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08/03/2008 Archived Entry: "WORLD BASEBALL TODAY (August 3, 2008)"

by Bruce Baskin
Radio Miami International

The Florida Marlins defeated the New York Mets 7-4 last Wednesday for their second win in the three-game series with the Mets in Miami to close to within a game-and-a-half of the Philadelphia Phillies in the National League's East Division standings.
Dan Uggla swatted a late two-run homer to put the game away after Damion Easley crashed a pinch-hit three-run homer in the seventh inning to bring the Mets to within one run of the Fish. Easley's bomb was essentially the only blemish on a solid performance by Marlins starting pitcher Josh Johnson, who threw just 79 pitches over the first six innings before running into trouble in the seventh. The bullpen came through, however, as Kevin Gregg picked up his 23rd save of the season.
With the win, the third-place Marlins ran their season record to 57-51, one game behind the 58-50 Mets and 1.5 behind 58-49 Philadelphia in the NL East. In the Central Division, the 64-44 Chicago Cubs have the best record in the league to go along with a four-game lead over 60-48 Milwaukee and 61-49 St. Louis. The National League West is led by 54-52 Arizona, one game better than the 53-53 Los Angeles Dodgers.

There are a lot of reasons why the Tampa Bay Rays lead the American League East going into August, and home field advantage is definitely one of them. Entering their weekend series against Detroit, the Rays had a major league-best 40 wins at home, one shy of their team record of 41 home wins for a season. Tampa Bay is 36-9 over their past 45 home games, and have won 13 of their last 14 series under the Tropicana Field dome.
The Trop may be one of the least-attractive venues in the majors and the Rays are pushing for a new waterfront ballpark in St. Petersburg, but it's been attractive enough for Tampa Bay pitchers. Rays hurlers have put up a collective 2.93 ERA at home this year, a number that would be the second-lowest home ERA among American League teams since the 1990 Oakland A's. One prime beneficiary of Tampa Bay's home cooking is All-Star Game winner Scott Kazmir. While Kazmir is a so-so 3-4 with a 4.05 ERA away from home, he's 5-1 with a dominant 1.68 ERA at The Trop.
The Rays lead the American League East with a 63-44 record, ahead of 61-48 Boston and the 58-48 New York Yankees. The Chicago White Sox are on top of the AL Central at 60-46 while Minnesota is second with a 59-48 mark. The streaking Los Angeles Angels are dominating the American League West at 67-40, well ahead of 56-52 Texas in second place.

Hunter Morris of Auburn drove in LSU's Micah Gibbs with the game's only run on a broken-bat single in the 12th inning as Team USA beat Japan last Sunday in the title game of the World University Championships in the Czech Republic. Coming off his freshman season of college ball, Morris stroked the game-winning hit in each of the USA's last three wins as the Americans finished their 2008 season with a perfect 24-0 record.
Starter Mike Minor of Vanderbilt faced the minimum 27 Japanese batters over the first nine innings and kept his shutout going into the tenth before giving way to the bullpen. Closer Kendal Volz of Baylor came on in the bottom of the 12th to register his eighth save in nine opportunities. The Team USA pitching staff set a National Team record with an ERA of 0.88.

The Rakuten Golden Eagles of Japan's Pacific League have signed two import players to contracts for the remainder of the 2008 season. Former Nippon Ham Fighters designated hitter Fernando Seguinol and Florida Marlins minor leaguer Marcus Gwyn signed one-year contracts with Rakuten last Tuesday.
Seguinol spent the 2002 season with the Orix Blue Wave before moving to the Fighters for a four-year run from 2004 through 2007. He has Japanese career totals of 145 homers and 386 RBIs with a .274 average. In 2004, Seguinol tied with Daiei's Nobuhiko Matsunaka for the Pacific League home run title with 44.
Gwyn was pitching for the Marlins' Pacific Coast League affiliate in Albuquerque prior to moving to Japan. He was 1-0 with five saves and a 4.09 ERA for the Isotopes. Gwyn appeared in three major league games with the Los Angeles Angels last season, recording one save with an 11.81 ERA for the Halos.
Both Seguinol and Gwyn signed 20 million yen deals (plus performance-based incentives) through the end of the current season.

Samsung Lions designated hitter Yang Joon-hyuk his his 337th career home run last Sunday to pull to within four longballs of the Korea Baseball Organization lifetime record for homers. The current mark is 340 by former KBO star Jang Jong-hoon.
It's been a long season for Yang, who was mired in such a deep slump earlier in the campaign that he was demoted for a time to Korea's second division before being brought back to the Lions. Last Sunday's homer was only his sixth of the current season. Due to the extended KBO break due to this month's Olympic Games in Beijing, Yang will not be able to pursue the record until September.
Last year, the lifetime .317 hitter became the first player in KBO history to amass 2,000 hits in his career. Yang's Lions teammate, Shim Choong-soo, was also working his way towards becoming Korea's all-time home run king before a season-ending injury stopped him at 328. Yang debuted in 1993, and is now in his 16th KBO season.

