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09/21/2008 Archived Entry: "WORLD BASEBALL TODAY (September 21, 2008)"

by Bruce Baskin, Radio Miami International
for FREE online subscription to WBT,

Usually when you win eight straight games, you're moving up on the teams ahead of you. Unfortunately for Miami's Florida Marlins, that only works when the teams ahead of you are having trouble winning their own games. The Marlins completed a three-game sweep of the Houston Astros Thursday night with an 8-1 win in Miami despite the absence of shortstop Hanley Ramirez. Ramirez has a strained shoulder and sat out Thursday's game, but he wasn't missed as Alfredo Amezaga played errorless ball at short and 21-year-old center fielder Cameron Maybin had four hits filling in Ramirez' leadoff spot in the order.
Despite their eight straight wins (including series sweeps of Washington and Houston), 80-72 Florida still lags 5.5 games behind 86-67 Philadelphia and are five games in back of the 85-67 New York Mets. The Marlins are hosting Philadelphia in an important three-game series this weekend. The Phillies have won eight of their last ten games, including seven in a row. The 92-59 Chicago Cubs have a nine-game lead over 84-69 Milwaukee in the NL Central, while the 80-73 Los Angeles Dodgers are 3.5 games ahead of 76-76 Arizona in the NL West.

Rookie third baseman Evan Longoria stroked three home runs, but it wasn't enough as the Tampa Bay Rays dropped an 11-8 contest to the Minnesota Twins in their series opener Thursday night. The Twins were trailing 8-6 heading into the top of the ninth, but put together a five-run frame off three Tampa Bay relievers to post the comeback win at St. Petersburg's Tropicana Field.
Longoria began his homerfest with a two-out, two-run homer in the first inning off Twins starter Glen Perkins, who failed to last the inning after allowing five runs on five hits and a walk in two-thirds of the frame. Longoria struck again with a fourth inning solo shot against Philip Humber, and in the seventh with another solo bomb off Bobby Korecky.
Despite the loss, the 90-61 Rays still lead the American League East Division by 1.5 games over 89-63 Boston after taking two of three games from the Bosox at the Trop earlier in the week. The 83-70 Twins now trail the 84-68 Chicago White Sox in the AL Central race, while the 93-59 Los Angeles Angels have clinched a playoff berth and face no threat in the AL West besides boredom waiting for the postseason to begin.

Ten finalists have been placed on the Baseball Hall of Fame's Veterans Committee ballots this fall. Pitchers Jim Kaat and Luis Tiant will be joined by infielders Dick Allen, Gil Hodges, Ron Santo, Joe Torre and Maury Wills, along with outfielders Tony Oliva, Al Oliver and Vada Pinson. All 64 living Hall of Fame members will vote on the final candidates for enshrinement. Also, a 12-member old-timers committee will consider pitchers Wes Farrell, Carl Mays, Allie Reynolds and Bucky Walters, catcher Deacon White, infielders Bill Dahlen, Joe Gordon, Vern Stephens, and Mickey Vernon, and outfielder Sherry Magee for Hall membership.
Both committees must name players on 75 percent of the ballots to become members next summer. The final vote tally will be announced December 8.

Hayato Sakamoto drove in three runs and Michihiro Ogasawara hit his 300th career homer Friday as the Yomiuri Giants beat the Hanshin Tigers 6-4 for their eighth straight win. The Giants moved to within two games of Hanshin for the Central League leadership.
Seth Greisinger won his league-leading 16th game against eight losses with seven innings of work for the Giants, who chased Tigers starter Yuya Ando with three runs on three hits and three walks in four innings. Ando fell to 12-8 on the season. Despite the loss, Hanshin leads the Central League with a 76-51-1 record, while Yomiuri is now 74-53-2. The two teams will conclude their three-game series this weekend in Tokyo.
In the Pacific League standings, the 73-56-4 Seibu Lions hold a six-game lead over the 69-64-1 Orix Buffaloes. The Lions and Buffaloes are the only two PL teams with winning records this season. Seibu lost to the Lotte Marines 6-3 last Thursday night as Lotte's Tsuyoshi Nishioka went 3-for-5 with a homer. The 66-67-1 Marines pulled into a virtual third-place tie with the 66-67-2 Nippon Ham Fighters.

The Lotte Giants uncorked champagne bottles last Tuesday night following their 9-6 win over the Hanwha Eagles in Korea Baseball Organization action. The victory clinched Lotte's first KBO playoff berth since 2000 in their first season under manager Jerry Royster, the first-ever non-Korean skipper KBO. The former MLB infielder and manager called it an historic day for the Busan-based Giants, who had not finished better than fifth place in the previous seven years, including four consecutive last place seasons between 2001 and 2004.
The Giants aren’t backing into the postseason, either. Since the conclusion of last month's Beijing Olympics, Lotte has won 17 of 19 games. While the defending champion SK Wyverns are running away with the regular season title with a 76-37 record, the 64-49 Giants and 63-48 Doosan Bears are in a virtual tie for second place, twelve games behind. The Samsung Lions are clinging to the fourth and final playoff slot with a 61-57 mark, two games ahead of 61-61 Hanwha.

