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. Previous installments can be found here. This is a long post, so there is a JUMP after the first day. Also, hit any picture to make it bigger and more readable.
Another week of IBC action also began a new set of series: Panama at Korea, USA at Taiwan, Dominican at Colombia, Mexico at Netherlands, Australia at Italy, Cuba at Venezuela, Japan at Canada and Puerto Rico at Rest-Of-World.
Korea started the action with a 9-1 win over Panama, taking advantage of an 8-run 4th inning.
In Taiwan, Team USA again steamrolled a hapless opponent, routing Taiwan 13-0 with home runs by Matt Kemp (his 5th) and Paul Goldschmidt (his 3rd) along the way with Matt Harvey going 8.1 IP with 8 Ks and only 6 hits given up. Late in the game, Joe Maddon sent Josh Donaldson up to pinch-hit for Evan Longoria, “just so that I have something to do today.” He also put in Sean Doolittle to end the game after Harvey hit his pitch-count.
Nelson Cruz homered twice and Adrian Beltre and Starling Marte also hit round-trippers in a 11-1 Dominican win over Colombia, but Jose Bautista had to leave the game after getting hit by a pitch. His diagnosis was pending.
The Netherlands’ funk continued, as they lost to Mexico, 4-2. After beginning the season 9-0, the Dutch had gone 4-6.
In Nettuno, the Italians found themselves down to the Australian, 5-4, going into the bottom of the 9th. Three Grant Balfour strikeouts later, and it was over. Ned Kelly O’Shaughessy, of course, celebrated by drinking some of the local wine.
Later, in the Western Hemisphere, Jhoulys Chacin had a heck of a game as Venezuela beat Cuba 8-0, giving up only 4 hits over seven innings of work.
Up in Toronto, the Canadians upset Japan, 3-1, on the strength of a 2-run HR by Justin Morneau in the first inning and a nice performance by Shawn Hill and the Canadian bullpen.
A 3-run 8th by Team Rest-Of-World tied up the game with Puerto Rico at 3-3…. and that would be all until the bottom of the 10ths, where Jonathan Albaladejo walked Jabari Blash with the bases loaded for a walk-off walk and a 4-3 Rest-Of-World victory. Edwin Rodriguez could be seen with his face in his palm as the winning run walked across the plate. What a way to go.
(GO BELOW THE JUMP FOR MORE)
It turned out Jose Bautista’s injury was merely a day-to-day thing, much to the Dominican’s relief.
That news broke as Team USA and Team Taiwan started the second game of their series at 12:05 Eastern, Max Scherzer vs. Chao-Hao Cheng. Interestingly enough, Joe Mauer was starting the game… in Right Field. The explanation from manager Joe Maddon included something about the I-Ching, his horoscope, Giancarlo Stanton being slightly tired, and a hidden message he had found in his Alphabet Soup the night before. While Mauer didn’t get any hits in the 8-4 USA win (as Posey, Tulowitzki and Matt Kemp hit home runs), he didn’t make any mistakes in the outfield, so obviously Maddon knew something of what he was doing.
Korea survived a late rally to beat Panama, 3-2. Byung-Ho Park left with an injury (he was awaiting diagnosis) and Jung-Ho Kang had 2 RBIs.
In Italy, Alex Maestri had the game of the year for Team Italy, going 8 innings and giving up just one hit, while striking out 12. However, Italy didn’t score anything for him, as Tristan Crawford held them scoreless on 5 hits after 8. And the Italian bullpen blew the game with interest, allowing 5 runs in the top of the 9th on HRs by Justin Huber and Stefan Welch. The Australian bullpen also had problems, but not nearly enough to make a difference, and Australia won 5-1.
Mexico extended the Netherlands’ bad run, defeating them 7-3 on HRs by Carlos Manuel Rodriguez and Jorge Cantu. Andruw Jones and Xander Bogaerts homered for the Dutch in the loss.
Asdrubal Cabrera homered and Venezuela again beat Cuba, edging them out 4-3. Alfredo Despaigne and Frederich Cepeda homered for Cuba in the loss.
The Dominican went to 19-1 with a 5-2 victory over Colombia. To add injury to insult, Jhonathan Solano herniated a disk during the game, taking the Colombian catcher out for 6 weeks.
Canada again beat Japan, and became the first team to truly get to Masahiro Tanaka, who had a 0.28 ERA going into the game. Tanaka was hit for 4 ERs and ended up with a no-decision after 5.2 IP of work. It would be Jordan Lennerton double in the 8th off of Yoshihisa Hirano, however, which would bring home the winning run for Canada.
