Germany Makes Successful WBC Debut

REGENSBURG, GERMANY—Germany made a statement Friday night in a 16-1 six-inning mercy rule victory over Czech Republic.

Perhaps  highly favored Canada may have some competition to win this World Baseball Classic Qualifier.

Stocked with professional players Max Kepler (Twins), who signed with Minnesota for a European record $800,000 in 2009; Donald Lutz (Reds), Aaron Altherr (Phillies) and Matt Weaver (Braves), Germany’s lineup jumped on Czech starter Michal Sobotka in the first. Former Astros’ farmhand Eric Suttle (Gary, American Association) led off the game with a double and following a hit by pitch, Kepler laced a triple down the right-field line to plate two. He would later score to put the home team up 3-0.

But just like the night before, when Great Britain hung tough with Canada for a handful of innings before giving way, Sobotka, relying on movement from his high 70s fastball and his change-up in the 60s, held Germany hitters in check for the next three innings. At the same time, Germany got a stellar performance from Mike Bolsenbroek, a former Phillies minor leaguer who put up solid numbers in his three-year career (2-4, 2.55 ERA, four saves in 74 innings). The righthander would last 5 1/3 innings, giving up one unearned run on five hits and two walks. He’d also strike out five batters, often challenging them with a fastball that topped out at 90 mph.

The close contest was blown open in the fifth inning, when Germany hit around thanks to a combination of sloppy Czech pitching (three walks) and defense (an error) and a grand slam home run by Weaver, which combined to spark an eight-run frame. The following inning, Germany applied a conservative approach on the base paths, refusing to take extra bases on balls hit in the gap. Nevertheless, they easily tacked on five more runs to seal the shortened victory.

All told, nine different German batters connected for at least one hit with Suttle (2-for-4 with 2 runs) having the only multiple hit day. For the Czechs, both Mike Cervenak (Marlins) and Martin Drong went 2-2.

The result sets up an intriguing contest between Canada and Germany (7 p.m. local time) in the winner’s bracket. Both teams won with a mercy rule victory in their opener. Great Britain and Czech Republic will square off in the afternoon (1 p.m. local time) in an elimination game.