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07/01/2008 Archived Entry: "WORLD BASEBALL TODAY: Vol. 2, No. 26"

by Bruce Baskin
Radio Miami International
Sunday, June 29, 2008

Matt Garza carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning en route to a 6-1 Tampa Bay Rays win over the Florida Marlins last Thursday in Miami. Garza surrendered a leadoff homer to Marlins shortstop Hanley Ramirez in the seventh, but cruised the rest of the way to a one-hit complete game.
Ramirez’ blast was the only hard-hit ball off Garza all day, and was the only thing that kept the Rays from the first no-hitter in franchise history. Florida‘s Luis Gonzalez was suitably impressed with the young pitcher who came to Tampa Bay in the offseason trade that sent outfielder Delmon Young to Minnesota. “The heat was coming from that 94-95 miles per hour he was throwing with movement,” Gonzalez said after the game. “He was pinpointing his pitches…Throwing in, out, up, down, everything.”
Evan Longoria had three hits, including a homer for Tampa Bay as Florida starter Mark Hendrickson’s record fell to 7-6 after allowing five runs in 4.2 innings. Hendrickson is now 0-4 in six starts since beating San Francisco May 25. The loss to the Rays completed a three-game Tampa Bay series sweep. The Marlins have now gone 5-10 in interleague play this year, and will have only their third losing season against American League teams in franchise history. Florida is 110-91 overall in interleague play, best among National League teams.

The top pick of the 2008 baseball draft made his rookie league debut Thursday night in Princeton, West Virginia. Tim Beckham is ordinarily a shortstop, but was scheduled to serve as designated hitter for the Princeton Rays in their Appalachian League contest against the Burlington (NC) Royals. Beckham was slated to hit second in the P-Rays batting order.
Beckham signed with Tampa Bay for a reported $6.15 million bonus on June 19, two weeks after being drafted first overall by the Rays. He recently graduated from high school in Griffin, Georgia. His older brother Jeremy was Tampa Bay’s 17th round pick out of Georgia Southern University, and was hitting .286 for Princeton in 14 at-bats going into Thursday’s game.

Catcher Kyle Skipworth signed his first pro baseball contract with the Florida Marlins last Wednesday for a reported $2.3 million. Skipworth was taken sixth overall by the Marlins in the June 5 draft out of high school in California, and will begin his minor league career with Florida’s Jupiter team in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League.
The 6-foot-3, 195-pound Skipworth reminds scouts of Minnesota catcher Joe Mauer, who is one of the best-hitting backstops in the major leagues. Skipworth’s goal is to be on Florida’s big league roster when the Marlins move into their new ballpark in 2011. After signing, he warmed up with the Marlins and took some batting practice at Dolphin Stadium before the workout was cut short by rain.

San Diego State pitcher Stephen Strasburg combined with four relievers for 22 strikeouts as the USA Baseball National Trials Team swamped the Chinese National Team 7-1 last Wednesday night. Strasburg was dominant over his four-inning turn on the mound, retiring all twelve batters he faced with ten K’s, but left with the game scoreless. Auburn’s Hunter Davis whacked a two-out, three-run homer in the bottom of the fifth to break the game open, driving in Tennessee’s Kentrail Davis and California’s Blake Smith. Chance Ruffin of Texas picked up the win after striking out all three Chinese batters in the top of the fifth.
The Chinese Nationals spoiled the Americans’ perfect game bid with a Li Lei leadoff homer in the top of the sixth off Mississippi’s Drew Pomeranz, but it was the USA’s night as the Americans scored twice more in the sixth and added two more insurance runs in the seventh.

The Chinatrust Whales scored a come-from-behind 7-6 win over the Brother Elephants last Tuesday night at Taipei County Baseball Stadium, handing Whales skipper Hsieh Chang-hen the 200th victory of his Chinese Professional Baseball League managerial career. The win made the former President Lions hurler and manager the first man in Taiwanese baseball history to register 100 wins as a pitcher and 200 more as a manager.
The Whales were trailing 6-4 before knotting the score with a pair of runs in the bottom of the eighth. Lin Jin-chang’s walk-off single in the bottom of the ninth prevented the Bears from winning their fourth game in a row.
On the same night, President Lions pitcher Pan “Du Du” Wei-luen lost for the first time since last season as the Lions lost to the La New Bears 7-3 in a battle of Taiwan’s top two teams. Pan was trying to win his 22nd consecutive game, but was hit early and often by the Bears batsmen, including a solo homer by slugger Lin Chih-sheng.
Import Mike Johnson picked up the win for the Bears to raise his record to 12-0. Johnson pitched six innings of two-run ball against the defending champs.

