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10/05/2008 Archived Entry: "WORLD BASEBALL TODAY (October 5, 2008)"

by Bruce Baskin
Radio Miami International

Back-to-back eighth-inning home runs by Wes Helms and Dan Uggla propelled the Florida Marlins to a 4-2 win over the New York Mets last Sunday in the final game of the season for both clubs. It was also the last game at 44-year-old Shea Stadium for the Mets, who will move to a new ballpark next spring. Over 56,000 attended the contest.
The victory gave the Marlins an 84-77 record for the 2008 season while eliminating the Mets from contention for the fourth and final National League playoff berth. New York finished one game behind Milwaukee for that slot after the Brewers beat the Chicago Cubs 3-1 in the last regular season game for those two teams. Florida’s 84 wins was third-best in franchise history, and the Marlins’ 208 homers set a new team record.
Lefty Scott Olsen was solid for the Marlins, pitching six solid innings to pass the 200-inning mark for the season, the first time the 24-year-old has done that. The score was tied at 2-2 before Helms’ and Uggla’s eighth-inning heroics. After the game, Florida manager Fredi Gonzalez said, ”We like to play these games in September. We’d rather be pouring champagne instead of being spoiler. With these young guys, we’ll be there soon.” Gonzalez is considered a prime candidate for National League Manager of the Year after leading a young team with the league’s lowest payroll (at $22 million) to a record seven games over .500 while staying in contention for the playoffs until the last week of the season. The Marlins were 71-91 last season.
In the first round of National League playoffs, the 97-64 Cubs are facing the 84-78 Los Angeles Dodgers, while the 90-72 Brewers are taking on the 92-70 Philadelphia Phillies.

The Tampa Bay Rays won the first postseason game in franchise history Thursday afternoon with a 6-4 victory over the Chicago White Sox before a packed house at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg. Rookie third baseman Evan Longoria led the way with a pair of homers, marking the first time a player has hit two homers in his first playoff game since fellow third sacker Gary Gaetti turned the trick for the Minnesota Twins in 1987.
Tampa Bay beat the White Sox six times against four losses during the regular season, taking two of three games in Chicago in a late-August series. Rays manager Joe Maddon sees a lot of similarities between the White Sox and Detroit Tigers: “They want to hit the ball over the wall all the time. Plus, the White sox ballpark is a homer park…They always have good starting pitching, and Bobby Jenks is still one of the best closers in the game.” For his part, Longoria said he’d rather have faced the Twins. “The White Sox are much more of a veteran club, much more of an experienced postseason club,” Longoria said.
The Rays finished the regular season by winning six of their last ten games to end up at 97-65, winning the American League East title by two games over the defending World Series champion Boston Red Sox. The 95-67 Red Sox made the playoffs as a wildcard team, and will face the AL West-winning Los Angeles Angels, who had the best record in baseball at 100-62. The 89-74 White Sox had to win a one-game playoff against Minnesota last Tuesday in Chicago to decide the AL Central race. The Chisox won a 1-0 extra-innings squeaker to move on to the Rays series.

The Seibu Lions have clinched the 16th regular season championship in Japan’s Pacific League since taking over from their predecessors, the Crown Lighter Lions, in 1979. Seibu claimed their first league title in four years despite dropping a 2-0 shutout to the Nippon Ham Fighters last weekend. Fighters’ starter Brian Sweeney ran his season record to 12-5 by allowing just two singles in 8.1 innings of work.
Orix clinched a playoff berth Monday night with a 4-3 win over Seibu when rookie outfielder Hiroyuke Oze’s squeeze bunt drove in veteran Tuffy Rhodes with the game-winning run in the top of the tenth inning. The Buffaloes are now 74-68-1. Nippon Ham clinched the third and final playoff berth Wednesday by pounding Rakuten 17-0. The Fighters rang up a team record 28 hits, including a three-run homer by Terrmel Sledge.
In the Central League, the Hanshin Tigers maintained their tenuous league lead with a 5-3 win over the Hiroshima Carp Monday night at Osaka’s Koshien Stadium. Tomoaki Kanemoto’s tiebreaking two-run homer in the eighth was the difference for the Tigers. Hanshin reliever Kyuji Fujukawa pitched two shutout innings to go to 8-1 for the season. The 80-54-2 Tigers lead the 79-55-3 Yomiuri Giants by one game in the CL standings.

