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09/29/2008 Archived Entry: "WORLD BASEBALL TODAY (September 28, 2008)"

by Bruce Baskin
Radio Miami International

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Josh Willingham launched a team-record homer last Tuesday night, but it wasn't nearly enough to keep the Florida Marlins from being eliminated from the National League playoff race. Willingham's 13th roundtripper of the season was the 202nd for the Marlins this year, establishing a franchise record, but Florida went on to lose to the Washington Nationals 9-4 in the Nation's Capital. The loss, coupled with a New York Mets win over the Chicago Cubs, officially knocked the Fish out of the playoff picture.
Willingham's record-setting blast came in the second inning off Nats starter Shairon Martis. It marked the third straight season the Marlins have revised their home run mark. They hit 182 in 2006 and 201 last year. Fellow outfielder Cody Ross also crashed a homer in the top of the ninth, but by that time, Washington had the game in their hip pocket after plating four runs in the bottom of the eighth to break the contest wide open.
Lefty Scott Olsen took the loss for Florida in his 32nd start this season and the 100th of his major league career. Olsen lasted five innings and left with a 4-2 deficit after giving up three earned runs, but did not pitch badly while fighting flu-like symptoms throughout. Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez said, “He was battling, but he wasn't feeling good...You have to tip your hat to him because when he left, it was a 4-2 ballgame. We were still in the ballgame.”
After the game, Olsen reflected on the fact his team remained in playoff contention up to the 157th game of the season: “To be in it up until the last week of the season, it just proves to the writers that talent will show up until the end.”

After starting the season in Class A ball, David Price capped his rapid rise through the minors to the major leagues by showing well in his first start for the Tampa Bay Rays last Monday night against the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards. Although he did not get a decision, Price carried a no-hitter into the fifth inning and was pulled in the sixth after allowing a pair of Baltimore runs (one earned) on an 88-pitch outing. The Rays went on to beat the Orioles 4-2.
Price was the first pick in last year's draft, but did not begin his pro career until this spring, when he went 4-0 with a 1.82 ERA for Vero Beach in the Florida State League. He was then promoted to Class AA Montgomery, where he was 7-0 with a 1.89 ERA in the Southern League. He moved up again to Durham of the Class AAA International League, where he was 1-1 in the regular season prior to going 1-0 with a 3.27 ERA in two playoff starts before getting the September callup to the Rays.
Although his first American League start drew rave reviews, Price himself said it fell short of his own expectations: “Perfect game. That's my expectation going into every single game I've ever thrown. That's why I be perfect that one time.”
Another Tampa Bay callup from Durham was veteran outfielder Jonny Gomes, who was sent to the minors in August after only batting .182 with eight homer for the Rays. In three previous years for the Rays, Gomes hit 58 homers with 162 RBIs.

Baseball's all-time home run king is retiring as manager of Japan's Softbank Hawks, citing health concerns. Sadaharu Oh is stepping down after 14 seasons at the helm of the Pacific League team. Since taking over the team in 1995, Oh has led the Hawks to three pennants and a pair of Japan Series championships. Softbank also finished first in the regular season standings in both 2004 and 2005, but came up short in the playoffs. Prior to signing on with the Hawks, Oh managed the Central League's Yomiuri Giants for five years, the team he spent his entire playing career with for 22 seasons between 1959 and 1980.
However, this year has not been the best for the 68-year-old Oh or the Hawks. Although the team was in playoff contention most of the season, they went on a September skid in which they lost 15 of 18 games to fall out of the postseason picture. Oh was diagnosed with cancer in 2006, and underwent surgery to have his stomach removed in July of that year, four months after managing Japan to the inaugural World Baseball Classic title. Last month, he missed a game after problems incurred eating lunch prior to a game.
During his playing career, Oh hit 868 homers while batting .301 and driving in 2,170 runs for the Giants. He was a nine-time Most Valuable Player, played in 20 All-Star Games, and earned consecutive triple crowns in 1973 and 1974 en route to 15 home run and 13 RBI titles, along with five batting championships.
At a Fukuoka press conference announcing his retirement, Oh said, “I've been in pro baseball for 50 years, and it's really been a happy life for me.”

