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.
Thursday, April 2nd:
As Taiwanese closer C.C. Lee of the Cleveland Indians struck out Barbaro Canizares to seal a 2-1 Taiwanese win to finish the first game of Thursday, April 2nd, the people of Cuba became very unhappy. Communists on the island blamed this 0-2 start on the “capitalist traitors”, the people of Miami blamed the Castro brothers. But perhaps they both should have blamed Hung-Wen Chen, the Taiwanese starter, who had given up only one run in 7 innings of work.
In Sydney, a 9th inning by Jeong Choi allowed Korea to go 2-0 on the season with another win over Australia. Losing pitcher Grant Balfour, in a post-game interview with Ned Kelly O’Shaughessy, drunk angry Australian announcer, spoke only in the language of profanity that few can speak. Thankfully, Ned did speak that language, and was able to translate it into being “I am unhappy with my performance tonight.”
In Japan, the Japanese also moved to 2-0, beating Puerto Rico 7-3. However, right-fielder Yoshio Itoi left the game with shoulder soreness. It was reported that he would miss 3 weeks.
At 1:05, games started in Italy and in the Dominican Republic, where the sleepy player from the previous night’s 18-inning marathon had to get up and play the second game of the season. And while the 2nd game of the DR-Venezuela series was nowhere near as long as the first one, it still had plenty of drama.
After a nice pitching performance by Michael Pineda, a HR by Carlos Gomez and a Nelson Cruz RBI single, the Dominican was up 2-0 going into the ninth as Joaquin Benoit took the mound to get the save. Except, well, he didn’t get the save. He had an implosion that ended with a Jose Altuve 3-run home run that chased away Benoit and brought in Antonio Bastardo.
But then, in the bottom of the ninth, the Dominican had a comeback of their own off of Yusmeiro Petit and Jean Machi, culminating in a Hanley Ramirez double to give the Dominican another walk-off win!
Pedro Martinez was pleased.
The game in Europe was nowhere near as interesting, as the Dutch routed the Italians, 11-5, as Wladimir Balentien hit his second HR of the year,
Finally, there were the games in the Western Hemisphere. Panama and Rest-Of-World and the USA-Colombia game started first, and the Americans wasted no time, with Mike Trout going deep for his first home run of the season in the first inning to put the USA up 2-0 on Julio Teheran. Giancarlo Stanton would join his teammate in long-ball with a 3-run shot in the third which chased away Teheran and brought in Kevin Escorcia, a rookie-leaguer in the White Sox organization. This proved to be an unwise decision, as Matt Kemp would go deep against him for two more runs by the end of the inning to make it 7-0 after three. It would be that kind of day at the plate for Team USA, as they battered the Colombians for the 11-2 win, with Mike Trout going 3-5 with a double, home run, 2 walks and 3 RBIs. On the mound, Chris Sale got the win for his 7 innings of work, giving up only one earned run (the other run was unearned).
In Panama, the Panamanians won 5-0, as Paolo Espino of the Nationals organization struck out 13 in 8.1 IP of work and Angel Chavez went deep twice.
In Mexico, Canada won 11-4 to go to 1-1 on the year, with Sean Jamieson of the D-Backs organization getting 3 RBIs and Russell Martin homering.
Friday, April 3rd
“Well, this is Ned Kelly O’Shaughessy here at Blacktown Baseball Stadium in Sydney, where our Australian boys lead the Koreans 2-0. A reminder, fans, that tonight’s game is brought to you by Foster’s, Australian For Beer, although I personally would like to remind you that [censored] Foster’s is owned by [censored] South Africans so don’t believe what they bloody say. Now, Chris Oxspring was ace for us today, giving up just two hits to the Koreans and striking out six. Luke Hughes hit a 2-run home run in first, and that’s how we got here.”
“Excuse me, I have been told by my producer that I should tell you that you should buy Foster’s, or else I’m fired. So, yeah, go buy Foster’s, mate. Anyway, Andrew Russell now on the mound looking to close this off for us. I don’t know where Grant Balfour is, maybe he’s bleeding tired. So, up comes Jeong Choi….”
(Two pitches later)
“And here’s the pitch, and Choi hits it lazily to center…. Oeltjen drifts over… and he catches it. Two more outs and then we can get pissed. Here comes Dae-Ho Lee now, by the way….”
