Team USA Prepares For Mexico

Complete Coverage of the Americas Olympic Qualifier

By John Manuel

November 7, 2003

Team USA begins the all-important medal round of play in the Olympic qualifying tournament in Panama today under a shroud of controversy.

The Americans, who went 3-0 during pool play to earn the top seed out of Group B, play Mexico today at 3 p.m. The game was originally scheduled for 8 p.m., but tournament officials switched the time of Team USA’s game with that of the host nation’s game against Puerto Rico, apparently in a bid to bring more fans to the ballpark. Crowds for the tournament have been miniscule with the exception of Panama’s games.

Team USA will send lefthander Jason Stanford (Indians) to the mound for his second start of the tournament against Mexico, which went 0-3 in pool play. Stanford pitched seven shutout innings against Nicaragua in Team USA’s opener a week ago, allowing one hit and one walk while striking out two. Mexico’s lineup is more formidable, anchored by minor league veterans such as Luis A. Garcia and Luis C. Garcia, as well as veterans of Mexico’s professional summer and winter leagues.

The winner advances to the semifinal on Sunday against the winner of Saturday’s Canada-Colombia quarterfinal. The winner of the semifinal, scheduled for Sunday at 8 p.m., would qualify for the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece.

Team USA had its final tune-up for the medal round Thursday with a 4-1 seven-inning exhibition game against Brazil, which finished fourth in Group B and will play Cuba in the medal round.

Righthander Justin Duchscherer (Athletics), originally slated to be Team USA’s No. 2 starter, saw his first action after missing the rest of the tournament with a stomach ailment. He went four innings, allowing three hits and one run, a solo homer by first baseman Renan Sato. Lefty John Grabow (Pirates) and righthanders Jesse Crain (Twins) and Todd Williams (Devil Rays) worked an inning apiece to finish up.

Team USA got a two-run double from Mike Lamb (Rangers) and an RBI from J.J. Hardy (Brewers) in a three-run second inning to take the lead. Jeremy Reed (White Sox), who had two hits, doubled and scored in the third for Team USA’s final run. Reed, Chris Burke (Astros) and Gabe Gross (Blue Jays) had two hits apiece to lead the Americans.

Medal Round Schedule

All Times Eastern

Friday, Nov. 7

Quarterfinals

Panama vs. Puerto Rico, 3 p.m.

USA vs. Mexico, 8 p.m.

Saturday, Nov. 8

Quarterfinals

Canada vs. Colombia, 3 p.m.

Cuba vs. Brazil, 8 p.m.

Sunday, Nov. 9

Semifinals
3 p.m. and 8 p.m.

Monday, Nov. 10

Finals
3 p.m. and 8 p.m.

Final Pool Play Standings

Pool A

1. Cuba 3-0

2. Canada 2-1

3. Puerto Rico 1-2

4. Mexico 0-3

Pool B

1. USA 3-0

2. Panama 3-1

3. Colombia 2-2

4. Brazil 1-2

5. Nicaragua 0-4

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