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.
Team USA manager Joe Maddon spoke to his team in the visitor’s locker room of Jamsil Stadium:
“Gentleman, Americans, lend me your ears,” he said, as bench coach Buck Showalter sat silently, “We have played extremely well so far. We have gone 22-2, including games against some quality opponents.”
He paused for a second, “But we are about to enter one of the toughest parts of our schedule. Every game we have from now until May 13 is against a team that is .500 or very close to it. Korea, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Japan, the Dominican. So… go out there and make your country proud.”
He decided not to mention the whole “Babe Ruth ghost” thing.
And so, at 5:05 AM on the East Coast of the USA, Team USA took the field against Korea, a Kershaw-Ryu matchup.
In the top of the second, it looked like Team USA would score. Trout was HBP, Goldschmidt walked. Posey infield-flied, but then Ryu let loose a wild pitch against Tulowitzki that moved the runners to 2nd and 3rd. But then, Tulowitzki flew out to mid-shallow center, and Yong-Kyu Lee was able to unleash a tremendous throw in to get the tagging-up Mike Trout at the plate for the rare 8-2 double-play to end the inning.
And after that, the game was a pitching duel…. until the bottom of the 6th, when Dae-Ho Lee took advantage of a controversial HBP call that allowed Hyun-soo Kim to get to first by hitting a 2-run home run off of Kershaw to make it 2-0. Ho-Joon Lee then got a hit, then got to second after an equally controversial balk call, allowing him to score and make it 3-0 when Jung-Ho Kang was able to bounce one into left. A Jeong Choi double later, and it was 4-0, and Kershaw was yanked for Steve Cishek.
Team USA would score a run in the top of the 7th, but that would be all they’d get, as Korea pulled off the 4-1 win. Hyun-Jin Ryu was named the player of the game for his 7 innings of 5-hit ball.
But perhaps, Joe Maddon mused, they should have given the player of the game to Babe Ruth’s ghost. After all, Team USA had lost two of the three games it had played since he’d first shown up.
The other game in Asia that day was Netherlands at Taiwan, and the Dutch continued to struggle, falling 7-6 despite a HR from Wladimir Balentien.
As morning broke in the Western Hemisphere, news already came up that the Mexico-Venezuela game would not be played due to a forecast of bad weather in Caracas:
In Toronto, where weather is no worry thanks to the dome, the Canadians beat Australia 5-2. That was just the start of the bad news for Australia, though, as David Kandilas got hurt in the field and suffered a 2-week elbow contusion and Justin Huber bruised his elbow and would also be out for 2 weeks. In face of this news, Ned Kelly O’Shaughessy ordered a Molson and a Labatt, then poured them both together and mixed them, and then drank. A lot.
The Panama-Puerto Rico game had a short delay in the second inning due to rain, but it didn’t stop the home team Puerto Ricans from beating Panama 12-5 as Carlos Beltran went 3-4 with 2 RBIs.
The night games would be an eclectic mix: Italy and Colombia would be a match-up between two of the teams with the worst records in the league, Japan and Cuba would be a match-up between two of the best. And Dominican-Rest of the World looked like it could be a massive rout.
The Italy-Colombia game, in Colombia, was won by Italy, 7-4, moving them to 3-22 on the year and tying them with Colombia in the standings. Mario Chiarini homered.
Japan beat Cuba 6-3 in Havana, as Seiichi Uchikawa went 2-5 with a triple and a homer, racking up 4 RBIs. Yoshio Itoi also homered, while Masahiro Tanaka went 8 innings.
And, finally, the Dominican hit five home runs as they routed Rest-Of-The-World, 9-3.
GO BELOW THE JUMP FOR MORE:
“Hello, welcome to Under The Knife, I’m Jeff Jiff.
Today, Team Australia placed David Kandilas and Justin Huber on the DL, retroactive to last night. It’s a tough break for the Australians, who had been hot until recently.”
