Chinese Taipei Punches Their Ticket To The WBC; Brazil Continues To Roll

Yan Gomes and Brazil have been the surprise of the WBC - Abelimages

Chinese Taipei was never really challenged as they qualified for the World Baseball Classic in March. But Brazil is shaking up Latin American baseball will a second big victory.

After waiting out a five hour rain delay in New Taipei City, Chinese Taipei beat New Zealand 9-0 to win the 15th spot in the World Baseball Classic in March. In the three games that the host country needed to win to qualify, they did not allow a single run. The only moral victory for the Diamondblacks was that for the first time in the tournament, Chinese Taipei was forced to play a full nine innings.

Down in Panama City, Brazil continued to shock the baseball world with an easy 7-1 victory over Colombia. In the loser's bracket, host Panama stayed alive and eliminated Nicaragua, 6-2.

The other three teams in the New Taipei City bracket were really not in Chinese Taipei's class. The island nation is best known in baseball circles for pitchers like Chien-Ming Wang and Wei-Yin Chen, and it showed in this tournament as the Philippines and New Zealand (twice) failed to score a run in three games. In today's championship game, Chinese Taipei started Fukuoda Softbank Hawks pitcher Yao-Hsun Yang. Yang pitched four innings and allowed two hits. He walked two and struck out five.

The final one and a third inning was pitched by Hung-Wen Chen, who last pitched with the Iowa Cubs in 2011. Entering the game in the top of the eighth with two outs and men on second and third, Chen struck out New Zealand center fielder Max Brown to end the threat. Chen faced four batters, allowed none of them to reach base and he struck out three of them.

Chinese Taipei put this game away in the fourth inning when they scored six runs. The big blow was when Diamondblack left fielder Moko Moanaroa, formerly of the Red Sox system, misread a fly ball by Chinese Taipei right fielder Chien-Ming Chang with the bases loaded. The ball fell in for a bases-clearing double and made the score 7-0.

(In a personal note, my sick wife woke me up at 4:30 am this morning. I checked to see if this game ever got played and tuned in just in time to see the six-run fourth inning. I watched New Zealand fail to score in the top of the fifth and went back to bed.)

The losing pitcher was Reds farmhand John Holdzkom, who started and allowed four runs on three hits and three walks over 3.1 innings. He struck out two.

Chinese Taipei will next play on March 2-5 in a pool with South Korea, Australia and the Netherlands. Once again, Taiwan will serve as the host country. Their local press called their failure to win a game in the 2009 WBC a "national shame," so they will be looking for redemption.

International baseball observers have been guessing for the past few years that Brazil will be the next great source of baseball talent. They're a large, sports-crazy country with the financial resources to compete. All they lacked was the interest and will to compete. After a second upset win, Brazil may be arriving a few years ahead of schedule.

Brazilian starter Oscar Nakaoshi got into trouble when he loaded the bases with two outs, but he pitched out of it by getting Colombian right fielder Diover Avila to ground out. Nakaoshi kept Colombia off the board for four innings, allowing five hits. He walked two and struck out four.

Colombia's chances were dealt a blow when former Mariners farmhand Marwin Vega exited after one batter with an injury. A current Mariners reliever, Ivan Julio, who pitched for their Dominican Summer League team in 2012, kept Brazil off the board for the next 2.2 innings, however.

Julio gave way to Cristian Mendoza, who last pitched in affiliated ball for the Tampa Yankees in 2003, in the fourth inning. Brazil then took an early lead when Mariners (yeah, the Mariners scout South America a lot) second base prospect Felipe Burin singled home Reinaldo Sato.

Colombia would tie it up in the top of the fifth when Jolbert Cabrera singled home Edgar Renteria. But Brazil would take the lead again in the bottom of the inning with an RBI single by Yan Gomes to take the lead for good. Brazil would put the game away with a three-run seventh inning, capped by a two-run double by right fielder JC Muniz.

The game ended when the youngest player in the tournament, sixteen-year old Daniel Missaki, retired two major leaguers, one former and one current. He got Jolbert Cabrera and Luis Martinez to both fly out.

Brazil now advances to the qualifier championship game, where they will take on the winner of Panama and Colombia in the losers bracket. They will play tonight at 6 pm Chicago time at worldbaseballclassic.com

Panama advanced to the next round by eliminating Nicaragua, 6-2. Nicaragua out hit Panama, 12-9, but they were a terrible 1 for 12 with runners in scoring position, although Panama wasn't much better, going 2 for 11. But Panama would break out to a 4-0 lead with single runs in the first and second inning and two runs in the fourth. All four runs came off of Mets pitcher Edgar Ramirez, who pitched for Triple-A Buffalo in 2012.

Pirates pitcher Eliecer Navarro, who threw for High-A Bradenton in 2012, started and pitched 3.2 shutout innings for Panama. He gave up six hits but no walks. He struck out three. Thirty-eight year old Panamanian veteran Gilberto Mendez relieved Navarro and was the winning pitcher for Panama. He gave up a run on three hits over two innings. Navarro struck out one and did not walk anyone.

The big bat for Panama was Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada, who had three doubles in a 3 for 5 game. He had two runs batted in and scored once. Former Braves and Blue Jays farmhand, outfielder Concepcion Rodriguez, was 3 for 3 with a walk. He scored one run and knocked one in. Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz was 0 for 3 with a walk, but he threw out both Nicaraguan runners who tried to steal.

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