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05/03/2009 Entry: "World Baseball Today"
May 3, 2009
by Bruce Baskin
Radio Miami International
PUJOLS REACHES 1,000 RBIS FOR CAREER
St. Louis Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols cranked a long grand slam homer in the seventh inning of a recent 8-2 win over the Chicago Cubs at Busch Stadium to drive in the 1,000th run of his Major League career.
Now in his ninth MLB season, Pujols crushed a 441-foot bomb off Cubs right-hander David Patton to move past Ken Boyer into fifth place on the Cardinals’ all-time ribbie list and becoming the 23rd active player to reach the four-figure mark for runs driven in. He is the second player to reach that plateau this year, following Carlos Beltran of the New York Mets.
A two-time National League Most Valuable Player (and the reigning MVP), Pujols becomes only the 30th player in Major League history to reach 1,000 RBIs before his 30th birthday. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, he ranks 14th all-time and second among active players, behind only the Dodgers’ Manny Ramirez, in terms of being the fastest batter to reach 1,000.
SEVERAL FREE AGENTS STILL AVAILABLE FOR MLB JOBS
With the Major League season only a month old, injuries are already piling up. Players like Vladimir Guerrero, Brian McCann, Brandon Webb, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Jeremy Bonderman have been shelved for various reasons. While their clubs are scrambling to fill the voids left by their absences, a number of veteran free agents are still looking for work.
Former Cy Young Award winner Pedro Martinez looked sharp during the World Baseball Classic, but teams have shied away from Martinez because he’s a 37-year-old coming off an injury who is asking for $5 million. Other available pitchers include Paul Byrd and Ben Sheets.
Some good position players are still unsigned, including outfielders Jim Edmonds, Geoff Jenkins, Luis Gonzalez and Shannon Stewart
FLORIDA PREP’S NO-HIT STREAK ENDS AT FOUR
One pitcher who might eventually help a Major League team is Patrick Schuster. The pitcher from New Port Richey, Florida’s Mitchell High School recently gained national attention by throwing four consecutive no-hitters. However, his amazing streak of hitless innings is over at 28.1 frames after allowing a double to Drew Doty in the third inning of last Tuesday’s playoff game against Gaither High School. Until Doty’s double, Schuster had not allowed a hit since March 24.
In the end, Gaither defeated Mitchell, 9-4, to finish Schuster’s senior season. He was 8-1 with a 1.35 ERA in 25 pitching appearances, giving up just 12 hits and striking out 115 batters in 60 innings on the mound. Schuster has signed a letter of intent with the University of Florida, and is projected to be picked between the second and fourth rounds of next month’s MLB Player Draft.
SIX PLAYOFF BERTHS CLINCHED IN CUBAN SERIES
With six games remaining in the regular season, six playoff berths have been clinched in the Cuban National Series. In the Occidental Division, La Habana, Pinar del Rio and Sancti Spiritus are set for the postseason. Ciego de Avila, Santiago de Cuba and Villa Clara will extend their seasons in the Oriental Division. Isla de Juventud has a magic number of four for the final berth in the Occidental Division, while Holguin’s magic number for the fourth playoff slot in the Oriental Division is three.
Granma’s Alfredo Despaigne leads the league with 31 homers, and is now tied with Santiago de Cuba’s Alexei Bell for the all-time single season homer record. Bell set the mark last winter.
RHODES CRACKS 450TH JAPANESE HOMER
Karl “Tuffy” Rhodes once hit three homers on Opening Day for the Chicago Cubs in 1994, but he was not regarded as a home run hitter during his major league career after knocking out just 13 longballs in 590 at-bats in 225 MLB games between 1990 and 1995. That has changed since he left the United States to play in Japan in 1997.
Rhodes had another three-homer performance for the Orix Buffaloes in an 11-3 win over the Nippon Ham Fighters last week to become the first American player to reach 450 home runs in Japanese baseball. The 40-year-old Rhodes now has 452 dingers for his career, tops among all active players in Nippon Professional Baseball. Hanshin’s Tomoaki Kanemoto is second on the list at 429.
In the win over Nippon Ham, Rhodes cracked a solo homer in the fourth inning to become only the 12th player in Japanese baseball history to reach the 450-homer mark, then whacked a three-run homer in the fifth inning before capping off his night with a two-run bomb in the eight.
Now in his 13th season of NPB ball, Rhodes has topped 50 homers twice (including a record-tying 55 roundtrippers in 2001), and has surpassed 40 homers on four other occasions.
PARK FINALLY ESTABLISHES 250-250 CLUB IN KOREA
Jae-hong Park of the SK Wyverns has finally stolen the 250th base of his Korea Baseball Organization career to become the first player in KBO history to collect both 250 homers and 250 steals in a career.
The 35-year-old Park stole second base after singling in an April 24 game against the Lotte Giants. As Giants starter Jung-hoon Cho tossed his third pitch to Wyverns batter Choi Jeong, Park took off for second base. Lotte catcher Min-ho Kang attempted to throw Park out, but the ball dropped from his glove before he could get the throw off.
Park stole the first base of his career on April 13, 1996 against the LG Twins, three days before cracking his first KBO homer against the Hanwha Eagles.
Making the 250-250 Club is rare in any league. Only 19 Major Leaguers have turned the trick, the most recent being Alfonso Soriano of the Chicago Cubs, and just four Japanese baseball players have recorded that feat.
MANILA OPENS PHILIPPINES SPRING SEASON WITH TWO WINS
After winning just two games last fall in Baseball Philippines’ Series 4 season, the Manila Sharks started off this spring’s Series 5 schedule with two wins on Opening Weekend at venerable Rizal Memorial Stadium in the nation’s capital.
