Venezuela Stuns Team USA in World Cup

Team USA blew a 7-2 lead and wasted two home runs by Rangers prospect Justin Smoak, losing its World Cup opener 13-9 to Venezuela in extra innings. Team USA gave up two grand slams, one in the top of the 11th to former Red Sox farmhad Dirimo Chavez, in the loss at in front of 4,200 at Armin-Wolf Baseball Stadium in Regensburg, Germany.

Chavez hit his homer off losing pitcher Nate Field (Marlins) to give the Venezuelans the final margin of victory. Because this is international baseball, the extra-inning rule was in effect—the speed-up rule that puts runners on base and none out in the 10th inning. Both teams scored two runs in the 10th, but the U.S. couldn’t answer Chavez’s blast in the 11th, as Pedro Alvarez (Pirates) and Jason Castro (Astros) were retired and Tug Hulett (Royals) struck out to end it against 22-year-old ex-Blue Jays farmhand Robert Zarate, a lefthander.

Smoak went 4-for-6 with the two home runs and tied the game in the bottom of the 10th with a two-run double. Smoak, one of eight first-round picks on the U.S. roster, had helped stake starter Brad Lincoln (Pirates) to a 7-2 lead with his two home runs, and second baseman Hulett added a solo homer in the second inning. Lincoln threw five innings and allowed only one run on five hits, striking out two.

The U.S. bullpen, specifically Jason Childers (Rays), blew the lead. Childers gave up five in the seventh after two were out as he walked the bases loaded—three of the nine U.S. walks on the night—hit a batter and gave up a grand slam to 31-year-old former Rockies outfielder Rene Reyes.

The U.S. has to try to rebound today against host Germany (1-0) in a game set to be shown live at 1 p.m. on MLB Network. Righthander Todd Redmond (Braves) takes the hill for Team USA.

Elsewhere in World Cup play:

• In Zagreb, Japan held off plucky Great Britain 9-7, despite a five-run U.K. rally in the ninth. The British are playing in their first World Cup since 1938, when they won what is considered the inaugural event, against the U.S. Also, Nicaragua defeated host Croatia 10-1.

• In Barcelona, Cuba cruised to a 10-0 victory against Puerto Rico. Norge Vera threw a seven-inning complete-game shutout, striking out eight in a lineup that includes ex-big leaguers like Ruben Gotay, Raul Casanova and Carlos Rivera. Yulieski Gourriel and Alfredo Despaigne homered for Cuba, which had three homers and 11 hits.

• In Sweden, Canada pounded reigning Olympic gold-medallist South Korea 9-1 with Adam Loewen (Blue Jays) contributing three hits. The Canadians got five shutout innings from Brewers prospect Nick Bucci, and an eight-run seventh inning put the game away.

• Former Diamondbacks prospect Jesus Cota pounded three home runs to lead Mexico to an 8-0 win against Taiwan.