U.S. Clinches Top Spot In Qualifier Pool


See also: U.S. Improves to 3-0

Just because he’s not playing in the minor leagues right now doesn’t mean Mark Reynolds has to stop hitting home runs.

Reynolds, who had 31 home runs this season for the Diamondbacks’ high Class A Lancaster and Double-A Tennessee teams, had his second and third home runs of the Olympic Qualifying tournament Tuesday as Team USA remained undefeated with a 5-2 victory against Puerto Rico.

With the victory, Team USA improved to 4-0 and clinched the top spot in Pool B. The Americans, who play Venezuela to end pool play Wednesday, will be the top seed when the second round begins Friday. They will likely play either the Dominican Republic or Nicaragua, which at 2-2 apiece are tied for the third and fourth spots in Pool A.

Reynolds homered in the Americans’ 15-3 romp Monday against Mexico but played a larger role Tuesday. His opposite-field homer in the third inning, a solo shot, opened the scoring, and was followed by a solo homer in the fourth by Billy Butler (Royals). Puerto Rico tied the score with a two-run double by Raul Nieves in the fourth, but center fielder Skip Schumaker (Cardinals) and shortstop Brandon Wood (Angels) cut down a runner at the plate to keep the game tied.

Team USA answered in the fifth, as Kurt Suzuki (Athletics) doubled and Schumaker singled to bring up Reynolds. After just missing a homer with a foul drive, he went to the opposite field again for a three-run shot, giving the Americans a 5-2 lead that held.

A rain delay in the fifth inning helped push starter Greg Smith (Diamondbacks) out of the game after four innings, and reliever Nick Ungs threw 2 2/3 scoreless innings in relief. Nevertheless, Smith was credited with the win, and relievers Jeff Ridgway (Devil Rays), Lee Gronkiewicz (Blue Jays) and Henry Owens (Mets) finished the game. Owens got the save by pitching a perfect ninth and has emerged as Team USA’s first option at the end of games.

Other Action

Emerson Frostad (Rangers) continued his torrid streak for Canada with a solo home run, but a pair of unearned runs proved costly for Canada, which lost 2-1 to Mexico. The victory clinched a second-round berth for Mexico (3-1), while Canada (2-2) must beat Brazil to ensure it will move on.

In Pool A, Cuba improved to 4-0 with an 11-0, one-hit whitewash of Nicaragua, as young righthander Frank Monteith struck out nine in five frames. An emerging star for Cuba, Monteith could be in line to face the U.S. down the line, as he’s had success against Team USA in the past. He struck out 17 in 7 2/3 innings to beat Team USA in the World Junior Championships in 2003 in Curacao, a team that included Billy Butler as well as current minor leaguers such as Neil Walker (Pirates), Chris Valaika (Reds) and Matt Bush (Padres).

In other games, the Dominican Republic remained in contention for the second round with a 15-3 victory against Colombia, while Panama clinched its second-round ticket by mauling winless Ecuador.

International | #2006 #International Affairs #Olympics

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