Just when it looked like it couldn’t get any worse for the Netherlands, it did. After 7 innings in Taipei, they were down 7-0. But that wasn’t the story. The story was Wei-Yin Chen.
Mainly, in the fact that he was 6 outs away from a no-hitter:
In fact, if not for the fact that Dai-Kang Yang had had an error in the 5th, it would be a perfect game.
But, there were still 6 outs left. Could Wei-Yin Chen do it, and throw the first no-hitter in International Baseball Competition history!?!
In the top of 8th, Jonathan Schoop grounded out. 5 outs away.
But then…. this happened:
Yes, of all the people, the 38-year-old Andruw Jones had broken up the no-hitter.
Still, the Taiwanese won 10-0 as the Dutch swan-dive continued, and Wei-Yin Chen still had quite the game:
In Korea, another pitching duel occurred. Going into the 9th, it was 1-1. Suk-Min Yoon had gone 7 innings of 3-hit ball without an earned run, but Team USA had taken advantage of a throwing error by Min-Ho Kang, who airmailed a throw to second… on a steal by Buster Posey of all people. Posey then scored on a Matt Carpenter single.
But the starter who had gone further was Chris Sale, who had given up just 3 hits in his 8 innings. And he sat watching from the dugout as Paul Goldschmidt hit a 1-out single into left field. That would be the last hit for Team USA in the 9th, however, and so Sale saw himself saddled with a mere no-decision as Joe Maddon called in Craig Kimbrel, who still hadn’t given up a earned run on the year.
Hyung-Woo Choi led off with a double, but then Kimbrel struck out the rest of them, taking a brief break to intentionally walk Dae-Ho Lee. To extra innings the game went.
And the 10th inning was rather anti-climactic. Buster Posey singled, then an out later was doubled home by Matt Carpenter. And then Craig Kimbrel struck out the side. Team USA won, 2-1.
“Screw you, Bambino,” said Joe Maddon, under his breath.
Later, Puerto Rico beat Panama, 15-8. But disaster struck in the 3rd inning, as Yadier Molina injured himself while legging out a triple. It truly was a site to see, but, alas, the engine couldn’t take that much strain. He would miss a week with a intercostal strain.
In the first game of a double-header brought about by the rainout the previous day, Felix Hernandez threw 8 shutout innings, giving up just 6 hits and striking out 9 as Venezuela beat Mexico, 3-0. Jose Lopez homered.
In Colombia, Jose Quintana set a Colombian record for strikeouts in a game, K’ing 12 Italians in 7 innings of work as the Colombians won 2-1. Harold Ramirez homered.
The Dominican again beat Rest-Of-World, 9-4. Wilin Rosario, Nelson Cruz and Albert Pujols all homered, while Yan Gomes hit one for Rest-Of-World.
In the second game of Mexico/Venezuela…. it didn’t go well for Venezuela, as Mexico beat them 10-4 as Jorge Cantu homered.
In Toronto, Canada scored 4 runs in the bottom of the 8th to beat Australia, 4-2.
And in Cuba… well, Japan went to the bottom of the 9th ahead 8-5, and the inning started out pretty well for Japan and Koji Uehara, too.
But then Yasiel Puig singled. And then Jose Abreu walked. And then Alfredo Despaigne singled, bringing Iglesias home. It was now 8-6 Japan, and although they were just one out away from victory, the bases still remained loaded. Junichi Tazawa was called upon to replace Uehara.
And then, with a 3-2 count… Yulieski Gourriel hit a walk-off grand slam!
Truly, a dramatic way to end the day of IBC action.
Dellin Betances was coming off the DL for Team USA, and the odd man out was, of all people, Madison Bumgarner, who was sent to the reserve roster. Huh.
However, that wouldn’t be the only roster move for Team USA, as in the 4th inning of their rubber-match with Korea saw Troy Tulowitzki hurt a finger while diving for a ball. And, there was the slight problem that they had no backup SS. So, Joe Maddon looked down his bench and saw Jonathan Lucroy.
