We're back with the Scott Richmond Memorial Tournament with a really important game for the Canadians.
Pregame ramble (9:45): Since they battered the Chinese pitchers around on Tuesday night / Wednesday morning / whatever time it was in Beijing, the home nine have lost two very close games: a homerfest against Cuba, 7-6; a pitcher's duel against South Korea earlier today / yesterday / you get the idea by the score of 1-0. The Korea game was a tough one to lose: Canada allowed just three hits in the game and loaded the bases in the bottom of the ninth.
Upshot is they're 1-2 and need some luck to go their way for a shot at a medal. Fortunately, the Americans are also 1-2 so far, so there's a chance.
Davey Johnson's managing the USA team, and maybe it's the teams he had, but in 13 full seasons in the majors, he never managed a below .500 team. I don't know much about Terry Puhl, but I know it's a relief to not have the same managerial matchup that we had between these teams at the 2006 World Baseball Classic.
Starting for Team USA is Whoever's Lefthanded. In this case, 20-year-old Brett Anderson, who was (a small) part of the trade that sent Danny Haren from Oakland to Arizona last December.
Pregame: The American lineup looks way better than Canada's at first glance. Matt LaPorta? Not fair. More hot audio from the Canadian bench, some of it actually fit for public consumption. Let's just say opposing players' weights were discussed.
Top of the first: First pitch at 10:33, called strike. Stubby Clapp rises to his rightful spot at the top of the order. He and Manny Garcia ground out quickly.
Someone should tell the Chinese fans, gently, that "crack of bat" does not equal "home run." 1-2-3 first inning for Anderson.
Bottom of the first: James Avery gets the start for Canada today in place of Scott Richmond. See, the "Memorial" line wasn't just a throwaway. Avery gets credit for rockin' the full windup, arms over head and all.
Dexter Fowler, early contender for Name of the Night, leads off with a high fly ball out after Avery fell behind 3-1. He's one of three quick outs as we finish the first inning after just 11 minutes of play.
Top of the second: Thorman chases a curveball low and fouls out, then Weglarz goes after another low pitch and squeaks one between first and second. Whoever this Anderson kid is seems to be relying on his breaking stuff against the lefty-heavy lineup and I can't blame him. Not sure I've seen a fastball this inning.
Well, there goes one. On a full count, Emerson Frostad doubles the other way and Weglarz comes around to score without a throw. 1-0 Canada! The next two batters make outs, Frostad left on second.
Anderson missed on the 2-2 to Frostad, with a fastball way outside. Might be worth a look, to see if he can command that pitch later today.
Bottom of the second: Despite Matthew Brown's strikeout to lead off this inning, something tells me he's going to be a pain in the later innings once he figures out Avery. Good approach at the plate, fouling off exactly what Avery was trying to get him to chase.
A pair of strikeouts, actually, as Avery gets LaPorta (part of the C.C. Sabathia trade) looking to end the inning. Still 1-0 for the red shirts as the Americans go down in order again.
Top of the third: Weather report: 27 degrees in Beijing. Humidex is 33. Ceiling: unlimited.
With one out, Clapp singles and Garcia jumps on a curve-that-didn't. He pulls it to the gap, scoring a run, and ends up on third base. 2-0 for Canada.
Choppy video feed reveals Thorman standing on first after...a single! That must mean it's now 3-0. And it is! Oakland may want Haren back at this rate.
Bottom of the third: Uhh, a diving/leaping catch by Clapp? Video feed again. No runs scored, though.
Top of the fourth: Well, isn't this something? Adam Stern, after being dropped to ninth in the order, brings home the fourth run of the day.
Bottom of the fourth: Okay, we're back with what should be a good feed. And if you're watching now, you will have noticed two things: (1) Avery got jobbed out of a called strike three; (2) on the next pitch, Brian Barden homered to right. 4-1 Canada. The Canadian bench hurled more obscenities at the umpire after that one.
Three hard-hit balls so far, but two have found gloves. Avery's getting lucky, and he's already quite fortunate to have a 4-run lead.
Make that four line drives. A double for Schierholtz (spelling a pure guess). Ripped it down the RF line, bringing up LaPorta who is hit and suddenly the tying run is at the plate and the bullpen starts to get moving.
Gall's single makes it 4-2 and Avery is pulled. (We passed the one-hour mark recently, if you're curious about that sort of stuff.)
