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10/19/2008 Archived Entry: "WORLD BASEBALL TODAY (October 19, 2008)"

by Bruce Baskin
Radio Miami International
for FREE text/mp3 subscriptions to WBT,

The Tampa Bay Rays were just seven outs away from clinching the American League pennant Thursday night until a funny thing happened: The Boston Red Sox proved that as long as you don't use up all those seven outs, you can come back from a seven-run deficit and still win a baseball game...they ARE the defending World Series champs, after all.
The Rays had built themselves a seemingly insurmountable lead behind two-run homers by B.J. Upton and Carlos Pena, a solo homer by Evan Longoria and a two-run double by Upton to augment Scott Kazmir's terrific six-inning performance on the mound in Game Five of the American League Championship Series at Boston's Fenway Park. Reliever Grant Balfour replaced Kazmir in the bottom of the seventh inning and induced consecutive flyouts to center by Jason Varitek and Mark Kotsay after an inning-opening double by Jed Lowrie. Then the floodgates opened.
Coco Crisp kept things alive by drilling a single to left, advancing Lowrie to third base. Then Dustin Pedroia cracked a single to right, scoring Lowrie and moving Crisp to third. David Ortiz followed with a three-run homer to right on a 1-0 Balfour delivery to bring the Bosox to within 7-4. Dan Wheeler replaced Balfour and got Kevin Youkilis to end the inning by flying out to right, but that was only the beginning.
Boston tied the score at 7-7 in the bottom of the eighth on J.D. Drew's two-run homer to right and a Crisp RBI single that brought in Kotsay from second; and in the bottom of the ninth, Drew's two-out single drove in Youkilis from second with the game-winner. It was the biggest comeback in the major league postseason since the 1929 World Series, when the Philadelphia Athletics overcame an 8-0 deficit to the Chicago Cubs by scoring ten runs in the seventh inning and went on to win that game 10-8. Thus, instead of cracking open champagne bottles in the wake of a five-game series win, the Rays must now win one of two remaining games in the ALCS this weekend at St. Petersburg's Tropicana Fied.

Entering the 2008 National League season, the Philadelphia Phillies were regarded as a good team with a shot at a playoff berth, but there weren't a lot of experts forecasting a pennant-winning season. However, the Phils clinched the National League Championship Series and their first flag since 1993 with a 5-1 win over Los Angeles Wednesday night before a stunned crowd at Dodger Stadium. The Phillies won the NLCS in five games.
Philadelphia shortstop Jimmy Rollins led off the game with a homer and the Phillies eventually built a 5-0 lead before Dodgers rent-a-player Manny Ramirez stroked a solo home run off Cole Hamels on a 1-2 count in the sixth to avert the shutout. Rollins added a stolen base and two runs for Philadelphia, who also got a three-hit night from first baseman Ryan Howard. Howard singled in Rollins with the game's second run in the top of the third inning, and later scored himself in the top of the fifth on an error by Los Angeles shortstop Rafael Furcal, who had three bobbles in the game.
Hamels turned in yet another solid start for the Phils, allowing just one run on five hits with five strikeouts over seven innings for his third win of the postseason. He was named the NLCS's Most Valuable Player for his effort.

Shugo Fujii tossed six-plus innings and Jason Botts slammed a two-run homer to pace the Nippon Ham Fighters to a 7-2 win over the Orix Buffaloes last Sunday to complete a two-game sweep of their Pacific League playoff Climax Series.
Fujii was just 3-8 during the regular season, making him a curious choice to start the second game of the best-of-three series after ace Yu Darvish pitched Nippon Ham to a win in the opener. However, he came through by retiring the first nine Orix batters he faced and went on to allow just one run on three hits to take the win and help send the Fighters to the Pacific League title series. Nippon Ham finished third in the standings during the regular season, but the two-time defending champions and 2006 Japan Series winners showed their postseason experience in contrast with the underpowered Buffaloes.
The Fighters will take on the regular season champion Seibu Lions in the PL title series. Over in the Central League, the Yomiuri Giants won the season crown by overtaking Hanshin late in the schedule. The Tigers will battle third-place Chunichi for the right to play Yomiuri for the pennant and a slot in the Japan Series.