While North Korea is claiming to be dismantling its nuclear program, baseball pitchers in South Korea can’t be blamed if they’re dreaming about a similar disarmament of batters in the Korea Baseball Organization. The KBO has seen an increase in offense this season to levels they haven’t experienced in seven years.
The KBO’s league-wide batting average through last weekend was .271, with 18 men batting .300 or better. The league average hasn’t gone over .270 since it reached .274 in 2001. Batting leader Lee Jin-young is hitting .362, which would be the highest average this decade if the season ended now.
Conversely, KBO pitchers are combining for a 4.36 ERA, which would be the highest in seven years if the season were to end today. The 2001 campaign saw a 4.71 ERA among pitchers in Korean ball.
Former Kia Tigers manager Kim Sung-ham, who is now a television analyst, says “Most clubs this season have seen their starters come down with injuries and their rotations have been thrown out of sync. Teams don’t have much pitching depth in this league, so injuries have had a trickle-down effect and hitters have been feasting on subpar pitching.

The Monclova Acereros have led the Mexican League’s Northern Division most of the second half this season on strong pitching, but the tables were turned on the Acereros last Sunday by Baudel Zambrano and the Laguna Vaqueros. Zambrano combined with three relief pitchers for a 9-0 no-hitter against Monclova.
Zambrano and Acereros starter Jasiel Acosta locked up over three scoreless innings before the Vaqueros pushed four runs across the plate in the fourth inning. Emmanuel Valdez started things with a leadoff single, while the next batter, Rafael Castaneda, reached first base on an error. After both runners advanced on a sacrifice bunt, Valdez scored on a Cesar Marquez single. Acosta retired Nicolas Garcia for the second out, but Dionys Cesar broke the game open with a three-run homer to stretch Laguna’s lead. Zambrano and his mates never looked back.

Holland’s Corendon Kinheim took a thrilling ten-inning 3-2 comeback win over Italy’s Montepaschi Grosseto last week to win their second consecutive European Cup title. The championship game was a battle of left-handed aces, Kinheim’s Patrick Beljarrds and Grosseto’s 42-year-old American import Linc Mikkelson.
Beljaards, who is 7-0 in the Dutch Major League this season, retired 15 of the first 16 Grosseto batters he faced, while Mikkelson sailed through the first four frames he tossed before pitching out of a jam in the fifth. The game remained scoreless going into the seventh, when Grosseto’s Davide Dallospedale tripled and scored on Raul Marval’s hard groundout. Kinheim knotted the score at 1-1 in the bottom of the inning when Roel Koolen tripled off Mikkelson and later plated a run on Dirk van’t Klooter’s sacrifice fly to center.
The score remain unchanged through nine innings, but Grosseto scored a run in the top of the tenth on Andrea Sgnaolin’s RBI single off Kinheim closer Michiel van Kampen. Corendon came back against Mikkelson in the bottom of the stanza when Dutch National Team catcher Tjerk Smeets won the game with a two-run double to the gap in left center field.
In other final day Euro Cup action, San Marino of Italy beat the Rouen Huskies of France 3-1 in the third place game, Spain’s Puerto Cruz Mariners topped Belgium’s Merksem Royal Greys 7-3 to finish fifth, while Balashikha Dynamo of Russia clobbered Germany’s Mainz Athletics 18-5 to take seventh place.

FC Barcelona of Spain scored eight runs in the fourth inning of the title game and went on to beat Italy’s Danesi Nettuno 12-11 to win their second straight Confederation of European Baseball Tournament in Regensburg, Germany last week.
Former big league shortstop Luis Ugueto launched a second-pitch leadoff homer for Nettuno in the first inning off Barcelona ace Homer Baez, and Vince Parisi followed with a two-run bomb off Baez one inning later. When Ugueto led off the bottom of the third with another homer to left to make the score 4-1, things looked good for Nettuno.
However, Barcelona exploded for eight counters in the fourth, including a grand slam by Jesus Golindano followed by a solo shot from Oscar Roman. The Spanish team eventually built a 12-8 lead and held on for the CEB Cup win.

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