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Justin Birnbaum

Monday Ramblings: Israel-Korea Open Thread

I had a terrible idea this week. I’m going to pull an all-nighter and watch the World Baseball Classic opener at 4:30am. I’m going to give up precious hours of sleep just to stay up and watch two teams that have a slim chance, if any, of even winning the thing. I’m sitting here four hours before the game and thinking that this is dumber than the time I took over 41.5 on the Knicks’ win total in 2014-15 (they won 17 games that year).

Well unfortunately, here I am. I figure if I’m going to stay up to watch the game, I may as well write about it. So here we go. For this edition of Monday Ramblings, I’m going to keep a running diary of the game that will be updated after each half inning. I’ll also be live tweeting from the Baseknock MLB Twitter Account, so if by some outrageous reason you’re watching this game too, be sure to follow along.

Full disclosure, I’ll be pulling for the boys in blue. Jason Marquis hails from the same hometown as me. Sorry Korea.

Former Major League veteran Jason Marquis (RHP #21) gets the start for Israel against Korean left-hander Won Jun Chang (LHP #28).

1st Inning – Top

Well, if this first inning is an omen of things to come, then Israel is in trouble. Korea’s starter, Chang, worked a perfect frame on just nine pitches. Fuld let off with solid liner into center, but right at the center-fielder, Lee. With Marquis coming to the mound now, hopefully he can set the tone for the Israelites.

1st Inning – Bottom

Too many pitches. Marquis couldn’t find his control early on and that is going to come to bite him. There is a pitch count restriction of 65 in the first round and Marquis has already thrown 16. Additionally, if you throw 50+, tournament rules mandate a minimum of four days of rest. Look for Marquis to be capped at 49 tonight because of how important he is to this pitching staff. Despite struggling early, Marquis worked around the first to escape damage free. Side note, the center fielder, Lee, has the coolest leg kick I have ever seen.

2nd Inning – Top

That could have been the game for Korea. Chang began to meltdown in dramatic fashion, surrendering a double and three walks. However, he beared down and with the help of two strikeouts and a ground out, he was able to escape with limited damage. On the other hand, I cannot believe Israel squandered this opportunity. When you have bases loaded, no outs, you have to scratch across more than one run. The good news, Chang tossed a ton of pitches and is certainly destined for an early exit.

2nd Inning – Bottom

After a tumultuous first inning, Marquis returned to the mound efficient and worked a scoreless frame. He seems to still be struggling with his release point, but Marquis was able avoid any damage. Korea recorded their first hit on a single to left field from their left-fielder, Min. Jerry Weinstein will almost certainly pull Marquis at 49 pitches, so with 20 left to play with, Marquis is lucky if he gets to finish the fourth.

3rd Inning – Top

Man, Chang is really struggling with his control. It’s pretty ironic considering how efficient he was in the first. He’s up to 50 pitches, so it stands to reason that Korea will work him up to the limit of 65, as long as he doesn’t get into trouble. Israel on the other hand, squandered another opportunity. With Gailen on first and Borenstein at the plate, Gailen was thrown out trying to swipe second. Borenstein had cracked a double in the second and with him at the plate, I wouldn’t have risked ending the inning with a runner on. Isn’t that baseball 101? You never run yourself out of an inning. Not a smart move Jerry.

3rd Inning – Bottom

At 45 pitches, I believe it’s safe to say Jason Marquis’s day is done. A valiant effort-  three scoreless innings without getting into much trouble. He opened the third with a ground out and a line out, but then got shafted on an infield single by Seo as a result of a shifted infield. Marquis did a poor job holding him at first and allowed him to swipe second, but it’s all the same as he K’d the next batter. If he’s pulled, Marquis would be allowed to come around and pitch again in the first round.

4th Inning – Top

Chang is tossing a wicked breaking ball. No wonder he’s up to five strikeouts in only four innings. It’s funny, if you put aside the rocky second inning, Chang has been in complete control. Korea will have to turn to someone new in the fifth, as Chang has eclipsed the pitch count limit. The Korean left-hander finished with exactly 65 pitches as he gets Ryan Lavarnway to fly out to end the top of the fourth.

4th Inning – Bottom

Team Israel brought in Zack Thornton to start the fourth, and he was tested early. “Super” Sam Fuld made a diving catch in the right-center gap to rob Korea’s cleanup hitter, Dae-Ho Lee, of extra bases. Thornton was able to induce a fly ball out of the next batter, and despite surrendering a single, he struck out Yang to end the fourth. The game remains in the hands of the Israeli bullpen charged with defending their thin, one-run lead.

5th Inning – Top

The top of the fifth opened with a shot of Sam Fuld having his throwing hand bandaged, which he presumably cut on his diving catch last inning. Hopefully, it won’t be an issue considering how important Fuld is to this team. Chang Min Sim took the mound for the Koreans in the fifth and immediately surrendered a lead-off walk to Krieger. Despite the early struggles, Sim worked through the fifth and gave his team a scoreless frame. Sam Fuld squared up a nice looking fly ball this inning, but it was run down by the Korean center fielder, Lee, in the right-center gap.

