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For the first time in 21 years, Italy defeated Team USA 6-2 in the World Cup today in Taiwan. Team USA committed three errors—including two by shortstop Brian Bixler (Pirates)—and only one of the six runs that Team USA pitchers allowed was an earned run. Team USA will try to bounce back tomorrow, when the Americans play Japan (2-1) at 6 p.m. (5 a.m. Eastern Standard Time).
Josh Outman (Phillies) got the start for Team USA (2-1), and the lefthander took the loss despite not allowing an earned run. After starting the bottom of the first by walking the first two hitters for Italy (2-0), Outman escaped the inning with a double play and a strikeout, extending Team USA’s pitchers’ scoreless inning streak to 19 innings.
The streak ended in the bottom of the second when, after Outman retired the first two batters, he allowed consecutive singles to center fielder Jimenez Chapelli and catcher Luis De Carmago to put runners on first and third. Outman induced a groundball from Italy’s ninth hitter, left fielder Leonardo Zileri, but Bixler booted the ball for his first error on the game, allowing Italy to take a 1-0 lead. With the top of Italy’s order up, shortstop Jack Santora and second baseman Davide Dallospedale both singled, giving Italy a 3-0 lead.
Team USA cut the lead down in the top of the third, when left fielder Justin Ruggiano (Devil Rays) hit a leadoff home run to left field off Italy starter Matteo D’Angelo to make it 3-1. Bixler got on first base with a bunt single, but his troublesome day continued when he was picked off first base with leadoff hitter Colby Rasmus (Cardinals) at the plate. Rasmus then hit a double to left field, which was followed by D’Angelo hitting second baseman Jayson Nix (Rockies) with a pitch. Andy LaRoche (Dodgers), who was playing first base rather than his usual third base with Steven Pearce (Pirates) on the bench, hit a double to the gap in left-center field to narrow Italy’s lead to 3-2.
Lefthander Jerry Blevins (Athletics) relieved Outman in the fourth inning. After Italy put a runner on first courtesy of Bixler’s second error of the game, Blevins’ pickoff attempt got by LaRoche, allowing the runner to advance to second. Righthander Steven Shell (Angels) came on in relief. Shell induced a groundout from Dallospaedale, which scored a run and gave Italy a 4-2 lead. Italy then extended its lead to 6-2 on back-to-back singles from Italy’s No. 3 and No. 4 hitters, designated hitter Maximiliano De Biase and right fielder Mario Chiarini.
Shell and righthander Lee Gronkiewicz (Blue Jays) shut down the Italian hitters the rest of the way, but Team USA was not able to muster any more offense despite getting more runners on base. The best chance for Team USA to score came in the top of the ninth, when Ruggiano and catcher Jason Jaramillo drew back-to-back one-out walks. Pearce came in to pinch-hit for Bixler, but Pearce struck out. With two outs, Rasmus walked to load the bases and bring the potential tying run to the plate. But Nix struck out to end the game.
- Italy’s victory marked the first time that the team had defeated the United States since the 1986 World Cup in Holland.
- Italy used seven pitchers during the game. Among them was 18-year-old lefthander Luca Panerati, who was the second pitcher out of the Italian bullpen. Panerati entered the game and looked impressive as he struck out Rasmus, one of the top prospects in the minors.
- Ruggiano had a strong showing against Italy, going 2-for-2 with a home run, two walks and a stolen base.
- Right fielder Tyler Colvin (Cubs) had a particularly rough night at the plate. The 2006 first-rounder went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts.
- Team USA allowed only one extra-base hit, a double to Chiarini, who went 2-for-3 and was the only Italian hitter with a multi-hit game.
- Italy third baseman Alex Liddi (Mariners), a 19-year-old who hit .240/.308/.385 for low Class A Wisconsin, went 0-for-4.
AROUND THE WORLD
- Japan, Team USA’s next opponent, lost its first game of the World Cup 6-1 to tournament host Taiwan. After a scoreless first inning, Taiwain scored one run in the second, third and fourth innings. Japan cut the lead to 3-1 with a run in the top of the sixth, but Taiwan responded with three runs in the bottom of the inning to cruise to a 6-1 victory.
In Pool B, Cuba (3-0) won 6-3 against Canada (1-2). Canadian righthander Philippe Aumont (Mariners), the No. 11 overall pick in the 2007 draft, got the start against Cuba. Pulled after two innings due to a pitch count limit, Aumont left without surrendering a run, striking out one and allowing two hits.
With Aumont out of the game, Cuba’s sluggers took over. Hector Oliveira got the scoring started with a solo home run to left field in the third off of Scott Richmond. Canada evened the score at 1-1 in the bottom of the fourth on a Chris Robinson double, but left fielder Frederich Cepeda limited the damage by throwing out a second runner attempting to score at home plate.
Cuba took a 2-1 lead in the fifth inning on a Yulieski Gourriel solo homer down the right field line. After Cuba tacked on four more runs, Canada started a comeback in the ninth inning by adding two more runs, but Cuba brought in righthander Pedro Luis Lazo to close out the game and seal the victory.
Australia improved to 2-1 with a 7-4 victory over Venezuela (7-4). Left fielder Justin Huber (Royals), who played for Triple-A Omaha in 2007, hit third in the lineup and went 1-for-5 with a double. Third baseman Glenn Williams (Twins), who also played in Triple-A in 2007, went 2-for-4 with a double.
Righthander Josh Hill (Twins), who split time between high Class A and Double-A in 2007, started for Australia and allowed four runs in three innings. He struck out four and walked four. Lefthander Adrian Burnside (Padres) and righthander Richard Thompson (Angels) each pitched in relief for Australia, and neither allowed a run.
Former Blue Jays farmhand Diego Markwell got the start for the Netherlands (2-1), which won 15-5 over Germany (0-3). Markwell was wild, walking five batters in five innings and allowing four earned runs, but his offense helped him by pounding out 20 hits.
Netherlands third baseman Hainley Statia (Angels), a 21-year-old shortstop who hit .288/.344/.379 in the high Class A California League in 2007, went 1-for-5 with an RBI. Seven players in the Netherlands’ lineup had multi-hit games, including Dirk Van’t Klooster, who went 3-for-5 with a homer, a double and five RBIs.
- Panama improved to 2-1 with a 3-2 victory over Mexico (0-3). Panama, which lost 7-0 to Team USA yesterday, trailed 2-1 before scoring two runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to take the lead.
- Korea won 18-2 against Thailand (0-3) to improve to 3-0, tying them with Cuba for the best record in Pool B. Thailand, which is making its first appearance in the World Cup, has been outscored 52-2.
SCHEDULE (times listed are Taiwan local times)
12 pm: Spain vs. Taiwan
12 pm: Mexico vs. South Africa
6 pm: Italy vs. Panama
6 pm: USA vs. Japan
12 pm: Venezuela vs. Netherlands
6 pm: Cuba vs. Korea
6 pm: Thailand vs. Australia
South Africa 4
South Korea 18