“Lucroy, ever play short?”
“Okay, get out there.”
Once again, it was a barn-burner. Going to the 9th, it was tied 3-3. But in the top of the 9th, Buster Posey got hold of a Hyun-Jong Yang pitch and just barely curved it around the left field pole. And that meant that Craig Kimbrel started warming up in the bullpen, and when he came in, he got the save… although it was a bit more difficult, as a lead-off walk to Ho-Joon Lee made it dangerous as a sac bunt and a sac fly had moved Ho-Joon over to third before a Min-Ho Jang popup ended it.
Taiwan again beat the Netherlands, this time 6-1. Chin-Lung Hu hit a home run in the win. The Dutch had now gone 1-9 in their last ten games.
The Japan-Cuba series continued to be a classic. And going to the 9th it was tied at 3. There, though, Aroldis Chapman had control issues, and the Japanese were able to get a hold of the pitches that did get over the plate, scoring 4 runs that would be attributed to Chapman. The score would hold, and Team Japan would win the game 7-3. Hideto Asamura homered.
Carlos Correa, Javier Baez and Kennys Vargas all found the seats in a 8-4 Puerto Rican win over Panama. The win pushed Puerto Rico over .500 to 14-13 on the year.
Mexico, meanwhile, fell under .500, as Venezuela beat them 8-2. Oswaldo Arcia, Salvador Perez, and Carlos Gonzalez all homered, while Anibal Sanchez got the win for a 5-hit 1-ER 7 IP performance.
In Colombia, Julio Teheran was splendid, striking out 14 Italians over 7 innings of work, giving up just 3 hits and a earned run as the Colombians won 4-1.
In Toronto, the two Commonwealth Countries* were tied at 3, but Canada had two men on with two outs in the ninth. Veteran lefty Brad Thomas looked in on Jordan Lennerton (playing 1st for a Joey Votto, who had left game earlier with a minor injury that left him day-to-day), and delivered the 0-2 pitch… which was promptly slammed against the right-center wall for a double, bringing home Jamie Romak and Michael Saunders. Australia would fail to tie in the 9th, and so Canada walked away from the series with a sweep, while Ned Kelly O’Shaughessy enjoyed copious amounts of Canadian beer.
*Members of the Commonwealth of Nations, a group of countries that were once members of the British Empire and often but not always still have the Queen as their official, if ceremonial, head of state.
In Nicaragua, the Dominican finished it’s sweep of Team Rest-Of-World with a 4-2 victory. Virgin Islander Jabari Blash homered for Rest-Of-World in the loss.
EDITOR’S NOTE: A mistake was made with the Team USA roster when I put it together, in that I forgot to put a dedicated SS in for a backup on the reserve roster, so when I hit the button for the AI to figure out what to do with Tulowitzki injured, they brought up Billy Hamilton, who hasn’t played SS regularly since 2012. This, needless to say, was not what I had in mind, so I broke one of my rules here and stepped in, added Jimmy Rollins to the team, and then forced Team USA to put him in as the SS.
Jimmy Rollins was called upon to fill in for Troy Tulowitzki, and a new slate of games were set to stat on the final day of April: Rest-Of-World at Australia, Cuba at Dominican, South Korea at Netherlands, Canada at Italy, Japan at Panama, Venezuela at USA, Taiwan at Colombia, and Puerto Rico at Mexico.
The first game, in Australia, saw the home team eke out a 2-1 win, as Chris Oxspring was able to spread out 10 hits and only allow one earned run over 8 innings of work.
The Cuba at Dominican game was a slugfest, as the Dominican won 6-4 on the strength of homers from Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Bautista and Adrian Beltre, while Cuba saw Alfredo Despaigne go deep in defeat.
In a rare Italian win, Luca Panerati held the Canadians to 4 hits over 8 innings while Alex Liddi and Giovanni Pantaleoni hit home runs in a 4-0 win.