Veteran catcher Kim Dong-soo played his 2,000th Korea Baseball Organization game last Tuesday night as his Heroes team fell 12-5 to the Doosan Bears in Seoul. Kim becomes the first catcher in the KBO's 27-year history to reach that milestone, and only the third player to do so.
The 39-year-old Kim is in his 19th season of pro ball in Korea. He debuted on April 8, 1990 with the LG Twins, and went on to bat .290 with 13 homers and 62 RBIs in 110 games that season, including a homer in a win over the OB Bears that clinched the pennant for the Twins. Since then, Kim has also played for the Samsung Lions and SK Wyverns before coming to the Hyundai Unicorns in 2000. The Unicorns became the Heroes this year. Kim has never played fewer than 80 games in any season, and along the way he has played for four pennant winners and won a KBO-record seven Golden Gloves as a catcher.
For his career, Kim has batted .262 with 1,531 hits, 200 homers and 855 RBIs. This year, he's hitting .234 with one homer and 20 RBIs over 84 games. After his 2,000th game, Kim told reporters, “Playing 19 years is more meaningful than playing 2,000 games. If my family doesn't support me with their hearts, I can't stand here right now. I appreciate it.”

The Brother Elephants have won six games in a row, and are tied for the lead in the Chinese Professional Baseball League standings with the President Lions, one game ahead of the La New Bears. The Elephants beat the Bears 6-3 last weekend as Peng Cheng-min's three run homer keyed a five-run third inning for the Elephants. Peng's homer was the 1,000th longball in franchise history.
The Lions lost to the Sinon Bulls 7-5 last Sunday. Tilson Brito hit a grand slam for the Lions, but import Aaron Fultz was shelled for seven runs in his Taiwan pitching debut.

After dropping the first game of their Dutch National League first round playoff series, defending champion Corendon Kinheim has come back for a pair of wins to take the lead in their best-of-five set with the Konica Minolta Pioniers.
The Pioniers won the series opener 9-3 on September 18, but Kinheim came back for two victories last weekend. On Saturday, Corendon beat Konica Minolta by a 3-2 margin before the two teams locked horns in a Sunday slugfest, with Kinheim coming away 14-11 winners to take a 2-1 series lead. The two teams were scheduled to square off this Saturday to determine which squad will advance to the Holland Series.
The winner of the Corendon-Pioniers series will play either DOOR Neptunus or the Amsterdam Pirates. Neptunus swamped the Pirates 11-1 in the series opener on September 18, but Amsterdam came back to know things up at a game apiece last Saturday with a 5-2 win. Neptunus then regained the series lead last Sunday with a 5-3 victory. As with the Kinheim-Pioniers set, Neptunus and Amsterdam are mixing it up this weekend for the right to play in The Netherlands championship series.

The Manheim Tornados and Regensburg Buchbinder Legionaere were scheduled to meet this Saturday in the fifth and deciding game of the German League championship series after the Tornados defeated Regensburg 7-5 last Sunday in Manheim to tie the best-of-five series at two games apiece.
Manheim certainly got off to a roaring start in front of the home crowd by scoring single runs in each of the first three innings before piling up four more runs in the bottom of the fourth. Jens Heymer stroked a bases-loaded double in that frame after Sebastian Nowak opened things up with a solo homer. Regensburg refused to die, however, scoring a run on Mic Weigl's homer in the top of the fifth inning to avert the shutout and then really making a game of it with four runs in the seventh. Klaus Hopfensberger cranked a solo homer off Manheim starter Eddie Aucoin, and Ludwig Glaser, Marcus Gienger and Rodney Gessman also had RBIs in the frame. However, with Gessman on third base with one out, the Regensburg rally ended when Phillip Howard and Donald Lutz both flew out.
Aucoin got the win for the Tornados despite allowing five runs and nine hits in 7.2 innings of work. The two teams settled things once and for all this Saturday in Regensburg.

After winning the first two games of the Swedish League championship series at home, Stockholm completed their three-game sweep of regular season champs Karlskoga last Saturday on the road, scoring a run in the top of the eighth inning and holding on for a 6-5 win over the Bats.
Karlskoga scored twice in the bottom of the first to take a 2-0 lead, but Stockholm came back with three runs in the third and two more in the fourth to build a 5-2 lead they took into the bottom of the sixth. Karlskoga scored once to cut their deficit to 5-3, and then tied the game up at 5-5 with two tallies in the bottom of the seventh. Stockholm scored the game-winner one half-inning later.
Joakim Claesson picked up his second win of the championship series for Stockholm, while Kent Karlsson absorbed the season-ending loss for Karlskoga.

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