Finally, Puerto Rico beat Rest-Of-World, 3-2, thanks to HRs by Javier Baez and Enrique Hernandez.
Dae-Ho Lee hit 3 doubles as Korea beat Panama 6-3.
Team USA moved to 20-1 with a 6-3 win over Taiwan, as Matt Holliday homered and Clayton Kershaw struck out 10.
Mexico swept away the Netherlands with a 5-0 win, the Dutch’s 4th straight loss.
In Italy, the home team lost once again, being swept by Australia after a 4-2 loss. Justin Huber had a home run in the win. The win was Australia’s 4th in a row, and Ned Kelly O’Shaughessy was, not surprisingly, excited:
“Well, mates, with the four straight wins, our boys now find themselves, at the moment, only 4 games out of the last playoff spot! Huzzah! Advance Australia Fair! We’ll go Waltzing Matilda straight to victory!”
He was, needless to say, horribly drunk, but he was correct that Australia wasn’t that far out of a playoff spot. Still, there was a long way to go.
Robinson Cano hit his 7th HR of the year in the Dominican’s 3-1 victory over Colombia.
Yadier Molina and Kennys Vargas both homered as Puerto Rico edged out Rest-Of-World 6-5, moving up to 11-10 on the year for the Puerto Ricans.
Venezuela swept away Cuba with a 5-1 win that saw Oswaldo Arcia hit his 4th HR of the competition. It was a bit of a disappointment to many observers, who thought this would be a fun series to spotlight. Not that I’m… errr.. they were bitter or anything, but…
Japan was able to avoid a Canadian sweep, winning the rubber-game 5-3 despite Joey Votto hitting his 5th HR of the competition.
A snippet of news from Panama after the sweep in Korea:
But, anyway, a new group of series were to begin today: Colombia at Australia, Rest-Of-World at Japan, Taiwan at Italy, Canada at Dominican, Venezuela at Panama, Netherlands at USA, Puerto Rico at Cuba, and Korea at Mexico.
The first game? Colombia-Australia, where the Aussies were going for their 5th win in a row. Ryan Rowland-Smith kept the Colombians scoreless through 8, Dave Kandilas had homered, and James Beresford had gotten an RBI, and the Australians seemed to be on the verge of doing just that, although Trent Oeltjen had left the game with an injury.
We now go to Australian commentator Ned Kelly O’Shaughessy for the top of the 9th inning:
“Well, mates, Ryan Rowland-Smith is out to finish the match here in lovely Sydney, as our boys are just 3 outs away from their fifth straight victory. Huzzah! He’s struck out six and given up just four hits as the Baseballroos lead 2-nil right now.”
On a 2-2 pitch….
“And Cortes raps it on the ground! It’s going chockers quick, but Beresford has it…. the throw. And that’s one out!”
“And, wait a second. Yes, it appears that Grant !@#$ing Balfour is being called in from the bullpen to finish this game for us. A tad of a surprise, given how Rowland-Smith is only at 90 pitches, still, what could possibly go wrong? We’ll be right back after this…”
After commercials, Donovan Solano came to the plate, and then… this happened:
“Well, ain’t that a ripper? Still, we’re seeing a replay now up here in the booth, and it is definitely a case of catcher’s interference by Allan De San Miguel. Nothing to whinge about, I guess. I wouldn’t want to be him after the game if this turns into a dinkum of a mess. He’ll probably hear some of Grant’s fine poetry. Words like !@#$, !@#$, and maybe Mother!@#$er. Truly, a man after my own !@#$ing heart. Wait, what’s that? Oh, yes, sorry to all children listening to the game, again.”
“Now here comes Dilson Herrera.”
“Well, crikey, this inning is going to make me cranky. Two men now on, one out here in Blacktown Baseball Stadium, and here comes Giovanni Urshela, Colombia’s best batsman of the year so far, with two dingers a .353 average. This could get dangerous, mates.”
“And the pitch, and, oh no. Oh, that ball is high, deep… this might turn into a showbag…”
“No, wait, it dies at the track. Adamson has it, 2 outs. Pinch-runner Tito Polo moves from second to third.”
“Now, here comes Jorge Alfaro. And the pitch… fouled back. I’d like to thank my producer tonight, and also.. ball two. Oh, c’mon, Grant, get him out so I can go on a ripper.”
