Tuesday, September 19|
U.S. struggles with Dutch junkballer
BLACKTOWN, Australia -- The majors? All of those high draft
picks on the U.S. pitching staff aren't ready for it yet.
A medal? With each performance, it looks like they just might be
up to it.
Kurt Ainsworth settled down after a shaky first inning Tuesday
and shut down a lineup spiced with former major leaguers, setting
up a 6-2 victory over the Netherlands.
Ernie Young doubled home a pair of runs and hit a solo homer,
the best part of an offense that had trouble with a junkball
No surprise there. The Americans have been lightweights at the
plate, hitting .267 as a team. By contrast, their pitching has been
nearly as perfect as their record -- 3-0 and counting.
"God bless 'em if they keep doing it," outfielder Mike Neill
said. "I'm sure we'll ride their backs all the way to a medal."
A high draft pick has led the United States to all three wins.
Ben Sheets, Milwaukee's top pick last year, threw seven shutout
innings in an opening 4-2 win over Japan. Jon Rauch, a third-round
pick of the White Sox, struck out 13 South Africans in seven
innings of an 11-1 victory.
Up next was Ainsworth, the 24th overall pick overall last year
by San Francisco. He gave up a run in the first inning -- the first
earned run off the rotation in the tournament -- before pitching
like his predecessors.
"It's probably the biggest game I've thrown and I was probably
too pumped up early," he said.
It showed. Ainsworth scratched the mound with his cleats, took
deep breaths and left pitches over the plate. The Netherlands (1-2)
hit them hard.
Rikkert Faneyte, who's played 80 games in the majors, lined a
single to start the Netherlands' first. Ralph Milliard, an
infielder who was part of the trade that sent Al Leiter to the Mets
in 1998, followed with another single.
After a walk loaded the bases with none out, Hensley Meulens hit
into a forceout at second to drive in a run. Meulens also has
played in the majors and was nicknamed "Bam Bam" as a top minor
league prospect in the 1980s.
The U.S. bullpen got busy, but Ainsworth got a double-play
grounder to end the threat and earn a second chance. He made good
on it, allowing a total of five hits in 6 2-3 innings with three
Asked if he expects the others to needle him about giving up the
first earned run off a U.S. starter, Ainsworth said, "I'll
probably give myself more grief than they will."
He'll hear nothing from the hitters, who were out of whack
against a pitcher who looked like he was throwing batting practice
Rob Cordemans mixed his 88 mph fastball with a changeup that
dipped to 66 mph and left the Americans spinning in circles and
losing their bats after awkward swings.
"That guy threw slow and slower," said Young, a 31-year-old
outfielder who had three of the Americans' eight hits. "He kept it
a close game. You've got to give him credit somewhat."
Young's two-run double put the United States ahead in the first
and his solo homer to right made it 3-1 in the third. Doug
Mientkiewicz doubled off the warning track in center to drive in
another run in the sixth and later added a sacrifice fly. Brad
Wilkerson also hit a solo homer.
Manager Tom Lasorda got into his second brief argument with an
umpire in the tournament. After Brad Abernathy was picked off
first, Lasorda walked onto the field, spread his arms and argued
for a balk call. The Japanese umpire at first smiled as he listened
Cuba 6, South Korea 5: Cuba survived its first close call in
baseball Tuesday, rallying from a four-run deficit to beat South
Korea 6-5 on Juan Manrique's tiebreaking homer in the eighth.
Cuba, which has never lost in the Olympics, ran its record to
3-0 and its streak to 21 wins, including gold medals in Barcelona
It took some doing. Korea (1-2) stunned the Cubans by pulling
ahead 4-0 after four innings. The Cubans' high-powered offense,
which came into the game batting .467, managed only two hits in the
first five innings off Kim Soo-kyung.
The Cubans sent 10 batters to the plate for five runs in a
fist-pumping sixth inning that started with walks to Omar Linares
and Orestes Kindelan, the heart of their order.
Antonio Pacheco drove both of them home with a double. Kindelan
was called safe at home on a close play and immediately raised his
arms in celebration. Oscar Macias followed with another RBI double
and Yobal Duenas pumped his first as he ran down the first baseline
after his two-run single put Cuba ahead.
Park Jae-hong tied it with a two-out homer in the seventh off
Pedro Luis Lazo, but Manrique led off the eighth with a homer well
over the wall in left. Lazo pitched out of a threat in the bottom
of the inning and retired the side in order in the ninth.
Cuba and the United States are the only undefeated teams left in
the eight-team tournament. After round-robin play, the top four
teams advance to the medal rounds.
|Ernie Young (19) leads the post-game high-fives after leading the U.S. to a 6-2 victory Tuesday.|
U.S. baseball victory features Unit-like performance