Team USA Shows Colombia No Mercy

Complete Coverage of the Americas Olympic Qualifier

Compiled by John Manuel

November 4, 2003

For Colombia’s national team, playing in the Olympic qualifying tournament in Panama is about building a national baseball program.

For Team USA, it’s about finishing first or second, and nothing less is acceptable. After three days off, the Americans continued their quest to grab one of the two spots in the 2004 Games in Athens by crushing Colombia 10-0 in a game called after seven innings by the international 10-run rule.

The victory improved Team USA to 2-0 in the qualifier, a half-game behind host Panama for the top spot in Group B. The Americans play Panama on Wednesday night. Four of the five teams in the group advance to the medal round, and the top two teams in the medal round advance to Athens.

Lefthander Horacio Ramirez (Braves) got the start and put some of the worries about his upper respiratory infection, which delayed his arrival in Panama, to rest. He got the victory after pitching five efficient, if not dominant, innings, allowing one hit, walking three and striking out two.

After winning 12 games for Atlanta during his rookie season in the big leagues, Ramirez only joined Team USA’s roster after lefthander Cole Hamels (Phillies) was removed with back spasms. Ramirez is eligible only because the Braves optioned him to the minor leagues in late August as it shuffled its roster for the postseason, and Ramirez has been limited since joining Team USA by breathing problems.

He’s nonetheless on track to start the all-important semifinal game during the medal round. Team USA must first advance that far, winning a quarterfinal game likely to be against Mexico or Puerto Rico, and then win the semifinal to earn a chance to defend its 2000 gold medal, won in Sydney, Australia.

“I believe I will pitch the semifinal,” Ramirez said. “Am I the ace of the staff? I don’t know. We have a lot of very good pitchers.”

Ramirez was not tested by a Colombian lineup that features no professional players. He essentially was getting his work in for the semifinal and threw mostly fastballs, getting both of his strikeouts on sliders.

“The first two innings I struggled a little because of the heat, and then I got loose,” Ramirez said. “I used a lot of fastballs. It’s my best pitch and I control it very well.

“It’s hard to get into the groove because we don’t play every day. But we don’t fear anybody (in the qualifier); we can play against anyone.”

Tomorrow, Team USA plays host Panama in a game likely to determine the No. 1 seed from Group B. The game will be at 8 p.m. ET, and American manager Frank Robinson (Expos) announced righthander Ryan Madson (Phillies) as his starter in Team USA’s most important round-robin game.

“Will we play in a full house? That doesn’t put any pressure on us,” Robinson said. “On the contrary, it’s the way it should be. We are used to that.”

“(The team) is a little bit rusty. You haven’t seen the real team yet”.

Team USA’s bats didn’t show much rust from their three-day layoff, as the Americans pounced for five runs in the first inning against Colombian lefthander Alexander Blanco, who lacked command. He walked three, hit Graham Koonce (Athletics) with a pitch and threw in a balk and a wild pitch just to round out his outing.

Mike Rouse (A’s) led off the game with a double as Team USA batted around. He moved up on a sacrifice bunt by Jeremy Reed (White Sox) and scored on Blanco’s balk. DH Ernie Young (Tigers) had the inning’s big hit, a two-run double that made it 5-0.

Team USA had 10 hits on the day, led by Reed and Young. Reed, batting second, had two hits and scored twice; Young had three hits and three RBIs. Second baseman Chris Burke (Astros) and Rouse each had a double, while center fielder Grady Sizemore (Indians) had an RBI, a single and scored twice.

“I like the way we’ve been pitching, and our offense is starting to come around,” Robinson said. “We needed to get our guys acclimated again to the competition before tomorrow night’s important game against Panama.”

Ramirez got relief help from righthander J.D. Durbin (Twins) and lefthander Royce Ring (Mets), who each threw a shutout inning. Durbin struck out two and Ring one as Team USA combined for a two-hitter.

Team USA finishes the round-robin portion of the schedule with a Thursday if-necessary game against Brazil; the medal round begins Friday, Nov. 7.

Colombia manager Luis Sierra Llamas said Blanco wasn’t his team’s best pitcher, keeping Dorian Castro in reserve for a matchup with Nicaragua that likely will determine whether or not Colombia qualifies for the medal round.

“Unfortunately Blanco didn’t throw strikes and that allowed Team USA to open the score pretty early,” the manager said. “We are not worried. We have an average age of 23 years and are working toward the Pan Am games of Cartagena in 2006. Possibly by that date we will have pros in the roster.”

Riccardo Schiroli of Baseball Italia contributed to this report.

                   2003 USA Olympic Qualifying Team
Colombia vs USA
Nov 04, 2003 at Panama City, Panama (Nacional)

Colombia 0 (1-2) USA 10 (2-0)

AB R H RBI AB R H RBI

Gomez ss 2 0 0 0 Rouse ss 2 1 1 0
Herrera, H. lf 2 0 0 0 Hardy ph/ss 2 0 0 0
De Avila 2b 2 0 0 0 Reed lf 2 2 2 0
Llamas 3b 3 0 1 0 Sizemore cf 2 2 1 1
Argel 1b 3 0 1 0 Koonce 1b 1 1 0 0
Godoy dh 2 0 0 0 Lamb ph/1b 0 1 0 0
Zambrano c 2 0 0 0 Gross rf 2 1 0 0
Marun c 0 0 0 0 Holliday rf 1 0 1 1
Ortega cf 2 0 0 0 Mauer c 2 0 1 1
Brown rf 2 0 0 0 Laird c 1 0 0 0
Blanco p 0 0 0 0 Leone 3b 2 1 0 0
Avilez p 0 0 0 0 Young dh 4 1 3 3
Angulo p 0 0 0 0 Burke 2b 3 0 1 1
Alvear p 0 0 0 0 Ramirez p 0 0 0 0
Durbin p 0 0 0 0
Ring p 0 0 0 0

Totals…… 20 0 2 0 Totals…… 24 10 10 7

Score by innings: R H E
——————————————-
Colombia 000 000 0 – 0 2 1
USA 510 013 – 10 10 0
——————————————-

E – Avilez. DP – Colombia 1; USA 2. LOB – Colombia 2; USA 9. 2B – Rouse;
Young; Burke. SH – Reed. SF – Sizemore; Mauer. SB – Reed.

IP H R ER BB SO WP BK HP IBB AB BF Fly Gnd

Blanco L 0-1 1.0 2 5 5 3 1 1 1 1 0 3 9 1 1
Avilez 2.0 2 1 0 1 2 0 0 0 0 7 9 3 1
Angulo 2.0 5 4 4 3 1 0 0 0 0 11 14 4 1
Alvear 1.0 1 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 3 5 0 2

Ramirez W 1-0 5.0 1 0 0 3 2 0 0 0 0 13 16 3 7
Durbin 1.0 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 3 3 1 0
Ring 1.0 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 4 4 1 1

WP – Blanco. HBP – by Blanco (Koonce). BK – Blanco.

Strikeouts – Argel 2; Godoy; Ortega; Brown; Hardy; Gross; Leone; Burke.
Walks – Gomez; Herrera, H.; De Avila; Rouse; Reed; Sizemore; Koonce; Lamb;
Gross; Leone 2; Burke.

Umpires – Home:Vinda 1st:Roman 2nd:Okuyama 3rd:Batista
Start: 10:00 am Time: 2:15 Attendance: 100
Angulo faced 4 batters in the 6th.

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