The United States WBC team went down to defeat last night, 2-1, to Mexico at Angel Stadium. USA is now eliminated from the WBC, so Japan will face South Korea in one semifinal, while Cuba will face the Dominican Republic in the other. Both games will be played this Saturday.
Roger Clemens pitched well for the USA, allowing only one earned run in 4 1/3 innings. (Will this be his final game for the 357th time?) The one run he allowed was controversial, as Mario Valenzuela of Mexico hit a ball down the right field line that hit the foul pole for what looked like a home run. But first base umpire Bob Davidson, who's been atrocious in this tourney, blew what was an easy call and ruled that the ball was still in play, and the Mexicans had a double instead. How he could have missed this call is simply astounding, as it was at least 10 feet above the right field wall. Fortunately for Mexico, Jorge Cantu singled the runner home from second to give them the early 1-0 lead, so justice was served. I'd like to know why there were no umpires down either foul line, as a bad call like that could have been avoided. In the next WBC, the quality of umpiring must be a lot better. I heard that the major league umps refused to be a part of the WBC because they weren't paid enough for it.
The USA simply didn't hit well in the WBC, and especially in the clutch. But also the presence of Alex Rodriguez, known by his ex-Texas Rangers teammates as "The Cooler", should have told everyone that the USA had no shot at winning the tourney. Where he goes, his teams end up far short of the title. In the top of the ninth, Slappy (as we prefer to call him) came up with a man on first and one out. At that moment, I had flashbacks to last year's ALDS Game 5 between the Yankees and Angels (in that very same ballpark, Angel Stadium), when Slappy hit into a double play in the ninth to effectively kill any shot the Yankees had in coming back to win the series. Could that happen again? I wanted the USA to win of course, but I couldn't get past what a delicious irony it would have been to see The Cooler kill the USA's chances here.
But A-Rod drew a walk, and Vernon Wells hit the first pitch he saw right to shortstop, and the Mexicans turned a double play to end the USA's WBC hopes. Close, but no cigar.
The USA couldn't make it to the semifinals, and that is an embarrassment to USA baseball. It goes to prove that you can have the most powerful lineup in the world (maybe second to the Dominicans), but if you don't do all the things right as a team, you won't win. The South Koreans have done that, and are the surprise of the WBC. Good luck to them this weekend.
I like the Dominican Republic to win the WBC title. But they should probably thank their lucky stars that The Cooler picked the USA to play for.