The Cleveland Indians have signed 21-year-old Taiwanese pitcher Lee Chen-Chiang to a minor league contract with a signing bonus believed to be about $350,000US. Lee was expected to report to the Indians' fall instruction camp in Arizona last week, and is slated to begin his professional career with Class A Kinston of the Carolina League next spring.
The 5'7”. 176-pound Lee recently finished his Junior year at Taipei Physical Education College, and pitched for Taiwan in the Beijing Olympics, going 0-1 with a 2.00 ERA and 11 strikeouts in nine innings. Before this year, Lee held Cuba to one run on two hits over eight innings in the 2006 World University Championships, and he pitched semi-pro ball in the Alaska State League in 2007. The sidearming right-hander throws a 94 MPH fastball, as well as a sinker, slider and splitter.
Cleveland's assistant general manager of scouting operations John Mirabelli says the Indians have been scouting Lee since he was 16. Mirabelli projects Lee as a reliever, stating that with his style of pitching, “It's hard to project him as a starter. I think his future is clearly in the bullpen.” Besides the Indians, four other Major League teams showed interest in Lee, and one Japanese team reportedly offered a much higher signing bonus. However, the diminutive pitcher decided to take less money and try his luck in the United States.

Danesi Nettuno got some revenge for their loss to T&A San Marino in the Italian Series by beating San Marino 3-2 last Sunday to win the first European Cup Final Four tournament in Barcelona, Spain. Nettuno beat fellow Italian club Grosseto 4-3 on the first day of the two-day competition, while San Marino advanced by topping host FC Barcelona 2-1.
In the title game, the two teams were tied at 1-1 going into the top of the seventh inning when San Marino scored a run on David Sheldon's RBI single to take a 2-1 lead. The score remained unchanged until Nettuno came back in the bottom of the eighth. Luis Ugueto and Juan Camilo both walked with one out. After Giuseppe Mazzanti flew out for the second out, Ramon Tavarez drove in both Ugueto and Camilo with a double to center field.
Nettuno starter Victor Arias allowed two runs over 6.1 innings, but reliever Carlos Pezzullo got the win and closer Giovanni Carrara picked up the save. San Marino starter Tiago Da Silva was solid, letting in one run on five hits over seven frames with six K's. However, Luca Martignoni came out of the bullpen in the eighth and gave up two runs for the loss. Grosseto shut out Barcelona 3-0 to take third place and make it an Italian sweep.

The Dutch Major League playoffs opened last Thursday with a pair of games, and the Konica Minolta Pioniers bagged the upset of the day with a resounding 9-3 win over defending champions Corendon Kinheim. Corendon edged DOOR Neptunas for the regular season crown with a 32-10 record, one game ahead of Neptunas; while the Pioniers finished fourth at 26-14, one game behind the Amsterdam Pirates.
However, the term “upset” is relative. Although they finished with last playoff berth and lost five of six games against Corendon during the regular season, the Pioniers had the best offense in the Hoofdklasse, averaging nearly seven runs over a 42-game schedule while finishing just four games out of first. On Thursday, Konica Minolta was trailing 3-0 in the fifth inning before taking a 4-3 lead in the sixth and cruising to victory. Pioniers starter Jurriaan Koks and Czech closer Jan Rehacek combined to allow just 18 Corendon batters to come to the plate over the game's final five innings.
In the other playoff opener, DOOR Neptunas had their way throughout their 11-1 win over Amsterdam. Neptunas starter Leon Boyd let in one run in tossing a complete game, while Raily Legito, Lennart Koster and captain Jeroen Sluijter each hit two doubles. Games Two and Three of the best-of-five first round series will be played this weekend.

Yes, they do play baseball in Sweden, and Stockholm is one victory away from beating the defending champion Karlskoga Bats in the Elitserien Finals. Karlskoga finished first in the regular season with a 20-8 record, but the standings were extremely tight in the eight-team league, with only five games separating the top six teams. Stockholm finished third with an 18-10 mark, two games behind Karlskoga and one in back of 19-9 Rattvik.
Stockholm won the first game of the Finals last Saturday 6-2 as Tom Gillespie pitched six superb innings, limiting Karlskoga to one unearned run on two hits. In Game Two, Stockholm jumped out to a 4-0 first inning lead and went on to an 8-2 romp over the Bats. Peter Johannesen had three hits (including a triple) with two runs scored and an RBI in the leadoff spot as eight of Stockholm's nine batters had hits.
The best-of-five series will conclude this weekend.

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