The Korea Baseball Organization has played in front of more than five million fans for the first time in 13 years. The league announced that nearly 28,000 fans attended games in three ballparks last Friday to push the league past the five million mark in 481 games, an increase of 26 percent in attendance over the 2007 season. The only other time the KBO has surpassed five million at the gate was in 1995. There are still 23 regular season games left on the schedule this season.
Much of this year’s increase in paying customers can be traced to the Lotte Giants, who have drawn 1.3 million fans alone this year, a boost of 76 percent over 2007. The Giants qualified for the playoffs for the first time since 2000 last month. One of the main reasons in Lotte’s improvement on the field and at the gate is outfielder Karim Garcia.
The 33-year-old Mexican national is a prime candidate for Most Valuable Player in his first season of Korean ball, batting .283 with 30 homers and 109 RBIs. Garcia is tied for the KBO lead in homers and tops the circuit in ribbies. The former major leaguer (who hit .241 with 66 homers and 212 RBIs over ten years for seven big leagues teams) was the leading vote-getter for the KBO All-Star Game. If Garcia wins the MVP, he would become only the third import to do so in KBO history. Outfielder Tyrone Woods was voted MVP in 1999 after belting 42 homers for the OB Bears, and pitcher Daniel Rios won the honors last season for the Bears after leading the KBO in wins, winning percentage and ERA.

Puerto Rico won all four of their first round games at the Americas Cup tournament in Venezuela last week to lead the Group B tables going into the second round. Joining Puerto Rico in the next stage of competition from the group will be 3-1 Mexico, 2-2 Aruba and 1-3 Brazil, while winless Guatemala was eliminated. In Group A action, both Nicaragua and The Netherlands Antilles moved on to the second round with 3-1, while host Venezuela and Panama advanced with 2-2 records. Colombia was 0-4 and sent to the sidelines.
The top five teams in the tournament will advance to the 2009 Baseball World Cup.

The Amsterdam Pirates have advanced to the Holland Series for the first time in 18 seasons after outlasting DOOR Neptunus, three games to two, in their best-of-five Dutch National League semifinal series. The Pirates will meet two-time defending champion Corendon Kinheim, who bested the Konica Minolta Pioniers in four games in their set.
Amsterdam won the fifth and deciding game, 3-2, last Sunday. The contest was tied at 1-1 in the eighth inning when Neptunus scored a run via Jeffrey Arends’ RBI single to take a 2-1 lead. The Pirates came back in the top of the ninth to tie the game back up when Sidney de Jong came all the way around from first to plate a run on 48-year-old Cuban Fausto Alvarez’ second double of the game. Amsterdam then took the lead when Alvarez scored from third on a suicide squeeze bunt laid down by Pavel van Zaane. The Pirates sealed the deal when pitcher Pim Walsma held Neptunus scoreless in the bottom of the ninth.
Kinheim closed out their series with Konica Minolta with a 3-0 shutout as Corendon starter David Bergman was solid through eight innings on the mound, holding the Pioniers hitless in five of those frames. Danny Rombley’s RBI double in the third gave Kinheim the only run they needed, while Vince Rooi’s solo homer off Pioniers starter Roger Kops gave the defending champs some insurance in the sixth.
Amsterdam and Corendon began their best-of-five series last Thursday, and although Kinheim must be considered the favorite going into the Holland Series, Amsterdam has played very well since the Olympic break and should not be regarded lightly despite not nailing down a playoff berth until the final weekend of the Hoofdklasse’s regular season.

The Regensburg Buchbinder Legionaere blasted the Manheim Tornados 10-0 last Saturday to win the fifth and deciding game of the German League championship series. The Bundesliga pennant is the first in Regensburg history after the Legionaere missed out in the title series the past two seasons.
Phillip Hoffschild was outstanding on the mound for Regensburg, tossing seven scoreless innings while allowing just four hits and striking out six Manheim batters. The two teams were scoreless until the bottom of the third inning, when Phillip Howard drilled a two-run double to put the Legionaere ahead 2-0, and when Regensburg plated four more runs in the bottom of the seventh, the game was stopped on the ten-rule rule following catcher Markus Gienger’s two-run double.
Gienger was named the Finals MVP for his overall work, Hoffschild was awarded Best Pitcher honors, while Los Angeles Angels minor leaguer Ludwig Glaser was the best batter in the championship series.

Winter baseball is returning to Puerto Rico after a one-year absence with the formation of the “new” Puerto Rico Professional Baseball League. There was no baseball in the country last winter following years of financial problems, but the league has since been reorganized.
This time around, the Puerto Rico League will field six teams with the season opener set for November 6. One feature this year will be interleague games between Puerto Rico League and Dominican League teams in December. Following the regular season and playoffs, Puerto Rico will send a team to the Caribbean Series in Mexicali in February 2009.

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