U.S. Closes In On Semifinals

By Juan C. Rodriguez
South Florida Sun-Sentinel

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla.—Team USA overcame more injuries and an irked Netherlands team to stay alive Sunday in the World Baseball Classic at Dolphin Stadium.

Already without Dustin Pedroia (oblique), Team USA scratched Chipper Jones from the starting lineup after he re-injured his oblique. The Americans did not want for offense as Pedroia replacement Brian Roberts went 3 for 3 and was a homer shy of the cycle. Adam Dunn homered as did Jimmy Rollins as part of a four-RBI performance in the 9-3 victory.

With the win in front of 11,059 fans, Team USA clinched a Tuesday meeting with the loser of Monday’s Venezuela-Puerto Rico game. With a spot in the semifinals at stake, manager Davey Johnson’s bunch will go into that contest short-handed. Because Chipper Jones already played in the second round, Team USA cannot replace him.
Outfielder Ryan Braun also departed after experiencing tightness in his right side after his third at-bat. Catcher Brian McCann pinch-hit for Braun and finished the game in left field—his first pro experience at the spot—but Braun later said he could have stayed in if the game was in doubt. Braun anticipates being ready Tuesday.

The pitching staff in all likelihood will be down a body. Righthander Matt Lindstrom left in the eighth inning with shoulder soreness. He experienced discomfort in the bullpen, but tried pitching through it.

Though Lindstrom said he isn’t worried and felt like he could have finished the inning, he will undergo an MRI Monday morning.

Lindstrom drew the Netherlands’ ire before exiting. Bryan Engelhardt crushed Lindstrom’s first offering deep into the right-field bleachers for his team’s first homer of the tournament. Engelhardt didn’t appear to excessively celebrate the blast, but Lindstrom disagreed. Vince Rooi stepped in and eluded a 96-mph first-pitch fastball aimed at his backside. Netherlands manager Rod Delmonico termed the incident "classless." Netherlands team members emerged from the dugout and began barking at Lindstrom. After Rooi flied out, he nearly brushed Lindstrom on the way back to the dugout.

Afterward, Lindstrom said he wasn’t trying to hit Rooi but admitted it was a purpose pitch to "send a message."

Netherlands starter Rick VandenHurk, Lindstrom’s Marlins teammate, and the rest of Bert Blyleven pupils couldn’t duplicate the performances that got them to this point. VandenHurk could not find the zone. He went to three-ball counts on three of the first four batters he faced. Two drew walks during the 30-pitch first inning. In the second, VandenHurk gave up a two-run homer to Rollins after right fielder Dirk Van’t Klooster dropped a Curtis Granderson liner that should have ended the inning.

"He left his pitches up," catcher Kenley Jansen said. "If you leave them up, you will pay for it. You can’t get away with those pitches to these types of hitters."

Offensively, the Dutch got Team USA starter Roy Oswalt’s pitch count up to 70 through four innings but didn’t have any runs to show for it. They got on the board in the seventh when Yurendell de Caster doubled off Brad Ziegler with two on and one out.

The result did not sour the Netherlands’ WBC experience.

"Collectively, they were able to do something that was very special, that no one gave us a chance [to do]," Delmonico said. "It just showed what happens when a group of players come together with one common goal and play for the name on the front of their jersey instead of the name on the back of their jersey."