Right fielder Justin Ruggiano (Rays) hit two home runs to help Team USA defeat Taiwan 10-7 today, clinching the top seed in Pool A at the World Cup in Taiwan. Team USA finished 6-1 in pool play, while the loss dropped Taiwan to 5-2 and the second seed in Pool A.
Team USA will begin quarterfinal action on Friday against South Korea, the No. 4 seed from Pool B. The winner of that game will face the winner of the Taiwan-Netherlands matchup, and the winner of that game advances to the gold medal game (see below for scheduling information).
Team USA scored in the top of the first inning. After center fielder Colby Rasmus (Cardinals) popped out to third, second baseman Jayson Nix (Rockies) took an 0-2 pitch over the left field fence for a home run to give Team USA a 1-0 lead.
In the bottom of the first, Taiwan shortstop Chih-Sheng Lin led off the inning against lefthander Josh Outman (Phillies) with a single on a grounder between shortstop and third base off. Lin advanced to second when the next batter, second baseman Chao-Hang Chang, grounded out to third baseman Evan Longoria (Rays), who charged in on the slow roller and could only get the runner at first base. Right fielder Chen-Min Peng grounded out to third on another nice defensive play by Longoria, this time ranging to his left to get to the ball. Outman couldn’t quite escape the inning, though, as DH Chin-Feng Chen drove a double to the center field warning track, just beyond the reach of Rasmus to tie the game 1-1.
The score remained tied at 1-1 until the top of the fourth, when Team USA struck for two more runs. Longoria hit a one-out double, then scored on another double by Delwyn Young (Dodgers). Ruggiano drove Young in with a single, his first of five RBIs on the night.
Taiwan responded in the bottom of the inning. With one out, Chen reached on an error when Longoria fielded a routine ground ball, then threw the ball just far enough away from Steve Pearce (Pirates) at first base to draw him off the bag and allowing Chen to reach safely. Chang followed with a triple down the left field line to make it a 3-2 game, then scored the tying run on a sacrifice fly.
Team USA struck back in the top of the fifth, when Rasmus drew a leadoff walk and advanced to second on a single by Nix just passed the diving shortstop. After a double steal put runners on second and third, DH Andy LaRoche (Dodgers) drove both runners in with a double to right-center, giving Team USA a 5-3 lead. Longoria singled him home to make it 6-3.
Outman left the game after the fifth inning, finishing with eight strikeouts, no walks and three runs allowed, only one of which was an earned run. Righthander Steven Shell (Angels) took over, but after striking out the leadoff batter he loaded the bases on a hit batsmen, a single and a walk. Lefthander Jerry Blevins (Athletics) came in for one batter, first baseman Chia-Hsian Hsieh, who doubled to drive in all three runners and tie the game at 6-6. Righthander Lee Gronkiewicz (Blue Jays) relieved Blevins and did not allow another run to score in the inning.
In the top of the seventh, Longoria led off the inning with a single, which was followed by a walk by Young. Ruggiano stepped in and drilled the ball to right field for his first home run of the game, giving Team USA a 9-6 lead. In the top of the ninth, Ruggiano recorded his third hit of the game, this time with a solo homer of the game to right field to give Team USA a seemingly comfortable 10-6 lead going into the bottom of the ninth.
Manager Davey Johnson brought righthander Chris Booker in for the ninth, and the veteran minor leaguer ran into trouble by loading the bases on three straight. Booker recorded the first out of the inning on a sacrifice fly, making it a 10-7 game. Booker escaped without allowing any further damage, ending the game with a strikeout and a fly out to center field.
SCHEDULE (times listed are Taiwan local times)
(Games listed do not include consolation games)
FRIDAY, NOV. 16
(Game 1) 12 pm: Japan (A3) vs. Australia (B2)
(Game 2) 12 pm: Netherlands (B3) vs. Taiwan (A2)
(Game 3) 6 pm: Panama (A4) vs. Cuba (B1)
(Game 4) 6 pm: South Korea (B4) vs. USA (A1)
SATURDAY, NOV. 14
(Game 5) 6 pm: Game 1 winner vs. Game 3 winner
(Game 6) 6 pm: Game 2 winner vs. Game 4 winner
SUNDAY, NOV. 15
Gold medal game: Game 5 winner vs. Game 6 winner
South Africa 3
South Korea 8
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