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10/12/2008 Archived Entry: "WORLD BASEBALL TODAY (October 12, 2008)"

by Bruce Baskin
Radio Miami International

World Baseball Today is aired Sundays at 10:30AM ET
on WRMI at 9955kHz and online at

Maybe the Tampa Bays Rays think they'll wake up someday and find the 2008 season never happened, and you can't blame them if they want to sleep in. When the American League East Division champions eliminated the Chicago White Sox with a 6-2 win in last Monday's Game Four of their American League Divisional Series in Chicago, it marked yet another step in what has been nothing short of a dream season for the Rays, who had never won more than 71 games before this year.
Centerfielder B.J. Upton swatted a pair of homers for the Rays in the game. Upton has been benched a couple times this season by Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon for a lackadaisical effort for the Rays, who are meeting the defending World Series champion Boston Red Sox for the pennant. Andy Sonnanstine took the win for the Rays, as Chicago only collected six hits for the game, including a pair of solo homers. Grant Balfour struck out the White Sox' Ken Griffey, Jr. to end the game and punch Tampa Bay's ticket to the ALCS.
James Shields, who bested Chicago in Game One of the ALDS, was scheduled to open the championship series with Boston Friday night. The only blemish in Shields' win over the White Sox was a three-run homer by DeWayne Wise. While All-Star Game winner Scott Kazmir has received most of the attention among Tampa Bay pitchers, Shields has been one of the Rays' most dependable hurlers this year, going 14-8 with a 3.65 ERA over 215 innings with 160 strikeouts. He has three of Tampa Bay's seven complete games in 2008.
Shields was slated to match up with Boston's Daisuke Matsuzaka, an 18-game winner this year, in Friday's opener at St. Petersburg's Tropicana Field; while Kazmir was to face Josh Beckett in Saturday's game at the Trop. When the series shifts to Boston's Fenway Park, Matt Garza is expected to start Tuesday, followed by Sonnanstine on Wednesday. The Rays defeated the Red Sox ten times in 18 games during the regular season, including four of six games in September.

Home field advantage is always important in a playoff series, no matter the sport, but it may be especially important when the Philadelphia Phillies take on the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League Championship Series. During the regular season, the Phillies swept the Dodgers in a four-game series in Philadelphia's Citizens Bank Park, while Los Angeles won all four games against the Phils in a set at Dodger Stadium. By winning 92 games to the Dodgers' 84 over the season, the Phillies will host Game Seven, if necessary.
The Dodgers reached the NLCS by sweeping the Chicago Cubs in three straight games, while the Phillies dispatched the Milwaukee Brewers in four contests. Cole Hamels was scheduled to be on the mound for the Phils in Game One Thursday night in Philadelphia, while the Dodgers were set to send out Derek Lowe. Both pitchers won 14 games for their respective teams this year, while Hamels had a slightly better ERA than Lowe (3.09 to 3.24) despite pitching home games in a far more hitter-friendly park.
Offensively, the Phillies led the National League in homers with 214, including a major league best 48 from Ryan Howard, while the Dodgers jacked just 137. However, the Dodgers' team ERA of 3.68 was best in the NL, although the Phils were fourth at 3.88.

Lee Seung-yeop drove in two runs and Alex Ramirez went 3-for-4 with a homer as the Yomiuri Giants defeated the Hanshin Tigers 3-1 last Wednesday to take over sole possession of first place in Japan's Central League. The Tigers had led the league nearly the entire season, building a lead of 13 games at one point. However, Hanshin has struggled late in the regular season while the defending champion Giants have been closing the season with a rush. Yomiuri is 82-56-3, while Hanshin is 81-57-3 for the year.
Lee stroked a two-run double in the third inning to give Yomiuri the lead, and Ramirez' league-leading 43rd home run in the seventh gave the Giants some insurance. Yomiuri starter Tetsuya Utsumi won his 12th game of the year, holding Hanshin scoreless over the first five innings. The Central League regular season will end this week.
The Pacific League has concluded its schedule already. The Seibu Lions finished with a 76-64-4 record, 2.5 games ahead of the 75-68-1 Orix Buffaloes. The 73-69-2 Nippon Ham Fighters barely held off the 73-70-1 Lotte Marines for the third and final playoff berth. Orix and Nippon Ham will square off in a first round series beginning this week, with the winner meeting Seibu for the championship.