Please welcome sidearming LHP Robert Swindle to the game. Avery lasted just 3.2, and no, I don't know why Scott Richmond's in the back of the Blue Jays' bullpen either.
Swindle strands two runners. We're through four, Canada up by a small two.
Bottom of the fifth: Not a typo, just an uneventful top half.
Public service announcement: Stick to the online feed if you are interested in this game, or at least mute your TV when baseball makes it to the top of the cycle. Just...trust me on this one.
Garcia tries to be cute on a grounder in the hole and can't field it cleanly. Probably an infield hit, but still. Two pitches later, he's the middleman on a 1-6-3 attempted double play, but his throw is wide at first. Again, the runner was already safe. It's just odd to see two misplays in such quick succession.
With two out, Terry Tiffee cranks one off the wall and it's 4-3. That brings up Matt Brown, who won't be figuring out Jeff Avery today. Inning over on a groundout; Swindle must have seen that Chris Reitsma was starting to throw in the pen.
Top of the sixth: After two quick outs, Rogelstad doubled and Robinson (easy to identify, since he's the only RH hitter) got one of those delightful infield singles on a ball that just won't roll foul.
First and third, two outs, and a new pitcher for USA: Brian Duensing, who is..wait for it..a lefty. They don't have any others on the roster. He gets out of the inning much like Swindle did.
Bottom of the sixth: Swindle faces just one batter in the sixth; in comes Reitsma. He retires the next two on fly balls that went a little bit too far for my liking in a one-run game. Still 4-3, as we hope it will stay forever. Game now two hours old.
Bottom of the seventh: Nothing much interesting in the top of the seventh. After we suffered through the mascots again, the U.S. got a runner on and bunted him over.
Dexter Fowler's back, and he's fouling off dozens of pitches, give or take, with a man on second and one out. He flies out harmlessly to short as the crowd starts the following competing chants:
"Ca-na-da" / "U-S-A" / "Chi-na"
"U-S-A" wins out, as Marson scores on a Barden double. Canada no longer has the lead and yet another pitcher is coming in: 41-year-old Rheal Cormier. Tied at 4 in the seventh...
...and Rheal doesn't start things off very well, first missing the strike zone several times, then being forced to give Tiffee a pitch he can drive. The double puts the US ahead, 5-4.
Intentional walk follows the double, because when you have run #6 on second and a pitcher having trouble getting into the game, you might as well put run #7 on first. Schierholtz pops out to end the inning, but one batter too late for my liking.
Top of the eighth: So, with six outs left in Canada's Olympic baseball dream (let's be adults here, there's no chance for them if they lose this game and fall to 1-3) and an effective lefthanded pitcher on the mound, is it wrong to be pessimistic about the Canadian chances of pulling this one out?
Seven pitches later, we're down to three outs. Supply your own answer.
Bottom of the eighth: Super, there's a new pitcher in the game. Tim Burton relieves Cormier, but more accurately, he relieves all of us.
Missed how the runner got on, but a clean double play turn by Garcia and Clapp brings us back to the comfort of two out, nobody on. Marson singles on a liner to right. He moves to second when a ground ball just gets under Garcia's glove. And third when Burton walks the next batter.
Fly ball, crowd yelps...and it drops into a glove. That's about as bad as it gets without giving up a run, folks.
Last call for Canada, and if to mock us, the stadium staff play Nickelback. Thanks a lot, guys.
Top of the ninth: Rally cap: on.
Rogelsted flies out on the first pitch. Not so fast, guys, the eulogy isn't written yet. Then Robinson gets a 3-0 count and drives one to right. Good piece of hitting, as every TV commentator in the world would say.
Lawrie runs for Robinson (good idea, that) and Stern's removed for Jimmy VanOstrand at the plate. Not so sure about this one. Sure enough, VanOstrand looks cold, swinging wildly on back-to-back pitches, and ultimately striking out without much of a fight. Stern was moved from 1st to 9th in the order and if you didn't like his hitting so far this series, why not start VanOstrand in the first place instead of making him come off the bench in the ninth? Questionable decision by Puhl.
That puts it all in the hands of Stubby Clapp now, and the Canadians wonder why the pitcher wasn't called for a balk. Except that they all add several syllables to "balk." No matter, as we get a full count on Clapp. Two outs. Tying run on first. And the result is...
...several foul balls. Once he's done with those, he flies out to left. Ballgame.