaldo Rodriguez double, forcing Jon Paul Morosi to again restart.
It remained 2-2 in Santo Domingo in the top of the 7th inning. With one out, Cueto walked Jose Altuve (I mean, he probably would have hit a nice beautiful clean single, anyway, so…) and was then pulled for Kelvin Herrera. Altuve welcomed Herrera to the game by stealing second. A good move, it would turn out, as Victor Martinez soon grounded to second for what would have been a sure double-play if not the steal. Miguel Cabrera then came up… and grounded out on a weak nubber.
Well, that was a bit of an anti-climax to the inning, huh?
Meanwhile, down in Monterrey, the Canada-Mexico game started, the last game of the day to start. In Boston, Andrew McCutchen found a Jose Quintana pitch he liked and knocked it into the seats to make it 3-2 USA. In Panama, the score stood 4-1 in favor of the Panamanians.
In Santo Domingo, a tough break occurred for the Dominican, as Kelvin Herrera left with an injury after a walk of Asdrubal Cabrera, leading to men on first and second (Carlos Gonzalez on second) with two outs. Antonio Bastardo was called in to relieve the injured Herrera, who was diagnosed with a mild shoulder inflammation that would keep him out for about a week.
At almost the same time as Pedro Martinez mused in the booth about making a comeback, Adrian Gonzalez made the crowd in Monterrey very happy, hitting a solo shot off James Paxton to put Mexico ahead 1-0 in the bottom of the 1st. Antonio Bastardo struck out Jose Lopez to end the inning. It remained tied, 2-2. After Wilin Rosario struck out swinging, Tony Pena decided to make a substitution, sending out one “Albert Pujols” to pinch-hit for Carlos Gomez. Pujols promptly showed why he was Albert Pujols by getting a hit. The go-ahead run was at first. But, back in Boston, Donovan Solano hit a 2-run triple to give Colombia a 4-3 lead in the top of the 5th. Jon Paul Morosi once again began his column. As he furiously typed, in Santo Domingo David Ortiz hit a soft hit that allowed Pujols to get to third, and, what’s more, Papi was able to motor his way to second as the throw came in after Pujols. Up to bat came Jose Bautista. The count was 2-2, and Felix Hernandez stared in. Mr. On-The-Air had the call…Yes, thanks to Asdrubal Cabrera’s great play, the score remained 2-2, as the teams headed into 9th.
Joaquin Benoit took the mound for the Dominican. He struck out Blanco, but then Jose Altuve, to the surprise of absolutely nobody, hit a clean single. It’s what he does. Then came Victor Martinez, who singled. Altuve made it to third. Runners now sat on the corners with one out, and Miguel Cabrera coming to the plate. He flew out to shallow right. Oswaldo Arcia now came up, and on the first pitch he saw, he hit it on a line to left. Altuve scored. 3-2 Venezuela. Benoit would strike out Carlos Gonzalez to end the inning, but the damage was done.
Ozzie Guillen called upon Yusmeiro Petit of the Giants to come out of the bullpen.
But the Dominican wouldn’t roll over yet! Edwin Encarnacion took a swing at the first pitch he saw, and knocked it against the left-field wall for a stand-up double. He moved to third on a Encarnacion groundout. The tying run now sat 90 feet away, and up came Adrian Beltre, who had homered earlier. The 2-0 pitch was to his liking, and he whacked a hard-hit grounder into left field. Encarnacion scored, and the game was tied, 3-3!
Ozzie Guillen came out, pulled Petit, and gave the ball to another Giant, Jean Machi. Machi would strike out Reyes and Rosario, and the International Baseball Competition had it’s first extra innings contest! Joaquin Benoit came out for his second inning of work, and it started… interestingly.Truly, this was a day for the IBC record books. Asdrubal Cabrera bunted Sandoval over to second, and for a split second it looked like Jose Lopez had finally gotten through with a hit… until Jose Reyes got to the ball and stabbed it out of the sky. Two outs, man on second. Benoit didn’t care, though, and struck out Gregor Blanco to end the half-inning. The Dominican would come up with a chance at a walk-off.
In Boston, as all this happened, Jon Paul Morosi again needed to restart his article. For, you see, Evan Longoria had hit a 2-run HR to give Team USA a lead in the bottom of the 6th. Meanwhile, Panama led “Rest-Of-The-World” 4-2 in the bottom of the 6th, and Canada and Mexico were tied in the top of the 4th.
Felix Pie, who had replaced Pujols’ spot in the line-up so that the Dominicans could have a CF, led off. The now Korea-based Pie was plunked by Jean Machi. Hey, whatever works, I guess.
Up to bat came Cano with the winning run on first. Pie, then, started to mess a bit with Machi. Three times he would throw to first.. and the third time would prove the charm, as Pie was called out! A big break for the Venezuelans, especially since Robinson Cano singled immediately following that. The luck continued for Machi, though. He struck out Big Papi… and then picked off Robinson Cano as well! To the 11th inning the game went, where Al Albuquerque would strike out the side. Once again, the Dominican would have a chance to send the fans home happy with a walk-off.
Jean Machi started the inning by walking Jose Bautista. Bautista got to second on a groundout. Bautista then advanced to third on a long fly-out by Nelson Cruz. Once again, the Dominican seemed on the edge of victory… and once again, the Dominican failed, as Adrian Beltre simply hit a can of corn to center for the final out of the 11th inning.Al Albuquerque began work on his second inning, as Oswaldo Arcia led off. He worked the count full… before walking him. He was replaced at 1st by Carlos Gonzalez after a fielder’s choice, but then CarGo stole second with Pablo Sandoval at the plate. The Kung Fu Panda walked… and then Asdrubal Cabrera struck out and Jose Lopez grounded into a fielder’s choice.
