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08/23/2008 Archived Entry: "WORLD BASEBALL TODAY (August 24, 2008)"

by Bruce Baskin
Radio Miami International
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Florida Marlins all-star shortstop Hanley Ramirez was out of the lineup last week with a bruised hand. Ramirez was hurt Wednesday night in San Francisco while stealing second base when a ball thrown by Giants catcher Benji Molina to second struck the fleshy part of Ramirez' right palm. The 6'3 Dominican left the game and was replaced in the lineup by Alfredo Amezaga, who started the Marlins' final game in San Francisco Thursday.
Florida manager Fredi Gonzalez was hoping to have Ramirez available to play in the field in an emergency during the Marlins series in Arizona this weekend, but the 24-year-old was having trouble gripping the bat while hitting soft toss in the cages Friday. The Marlins had Ramirez field some grounders to see how his right hand responded to throwing. Ramirez told reporters his hand was feeling better Friday, and that he hoped to be back in the Florida lineup once the swelling subsided.
Ramirez was batting .297 with 27 homers, 29 stolen bases and 96 runs scored for the Marlins after 126 games at the time of his injury.

While much attention has been given to the Tampa Bay Rays injury list the past few weeks, there has been one story of a Tampa Bay player coming off the disabled list after an extended absence. Outfielder Rocco Baldelli, once one of the linchpins of the Rays' youth movement, returned to the lineup August 10 in Seattle, going 1-for-2.
The oft-injured Baldelli has only played 131 games over the past four seasons. He had missed all of the current campaign after being placed on the disabled list in March with a mitochondrial disorder, which slows muscle recovery and causes fatigue. While Baldelli's condition has improved enough to allow him back in the lineup, Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon talks constantly with the 6'4 outfielder during games to keep him alert.
Baldelli debuted with the Rays in 2003, and looked like one of baseball's rising young stars before he went down with a knee injury while playing ball with his younger brother in their backyard at home following the 2004 season. He missed all of the 2005 schedule.
Baldelli is platooning for the Rays, playing mostly against left-handed pitchers. He raised his 2008 average to .300 in 20 at-bats Friday with a 2-for-4 night against the Chicago White Sox, including his first homer of the season.

The Mexico City Diablos Rojos defeated the defending champion Monterrey Sultanes in the first two games of the Mexican League championship series to take command of the best-of-seven set. Mexico City beat Campeche in the Southern Division title series in six games, while Monterrey swept Monclova in four straight to win the LMB North.
The Diablos won the opener 10-8 last Tuesday at Mexico City's Foro Sol, followed by a 7-3 win over Monterrey one night later. The series moved to Monterrey Friday night, where the Sultanes topped Mexico City 3-1 to pull to within a game of the Diablos.
This is the fifth time the two teams have met for the Mexican League championship.

A six-run eighth inning by Cuba broke what had been a close game wide open as the defending Olympic champions went on to dismantle the United States 10-2 Friday night in Beijing to reach this year's Gold medal game.
Cuba's 36-year-old veteran Norge Vera and 20-year-old American phenom Steve Strasburg started the game on the mound. Strasburg, who struck out 23 batters in a college game last April for San Diego State against Utah, was pulled after four innings trailing 3-2. Vera was replaced after going six frames by Cuban legend Pedro Lazo, who cruised the rest of the way with three innings of shutout ball.
Frederich Cepeda's sixth inning homer off USA reliever Brian Duensing (which nearly left Beijing's Wukesong Stadium) gave Cuba a 4-2 lead, but it was the eighth inning that really did the Yanks in. Jeff Stevens took the mound for the Americans and was bombed, giving up three run homers to both Cuban National Series MVP Alexei Bell and catcher Ariel Pestano. Team USA tried to mount a comeback in the top of the ninth by putting runners on second and third with no outs, but Lazo bore down and retired the next three batsmen to put Cuba in the Gold medal game for the fifth straight time since baseball became an Olympic sport in 1992. Vera took the win for Cuba, while Strasburg was given the loss for the USA.