It was looking good for the Netherlands to finally break the fever, as they led Korea 3-0 going into the 8th… but then Korea scored 6 in the 8th to win 6-3. Ouch.
Kenta Maeda allowed only 5 hits in 7 innnings pitched as Japan beat Panama 5-0.
The first game of the Venezuela-USA series would see Carlos Carrasco take the mound against Matt Harvey at Fenway.
Venezuela would draw first blood in the 2nd, as Oswaldo Arcia knocked in Avisail Garcia. And Arcia would also be the one to draw second, third and fourth blood when he hit a HR in the 5th to make it 4-0.
Team USA, however, wouldn’t go down without a fight, and Matt Carpenter connected for a 2-run home run off Carrasco in the bottom of the 6th to make it 4-2.
However, Venezuela would score another in the 8th, to make it 5-2.
But Team USA would have one last chance in the bottom of the 9th. One out, but the bases were loaded. Yusmeiro Petit was to face Buster Posey…. and struck him out on a pitch that Posey thought was outside. Up next was David Wright… who flew out weakly to right. Final score: 5-2 Venezuela. As Ozzie Guillen did a funny dance in the Venezuelan dugout, Joe Maddon mused to himself whether he should call a witch doctor.
In other late scores, Taiwan demolished Colombia, 11-0, and Puerto Rico beat Mexico 6-3 as Kennys Vargas homered.
Awards for the first month of the year were given out.
Dae-Ho Lee of Korea won Batter of the Month:
While Hung-Wen Chen of Taiwan won Pitcher of the Month:
The hitting leaders looked like this (click to make bigger):
The pitching leaders (click to make bigger):
Team Hitting Statistics (click to make bigger):
Team Pitching Statistics (click to make bigger):
But enough about those statistics, what about the game from Friday, May 1?
The first game of the day, between Rest-Of-World and Australia, was postponed due to bad weather.
But as for the games that did take place?
The best of the earlier games was likely Cuba-Dominican. It was a back-and-forth game that went into extra innings after Jose Bautista struck out with the bases loaded in the ninth:
But the Dominican crowd went home happy, as Albert Pujols hit a walk-off HR in the 10th off Aroldis Chapman to win it, 6-5.
That wouldn’t be the only extra-inning contest, though, as Italy forced Canada into extra innings. Canada, however, wouldn’t let Italy beat them twice in a row, as Brett Lawrie hit a home run in the 10th and the bullpen held it for a 3-2 win.
Japan bounced Panama, 8-4, as Hisashi Iwakuma picked up the win and three different Japanese hit home runs.
South Korea beat the Netherlands- who now fell below .500- 8-2. Dae-Ho Lee, Jung-Ho Kang and Keun-Woo Jung all homered for Korea.
Looking to shake the Bambino, Joe Maddon shaked things up a bit and moved Jon Lester into the starting rotation and out of long-relief. And it worked out well, as Lester went 8+ innings in a 8-3 Team USA win. Mike Trout and Matt Kemp homered.
Taiwan beat Colombia 7-5 thanks to a late home run from Hong-Yu Lin.
And, finally, in Mexico the home team had a stunning 3-run rally in the 9th to edge Puerto Rico, 5-4, with the final play coming at the plate as Jose Manuel Rodriguez beat the throw from Javy Baez on a fielder’s choice.
The Colombians found out that Jorge L. Cortes (an Indy League OF in reality) had torn his labrum and would be out for 4 to 5 months. The very young Bryan Martelo (a rookie-leaguer in the Phillies organization in 2014) was called up from the Reserve Roster.
The Australians and Rest-Of-Worlders would play two games on May 2. The Aussies would win game 1, 5-3, behind a nice performance by Travis Blackley and a timely double by Corey Adamson. Rest-Of-World would get their revenge in game two, however, winning 9-2.