Meanwhile, in Boston, Evan Longoria hit another home run, making it 6-4 in the bottom of the 8th. Panama had finished off Team Rest-Of-The-World, 4-2, and Mexico had taken a 2-1 lead on a Agustin Murillo HR.
It wouldn’t be until the 13th inning- after Team USA had polished off Colombia 6-4, that the tie would finally be broken. It would be the top of the inning, and Pedro Strop took the mound for the Dominicans. It started off well, as he struck out Gregor Blanco and got Jose Altuve to fly out.
But then he walked Miguel Montero.
And then Miguel Cabrera had a double to drive home Montero.
And so, in the bottom of the 13th inning, the Dominican was three outs from starting the season 0-1. Francisco Rodriguez took the mound again, having taken over with two outs in the 12th.
And then, the craziness continued. Cano reached on an Asdrubal Cabrera E6, and then, up came Big Papi, David Ortiz. Pedro Martinez started talking about how clutch he was, and then, Ortiz proved it:
“You see?”, said Pedro, “He is the man! He is the man!”
And so, with the Dominican now 90 feet away from victory, Ozzie Guillen stomped out, pulled K-Rod, and put in Hector Rondon of the Cubs. Jose Bautista was at the plate, and he would only need to hit it deep to win it…. but he merely popped up on the infield.
Up next: Edwin Encarnacion. Guillen ordered the intentional walk, and yet he had Rondon pitch to Cruz, eschewing the chance to load the bases and create forces at every base. Cruz worked the count, but ended up striking out on a 3-2 pitch as Encarnacion stole second to stop the possibility of a double play.
Guillen had Rondon pitch to Beltre, and he softly flew out. The game would go to the 14th inning, as Pedro Martinez declared to his broadcast partners that they could be there for awhile.
Strop worked a scoreless 14th, and so did Rondon.
In the 15th inning, Strop was starting to show signs of fatigue, and walked Gregor Blanco to start the inning. Pena stayed with him.
Altuve bunted, and Beltre made a nice but dangerous play, getting Blanco at second. But then, Strop hit Miguel Montero. Men were now on 1st and 2nd, with one out and Miguel Cabrera coming to the plate. Pena had seen enough. He called upon Rafael Soriano.
Down in Monterrey, the Canada-Mexico game ended, with Mexico winning 4-1. It had been the last game of the North American group to start, but the first of the North American games to start would be the last to end.
Miguel Cabrera would pop out, making him 1-7 for the game. Arcia would strike out, and the would-be Venezuelan rally was squelched.
Rondon sent down Cano, Ortiz and Bautista 1-2-3, and the 16th inning came. Soriano struck out CarGo to start the inning, but then Pablo Sandoval hit a ball extremely deep into the right-center gap. It bounced and stopped at the wall, and when the dust settled, the Kung Fu Panda was standing at third with a shocking triple.
But of course Soriano was able to strike out Asdrubal Cabrera and get Jose Lopez to fly out, so the game remained tied as they headed into the bottom of the 16th.
Rondon got Encarnacion to ground out, and then he was pulled for Ronald Belisario. He would retire the next two batters, and the game went into a 17th inning.
Pedro Martinez jokingly said that Pena had just called the booth and asked him to get loose, but the fact was, both teams still had relievers left in the bullpens: Venezuela still had Luis Avilan, Rafael Betancourt, Jeanmar Gomez, and Alex Torres, while the Dominican still had Jumbo Diaz, Joel Peralta, and Fernando Rodney. And, of course, there were also possible starters who could be used.
As far as actual hitters still on the bench, Venezuela still had Salvador Perez, Omar Infante and Avisail Garcia, while the Dominican had Wellington Castillo, Jhonny Peralta, and Hanley Ramirez.
Soriano walked Blanco to start the 17th. Altuve bunted Blanco to second.
And then, Miguel Montero, who had replaced Victor Martinez for defensive purposes after V-Mart had been pinch-ran for in the 9th, hit a sharp grounder into right. Blanco made a try for home, Bautista sent it home… and got him! The crowd in Santo Domingo- at least, those who still were there- went wild. There were now two outs, a man on second (Montero got to second on Bautista’s throw), and Miguel Cabrera, who was 1-7 on the day, came to the plate. Pena called upon Fernando Rodney to pitch.
Cabrera was able to work a 3-2 walk, but Rodney then struck out Arcia, so the game still remained 4-4.
Of course, the Dominican failed to score in the bottom of the 17th, with Felix Pie getting thrown out at second to end the inning.
The two Latin American titans would be playing two! To the 18th inning the game went, and it was becoming clear that it would take awhile for the hitters to recover from this game:
Rodney sent down the Venezuelans 1-2-3 in the top of the 18th, and then, finally, in the bottom of the 18th, it ended, as Robinson Cano saw a 0-2 pitch from Ronald Belisario and took a swing:
As the ball left the field, Pedro Martinez could be heard screaming: “IT’S FINALLY OVER!”
And, with the end of it’s greatest game, the first day of the International Baseball Competition came to an end, it’s box score something to behold:
The performances of the day:
Yes, the first day of the International Baseball Competition had been an interesting time, with good pitching, a 2-HR performance by Evan Longoria, and a 18-inning barnburner that ended with a walk-off.
1 day of games was down. 161 days were still left to go.
NEXT TIME: The rest of the first week.
(Thank you for reading this installment of “The International Baseball Competition”. Most times, it won’t be so long and focused on just one day. Usually, it will be on week-by-week installments, with the occasional focus on a particularly interesting game or series. However, there will be storylines I’ve made up to spice it up, as well as recurring characters like drunk foul-mouthed Australian announcer Ned Kelly O’Shaughessy and Pedro Martinez as Himself. However, all injuries and game results will be the result of the game.
So, thank you for reading, and hope to see you next time!)