The SK Wyverns have had things pretty much their own way all year in the Korea Baseball Organization, so it was no surprise when the Wyverns set a KBO record with 83 wins over the 126-game season. The defending champions finished first, obviously, and earned a bye all the way to the Korea Series in the KBO's unique three-tiered playoffs. SK pitcher Kim Kwang-hyun led the KBO with 16 wins and 150 strikeouts, missing out on the pitching Triple Crown by finishing with a 2.39 ERA (second to the 2.33 mark of Kia's Yoon Seok-min). Kim won just three games in his rookie season last year.
The Doosan Bears came in second, earning a first round bye with a slot in the KBO semifinals. The Bears' 20-year-old Kim Hyun-soo led the league in batting with a .357 average, just two years after joining the Bears as a non-roster practice squad player straight out of high school. Kim also led the KBO in hits and on-base percentage, showing remarkable consistency by going hitless over two straight game just twice this year.
The biggest story in Korean baseball may be the Lotte Giants, who finished third to qualify for the playoffs for the first time since 2000. The Giants set a KBO record in attendance with 1.38 million fans clicking the turnstiles in Busan, including 21 sellouts. Lotte will meet the fourth-place Samsung Lions in a best-of-five first round series this week.

The Sinon Bulls of the Chinese Professional Baseball League will not be allowing any of their players to represent Taiwan in next year's World Baseball Classic. The Bulls have been near the bottom of the standings all season, and the team blames fatigue from National Team duties the past two years as a reason. Three Sinon players (outfielder Chang Chien-Ming, catcher Yeh Chun-Chang and pitcher Yang Chien-fu) are affected, while a fourth, infielder Chang Tai-Shan, is already unavailable with a banned substance suspension. The first-place La New Bears are also considering withholding players from the WBC, which would mean the absence of six more Taiwanese players.
The CPBL playoffs will begin next weekend.

The Amsterdam Pirates sneaked into the Dutch National League playoffs by nailing down the fourth and final slot on the last weekend of the regular season. The Pirates' late momentum carried through the postseason, culminating in a three-game sweep of two-time defending champions Corendon Kinheim to cop the 2008 Holland Series and the Hoofdklasse pennant.
Rain was the main story at the series' outset, washing out games for three days until the two teams were able to get a contest in last Saturday, with Amsterdam winning 4-3. There was yet another rainout one day later, and the Pirates and Corendon weren't able to take the field again until last Tuesday. Amsterdam won that one as well, 6-3, despite homers by Kinheim's Vince Rooi and Tjerk Smeets. Ryan Murphy swatted a roundtripper for the Pirates.
Amsterdam completed the sweep one night later, clobbering Corendon, 12-0. The Pirates put five runs on the scoreboard over the first two innings and ended up scoring in six of the seven innings played before the ten-run rule took effect, knocking out 21 hits in the game.
With the win, Amsterdam bested the reigning Dutch and European Cup champions.

Dan Howard tossed seven innings of no-hit ball and the Merksem Royal Greys scored three third-inning run en route to a 5-0 shutout over the Hoboken Pioneers last Saturday in the opening game of the best-of-five Belgium League championship series in Hoboken.
The defending champion Royal Greys opened the scoring in the top of the second inning when Hoboken ace Kenny Vandenbranden issued a bases-loaded walk to Merksem's Filip Vandermeiren. The Royal Greys opened things up with a trip of runs one inning later when Dave Herssens rapped an RBI double, followed by a Nick Vanthillo RBI single to left that was misplayed, allowing Herssens to cross the plate to give Merksem a 4-0 lead.
Although Howard went all the way for the whitewash, it wasn't without drama. Howard opened the fifth inning with back-to-back walks, but was rescued by a double play. Later, in the eighth, Howard began things by plunking Brett Diamond and allowing a Steven DeLannoy single. However, Howard fought his way through the frame without allowing a run to preserve the shutout.
The two teams are squaring off again this weekend in Games Two and Three.

One of the beauties of baseball is that no matter how far behind you are in the last inning, the clock can't stop you if you make a comeback. This was never more evident than last Sunday in Game Two of the Swiss Baseball League championship series in Bern.
Heading into the bottom of the ninth inning, the Cardinals were being thumped by the Lausanne Indians 9-4. Bern's Chris Beyeler pitched six strong innings before leaving the game with the Cards ahead 4-3, but Lausanne then scored six runs over the next three innings to build a five-run advantage in the ninth. However, the Cards put together a six-run ninth, capped by Severin Fries' bases-loaded walk-off single. Fries pitched a complete game 15-5 win in the opener one day earlier.
Bern is seeking their fourth straight Swiss League title as the series resumes this weekend. The Cardinals are 18-2 in the postseason since 2005.

Replies: 1 Comment

I love what you're doing with International Baseball - can you tell me the source of your information?


Posted by Max Blue @ 10/13/2008 08:32 AM EST

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