Man, now that Michael Phelps is out of the water and into the record books, these Olympics just seem to be flying by, don’t they? It feels like baseball just started a couple of days ago…now we’re nearing the end of preliminary play and getting ready to move on to the medal rounds. By Saturday, it’ll be all over.
The good news is that with a 4-2 record entering Wednesday’s 7:00 AM (EST) game against Japan, the United States will be one of the four teams that advances to the next round. The bad news? Their draw is still uncertain, and will be for another twelve hours or so. Cuba, currently in second place with a 5-1 record, is finishing its preliminary schedule right now against China (1-5); they are scoreless in the first inning. South Korea (6-0) plays The Netherlands (1-5) at 11:30 EST. Win or lose, the South Koreans should be guaranteed the top spot (they beat Cuba head-to-head), but the articles I’ve perused seem to indicate that Cuba has a chance at being the top seed. Maybe if the team they lost to comes into play – Cuba’s lone defeat would have been to a team with a better record than South Korea’s. Anyway, we’ll know the answer to that question in just a few short hours.
The three and four seeds are actually easier to figure out. The United States and Japan are both 4-2. As noted above, they play each other tomorrow morning. The winner gets the third seed, the loser gets the fourth. Thursday is an off day, with the medal round starting on Friday.
The 1-4 game will be played at 10:30 a.m. on Friday, and 2-3 will be at 6 p.m. that night. The losers of those two games will play for the bronze medal starting at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, and the two winners of those semifinals will meet at 6 p.m. to decide who gets the gold and who gets the silver. It’s all getting much clearer now.
Win or lose, the United States has three games left: tomorrow against Japan, the first elimination game against Cuba or South Korea, and the medal round game. On the bright side, they will have San Diego State’s Stephen Strasburg, who allowed one hit in seven innings in his only appearance thus far, on the hill for at least one of those contests – it’s just a question of throwing him on Friday or holding him back for the medal game on Saturday. Trevor Cahill – 5 IP, 2 R, 6 H, 4 BB, 3 K in his only start – is scheduled to go against Japan, leaving Brandon Knight, Brett Anderson or Jake Arrieta as the likely candidates to get the call in the remaining game. Knight started on Tuesday against Chinese Taipei and is probably out.
On the gloomy side, the American offense is nicked up: second baseman Jayson Nix fouled a bunt attempt off his eye in a loss to Cuba and is expected to miss the rest of the tournament, Matt LaPorta has a mild concussion and is 1-for-15 overall (he also ran over China’s catcher, a minor leaguer in the Mariners’ system, and tore the guy’s ACL – just an overall awesome week), and Mike Hessman doesn’t seem to have recovered from a heel injury. Still, our guys have to win just one of their remaining games to take home a medal, and they’ve played every opponent tough so far. If they can get past that Cuba/South Korea road block on Friday, the gold is certainly not out of the question.
(Random question here: Jayson Nix is Laynce Nix’s brother. Why did their parents feel the need to drop random Ys into their names? This has me very confused.)
UPDATE: Cuba is beating the crap out of China, 10-0, in the third inning. South Korea and The Netherlands are just underway, with the South Koreans taking an early 2-0 lead.
MORE UPDATE: Make that 14-0 and 2-0. I’m gonna go all Brokaw on this and call it South Korea #1, Cuba #2.
FINAL UPDATE: 17-1 and 10-0, respectively. South Korea gets the top seed and will play the loser of the USA-Japan game that starts in about 3 1/2 hours. Cuba is the second seed and will, of course, play the winner.