Only one of Saturday's World Cup games was a close game to the end, but that one was a thriller. Canada needed 11 innings, even with the international tiebreaker rule, to beat previously undefeated Netherlands 5-4. The victory clinched a spot in the medal round for Canada, which improved to 5-1.
Veteran reserve Emerson Frostad (Astros), who replaced a cramped-up Cole Armstrong (Angels) in the ninth inning, had the game-winning hit in the 11th inning. Both teams had scored a run in the 10th inning, and Frostad's RBI single in the 11th brought home Tim Smith (Royals) with the game winner. Jimmy Henderson (Brewers) got two popouts and a strikeout in the bottom half to keep the Dutch off the board and save the victory.
Lefthander Andrew Albers (Twins) continued his fine tournament with three scoreless innings in relief of Kyle Lotzkar (Reds), who didn't make it out of the third inning. Armstrong had a solo homer in the fifth, and Dustin Molleken (Rockies) added 3 1/3 innings to keep the game close late.
Canada and the Netherlands are both 5-1 in the group, while host Panama is 5-0. Panama's game with Team USA was rained out Saturday, leaving the Americans at 3-2. Puerto Rico beat Japan 6-0, keeping the pressure on the Americans. Puerto Rico is 3-3 and owns the tiebreaker for the fourth medal-round spot from the group, so the U.S. only guarantees itself a spot in the medal round if it can beat both Panama (rescheduled for Monday) and Canada (a 2 p.m. game Sunday) in the final two games of pool play.
Puerto Rico plays Taiwan on Sunday; if it wins, the U.S. must win both games to advance. If Taiwan wins, the U.S. needs one more victory to advance to the medal round.
Phillies prospect Julio Rodriguez continued his stellar pitching for Puerto Rico against Japan, with eight strikeouts in five scoreless, two-hit innings. He has 15 strikeouts in 9 1/3 scoreless innings while allowing three hits in the World Cup, having faced the U.S. and Japan. (Japan's team is composed of industrial-league and amateur players.)
In the other group, Cuba remained undefeated at 6-0, overcoming a home run by Donald Lutz (Reds) to beat Germany 8-2. Jose Abreu homered during a four-run seventh inning to key the victory which kept Cuba two games up on South Korea, which improved to 4-2 by beating Italy 4-0 behind 14 strikeouts from Hyon Taek Oh.
Australia beat Venezuela 15-0 in five innings, a surprising score considering the Aussies were shut out in their first three games. Veterans Justin Huber and Thomas Brice and Mitch Dening (Red Sox) each hit home runs, while 2004 Olympic hero Chris Oxspring pitched five scoreless innings for the victory. Twins farmhand Todd Van Steensel is keeping an amusing account (with some videos) on the World Cup here.
Australia has rallied to win three straight, sending Venezuela to a 4-2 mark and tying the Dominican Republic, at 3-3, for the fourth medal-round spot in the group. The Dominican beat Nicaragua 16-1 as Mexican Leaguers Dionys Cesar and Alexis Gomez combined for seven hits, four runs and six RBIs.