5th Inning – Bottom

Zack Thornton returned to the mound for a second inning of work, but departed quickly after surrendering a leadoff walk and a hit batter. Two trips to the mound from Jerry Weinstein resulted in Thornton giving way to left-hander Jeremy Bleich. Bleich came in and got the leadoff hitter, Lee, looking, but then surrendered the game-tying single to the second baseman Seo, his second hit of the game. Fun fact: this is Seo’s home park, the home of the Nexen Heroes. I was pretty surprised to see Israel leave in a lefty against Korea’s best hitter, Dae-Ho Lee, but he was able to induce a pop out to first base. Like Israel, Korea squandered a major opportunity here, but at least they were able to tie the game.

6th Inning – Top

Like Zack Thornton, Chang Min Sim took the mound for his second inning, but made a quick exit. After surrendering a walk and inducing a pop out, Korea opted for left-hander Woochan Cha. Cha was able to get Borenstein swinging and then a deep fly out off the bat of Cody Decker. Momentum definitely feels in favor of the Koreans right now. Israel needs to find a way to get their bats going.

6th Inning – Bottom

Another inning, another jam. Bleich returned to the mound in the sixth, but immediately surrendered an infield single. Weinstein then went to right-hander Gabe Cramer. Cramer was able to induce a line out to center, but then surrendered a base hit to center. With first and second and one out, Korea was in another prime position to put some runs across, but Cramer was able to roll a 6-4-3 double play to work out of the jam. By the way, I love watching these Korean ball players play. Their leg kicks are fantastic and whether they line out, or get a hit, they always leave us with a sweet bat flip.

7th Inning – Top

Jonghyun Won took the mound in the seventh and looked like he was ready to cruise right through Israel’s 7-8-9 batters. Ryan Lavarnway flew out to right, Krieger grounded out on a hot shot to second, but then Scott Burcham lined a single off the glove off of the second baseman Seo. Israel would then go on to squander ANOTHER GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY. Korea then brought in left-hander, Hyunseung Lee to face Sam Fuld, but “Super” Sam made him pay by lining a single into right, pushing Burcham to third. Ty Kelly then walked and that brought Blake Gailen to the plate with the bases loaded and two out. On a 3-1 count Gailen took what looked like ball four on a clearly low pitch. Gailen actually threw his bat towards the dugout and took off his shinguard assuming it was a walk, but the umpire called it a strike. On the next pitch, Gailen lined a shot up the middle, but the Korean shortstop, Kim, smothered it. Israel needs to wake up, this could have been their last opportunity.

7th Inning – Bottom

I have to say, after their luck last inning, I believed Israel was bound for a disaster. It seemed like was coming true after new pitcher, Alex Katz, beaned Korea’s leadoff hitter. However, Katz cleaned it up quickly, drawing a 6-4-3 double play on the next batter and striking out the Geonchang Seo, who already has two hits on the day.

8th Inning – Top

I’m getting sick over here. Israel left the bases loaded for the third time tonight. A couple walks, a rocket pinch-hit from Ike Davis, and a Krieger ground out brought us to bases loaded, two outs with Burcham up. Korea brought in St. Louis Cardinals Closer Seung Hwan Oh to shut the door and it was no contest. Burcham was completely overmatched against Oh and was caught looking. I can’t believe how Israel is letting this game get away from them. It’s only a matter of time.

8th Inning – Bottom

This is simply a game of who wants it more. For the fourth inning a row, Korea has had a leadoff baserunner. Not only did Josh Zeid get Dae-Ho Lee swinging, but he was able to work out of a dangerous first and third with one out situation. Once again we’ve seen another jam in this game dissipate. Israel is 0-6 with runners in scoring position and now Korea is 1-8. There has also been a combined 20 runners left on base between both teams.

9th Inning – Top

The ninth got off to really good start for Team Israel. Sam Fuld lead off with a base hit up the middle. But at the end of the day, Seund Hwan Oh is just too good. He got Kelly and Gailen swinging, then got Freiman to ground out to short. It’s starting to look bleak here for Israel, although I’ve said that multiple times already. Korea has a chance to walk it off here in the bottom of the ninth.

9th Inning – Bottom

Well, we’re going to extras. After two quick outs, we had a little drama after Josh Zeid Lee walked. Lee then tried to swipe second, but was gunned down by Lavarnway. Free baseball everybody. Zeid also eclipsed 30 pitches, so he will be unavailable for tomorrow’s game versus Chinese-Tapei.

10th Inning – Top

So once again, Israel had a rally going. After Borenstein grounded out, Ike Davis walked. Ryan Lavarnway then singled and Ike Davis somehow managed to get on his horse and get to third. With Krieger up, Israel pinch ran Mike Meyers for Davis. Krieger ended up popping a safety squeeze attempt. Here we go again. I just want to sleep at this point. The good news is that if we get to the eleventh, each team starts with the last two runners to get out on first and second, but maybe that won’t be necessary. To my surprise, Burcham came through with slow roller up the middle and beat it out for an infield single, giving Israel the lead. Finally, a hit with a runner in scoring position. Going to the bottom of the tenth with Israel on top.

10th Inning – Bottom

Jerry Weinstein chose to leave Zeid out there for the tenth. Since he’s already over the 30 pitch limit, it makes sense to work Zeid and save the bullpen for tomorrow if possible. If getting the game winning hit wasn’t enough, Burcham made a beautiful diving play at short to snag a line drive for the first out. Zeid then proceeded to strike out the next two batters, which included Dae-Ho Lee, to win the game for Israel. Josh Zeid also landed at 49 pitches, just falling under the 50 pitch threshold which means he only has to rest one day before he’s available again. Huge win for Israel, making their hopes of advancing to the next round all the more realistic.

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