In the last of the morning games, Canada was held scoreless until the 8th, but then scored 5 runs, more than enough to beat Italy 5-1.
The Dominican-Cuban game again was close-fought, but again the Dominican came out victorious, 3-2, on the strength of HRs by Albert Pujols and Jose Reyes.
In Colombia-Taiwan, young Nabil Crismatt (a Mets super-low rookie leaguer!) filled in for a tied Ernesto Frieri and pulled out the save in a 6-5 win for the Colombians. Luis Sierra and Reynaldo Rodriguez homered in the win.
Korea continued to make the Netherlands miserable, beating them 8-5. Shin-Soo Choo had a home run.
Japan finished off the sweep of Panama, 9-5, as Yoshio Itoi and Yuhei Nakamura homered.
Puerto Rico was able to get the tying run into scoring position, but were unable to get him across, as Mexico beat them 2-1.
And so, the final game of the day would be final USA-Venezuela game of that series. Clayton Kershaw vs. Henderson Alvarez. Mike Trout would put Team USA on the board first with a 1-out 2-run single in the third, but then in the top of the 4th Salvador Perez would get a run back with a RBI single to make it 2-1.
A pinch-hitting Victor Martinez would tie the game up at 2 with a 2-out single in the top of the 7th, but overall Kershaw was great, going 7.2 innings with 11 strikeouts and spreading out eight hits.
Still, the two teams would remain tied at 2 after 9. And after 10. And after 11.
But then, in the bottom of the 12th, Buster Posey led off by getting to first on a Pablo Sandoval throwing error. He then was able to get to second on a gutsy steal that only worked because of a bad throw from Sal Perez. And then, that same at-bat, he was able to move to third on a Joe Mauer groundout.
And then Evan Longoria hit the game-winning single. Final score: USA 3, Venezuela 2.
The last day of the week, and the first day of new series. The Koreans regained Yong-Taek Park from the DL, and the new series prepared to begin: Korea at Taiwan, Mexico at Japan, Australia at Cuba, Netherlands at Venezuela, USA at Puerto Rico, Italy at Rest-Of-World, Dominican at Panama and Colombia at Canada.
A late Korean rally turned up empty, as Taiwan beat their Asian rivals 6-3 as Da-Hung Cheng homered.
In Tokyo, Japan opened their series with Mexico by winning 5-1. Yuhei Nakamura tripled and homered.
Cuba beat Australia, 6-3, despite a Stefan Welch homer for the Australians.
Victor Martinez and Oswaldo Arcia homered in a 8-4 Venezuela win over the increasingly helpless Dutch.
In a matchup of two 4-26 teams, Italy and Rest-Of-World stood tied at 1 after nine innings, thanks to solo home runs from Chris Colabello and Jabari Blash, respectively. But Team Rest-Of-World would be able to walk-off their fellow cellar dwellers thanks to a RBI single by Paulo Orlando in the 10th to win 2-1.
The Puerto Rico-USA game was a slugfest, as Hiram Bithorn Stadium was turned into a bandbox as the teams combined for 20 total runs as Team USA won 11-9. Trout, Goldschmidt and Kemp homered for the Americans, while Beltran, Kennys Vargas, Enrique Hernandez, Christian Colon and Javier Baez all found the seats for the Puerto Ricans.
The last two games of the day- Dominican at Panama and Colombia at Canada, were blow-outs. Canada beat Colombia 12-4 (even with Joey Votto leaving mid-game with a bruised finger), while the Dominican destroyed Panama 15-0, only stopping it’s siege briefly due to a rain delay in the ninth that forced Panama to have to wait 43 minutes before finally being put out one last time. Nelson Cruz homered twice and Albert Pujols also homered, while Johnny Cueto struck out 12 over 8 innings.
End of Week 5
At the end of the week, the standings looked like this:
The player of the week was Yuhei Nakamura of Team Japan:
Next Time: Japan vs. USA! Game one of Dominican vs. USA! A “Better Know A Team” installment!