Difficult weather has created delays in the closing weeks of Baseball Philippines' Series 3 schedule, so it seemed almost appropriate that a typhoon last Sunday delayed the rubber match of BP's Championship Series to this weekend with the best-of-three set tied at one game apiece.
After the Batangas Bulls opened the title series with a 10-3 win over the Dumaguete Uni-bikers on July 20, the Uni-bikers came back last Saturday with a thrilling 4-3 win over the Bulls at Manila's historic Rizal Memorial Baseball Stadium. Bambol Servo hit a two-out single in the bottom of the ninth inning off losing pitcher Justin Zialcita to drive in pinch-runner Edward Tuason from third to knot the series and force a deciding Game Three.
Dumaguete went to bat in the bottom of the ninth with the game tied and with one out, Marlon Caspillo drilled a double to left. After Tuason replaced Caspillo at second, he advanced to third on Denver Largo's ground out, setting up Servo's two-out heroics. Prior to his game-winning single, Servo was 0-for-4 in the contest.
The bottom of the ninth almost never happened. Dumaguete was leading 3-2 in the top of the inning, but winning pitcher Darwin dela Calzada uncorked a wild pitch that brought in Batangas' Virgilio Roxas with the tying run.
The final game is scheduled this weekend. The winner will join the Makati Mariners and Cebu Dolphins on the list of Baseball Philippines champions.

Former Kansas City Royals first baseman Kit Pellow concluded his outstanding regular season and the Mexican League playoffs got underway last week. Pellow, who now plays for the Saltillo Saraperos, won the Triple Crown with a .385 batting average, 34 homers and 107 RBIs over the Liga's 108-game season. Among pitchers, Monclova's Nerio Rodriguez led the league with 17 wins, Juan Delgadillo of Laguna posted a 2.29 earned-run average, and Campeche's Francisco Campos tied with Saltillo's Felix Villegas with 115 strikeouts.
Monclova won the Northern Division second half title with a 38-16 record while Mexico City won the LMB South second half crown at 35-16. First half champ Saltillo led the North with 14.5 points over both halves, while Mexico City had 15 points to lead the South.
In the first round of playoff action, Saltillo is playing Monterrey while Monclova squares off with Chihuahua in the North semifinals. In the South semis, Mexico City is playing Campeche and defending champion Yucatan is facing Quintana Roo.

The Italian League regular season is in the history books, and Fortitudo Bologna finished in first place with a 34-8 record. With the postseason underway, Bologna is favored to win the playoff title as well.
The Bologna offense was led by import Richard Austin, who led the league with ten homers and 50 RBIs while finishing third in batting with a .366 average. Bologna was 18-3 at home, but were 0-3 in one-run games against playoff teams They'll match up with T&A San Marino in the first round. San Marino came in fourth at 25-17, including a 2-4 record in games against Bologna. Martin Vasquez led San Marino with a .380 average, second in Italy.
The other first round series pits 29-13 Danesi Nettuno against 28-14 Montepaschi Grosseto in an evenly-matched set. Nettuno's lineup features batting champion Guiseppe Mazzanti (.392), but they've been inconsistent against playoff teams, having scored two runs or less ten times in 18 games. Grosseto led the Italian League in batting with a .292 and ace Linc Mikkelson was 6-2 with a 2.01 ERA, but their bullpen is highly flammable. During the regular season, Grosseto beat Nettuno four times in six tries.

The Solingen Alligators finished their German League regular season schedule with an eight-game winning streak to finish at 27-1, winning the North Division title by two games over the 25-3 Paderborn Untouchables. Cologne, Dortmund and Bonn all finished 14-14, but Bonn was eliminated form the playoffs on tiebreaker rules.
In the German League South, Heidenheim Heidekopfe came in first at 25-3, a comfortable five-game bulge over 20-8 Regensburg Legionaere. Both Manheim and defending champion Mainz came in at 18-10, with Manheim getting the nod for third on league rules.
German League playoffs will begin this weekend with crossover games across the board. Solingen will play Mainz, Paderborn meets Manheim, Dortmund takes on Regensburg and Cologne battles Heidenheim.

The London Mets continue to run the table on their British National League schedule, with a perfect 16-0 record. The Mets lead the North Division by five games over the 10-4 Richmond Flames. The 13-2 Manchester Eagles lead the South Division. Five weeks remain in the English season.

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