Two pitches later:
“And Alfaro gets under it! It’s going into foul territory, first-base line… and Justin Huber has it! That’ll be it, chalk another one up for Australia! Five in a row, mates!”
In Tokyo, Team Rest-Of-World and Team Japan wound up tied 1-1 after 9 innings. That was also the score after 10. Hiroki Kuroda came on in the top of the 11th for what was somehow his first appearance of the competition and pitched a scoreless inning. Jharel Cotton matched him. They went to the 12th. And there, in the bottom of the 12th, Japan took advantage of a would-be inning-ending muff by Rest-Of-World SS Ofilio Castro by following it up with a walk-off single by Tetsuto Yamada. Final: Japan 2, Rest-Of-World 1.
Taiwan beat Italy 3-1 in a fairly non-descript game.
In the Dominican, the home team beat Canada, 2-1, despite the fact they were held to only 4 hits by Erik Bedard. One of those hits, however, was a home run by Starling Marte, and another one of those hits was a triple by Albert Pujols that got him home on a Robinson Cano sac fly.
Panama upset Venezuela, 6-3, as Angel Chavez went 2-4 with a HR and 3 RBIs. Carlos Gonzalez homered in the Venezuelan loss.
Cuba beat Puerto Rico 3-0 on the strength of solo shots by Yasmani Grandal, Jose Abreu and Michel Enriquez.
With that game over, attention then turned to the meeting between the Netherlands and Team USA, which some thought, despite the recent struggles of the Dutch, could be quite a game. And….
OH MY GOD!
Again, those are after six innings. Mike Trout had already scored 5 times, the most of any player during the competition thus far, and the game wasn’t over yet. 14 hitters came to the plate in the bottom of the 2nd inning. Truly an epic destruction.
And, what’s even more remarkable: Team USA didn’t score at all after this point. But the Netherlands did, allowing for Mr. On-The-Air to give this immortal line in the top of the 9th:
Luis Ayala came off the DL for Mexico, forcing Alfredo Aceves to the reserve roster. But, more importantly, that morning saw Team USA manager Joe Maddon wake up with a start.
He had had a dream last night. In it, he had been visited by the Ghost of Babe Ruth. And the Spectral Sultan of Swat had a request of the American skipper:
“By the end of the season, I want to see your team have 30 runs or more in a game….”
“But why, Bambino? Why?”
“Because it’s be awesome….”
“I’m not sure if awesome was truly a word in that context when you were alive, Mr. Ruth.”
“Don’t call me Mr. Ruth, Joe.”
“And why are your words italicized, George?”
“Ugggh, this is a dream, now excuse me, I have ghost hot dogs and ghost beer to consume. Listen to me or else!”
“I don’t think Babe Ruth would use the word consume…”
And then he woke up. Immediately, he called his Bench Coach, Buck Showalter.
“Buck-o, Babe Ruth just visited me in a dream. He said he’d like it if we scored 30 runs in a game.”
“Go back to sleep, Joe. It’s 4 AM!”
Indeed it was. Japan had already beaten Rest-Of-World 11-1. But the dream still haunted Joe Maddon, so he decided to turn on Colombia-Australia. So he watched that, as the Australians won their 6th straight, 5-2, although Chris Oxspring left with an injury, which was a bad break for them.
And after that game was over, a commercial came on. A commercial that featured old footage of one George Herman Ruth.
Joe Maddon was not sure what to think of this coincidence. And throughout the day, the dream haunted him. Italy beat Taiwan 4-3 with help from a Chris Colabello home run for their second win of the competition, and yet, Joe Maddon barely acknowledged it when one of his players expressed surprise. An early scouting meeting about South Korea, Team USA’s next opponent, seemed to be an afterthought- he didn’t hear anything about how the Koreans had lost 4-1 to Mexico earlier.
Yes, Joe Maddon was a haunted man. And his haunter was one George Herman Ruth.
And perhaps that was what haunted Team USA during that night’s game against the Netherlands. A night after putting up 27 on Dutch pitching, Team USA was down 7-0 in the 7th inning. Stephen Strasburg had been beaten around for five earned runs and had only lasted 2.1 innings. Josh Donaldson had gotten hurt running the bases, and although it was just a soreness, Joe Maddon wondered if it was something else.
The Dutch scored 2 more in the 8th, and Team USA still did nothing. They lost, in a horrifying fashion, 9-0.
He fell to sleep, and he dreamed. He dreamed of the Bambino demanding more runs, more hits… more dingers.
