Third baseman Andy LaRoche (Dodgers) had three hits and drove in three runs as Team USA narrowly edged 0-6 South Africa 4-2, clinching a spot in the World Cup quarterfinals the Americans. Team USA and Taiwan are both 5-1, which means the winner of tomorrow’s game between Team USA and Taiwan will determine which team gets the top seed from Pool A.
Team USA took a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning. South Africa starter Shannon Eckermans gave up a leadoff single to center fielder Colby Rasmus (Cardinals), who proceeded to steal second base. Second baseman Michael Hollimon (Tigers), replacing Jayson Nix (Rockies) in the lineup, grounded out to advance Rasmus to third. LaRoche followed with a double to score Rasmus, then scored himself two batters later on a single by first baseman Steven Pearce (Pirates) singled.
After South Africa scored a run in the top of the second to make it a 2-1 game, Team USA responded with a run of its own in the bottom half of the inning. Shortstop Brian Bixler (Pirates) singled, then advanced to third on a single by Rasmus. Ekermans retired Hollimon, but LaRoche hit a sacrifice fly to bring in Bixler and make it a 3-1 game.
In the fourth inning, Rasmus drew a leadoff walk, which was followed by a fly out to right field by Hollimon. South Africa right fielder Ian Butcher’s throw to first base was wild, allowing Rasmus to advance to third on the play. LaRoche followed with his third hit of the game, scoring Rasmus to give Team USA a 4-1 lead.
Righthander Matt Wright (Royals) made his second start of the World Cup for Team USA. After pitching six scoreless innings in Team USA’s 7-0 victory over Panama, Wright went three innings and gave up one run against South Africa, striking out four, walking none and allowing one hit.
Team USA used five relievers to complete the game. Lefthander Neal Musser (Royals) pitched the fourth and fifth innings without allowing a run or a hit. Righthander Jeff Stevens (Indians) followed and retired all four batters he faced, three of which came on strikeouts. Righthander Chris Perez retired the next two South Africa batters to close out the seventh inning.
In the eighth, righthander Lee Gronkiewicz (Blue Jays) got into some trouble. The 29-year-old allowed three hits in the inning as South Africa scored a run to narrow the lead to 4-2. But righthander Chris Booker (Nationals) pitched retired the side in the ninth to seal the victory for Team USA.
• Team USA had 10 hits, eight of which came from three players. Rasmus went 2-for-3 with a walk and a stolen base, LaRoche went 3-for-3 with a sacrifice fly and Pearce went 3-for-4 with a double. Bixler and DH Evan Longoria (Rays) had the other two hits.
• With three hits today, LaRoche is now 9-for-21 with three walks, two home runs and four doubles (.429/.480/.905). Longoria has also hit well, recording seven hits in 23 at-bats (.304) and one walk. With two home runs, a triple and a double, his slugging average is up to .696.
• The struggles continued for left fielder Delwyn Young (Dodgers), who went 0-for-3 with a walk. The Team USA cleanup hitter hit a three-run homer to help Team USA defeat Japan, but his bat has otherwise been held in check, with just two hits in 19 at-bats (.105).
• With just two earned runs allowed, Team USA has a team ERA of just 0.71 in 53 innings, but some defensive lapses and an inability to pitch out of those jams has led to seven unearned runs.
USA 4, South Africa 2
Japan 10, Italy 0
Taiwan 10, Panama 0
Mexico 19, Spain 1
Australia 4, Germany 2
Cuba 11, Thailand 1
Netherlands 5, South Korea 1
Canada 6, Venezuela 3
SCHEDULE (times listed are Taiwan local times)
WEDNESDAY, NOV. 14
12 pm: Japan vs. Spain
12 pm: Mexico vs. Italy
6 pm: Taiwan vs. USA
6 pm: Panama vs. South Africa
12 pm: Cuba vs. Netherlands
12 pm: Germany vs. Korea
6 pm: Canada vs. Australia
6 pm: Venezuela vs. Thailand