USA Reaches Medal Round At World Cup

In international baseball, Cuba remains king. Cuba’™s only
significant losses in medal-round play since professionals were allowed
into international baseball came in two Intercontinental Cups (1997 vs.
Japan, 1999 at Australia) and in the 2000 Olympics, courtesy of Ben
Sheets and Team USA.

In the 2005 World Cup in the Netherlands, with much less at
stake, Team USA once again has a chance to strike a blow against Cuba’™s
domination of international competition. The Americans sewed up a spot
in the medal round with a 7-3 victory against the winless Czech
Republic. Team USA (6-2) finished pool play Tuesday with a 5-4 victory
against Taiwan, but Taiwan’™s 11-4 loss to Nicaragua on Monday already
had eliminated Taiwan from the medal round and clinched Team USA as the
No. 4 seed in Pool B.

So manager Davey Johnson’™s Team USA will play Pool A’™s top
seed, Cuba (8-0), in Wednesday’™s quarterfinal opener. Team USA’™s
starter likely will be righthander Brian Bannister (Mets), who last
pitched Friday against Nicaragua in a 14-2 loss.

American professionals have faced Cuba only once since Sheets’™
shutout in Sydney’”in 2001, when Cuba beat Team USA in the World Cup
title game in Taiwan. Team USA was managed by current Red Sox manager
Terry Francona and had a roster that included current big leaguers such
as Chris Capuano, Carl Crawford and Orlando Hudson, as well as current
Team USA players Jason Phillips and Jeff Deardorff. USA Baseball’™s
college national team also has lost to Cuba in the World University
Games in 2002 (Cuba beat Tigers prospect Kyle Sleeth) and in the Pan
American Games in 2003 (beating Jered Weaver).

Team USA will join Japan (7-1), Nicaragua (6-2) and Puerto Rico
(6-2) in the medal round from Pool B. Cuba, the Netherlands (7-1),
Panama (6-2) and Korea (5-3) will represent Pool A.

To clinch the spot, Team USA first had to get past the Czechs,
who replaced Greece at the last minute and haven’™t been particularly
competitive in joining South Africa as the tournament’™s lone winless
teams. That’™s one reason Team USA won despite pitchers Jared Wells
(Padres) and Mark Freed (Diamondbacks) issuing a combined 10 walks.
They gave up just five hits combined as Wells went five innings and
Freed went four for the save. Wells improved to 2-0, 1.64 in a pair of
starts, the best ERA on the roster.

Team USA didn’™t homer in this game but got a pair of doubles
from shortstop Ben Zobrist (Astros), who also drove in two runs;
outfielder Jeff Deardorff (Devil Rays) also had two RBIs. DH Josh
Phelps (Devil Rays) had two hits as the U.S. banged out 10 hits against
five Czech pitchers. Radek Prochazka got the loss.

Against Taiwan, Team USA got a ninth-inning, tiebreaking RBI
single by Lastings Milledge (Mets) that knocked in Brian Peterson
(Reds), who had doubled to lead off the inning. Lefthander Gilbert de
la Vera (Royals), a 2005 signee as a draft-and-follow out of Pima
(Ariz.) Community College, got the save by inducing a game-ending
double play with runners on first and second and one out.

The U.S. came back from a 1-0 deficit with four in the sixth,
keyed by back-to-back doubles by Mike Cervenak (Giants) and Dee Brown
(Nationals), a pair of errors and a Bryan LaHair (Mariners) RBI single.

Taiwan, which scored all of its runs on three home runs, tied
the game with a two-run shot in the sixth off starter Chris Michalak
(Diamondbacks) and a solo shot in the seventh off Greg Bauer
(Phillies).

Elsewhere in the World Cup:

• With its medal hopes on the line, Taiwan sent lefthander Chi
Hung Cheng (Blue Jays) to the mound against Nicaragua, and he didn’™t
get an out. Nicaragua had five hits and five runs in the first to chase
Cheng on its way to an 11-4 victory.

• Rockies righthander Shane Lindsay, who dominated the
short-season Northwest League this season, struck out nine in five
innings of a 5-1 Australia win against Colombia.

• First baseman Joey Votto (Reds) finished up a fine tournament
with his fifth home run of the event in Canada’™s 12-4 romp against
Brazil.

• Righthander Ivan Maldonado (Mets) struck out seven in six
innings to lead Puerto Rico to a 7-4 victory against Spain. Former big
leaguer Edwards Guzman had a pair of RBIs for the Puerto Ricans while
outfielder Jesus Feliciano (Nationals) continued to excel with a pair
of hits and three RBIs.

• Rockies righthander Ramon Ramirez, traded by the Yankees in
the Shawn Chacon trade, struck out 10 in a complete game 5-1 victory
against winless South Africa.

• We have inaccurately reported the medal round as “one and
done.” Teams that lose in the quarterfinals cannot win the
championship, but the World Cup format this year does have loser’™s
bracket games to determine the third- through eighth-place order.

STANDINGS

Pool A

W

L

Cuba

8

0

Netherlands

7

1

Panama

6

2

Korea

5

3

Canada

4

4

China

3

5

Brazil

2

6

Sweden

1

7

South Africa

0

8

Pool B

Japan

7

1

Nicaragua

6

2

Puerto Rico

6

2

United States

6

2

Australia

4

4

Taiwan

3

5

Colombia

2

6

Spain

2

6

Czech Republic

0

8

MEDAL ROUND SCHEDULE

Wednesday, Sept. 14: Quarterfinals
Cuba vs. United States

Japan vs. Korea

Nicaragua vs. Panama

Netherlands vs. Puerto Rico

Friday, Sept. 16: Semifinals
Cuba/U.S. winner vs. Nicaragua/Panama winner

Japan/Korea winner vs. Netherlands/Puerto Rico winner

Finals: Saturday, Sept. 17

International | #2005 #International Affairs #World Cup

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