“Welcome to Under The Knife, I’m Jeff Jiff with your injury report.
Taiwan’s Yi-Chuan Lin will miss the next five weeks with a high ankle sprain. Center-Fielder Chih-Yao Chan has been called up from the reserve roster to take the 3B’s spot.
Chris Oxspring was diagnosed with back spasms, he’s day-to-day and should be ready for his next start for Australia.
The Dutch got a nice upgrade in their bullpen as Kenley Jansen was taken off the DL. Duko Jansen was sent to the reserve roster to make room for the closer.
For Under The Knife, I’m Jeff Jiff.”
Ned Kelly O’Shaughessy didn’t make it to the final game of the Colombia-Australia series due to what he would later describe as a “Dingo-related incident”, and it was probably for the best, as Australia’s win streak came to an end in a 5-2 loss to Colombia. Donovan Solano homered for Colombia.
Hisashi Iwakuma was masterful against Rest-Of-The-World, taking a no-hitter into the 7th and ending the game with a 1-hit shutout as Japan won 4-0. He struck out 11 along the way.
The Italians seemed to just be 3 outs away from a 3-2 win and their second straight (!) victory over Taiwan, but then Kuo-Hui Kao walked and Hong-Yu Lin homered… and the flood gates opened on what would end up being a 6-run inning. Taiwan took the game and the series with the 8-3 victory.
In a surprising result, Canada demolished the Dominican, 10-2, to hand the DR it’s second loss of the season. Justin Morneau went 3-4 with a walk, double, and 4 RBIs, while Pete Orr homered.
Cuba edged Puerto Rico, 3-2. Jose Abreu hit his 3rd HR of the competition, while Puerto Rico saw a home run from Kennys Vargas.
A 8th-inning 3-run HR from Oswaldo Arcia allowed Venezuela to beat Panama, 4-3.
In Boston, Joe Maddon was glad to see that perhaps Babe Ruth had not put a spell onto the USA bats, as they went nuts on the Dutch pitching for a 13-0 win, including Mike Trout’s 5th HR. Matt Harvey went 6.2 IP, giving up 4 hits and striking out 12.
Behind 5 hits-including 2 HRs!- from Dae-Ho Lee, Korea beat Mexico 8-6 in 10 innings.
An off-day around the league. Korea learns the news that Byung-Ho Park would miss 3 months with concussion problems, and so Ho-Joon Lee was called up from the reserve roster.
And as Team USA flew to South Korea, Joe Maddon dreamed:
“Joe, it’s me again. Babe Ruth.”
“Look, do you have any idea how hard it is to score 30 runs! Even the worst pitcher can get people out by accident, and you can’t expect me to just run up the score, it’s not sportsmanlike.”
“But it’d be cool!”
“Babe Ruth definitely wouldn’t have said cool…”
End of Week 4
As Week 4 ended, Australia learned that Trent Oeltjen would be out for 6 weeks with a quad problem, the Dominican learned that Carlos Gomez had suffered a setback and would be back over a week later than expected, and Puerto Rico got similar news about Andres Torres.
The Standings after 4 weeks:
Last in the league but first in our hearts, Team Italy is far less capable than it’s real-world WBC counterpart due to the fact that they lack American players of Italian descent- they only have players either actually born in Italy (such as Alex Liddi) or who spent significant amounts of time there (such as Chris Colabello, who spent parts of his youth there). So let’s take a look at the Italians:
(All rosters, lineups and the like are as-of the end of Week 3 and start of Week 4)
Team Italy’s Coaching Staff and Personnel:
GM: Fictional placeholder (I never got around to having one, but since there aren’t any trades, free agents, etc, it doesn’t make that much of a difference)
Manager: Marco Nanni (Bologna)
Bench Coach: Doriano Bindi (San Marino, which is technically another country entirely and of which Bindi was born in, but I made a mistake and made him the bench coach for Team Italy, so just roll with it)
Pitching Coach: Fictional Placeholder
Hitting Coach: Mike Piazza (often does hitting coach duties during WBCs)
Team Trainer: Fictional Placeholder
Scouting Director: Fictional Placeholder
Active Roster Hitters (click to embiggen):
Reserve Roster Hitters (click to embiggen):
Reserve Roster Pitchers (click to embiggen):
Next Time: Team USA faces Korea and Venezuela! Cuba faces Japan and the Dominican! Italy and Colombia have a meeting of two of the competition’s two worst teams! And, we’ll look at league leaders as the first month of the IBC comes to an end!