Sunday, November 2, 2008


The Philadelphia Phillies defeated the Tampa Bay Rays to win the 2008 World Series last week at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia. In winning the World Series 4 games to 1, the Phils copped only the second Major League Baseball championship in a long team history dating back to the 19th century.

The Phillies and Rays were tied at one game apiece heading into Game Three last Saturday. In what turned out to be a rain-delayed marathon that lasted until 1:47 in the morning, the Phils bested Tampa Bay, 5-4, by plating the winning run in a bizarre ninth inning. With the game knotted up at 4-4, Tampa Bay's J.P. Howell hit Phils leadoff batter Eric Bruntlett with a pitch, and was immediately replaced by Grant Balfour on the mound to face Shane Victorino.

As Victorino squared off for a bunt to advance Bruntlett into scoring position, but instead, Balfour uncorked a wild pitch that allowed Bruntlett to advance to second. Rays catcher Dioner Navarro then threw the ball to second in an attempt to get Bruntlett sliding into the base, but Navarro's throw sailed past second into center field, upon which Bruntlett popped back on his feet and scurried safely into third base.

Balfour went on to intentionally walk both Victorino and pinch-hitter Greg Dobbs to fill the bases with nobody out. Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon then brought Ben Zobrist in from right field to set up behind second place, giving the Rays five infielders with just two outfielders and Carlos Ruiz stepping up to the plate for Philadelphia.

Ruiz topped a dribbler on a 2-2 pitch to Rays third baseman Evan Longoria, who bobbled the ball and could not make a play as Bruntlett crossed home plate with the winning run. One bright spot for Tampa Bay was center fielder B.J. Upton, who stole three bases in the game to tie a World Series single-game record.

After Saturday's tight ballgame, Sunday's Game Four was a good old-fashioned slugfest in which the Phillies did most of the slugging as Philadelphia beat Tampa Bay by a 10-2 count. Ryan Howard crushed two of the Phillies' four homers while Joe Blanton became the 13th pitcher in World Series history to hit a longball, the first since Oakland's Ken Holtzman hit one against the Cincinnati Reds in 1974. Jayson Werth also homered for the Phils.

The Phils got on the scoreboard in the bottom of the first when Rays starter Andy Sonnanstine walked Pat Burrell with the bases loaded to bring Jimmy Rollins in from third, and the home side never looked back. Carl Crawford and Eric Hinske each hit solo homers to account for Tampa Bay's scoring in the game.

The World Series finally came to a close Wednesday night when the Phillies vanquished the Rays, 4-3, in a game that began Monday night and went through two postponements because of rain. Game Five was tied at 3-3 when the Rays' Rocco Baldelli homered in the seventh innings, but the Phillies went ahead for good in the bottom of the seventh when Pedro Feliz' single up the middle drove in Bruntlett from third. It was left to Brad Lidge to record his 48th save since opening day for the Phils to put both the Rays and the Series away. Lidge did not blow a single save opportunity throughout the 2008 season.


Alex Ramirez swatted a tiebreaking two-run homer in the eighth inning last Saturday to lift the Yomiuri Giants to a 6-2 win over the Chunichi Dragons and a slot in this month's Japan Series against the Seibu Lions. The victory gave the Giants their first Central League berth in the Japan Series in six years after winning the regular season pennant by overtaking the Hanshin Tigers in the last week of the season. Yomiuri won the regular season title last year as well, but fell short against Chunichi in the Central League Climax Series.

Not so this time. After being spotted a win going into the finals against the Dragons by virtue of their first-place finish, the Giants won two games and lost one, with one contest ending in a tie. With the score tied at 2-2 in the bottom of the eighth in the clinching game, Yomiuri's Takayuki Terauchi stroked a leadoff double off Chunichi left-hander Akifumi Takehashi. Ramirez then stepped to the plate and bashed a Takehashi pitch into the left field seats to give the Giants a lead they would never relinquish. Mark Kroon, who saved 41 games over the regular season, came on in the ninth and retired the Dragons without a run to preserve the win and eliminate the defending Japan Series champions.