Manila opened the first season of 2009 with a 9-6 victory over the Taguig Patriots last Saturday, breaking up a 6-6 tie with three eighth-inning runs as Francis Candella stroked the game-winning hit. One day later, the Sharks swamped the Taguig Patriots, 9-2. Raffy Dimaculangan had two hits and three RBIs, while Mick Natividad pitched a complete game.
In other BP action, the Batangas Bulls crushed the Alabang Tigers, 11-1, behind 20-year-old pitcher Vladimir Eguia, who gave up just two hits and struck out eight in six innings for the Bulls. In the other opener, the Cebu Dolphins outlasted the Dumaguete Uni-Bikers, 17-7, in a rematch of last fall’s Series 4 finals. Jonash Ponce crashed a three-run homer for the Dolphins who have never lost an Opening Day game since the league was launched in 2007.
IRABU SIGNS WITH AMERICAN INDY LEAGUE TEAM
Pitcher Hideki Irabu has signed a contract with the Long Beach Armada of the independent Golden Baseball League for 2009. The veteran pitcher joins a starting rotation that includes another former big leaguer, Jose Lima, in Long Beach.
Irabu pitched three seasons for the New York Yankees, turning in a 13-9 record in 1998, before moving on to the Montreal Expos and Texas Rangers. Following his final MLB season with the Rangers, the right-hander pitched two years for Japan’s Hanshin Tigers before his initial retirement.
AMSTERDAM ALONE ON TOP OF DUTCH STANDINGS
The defending champion Amsterdam Pirates have picked up where they left off last year, reeling off eight wins at the start of the 2009 season to take sole possession of first place in the Dutch Major League standings. Amsterdam had an easy time of it last weekend, sweeping ADO in a three-game series. The Pirates outscored ADO, 31-6, over the set, including wins with 13-1 and 11-3 scores before wrapping up the sweep with a 7-2 victory on April 26 as ADO fell to 0-7 for the season.
DOOR Neptunus is in second place with a solid 6-0-1 record. Neptunus came away with two wins and a tie in their series against a good Konica Minolta Pioniers team last weekend. The series opened with a 3-3 tie before Neptunus won the final two contests by scores of 6-5 and 7-3. Konica Minolta slipped to third place with a 4-2-1 record.
Corendon Kinheim is off to a streaky start in 2009, with a 4-4 mark after eight games. Kinheim lost the opening game of their series against Mr. Crocker HCAW, 8-3, before rebounding to win the next two, 12-5 and 15-14. Mr. Crocker is now 3-4, a half-game behind fourth place Kinheim.
Sparta/Feyenoord defeated MediaMonks RCH in three straight games last weekend after losing their first four games, and now hold sixth place at 3-4. MediaMonks are tied with ADO for last at 0-7.
MARLINS LOOKING UNSTOPPABLE IN SPANISH LEAGUE
The Puerto Cruz Marlins have won four consecutive Spanish Division de Honor pennants, and it looks like they’re on their way to Flag Number Five after twelve wins out the gate in 2009. The Marlins dismantled the Valencia Astros last week in a two-game series, winning 10-0 and 11-1 in a pair of mercy rule-shortened games.
In the opening contest, Puerto Cruz scored all their runs between the second and fifth innings as Daniel Martinez was 3-for-4 with two doubles and three runs scored. Pitcher Leslie Nacar went to 5-0 on the year by pitching six perfect innings before reliever Audie Nunez allowed two hits in the seventh and final inning. Game Two went much the same, as Puerto Cruz scored seven runs in the seventh inning to halt the contest. Ivan Granados is now 4-0 after pitching a complete game.
Sant Boi beat San Inazio twice last week to hold onto second place with a 10-2 record. FC Barcelona showed up for their game against Navarra, winning a 2-1 thriller to go to 8-2. Barca’s Homer Baez pitched all the way, letting in one run on eight scattered hits to lift his record to 5-0.
ROUEN, SAVIGNY TIED FOR FIRST AFTER FRENCH LEAGUE SERIES SPLIT
The Rouen Huskies and Savigny Lions are in a virtual tie for the French Elite League lead after the two teams split a two-game series last weekend. Rouen is 5-1 thus far, while Savigny is 6-2.
The Lions won the opening game, 3-1, as pitcher Pierrick Lemestre let in one run on six hits and four walks in eight innings. Steven Huff was 3-for-4 for Savigny with two doubles and two RBIs as the Lions scored all three of their runs off Rouen starter Robin Roy in the third inning. Roy went the distance for the loss.
The defending French champions came back for an 8-7 slugfest win in the second game as the two teams combined for 31 hits. Savigny took a 7-6 lead with one run in the top of the ninth, but Rouen replied with two runs in the bottom of the frame off reliever Thomas Salado to post the win. Lic Piquet and Olivier Israel each had three hits for the Huskies.
BERN BLASTS FROGS TO RAISE SWISS LEAGUE RECORD TO 5-0
The Bern Cardinals dominated the Sissach Frogs last weekend in a two-game series to bring their Swiss National League record to 5-0. The Cards swamped the Frogs, 22-2 and 7-0, in a Sunday doubleheader, and lead the standings by one game over the 4-1 Lausanne Indians, who swept their own twinbill against the Zurich Barracudas, 9-6 and 6-2, on the same day.
While just one game separates Bern and Lausanne, the four-time champion Cardinals have put up far more impressive numbers in the young season, outscoring opponents by a 59-8 margin while Lausanne only has a +2 in runs differential.