(enters a long tangent about his cousin’s domesticated dingo)
“Oh, and, so… oh, here’s a foul ball… behind the plate… Kennelly to it… and he’s got that ball, just like that smart little dingo! We are just one out away from a real raging party, mates! Now here comes Byung-Ho Park. He had a [censored] home run yesterday, the [censored], so hopefully he won’t get one [censored] here.”
(A few pitches later, the count 2-1)
“And Russell now with the pitch to the right-handed park, and… (audible sound of bat and ball). Oh, bloody hell. BLOODY HELL, that ball is going back… back… back… and it’s (censored) gone. (Censored) me. Me and my (censored) mouth. I need a drink, and not of (censored) Foster’s. 2-1 Australia, here comes Jung-Ho Kang.”
(Several seconds of O’Shaughessy muttering profanity under his breath, and at one point an audible sip of a beer)
“Russell with the pitch… called strike. 0-1. Now, elsewhere in the Competition, Japan leads Puerto Rico 3-1 in the 6th, and Taiwan and Cuba are scoreless. Another pitch… and fouled back. That Taiwan-Cuba game is in the third inning by the way. Out of town scores brought to you by Prescott Pharmaceuticals. Another pitch… and popped back here again. Another 0-2 pitch to Kang is coming up, and you’ll know if we win by the fact I’ll probably start singing. The pitch, and ball one. Oh, c’mon, Andrew… get him [censored] out…. and the pitch… YES! YES! SWING AND A MISS! WALTZING MATILDA, WALTZING MATILDA….”
Elsewhere on Day 3:
Japan 4, Puerto Rico 3 (H. Iwakuma 8 IP, W, 8 H, 3 ER, 8 K)
Cuba 6, Taiwan 3 (Cuban HRs by Friedrich Cepeda, Yasmani Grandal, and Jose Iglesias)
Netherlands 2, Italy 1 (Andrelton Simmons left after injury from a HBP, diagnosis pending)
Dominican Republic 8, Venezuela 7 (Carlos Gomez left with back soreness, out for 3-4 weeks. Jose Altuve 4-5 in defeat.)
Panama 5, Rest-Of-World 4 (Ruben Rivera 2-4, HR, 4 RBI)
USA 10, Colombia 1 (Mike Trout 2-3, 3B, 3 RBI, 2 BB, SO, Stephen Strasburg left game after 3.2 innings due to a 96 minute rain delay)
Canada 3, Mexico 1 (Jeff Francis 7 IP, 3 H, ER, 4 K)
Saturday, April 4
“Welcome to Under the Knife, I’m Jake Jiff with your injury update:
Canada placed Tyson Gillies on the DL with a contusion today. It’s expected that various other outfielders, including Reserve Roster call-up Rene Tosoni, will take over his spot in the infield for the next two or so weeks.
The Dominican placed Carlos Gomez on the DL with his back soreness. Starling Marte has been called up from the reserve roster.
Italy’s catcher, Mattia Reginato, will be out 8 to 9 weeks with a strained hamstring. Marco Sabbatani has been called from the reserve roster.
Thank you for listening to Under the Knife, I’m Jake Jiff.”
The second series of the seasons began on April 4. The match-ups included Taiwan at Japan, Italy at South Korea, the Dominican at Puerto Rico, Australia at Venezuela, the USA at Canada, the Netherlands at Colombia, Panama at Cuba, and Mexico visiting Nicaragua to face the Rest-Of-The-World team.
In Japan, the Japanese went to 4-0 on the season with a 14-2 rout behind 3 HRs. Taiwan fell to 2-2.
South Korea had a similar rout, beating Italy 7-1.
In Puerto Rico, the Dominican got off a lead quickly at mid-day and never looked back, as doubles by Robinson Cano and Jose Bautista put them up 1-0 against Twins prospect Jose Berrios. They added another two in the 3rd (David Ortiz home run), three in the 4th (including a Cano 2-run jack) and six in the 8th (most notably with Cano’s second homer of the day, a Grand Slam), as they won a 12-3 rout.
In Venezuela, the Venezuelans finally got their first win of the year, beating Australia 6-4 behind home runs from Jose Lopez, Pablo Sandoval, and Omar Infante. It wasn’t all good, however, because Henderson Alvarez suffered a mild strain and found himself out for the next week or so. Ned Kelly O’Shaughessy drowned his pain with Venezuelan beer.
