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Sunday, March 19, 2006

Cuba to the final

A friend of mine got married this afternoon, so I had to wait to watch the semifinals until the evening. Tonight I watched the 3 hr, 53 minute Cuba/DR game. It was a good game in some ways, but was also an extremely frustrating game to watch. The DR's only run was unearned, and Cuba's big inning was more a matter of luck than anything else; infield hit after infield hit. Still, it was great to see a game with such real emotion this time of year. Biggest moment in the game? For me, it was Adrian Beltre's shot to left field in the 8th. When it left his bat I would have sworn it was a few rows back in the left field bleachers, and that the DR had just taken the lead. Instead, it ended up a routine fly ball. I guess that's the Petco effect...

I'm kind of reeling after this loss, far more so than I was for the USA elimination game vs. Mexico. I think the reason is that the DR played this game the right way. There were probably two questionable managerial decisions: 1) sending the runners on the 3-2 pitch with Willy Taveras hitting the 5th, and 2) pulling Perez in the 7th inning when the Cubans could barely hit anything he was throwing at them (terrible luck in that inning). Maybe I'd add not pitching Bartolo Colon up to the 95-pitch limit, given how dominant he was. But still, I don't feel cheated. They played to win, and ended up short.

It was good to see Wily Mo Pena get in some good swings. In the end, he went 1 for 4, reached on an error, stole a base, and got caught stealing on the strike 'em out, throw 'em out play in the 5th (see #1 above). He also made a few routine plays in the outfield. He did strike out once (6-pitch at-bat), but overall seemed like he was seeing the ball well. I hope he has a big year for us.

A note on Cuba: I keep score on a decent number of games each year. Certainly almost any game I see in person, but also a good number of games on TV. Aside from helping me keep in a game and remember who did what earlier in the game, one of the things I love about doing this is that I can, in a very personal way, go back and and relive ballgames from my past. Today, as I was watching the Cuba/DR game, I realized I still have my scorecard from the Baltimore/Cuba exhibition game in Cuba on March 28th, 1999. A few quick notes, having spent a few minutes staring at that scorecard:
  • It was a really good game, going 11 innings before the Orioles pulled out a 3-2 victory. Will Clark hit a one-out double, advanced on an Albert Belle groundout to third, and then scored (after BJ Surhoff walked) on a Harold Baines single.
  • Two players (that I recognize, at least) on the current Cuban national team appeared in that game: Pestano, the pesky catcher on the current team, came in during the 8th inning after the original catcher (Manrique) was pinch hit for in the 7th. He went 0-2 with two groundouts once in the game. The other was the pitcher Lazo--the same guy who shut down the DR in the final half of today's game--who gave up that losing run in the 11th!
  • Mike Bordick played in place of Cal Ripken. I don't recall if there was a reason, though it was an exhibition game after all. (I am glad that I did get to see Cal playing at an August 2001 game in Kansas City, which I attended with my father while driving across country. He tipped his hat to a standing ovation. Great moment).
  • The other two Baltimore runs scored on a Charles Johnson Home Run in the 2nd inning.
I'll watch the Korea/Japan game tomorrow, which means I need to starve myself of any and all baseball news until then to avoid spoilers. In the meantime, I desperately need to go to bed, as it's insane late here. -j