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06/15/2008 Archived Entry: "WORLD BASEBALL TODAY: Vol. 2, No. 24"

by Bruce Baskin
Radio Miami International
Sunday, June 15, 2008


While the Florida Marlins have been in the process of becoming the National League’s most unexpected success story this year, the long ball has been their calling card. Thus, it should come as no surprise that a Marlins home run was the difference in their thrilling 6-2 win over Philadelphia last Wednesday night at Dolphin Stadium.

Marlins second baseman Dan Uggla was the man of the hour in this one, stroking a walk-off grand slam in the bottom of the ninth inning to bust open a 2-2 game. Facing a 3-1 count, Uggla drilled a Tom Gordon fastball 444 feet into the stands to give Florida the win. It was Uggla’s 19th homer of the season, and the first Marlins game-ending grand slam since Bobby Bonilla did it against Pittsburgh on September 16, 1997.

Jorge Cantu socked two homers in the contest, his second multihomer game of the season. Cantu went deep with two out in the first inning and cranked a homer down the left field line in the seventh. Starter Andrew Miller, who came to Florida from Detroit in the trade that sent Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis to the Tigers, pitched into the seventh, allowing one run on four hits with seven whiffs.
With the win, the Marlins raised their season record to 36-29, trailing only 39-28 Philadelphia in the National League East. The Chicago Cubs continue to lead the Central Division with a major league-best 42-24 record, although St. Louis is only two-and-a-half games out. In the West, 36-31 Arizona is four games up on the Los Angeles Dodgers.


This weekend the Tampa Bay Rays are hosting the Marlins in an interleague series at Tropicana Field. To show how things have changed in Sunshine State baseball, this is only the second time in 11 years that the Rays and Marlins enter a series against each other with winning records. With both teams just two games out of first place in their respective divisions, these games mean more than just in-state bragging rights.

Over the years, the Marlins hold a 34-21 edge in games between the two teams, including a 12-14 mark under the dome at home. The Rays fell out of first place in the American League East by dropping three in a row at Boston, but won two of three games against Texas in the next series and are just two games behind the Bosox.

Tampa Bay will be aided by the return of two prime players in time for the Florida series. Outfielder Jonny Gomes was set to return Friday after serving a five-game suspension for his role in a bench-clearing brawl in Boston, the second time Gomes has been in the midst of an on-field dustup this year. Closer Troy Percival was scheduled to come off the disabled list after sitting out 15 days with a strained left hamstring. However, the Rays will be minus outfielder Carl Crawford, who started his own-four game suspension Friday for his part in the Rays-Red Sox brawl.

Boston leads the AL East with a 41-27 record, while Tampa Bay holds second at 38-28 despite losing six of their previous ten games before the Florida series. The Chicago White Sox are 37-29 and hold a five-game lead over Minnesota in the Central Divison race, while the Los Angeles Angels have won eight of their last ten games to open up a five-game lead over Oakland in the AL West. The Angels are 41-26, the best record in the American League.


The Yakult Swallows are mired in fifth place in Japan’s Central League standings, and have won just ten of 28 home games in 2008. They’re hoping to change their fortunes a bit with the signing of major league veteran infielder Wilson Valdez to a contract last week.

Valdez played 111 games over three seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Seattle Mariners during his stint in the big leagues, but the 30-year-old Dominican has had his troubles this year. After playing for the Dodgers last year, he began the season with the Kia Tigers of the Korea Baseball Organization, but was released after hitting just .218 with one homer and 16 RBIs in 47 games for Kia.

Valdez will be paid 20 million yen plus incentives by the Swallows, who will likely play him at shortstop while Yakult’s regular shortstop, Shinya Miyamoto, plays for Japan during the upcoming Beijing Olympics in August.

Hanshin continues to dominate the Central League with a 40-18-1 record. The Tigers have an eight-and-a-half game lead over second-place Chunichi. Seibu leads the Pacific League with a 38-24-1 record, while Nippon Ham is four games behind in second.


Former major league outfielder Karim Garcia is the leading vote-getter for the Korea Baseball Organization’s All-Star Game, which is scheduled for August 3 at Incheon’s Munhak Stadium. The 32-year-old Mexican is playing for the Lotte Giants this year, and has a KBO-leading 15 homers with 45 RBIs.

