World Baseball Classic: Exciting Ending to Puerto Rico versus Netherlands

PUERTO RICO BEAT THE NETHERLANDS 4-3 IN 11 INNINGS LAST NIGHT AT DODGER STADIUM, and will play the winner of tonight’s USA/Japan game tomorrow evening in the Ravine, still haunted by ghosts of displaced Hispanic families.

The contest last night was brilliantly played by both sides, as have so many of these games of the WBC, and whoever wins Wednesday night, whether USA, Puerto Rico, or Japan, will be true world champions.

The game last night turned on an extraordinary relay play in the top of the 5th inning, when the Netherlands’ Shawn Zarraga hammered a pitch to left center field, which PR’s Angel Pagan played off the wall, fired his throw to shortstop Francisco Lindor, who turned and threw a laser home to catcher Yadier Molina, who applied the tag on a sliding Jonathan Shoop for the game-saving out. Absent that play, the Netherlands would have won in nine, 4-3.

As impressive as the play was — very — the call by the home plate umpire, Lance Barksdale, was equally impressive, as it appeared Shoop had the throw beat by three feet, as John Smoltz said in the MLB broadcast booth, but the replay made it indisputable — Shoop was out. Barksdale got it right. It may have been the umpiring crews best moment in the WBC, because the ball and strike calls behind home plate have been really bad.

After the game, Javier Molina was being interviewed on the field, when he excused himself to join his PR teammates, on bended knees in a large circle to offer a prayer of thanksgiving. I’ve seen that, as have you, following NFL games, never on a baseball field.

If I tell you the players of PR’s national team are totally caught up in WBC play, believe me, they are totally in it. And it’s a great thing to watch.

Too bad 141,631,738 of Americans missed the dramatic ending last night, the walk off sacrifice fly in the 11th, because at 1:30 am in the east, 41.9 percent of you were asleep.

Dumb scheduling by the WBC, dumb, dumb, dumb.

But, hey, those of us who live west of the Kansas border, it’s been great.

Maybe in four years the geniuses of the WBC will figure it out – or not.

I COULDN’T HELP BUT THINK LAST NIGHT THAT IF THE NETHERLANDS HAD WON, WOULD ANYONE IN HOLLAND HAVE NOTICED?

I mean the Dutch just survived a near-death experience of electing a Trump wannabe, so maybe the WBC wasn’t exactly front and center in their thinking.

DYLAN HERNANDEZ OF THE LA TIMES HAD A TERRIFIC STORY ON JAPAN’S APPROACH TO THE WBC.

I commend it to your reading.

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

“The crowd of 55,000 expected history on August 30, 1978, at Korakuen Stadium in the heart of Tokyo. Sadaharu Oh, the famed slugger of the hometown Yomiuri Giants, entered play against the Yokohama Taiyo Whales on 799 career home runs. No player in the history of professional baseball had ever hit that many, but the landmark of 800 loomed large.

“In his first trip to the plate, Oh singled, before drawing a walk in his next appearance. The bustling mass of spectators, five thousand over the stadium’s recommended capacity, grew ever so slightly impatient, but roared shrill encouragement when Oh ventured to the dish to begin the home half of the sixth inning.

“Reliever Hiroshi Okawa came in to face Oh, still a lethal hitter at the age of 38. As verbal encouragement cascaded through the stadium, Okawa delivered his first pitch. Oh lifted his leg and unfurled that lyrical, legendary swing, connecting sweetly with the baseball and propelling it deep to right field, where, amid a maelstrom of excitement, it came to rest in the shoe of Hiromori Miyayashi, a 34-year old fan who had removed his footwear for comfort.

“With the 34th home run of his 19th season, Sadaharu Oh had once again made history. His 800th career blast came in his 2,562nd game, and his 8,330th at-bat. Of all the men ever to play baseball professionally, regardless of geography, he was the founding father of the 800 Home Run Club. Thirty-seven years later, he’s still waiting to greet the next member, who simply may never arrive.” – Ryan Ferguson in The Guardian of England, 17 September 2015