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Olympic Baseball Day 3
2008-08-15 07:18
by Bob Timmermann

Day 3 of the Olympic baseball featured Cold War politics, crazy rules, and a wild comeback.

The first game of the day was between China and Taiwan (or as they say in the Olympics "Chinese Taipei.")

Taiwan led 2-0 heading to the bottom of the eighth when China scored three runs to take a 3-2 edge. Taiwan tied it up with a run in the ninth and then it was time for free baseball. And not just free baseball, but free baseball with weird rules.

That's because the game went to an 11th inning when teams get to start the inning with runners on first and second. However, neither team scored in the 11th. So they tried it again in the 12th and Taiwan scored four times to take a 7-3 lead.

But in one of the biggest surprises in Olympic baseball's short history, China scored five times in the 12th to win the game 8-7. The people of Taiwan are, to put it mildly, not happy. This was China's first ever win over Taiwan on the international stage in baseball. China is 1-1 in the tournament and Taiwan is 1-2.

About the same time, the USA and Cuba were playing and that game looked to be in Cuba's hands as they took a 3-2 lead in the top of the eighth on a homer on an Alfredo Despaigne homer. However, Jayson Nix homered in the bottom of the eighth to tie it up.

And this one went to 11 innings and the freaky rules came into play. Cuba started the 11th with its #8 and #9 hitters on base and its leadoff man up. Cuba opted to sacrifice both runners over and then got them both home to take a 5-4.

Team USA manager opted to put the #9 and #1 hitters on base and start the 11th with his #2 hitter, Nix. Nix tried to sacrifice, but Pedro Lazo's pitch tipped off his bat and right into his eye, knocking him down and out of the Olympic tournament.

Johnson thought that the play was deliberate.


"I respect the way baseball is played in Cuba, but I don't like it played that way," Johnson said. "I've lost one player already [Mike Hessman to a sore heel], and now I may have just lost one for the entire series today.

"I believe in hard-nosed baseball; that's how I played it in my career. But in my wildest imagination, I didn't think they'd throw it right at my player's coconut."

Responded Cuban manager Antonio Pacheco: "It's a lack of respect. We respect the game and we respect our opponents. We are incapable of doing that to someone."

Lazo was incredulous and seemed floored by Johnson's comments, and said, "He squared around. It hit the fat part of his bat first, and then it hit his face."

When I watched the play, I would have to side with the Cubans. Nix just couldn't bunt a ball tailing in on him and it bounced the wrong way.


Terry Tiffee drove in one run with a sacrifice fly, but Matt Brown fouled out to end the game. Cuba is 3-0 and the USA is 1-2.

(Interestingly that although baseball adopted a weird tiebreaker, Olympic tennis does not use a tiebreaker in an ultimate [third] set and James Blake lost in the semifinals to Fernando Gonzalez, 4-6, 7-5, 11-9.)

In the evening games, Japan had little trouble with the Netherlands, winning 6-0. The Dutch have yet to score a run in Beijing and are 0-3. Japan is 2-1.

Finally, Korea had just three hits against Canada, but one of them was a third inning homer by Keunwoo Jeong, and that was enough for pitcher Hyunjin Ryu to make stand up for a 1-0 win. Korea is 2-0 and Canada is 1-2.

2008-08-15 10:05:59
1.   ToyCannon
Taiwan could have used Kuo. They will probably destroy his arm in the next World Cup.
2008-08-15 10:16:53
2.   xaphor
I assume Johnson is just trying to deflect criticism for the loss, but what a ridiculous accusation. Either Davey is hoping no one actually watched the game or he himself was asleep for the play.
2008-08-15 11:05:18
3.   Bob Timmermann
I bet the Dodgers won't let Taiwan use Kuo in the WBC.

He did pitch in 2006.

2008-08-15 13:22:05
4.   grandcosmo
I know the book says to play for a tie on the road and a win at home but it doesn't say anything about starting an extra inning with two men already placed on the bases before the first pitch is thrown.

The tie breaking format favors small ball tactics but if you play tit for tat with these other countries you will eventually lose because they are much more adept at small ball than we are.

Also, Johnson should stop whining and start having his team play some old fashioned country hardball. Guys like Ty Cobb and Jackie Robinson would be disgusted to hear Johnson's statement.

2008-08-15 14:24:37
5.   Bob Timmermann
An MLB spokesman tried to downplay any hostility. Probably because they don't want Cuba boycotting the WBC.

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