With just under a quarter-million votes cast by fans, Garcia received over 197,000 votes, while third baseman Dae-ho Lee, a Garcia teammate with Lotte, was second with about 187,000 votes. Last year, Lee collected over 341,000 All-Star votes, the most in KBO All-Star history.

It could be argued that Giants fans are stuffing the ballot box. Lotte players lead the balloting at all ten positions on the ballot for the East team, which will be comprised of players from the Giants, Doosan Bears, Samsung Lions and the defending KBO champion SK Wyverns. The West team will be drawn from players on the Hanwha Eagles, Kia Tigers, LG Twins and Woori Heroes. Hanwha and Kia each have four players on top of the West All-Star balloting, while the Twins and Heroes each have one player leading the voting, including Woori designated hitter Cliff Brumbaugh.

The KBO has assigned each team 10,000 ballots for stadium use in the name of fairness, but fans can also vote every day online with their real name. In-park balloting will close July 13, while the online polling will conclude one week later.


The President Lions clinched the first half championship in Taiwan’s Chinese Professional Baseball League last week with a convincing 5-0 shutout of the Sinon Bulls. The win assures the Lions a spot in the postseason, along with the second-half winner and the club with the third-best overall record.

Lions pitcher Wei-luen “Du Du” Pan tossed seven innings of scoreless ball against the Bulls for the win. The former first overall draft pick of 2003 showed why he is the highest-paid domestic player in Taiwan by posting his 20th consecutive win, dating back to last season. Ricky Stone came out of the bullpen and tossed a pair of shutout innings to keep the shutout intact. Sinon starter Jose Espinal took the loss after allowing five runs over six innings of work to fall to 2-3 on the season.


The Monclova Acereros are leading the Mexican League’s Northern Division second half standings with a 10-4 record, one game ahead of the Monterrey Sultanes. Pitching has been the name of the game with the Steelers, with four Monclova pitchers winning seven or more games this year, but nobody in Mexico has been better than Nerio Rodriguez.

Rodriguez has built an 11-2 record for the Acereros. Twenty-game winners don’t come along often in leagues with 110-game schedules, but he’s certainly been pitching like one. His eleven wins are the most in the LMB, with nine pitchers tied for second at eight wins apiece. In 13 starts, Rodriguez has a 2.52 ERA over 82 innings with 60 strikeouts and just 17 walks.

In Mexico’s Southern Division, the Mexico City Diablos Rojos are dominating with a 12-2 second-half record, three games up on the Quintana Roo Tigres. Unlike Monclova, the Diablos have been winning games by outhitting their opponents. The top three batters in the Mexican League all play for Mexico City. Eduardo Arredondo is hitting .399, followed by Jose Macias at .394 and Victor Bojorquez at .385. Saltillo’s Kit Pellow is fourth at .383 with a league-high 23 homers and 70 RBIs.


Although Fortitudo Bologna has firmly established themselves as the top team in the Italian Baseball League with a 20-4 record, and Grosseto and Nettuno are both three games behind with identical 17-7 records, there’s a nice battle developing for the fourth and final playoff berth among three teams.

Parma and San Marino are tied for fourth at 13-11, while Rimini is one game back in sixth at 12-12. Rimini looked to be in bad shape in last weekend’s series with Parma after losing the first game, but they came back to win the second and third games of the set to tighten the race considerably. With six weekends left in the Italian League season, there will be faint postseason hopes in Godo or Redipuglia. Godo is seventh at 3-21, while hapless Redipuglia has a 1-23 record.


The British National League season has been going for six weeks, and one question is foremost among English baseball fans: Will the London Mets ever lose a game? The Mets have broken away from the four-team South Division pack with a perfect 12-0 record, and these haven’t exactly been nailbiters they’ve been winning. The Mets are beating opponents by an average score of 10-2.

Last weekend, London swept two games from the only team within hailing distance in the South, the Richmond Flames. The Mets won the first contest 11-0 as Mark Rigby drilled a three-run homer before finishing the game on the mound for starter Brian Essery, who tossed six strong innings. London did have a tough one in the nightcap, winning 4-3 after Richmond had a chance to tie the game with one out in the seventh and final inning when Martin Visser singled to right, but baserunner Brad Crinion was held up at third by his coach. Crinion then watched London starter Troy Kantor struck out the next two batsmen to end the game and drop the Flames to 8-4.

In the British North, all three teams have a shot at a division title. The Manchester is on top with a 5-2 record, Liverpool is 3-2 and Menwith Hill is 4-4.

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