There were three games in the WBC Monday. And just who is going to end up in the semifinals became sligthly less blurry, but not clear either. And all we know now is that we know now about the teams in the WBC and how the games will play out is not nearly as much as we thought we knew before the tournament started and what we don't know dwarfs that. There is only one team left in the tournament is undefeated, Korea. And it hasn't clinched a spot in the semifinals despite its stellar play.
A day after a disappointing loss to Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic restored a sense of normalcy to the WBC with a big win over Cuba.
Odalis Perez threw 4 2/3 innings of shutout ball to even the D.R.'s record at 1-1, the same as Cuba. Fernando Rodney came in to get the save in the ninth after Robinson Tejeda gave up a pair of runs. Jorge Sosa gave up just a home run to Yulieski Gourriel.
Miguel Tejada had a 2-run double and David Ortiz hit his third home run of the tournament. Ronny Paulino, a Pirates prospect, went 2 for 2 as the starting catcher, filling in for Alberto Castillo, who had to miss the game to be sworn in as an American citizen. Insert joke here.
The struggling Venezuelan offense got a 2-run homer from Endy Chavez (his second in two days) and a grand slam from Victor Martinez to get back into the tournament and even its record in the second round at 1-1, the same as Puerto Rico. And the Dominican Republic. And Cuba.
Carlos Zambrano, who was hit hard in his first outing of the tournament against the D.R., was much better this time. He went four innings and struck out five and gave up two hits and no runs. Six pitchers followed to preserve the shutout, Venezuela's third of the tournament.
The game's biggest play came in the fifth. Chavez had homered to put Venezuela up 2-0. Carlos Silva came in to relieve and gave up singles to Jose Valentin and Alex Cintron to lead off the inning, delighting the sellout crowd at Hiram Bithorn Stadium as there were runners on first and third. Alex Cora tried to bunt Cintron over, but his bunt traveled just a few feet and Ramon Hernandez pounced on it and gunned it to shortstop Omar Vizquel at second base to force Cintron. Vizquel then saw Valentin straying down the third base line and gunned the ball over to Miguel Cabrera who applied the tag to Valentin. While replays showed that Valentin was safe, but umpire Fred van Groningen called him out and Venezuela had an unlikely 2-6-5 DP. Bernie Williams flied out to center to end the inning.
In the eighth Venezuela loaded the bases on two walks and a hit batter and Victor Martinez cleaned the bases with a grand slam off of Ivan Maldanado.
The San Juan Regional boils down now to a pair of elimination games and rematches on Tuesday and Wednesday. Venezuela and the D.R. play each other Tuesday at 4 pm PT and the winner moves on to San Diego. Cuba and Puerto Rico play on Wednesday at 4 pm PT and the winner of that one moves on to the semifinals. The D.R. and P.R. won the first round matchups. Tuesday's game should match up Daniel Cabrera for the D.R. and Freddy Garcia for Venezuela.
Fortunately for fans of Team USA, this disaster of a game against Korea, was not televised live. But the result of this one might just be the most surprising one of the WBC.
Coming into the game, most fans of Korea didn't give their team much of a chance. Korean manager In Sik Kim started Min Han Son instead of one of his major leaguers, such as Sunny Kim or Chan Ho Park (although it seems that Park is now Korea's closer).
Team USA manager started Dontrelle Willis and hoped that he would have a better performance than he did in his loss to Canada. Derrek Lee, who had hit three home runs in the tournament, didn't start as Martinez opted for Mark Texeira. Matt Holliday started in left field.
The US team looked to be off to a good start when Vernon Wells led off with a walk and Derek Jeter followed with a single. Ken Griffey flied out to right and Wells moved to third. Son was able to get Alex Rodriguez to pop up to first. Chipper Jones followed with a walk to load the bases, but Son was able to strike out Jason Varitek to end the threat.
Willis started out shaky, walking Jong Beom Lee to lead off the game, but Min Jae Kim bounced into a double play. That brought up Korea's biggest threat, Seong Yeop Lee who had hit four home runs in the series. And Lee made it five with a drive to right-center to put Korea up 1-0. Korea wasn't done as Willis gave up a walk and a single and then Bum Ho Lee drove in a run to make it 2-0.
Griffey got a run back with a home run to right in the third inning, but Korea scored a run after Willis put two runners on with a walk and hit batter. A sacrifice and an RBI groundout by Bum Ho Lee made it 3-1 Korea.
In the fourth, Team USA loaded the bases again, but Byung-Hyun Kim struck out Wells to end the threat. Dan Wheeler came in to relieve Willis in the fourth and retired the first two batters. Then Kim bounced a double over the fence in left. Wheeler then intentionally walked Lee. Manager Kim then decided to bring in Hee-Seop Choi to pinch hit for DH Tae Kyun Kim. On a 1-1 pitch, Choi launched a high fly down the right field line that Wells tried to grab, but fell out of his reach and into the seats for a three-run home run to make it 6-1 Korea and leave the American fans in Anaheim in stunned silence.
Korea added another run in the sixth to make it 7-1 and then Dae-Sung Koo, Tae Hyun Chong, and Seung Hwan Oh closed out the game, although the Americans added a pair of runs in the ninth.
And now, there is one game in the Anaheim Region Tuesday, matching Mexico and Japan. If Mexico wins, then Korea is in the semifinals. And then the USA-Mexico game on Thursday would decide the other semifinalist. But if Japan wins, Mexico is eliminated and Team USA could be eliminated if Japan beats Korea Wednesday night with Japan scoring no more than five runs and Korea scoring no more than four. I.e., the maximum victory total would have to be 5-4 Japan for the USA to be eliminated.
Of course, I could be misinterpreting the tiebreaker rules. If so, please feel free to correct me.
But if you're a fan of the USA, you really hope that Mexico manager Pequin Estrada follows through with his plan to start Esteban Loaiza against Japan and Loaiza pitches as well against Japan as he did against Canada. And that Japan starter Daisuke Matsuzaka has a bad night. Or else the Final Four of the inaugural WBC won't have the host team.