The Cinderella season for the Lotte Giants has come to a crashing end after the Giants were swept in their first round Korea Baseball Organization playoff series by the Samsung Lions. Lotte finished third in the KBO standings to qualify for the playoffs for the first time in eight seasons while setting a league record for attendance along with way with over 1.3 million fans attending Giants games in Busan.
Samsung copped the third and clinching game 6-4 last Saturday at Daegu Stadium. The Giants actually had a 4-2 lead in the seventh inning until the fourth-place Lions knotted the score with two runs in the frame, and then went ahead for good with two more tallies in the eighth. Yang Joon-hyuk crashed a two-run homer for Samsung, while reliever Cho Jin-ho tossed two scoreless innings to take the win. Lotte import David Cortes was hung with the loss after allowing two runs on three hits in the fateful eighth.
The Lions now move on to the second stage of the KBO playoffs, facing the second-place Doosan Bears in a best-of-seven series. The winner will meet the regular season champion SK Wyverns in the Korean Series.

Taiwan's third baseball betting scandal since 1998 surfaced, this time involving the dMedia T-Rex. Chinese Professional Baseball League officials announced that ex-major league pitcher Cory Bailey and three T-Rex teammates have been suspended for their alleged involvement in game-fixing. The 37-year-old Bailey denied his involvement, but the franchise has been under scrutiny ever since owner Shih Chien-hsin bought the team in the offseason.
Shih is reputed to have ties to organized crime in Taiwan, and said on an internet message board in July that some games were being fixed. He later recanted the statement, but prosecutors detained six T-Rex players and four bookies for questioning and dMedia was forced to forfeit their last two games of the season.
The La New Bears won the CPBL's second half title with a 33-16-1 record and will take on the Brother Elephants for the right to face the defending champion President Lions for the pennant. Import pitcher Mike Johnson won 20 games for the Bears with a 2.45 ERA.

The International Baseball Federation has filled out the 22-team field for next September's Baseball World Cup tournament, to be held in seven European nations.
All eight teams that competed in this summer's Beijing Olympics automatically qualified, including Italy and The Netherlands, who will host second round World Cup games as well as the finals. First round host nations Spain, Sweden, Russia, Germany and the Czech Republic also will field teams, and the IBF has confirmed Great Britain as a participant despite the fact that the 2012 Summer Olympics in London will not include baseball as a medal sport.
Five more teams qualified for the World Cup by virtue of their finished at the recent Cup of the Americas tournament in Venezuela. Puerto Rico won the tourney title with a 7-1 record, losing only a second-round game to the host Venezuelans. Mexico and Nicaragua qualified for the World Cup with 6-2 records, while both Venezuela and the Dutch Antilles turned in 5-3 marks to advance.
First-round group games for the World Cup will be held in Prague, Barcelona, Stockholm, Moscow and Regensburg, Germany. As second-round hosts, both Italy and The Netherlands will receive first-round byes while the top two countries in each five-team group will advance to the next stage of competition.

The defending champion Rouen Huskies are tied with the Senart Templiers after two games in the French League championship series last weekend in Senart.
The Templiers overcame a 2-0 deficit to win the opening game 5-2 last Saturday. In the top of the first, Rouen leadoff hitter Joris Bert got on base with a walk and advanced to second on a one-out Danny Scalabrine single. Kenji Hagiwara then snicked a ball to just in front of home plate, which Senart catcher Ernesto Martinez threw to first base for the second out. However, Bert pulled a Cool Papa Bell move on the play roaring around third base and scoring the game's first run as Martinez' throw sailed toward the initial hassock.
The Huskies scored one more run in the first, but Templiers starter Samuel Meurant settled down to toss shutout ball the rest of the way while his teammates scored once in the fourth and racked up four more runs in the fifth, with Daniel Meurant supplying the key blow with a two-run double as Senart never looked back.
Rouen came back with a 7-4 win last Sunday. Once again, the Huskies plated two runs in the top of the first, courtesy of Boris Marche's two-out, two-run single. By the time the bottom of the sixth rolled around, Rouen had built a 6-0 lead and the outcome was never in doubt. Huskies starter Nicolas Dubaut allowed one earned run and six hits over seven innings for the series-tying win. The series moves to Rouen for concluding games this weekend.

The Antwerp Royal Greys completed a three-game sweep of the Hoboken Pioniers in the Belgian Series last Sunday with a 6-1 win in Hoboken. The win gave the Royals Greys their fourth consecutive Belgian League championship.
Antwerp went up 2-0 in the best-of-five series one day earlier with a wild 14-7 victory at home over the Pioniers. The contest was tied up at 7-7 in the sixth inning before the Royal Greys scored two runs to regain the lead as Antwerp went on to claim the flag once again.

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