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Mar '09 21

2009 World Baseball Classic Semi-Finals start Tonight in Los Angeles



Carlos Silva pitching against Italy in 2009 World Baseball Classic

Three games are left in the 2009 World Baseball Classic. This weekend the semi-finals take place at the Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, the finals will follow on Monday at the same place in Chavez Ravine. The managers have set their rosters and starting assignments for the decisive games and we’ll hope for an exciting final phase.

World Baseball Classic Schedule March 21/22:

Sunday, 2am CET, WBC Semis: Venezuela – Korea
(Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles, California, ESPN America, ESPN, MLB.tv live)
The semi-finals start on Saturday evening with the matchup between Olympic champion Korea and the lone remaining Latin American team in the competition, Venezuela. Both met the last time in the 2007 Baseball World Cup in Taiwan, with Korea winning 9-2. However especially the roster of Venezuela looks much different now, filled with Major League proven all-stars. Miguel Cabrera, Bobby Abreu and Magglio Ordonez form a fearsome heart of the batting order. They are probably the hottest team, going into the final round, having won five straight games and six of seven overall.

Carlos Silva (1-0, ERA 0.82) of the Seattle Mariners takes the mound for the team of manager Luis Sojo, who isn’t afraid to use super-closer Francisco Rodriguez for more than an inning. Korea counters with Suk-Min Yoon (1-0), who hasn’t allowed a run in 9 2/3 innings during the World Baseball Classic. In 2008 he finished fifth in the MVP voting in the Korean League after going 14-5 with an ERA of 2.33 for the Kia Tigers. Each team knows the opponent only from scouting reports and television. On paper Venezuela should be favored, having that much Major League talent on hand. However all four remaining teams in the WBC should be able to win it all.

Monday, 1am CET, WBC Semis: Japan – USA
(Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles, California, ESPN America, ESPN, MLB.tv live)
There is much more familiarity between the foes in the second semi-final on Sunday. Several of Japan’s players are in the MLB, including tomorrow’s starter. Daisuke Matsuzaka (2-0, ERA 1.80) takes the mound for Team Nippon and he brings a WBC lifetime 5-0 record and an ERA of 1.57 into the game. However in difference to the MVP campaign in the 2006 classic, the batters on the opposing side will know him pretty well, as he is playing for the Boston Red Sox since 2007. Japan has won five of its seven games, having only lost to Korea. Tatsunori Hara has to replace big bat Shuichi Murata in the lineup, as he tore his right hamstring and is already back in his home country for treatment. Kenta Kurihara replaced him on the roster. Yasuyuki Kataoka should receive the start at third with Michihiro Ogasawara playing first.

Team USA and manager Davey Johnson also had to make a few roster and lineup adjustments. Third baseman and 2007 World Cup hero Evan Longoria was added to the team, though he isn’t likely to play. Mark DeRosa takes over at first, which puts Adam Dunn back into the outfield. David Wright, who has a cracked toe nail, should be back at third. Outfielder Ryan Braun, who is battling a rib cage injury, hopes to be back in the lineup too. Johnson wanted to add Derrek Lee to the roster, as he was the last remaining first baseman on the preliminary roster, but the Chicago Cubs star has a quad injury. Roy Oswalt (1-0, ERA 3.52) receives the starting nod and he is anxious to pitch, remembering the 2000 Olympics, when Team USA beat Cuba in the gold medal game.

Photo: © Ratti, FIBS




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