South Korea reached the final berth against Cuba by knocking off pre-Olympic favorite Japan 6-2 in Friday's other semifinal matchup at Wukesong Stadium. The Japanese team features some of the top players in Nippon Professional Baseball, but after taking an early 2-0 lead, they struggled against Korean starter Kim Kwang-hyun. Kim went eight innings, allowing two runs (one earned) while scattering six hits and striking out five. Conversely, Japan sent six pitchers to the mound.
The Koreans were trailing 2-0 when they pushed one run across the plate in the fourth and tied the game in the seventh on Park Jin-man's RBI single. The big blast came in the eighth when Lee Seung-yeop stroked a two-run homer to right to put the Koreans up 4-2. A pair of RBI doubles by Ko Young-min and Kang Min-ho gave South Korea a 6-2 lead, and when Japan went down 1-2-3 in the ninth, it gave the Koreans a perfect 8-0 Olympic record, including two wins over their greatest rival. In first round competition, Korea handed Cuba their only loss of the tournament in a 7-4 contest last Thursday.

Shoma Okamura his a first inning grand slam homer as Osaka's Toin High School pounded Tokoha Gakuen Kikugawa 17-0 to win the title game of Japan's national high school baseball tournament last week before nearly 50,000 fans in storied Koshien Stadium.
Yuto Fukushima struck out nine Tokoha batters in going the distance, allowing just five hits as Toin won its second summer Koshien tournament since winning as a newcomer to the tourney in 1991.
It is the first time in 17 years that a school from Osaka has won the competition, giving the prefecture the championship flag for a record 10th time. Toin also tied the records for most runs scored and the biggest gap in runs in a final, both originally set back in 1920, and set a new championship mark by driving in 57 runs, three more than the previous record set in 1921.

The somewhat convoluted Italian League playoffs are down to the final two teams as both Danesi Nettuno and T&A San Marino have advanced to the Italian Series, which begins this week. In the Italian playoffs, the top four teams engage in a round robin format of three-game series against each other, with each team playing nine first round games overall.
Nettuno's 3-2 win over regular season champions Fortitudo Bologna in ten innings last Wednesday clinched an Italian Series berth. Nettuno stater Carlos Richetti struck out 13 batters over the first nine innings while scattering six hits on a remarkable 166-pitch effort, but it took Juan Camilo's walk-off single to push Luis Ugueto across the plate with the winning run to give Nettuno the victory and a 5-2 record in the postseason as Bologna fell to 2-5.
San Marino clinched their trip to the Italian Series last Friday night by edging Montepaschi Grosseto 1-0 as James Buccheri stroked a leadoff triple in the sixth inning and scored the game's only run on a sacrifice fly by Seth La Fera. Horacio Estrada combined with two relievers on a four-hit shutout to give San Marino a 5-3 playoff record with one game remaining against Grosseto, who fell to 3-5.

The third Women's World Cup baseball tournament is getting underway this week in Matsuyama, Japan.
A total of eight nations will play in two pools at the beginning of the tournament, which runs from August 24 through August 29. Pool A will consist of Australia, Taiwan, India and the United States, while Pool B will be formed by teams from Japan, South Korea, Canada and Hong Kong. Round robin pool play will take place the first three days of the World Cup, while second round two-tiered crossover games for final seeding purposes will be held the next two days. The final round will be played Saturday, August 29, with a Bronze medal game slated for 2:30PM local time and the Gold medal game scheduled for 6:30PM.
The Women's World Cup is held every two years, and has been won by the United States twice. Eighteen players will represent the USA in Japan this week, including seven members of America's Cup-winning team of 2006. Of the 18, four are from California and three hail from Massachusetts. Brian Bright of Cumberland, Rhode Island is Team USA's manager, and his coaching staff includes a pair of former Colorado Silver Bullets pro women's team players in Kim Braatz-Voisard and Lee Anne Ketcham.

As the cream of modern women's baseball's crop comes together in Japan this week, one of the sport's pioneers died last week at the age of 84. Dottie Wiltse Collins passed away at her home in Fort Wayne, Indiana from a stroke.
A native of California, Collins joined the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League in 1944 as a 20-year-old for the Minneapolis Millerettes. The team moved to Fort Wayne one year later and Collins went on to pitch five years for the Daisies, including the 1948 season in which she took her turn on the mound until she was four months pregnant. Collins had a career record of 117-76, including four 20-win seasons, and an ERA of 1.83.
Collins was also instrumental in creating greater public awareness of the AAGBPL in recent years, culminating in a permanent display at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown and the hit movie, A League of Their Own.

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