This week of action, if you actually watched the baseball instead of complaining about who was and who wasn’t on the squad, was pretty exciting. There is one game remaining in Pool B, after Mexico trounced Australia last night. Mexico plays Cuba, but we know they’ll both make it out of the round. By the way, the two games between Australia and Mexico were ridiculous. In game 1, the Aussies won 17-7, in game 2, Mexico won 17-1. The biggest news out of the first round is probably the stunning defeat of the Dominican Republic TWICE by the Netherlands. This was a team picked to win the tournament by many people, and it wasn’t just that they lost but HOW they lost. The Netherlands won 3-2 and then won 2-1 in 11 innings. Lest we forget, this was a DR lineup that featured Jose Reyes, Hanley Ramirez, David Ortiz, Robinson Cano, Miguel Tejada, Jose Guillen and Willy Tavares. I guess they missed having ARod in the lineup.
On the backs of Tom Stuifbergen, Robbie Cordemans, Dennis Neumann, Rick VandenHurk, Jorn Vandersloot and Sidney Ponson, the Dutch pitching staff was incredible. They gave up 7 runs in 3 games, only Japan, Cuba (so far, they still gotta play the finals) and Puerto Rico have done better. If you’ve never heard of most of these guys, you aren’t alone. The last guy I listed is the only one on the team with more than 5 major league wins, and the second to last guy is not even on the team, I just put his name there. VandenHurk does have 5 wins, and Stuifbergen is an 18 year old in the Twins organization who probably impressed them this week. Either way, Burt Blyleven is their pitching coach and so far he has done a great job. Maybe he just told everyone to pitch like him?
Japan gets to play the winner of Cuba/Mexico in the first round. Korea plays the winner. This one is gonna be tough. While I think Japan may be the best of the bunch, Cuba is pretty awesome, too. Korea could pull a surprise and make it to the next round as well. If it plays out like I see it, Japan will beat Mexico and Cuba will beat Korea to start. Then, Japan will lose to Cuba in their second game, throwing them in to a matchup with Korea, after Korea beats Mexico. Korea has already beaten Japan once and I could see it happening again. But for this one, I’m going with the consensus pick and have Cuba and Japan advancing. I think Cuba will win the bracket, with the Japanese coming in second place.
The US pool is already settled, and contains the feel good story team from Holland. Can they win this round and advance? Sure they can, it’s baseball and small sample sizes trump who’s actually better plenty of times such short series. However, I think they will have a difficult time of it. Team USA, on the other hand, still looks like the best in the group to me, despite the loss to Venezuela. Looking at the matchups, I am very excited to watch USA vs Puerto Rico. Venezuela may be the third best team of the bunch, which the Netherlands has to like because their playing them first. I see the US winning and I’m picking the Netherlands in game 1, then Puerto Rico will be beat Venezuela, while the US takes care of the Netherlands. I think it’ll be a US-Puerto Rico rematch in the finals, with the US coming out on top.
Games resume Saturday with both games in Pool 2. USA plays at 8 pm.