Cuba impressed the home fans with a 11-2 win over Panama, with Fredy Asiel Alvarez throwing a complete game, giving up 4 hits and only two earned runs, both from a 2-run shot by Carlos Ruiz. Jose Abreu went 4-4 with 2 doubles and 3 RBIs.
Canada gave Team USA something of a scare and were leading 2-0 after 4 thanks to solo shots from Pompey and Lawrie off of Matt Harvey, but then the USA hit machine got into action with 8 unanswered runs to win it 8-2, with Longoria going 4-4 with a triple and 2 RBIs and Giancarlo Stanton with a home run.
Andruw Jones stole the show in Colombia, as he went 3-4 with a HR and 4 RBIs in a 14-5 victory for the Dutch.
And in Nicaragua, Mexico won 12-4, but the bigger loss for Rest-Of-World was in the injury department, as German outfielder Max Kepler sprained his elbow and landed on the DL and Nicaraguan 2B Ofilio Castro also left injured, although at the time the diagnosis was not known.
Sunday, April 5
The day started off less than great for some fans, Andrelton Simmons finally got a diagnosis for his injury: fractured wrist, out 5-6 weeks:
Still, the show would have to go on, as the final day of the first week of the International Baseball Contest (chronologically, at least) came to an end.
The first game, in Korea, at first looked like it may finally be the first win for Italy. At first. Because while they pushed 4 runs across in the top of the fourth, it got really bad REALLY quick:
Japan remained perfect with a 8-3 win over Taiwan.
In Nicaragua, Jorge De La Rosa was masterful for Mexico, holding the Rest-Of-The-World to only 2 hits in a complete game shutout while Mexican hitters battered Rest-Of-The-World pitching for a 13-0 win, with home runs by Jose Aguilar and Karim Garcia. And, yes, Pedro Martinez said “Who?” when he went over the highlights during a rain delay in the Dominican game.
The upset of the day came in Venezuela, where Clayton Tanner and Josh Spence combined to 3-hit Venezuela and give up no earned runs, and HRs came from Mitch Dening and Justin Huber, as the Australians upset Venezuela 5-1. Ned Kelly O’Shaughessy narrowly escaped a group of angry Venezuelan fans after the game, although to hear him tell it, he personally fought his way out.
The score was tied going into the 9th in Toronto, where Canada had given Team USA it’s greatest fight so far. In fact, they had led 4-3 in the 8th and Team USA only tied it up because Josh Donaldson scored before Buster Posey was thrown out at second as he tried to stretch a single into a double.
The Toronto-born Jesse Crain took the mound and put Stanton, Goldschmidt and McCutchen in order, then Craig Kimbrel came out for the bottom of the 9th and retired the order in return. To extra innings the game went.
In the top of the 10th, Troy Tulowitzki led off the inning with a double. He then moved to third on a Matt Kemp groundout. But after striking out Josh Donaldson, disaster struck Jesse Crain, as Russell Martin let it past him during the Matt Carpenter at-bat, allowing Tulo to score the go-ahead run on the passed ball. Kimbrel slammed the door in the bottom of the 10th, and Team USA remained unbeaten, 5-4.
There were blowouts in Cuba and Colombia, as Cuba, led by two HRs by Yasmani Grandal (who had 7 RBIs on a 4-hit day) and Yasiel Puig (who went 5-5), demolished Panama 17-4. The Dutch, meanwhile, continued their perfect start with a 14-1 win against the Colombians.
The Dominican also remained perfect, but it wasn’t easy, as they nearly blew a late lead, as Antonio Bastardo struck out Carlos Beltran looking with two men on in the 9th to end the game with a 8-7 Dominican victory.
With the first week at an end and every team having played five games, a look at the standings:
And the player of the week was Panama’s Ruben Rivera, the former Major Leaguer who now plays in Mexico:
And, finally, team statistics so far:
(Next week in the International Baseball Competition: Japan heads to the Dominican for a series between two of the early powerhouses. And later in the week, the USA heads to Cuba for a showdown between traditional baseball powers. Also, you will see the first appearance in this feature of the odd couple of the International Baseball Competition: USA manager Joe Maddon and his bench coach, Buck Showalter. All of this and Ned Kelly O’Shaughessy in the next part of the International Baseball Competition!)