The Giants and the Pacific League champion Lions were slated to begin the Japan Series this weekend.


The President Lions defeated the Brother Elephants, 5-4, last weekend in Game Two of the 2008 Taiwan Series to tie the title set at one game apiece. A crowd of more than 17,000 turned out for the contest as Lions first baseman K.C. Kao went 2-for-3 at the plate with a triple and two RBIs. President's ace pitcher Pan “Du Du” Wei-Lun pitched eight innings and gave up four runs on seven hits, including a two-run homer by Lin Ming-Hsien.

Brother won the opening game 9-3 behind Wang Chin-Yong's two-run homer, three hits including two doubles with two RBIs from Chen Kuan-Jen, and game MVP Wang Sheng-Wei's single and double with a ribbie.

While the playoffs wind down in Taiwan, the league disbanded the dMedia T-Rex franchise after the team was embroiled in game-fixing allegations following their offseason purchase by new ownership alleged to have deep ties with organized crime. The reduction of the T-Rex leaves the Chinese Professional Baseball League with five teams after a year marked by financial problems and low attendance figures. There is some concern among observers that the league may not return in 2009, leaving Taiwan without pro baseball.


The reformed Puerto Rico League will open their 2008-09 season later this week after taking last winter off due to financial troubles. There are six teams slated to play this season, including the Caguas Creoles. The Creoles lineup will include catcher Ivan Rodriguez for two weeks in November and one in December. Rodriguez, a likely future Hall of Famer who finished the recently-concluded Major League season with the New York Yankees, has not played winter ball in Puerto Rico for ten years.

The season will begin Thursday night when Santurce takes on Carolina.


The Guasave Algodoneros are the early leaders in the standings two weeks into the Mexican Pacific League standings. After 15 games, Guasave have an 11-5 record, 1.5 games ahead of the Mexicali Aguilas and Los Mochis Caneros (who are both 9-6). The Algodoneros have won seven of nine home games, best in the Mex Pac, and were victorious in seven of their past ten league games.

Guasave's Jose Rodriguez is the Mex Pac batting leader with a .414 average, just ahead of Obregon's Augie Murillo, who is hitting .410. Oscar Robles of Mexicali is off to a hot start with a .370 average, along with five homers and 15 RBIs. Jorge Vasquez of Culiacan has hit a middling .265 so far, but he's made the most of his 13 hits, with a Mex Pac-best seven homers. However, most of those have come with the bases empty, as Vasquez has just ten RBIs to show for it.

Among pitchers, Hermosillo's Juan Delgadillo is off to the best start, with a 3-1 record, a 1.29 ERA and 15 strikeouts over 21 innings.


The Caracas Leones and Zulia Aguilas are doing some early jostling in the Venezuelan League standings heading into November. Both clubs have 8-5 record to top the stables, although Caracas has been a bit stronger of late with three straight wins and seven victories over their past ten games, while the Aguilas have played .500 ball in the same timespan.

Two reasons for Zulia's early success have been pitchers Heath Totten and Michael Connolly. Totten has been outstanding in three starts for the Aguilas, with a 2-0 record, an ERA of just 0.90 and 12 strikeouts over 20 innings. Connolly's line is actually more intriguing. Although he has yet to give up an earned run in 12.1 frames, Connolly has an 0-1 record in three starts for the young season. One reason might be the 17 walks he's issued so far.

Among batters, Anzoategui's Josh Kroeger leads the league with a .441 average.


The Cibao Gigantes and Este Azucareros have taken the reins in the early going of Dominican League baseball action this winter. The Gigantes have won four straight games and are in first place with an 8-2 record, a mere half-game up on the Azucareros in the six-team league standings.

Pitcher Joselo Diaz is one reason the Azucareros are off to a strong start. In 14.1 innings pitched, Diaz has a 2-0 record with a 1.26 ERA and 16 strikeouts while giving up just three walks. Anderson Hernandez of Licey leads the league in batting with a .408 average, nearly 20 points ahead of Oriente's Willis Otanez' .389 mark.