World Cup: Van Hekken Keys American Victory; U.S. Reaches Medal Round

Andy Van Hekken (Astros) made five big league starts in 2002 for the Tigers, striking out five in 30 innings. A pro since 1998, the 32-year-old Van Hekken came through for the United States in the World Cup in Panama without the benefit of a strikeout.

Van Hekken pitched eight shutout innings, giving up just hits and no walks, to help lead the U.S. to a 5-0 victory against Panama. With a 4-3 record in pool play, the U.S. earned the fourth and final spot in the medal round from Group A. Van Hekken has now pitched 14 innings and allowed one run in his World Cup starts, both victories.

According to a press release from USA Baseball, here's how the rest of the World Cup works: The U.S. has a 1-2 record to start Round 2, as its record against the other qualifiers from its group—Canada, the Netherlands and Panama—carries over to the next round. It will then combine that record with the four-game record from its Round 2 schedule, against the four qualifiers from the other pool, a group that includes undefeated Cuba, South Korea, Venezuela and Australia. Then the country in the U.S. pool with the best overall seven-game record advances to the gold-medal game against its counterpart in the B pool, with the second-best record in the pool advances to the bronze medal game.

Right fielder Brett Jackson (Cubs) led the way for the Americans offensively with three hits, including a double in the third that scored Andrew Garcia (White Sox) with the first U.S. run. Jackson advanced to third on an error, then scored on Joey Thurston's single. Thurston also factored into a two-run fourth, as Tommy Mendonca (Rangers) homered to lead off, and with two outs A.J. Pollock (Diamondbacks) and Thurston doubled to make it 4-0. The veteran Thurston (Marlins) is hitting .462 with eight RBIs, both team highs for the U.S.

Jackson homered in the sixth for the other American run. Van Hekken and reliever Scott Patterson (Mariners) finished up the victory.

The U.S. opens play in the medal round Tuesday with a matchup against Cuba, which has lost its last two World Cup matchups with the Americans in gold-medal games in 2007 and '09 but is undefeated in this Cup. The U.S. then plays Venezuela on Wednesday, Australia on Thursday and South Korea on Friday.

Here are the second-round standings, carrying over first-round results:

Cuba: 3-0
Canada: 2-1
Netherlands: 2-1
Australia: 1-2
South Korea: 1-2
Panama: 1-2
Venezuela: 1-2
United States: 1-2