The World Baseball Classic gave us a breather on Sunday so that we as a planet could wrap our heads around what had just happened. Tonight, the action picks back up as the Netherlands takes on Puerto Rico in a game featuring absolutely zero Phillies
Pat Neshek. Odubel Herrera. Hector Neris. Kenny Koplove, sort of. The number of Phillies fighting a global baseball war has grown shockingly low. Let’s catch up with our heroic fools as they battle for the big golden beachball-sized trophy of earth or whatever is waiting for everybody at the end of this.
On Wednesday, Japan pounded Israel 8-3, while the USA had to face a Venezuelan lineup with no Odubel Herrera in it. On a 1-for-10 stretch, manager Omar Vizquel probably felt like he had the deep bench to swap out a struggling player as the games became more and more critical. In this case, Vizquel put Martin Prado in left field to replace Herrera, who is hitting .091 in the WBC, and Prado went 0-for-3 with a strikeout. Venezuela was held to five hits and the Americans shut down their opponents in a 4-2 win that saw Pat Neshek throw his least awesome scoreless inning of relief with a strikeout of the week.
Herrera was back in Venezuela’s lineup on Thursday, but not for long, as he was pinch hit for after two plate appearances by Yangervis Solarte. Herrera had reached on a walk, but Solarte made him look even worse by going 2-for-2 with a double, even though Venezuela lost 3-0 to the Domonican Republic.
The next day, America was back; and I mean "on the field," not "to a respected stature on the global stage." It was time to take on Puerto Rico, which, despite home runs from Buster Posey and Adam Jones, the USA did not do successfully, losing 6-5. Saturday was the big ticket day, however, as the USA met the Dominican Republic to see who would advance to the WBC semi-finals. Puerto Rico hadn’t (Spoiler alert: and wouldn’t) lost yet, meaning that once again, America’s backs were against the wall. They would have to rely on their heroes like the Phillies’ Pat Neshek, to get them through the terrifying Dominican lineup set on defending their champion’s title.
Up 4-2 in the fifth, Neshek replaced Danny Duffy on the mound, who had given up a lead-off single. A one-out Nelson Cruz double made this an official "jam," but then Neshek was able to summon all that Ameircan good will we’ve saved up and strike out Starling Marte.
And also there was some Adam Jones catch or something of a Manny Machado ball that should have been a home run and gave the world a beautiful moment of raw baseball both in the play and the sportsmanship between Orioles teammates that followed it, blah, blah blah. At work, everyone will be talking about how Neshek looks like he just closed out the World Series, not escaped a jam in the fifth. Hector Neris appeared for the Dominicans early on, getting the last two outs of the fourth inning while allowing a walk, but the D.R. was eliminated in a 6-3 loss that put the Americans in the final four of the tournament with Japan, Puerto Rico, and the Netherlands.
Yes, even though it feels like only yesterday that they were so gleefully dispatching of Italy to get here, Venezuela’s lineup has taken its final hacks in the WBC. While Pat Neshek, and to a far lesser extent, Adam Jones, were leading team USA to victory, Venezuela was utterly obliterated by Puerto Rico, 13-2, in a not-even-close loss that was probably a tough one to go out on and return to training camp. Herrera didn’t get to play, with Solarte the usurper getting the nod in left field once again for this one, but it didn’t seem to matter. Puerto Rico was chipping away at Venezuela until hanging a five-spot in the sixth inning. Meanwhile, Venezuela managed five hits and two errors on their way out.
Tonight, semi-final one, between the scrappy Netherlands and the mighty Puerto Rico takes place in Tokyo at 9 p.m. The number of Phillies in the tournament is now smaller than ever, with Neshek, our sole player still kicking. Who knows what future sexy accolades await Neshek following any further high profile success?!