World Baseball Classic

Venezuela Gets the Early Jump on Team USA for 10-6 Win in World Baseball Classic

Team USA's David Wright smiles broadly as he is greeted by teammates after his game-winning single.
Team USA's David Wright smiles broadly as he is greeted by teammates after his game-winning single. (By Alan Diaz -- Associated Press)
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By Amy Shipley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 19, 2009

MIAMI, March 18 -- What a difference a night makes. The rain that delayed the start of Team USA's 10-6 loss Wednesday to Venezuela in the second round of the World Baseball Classic was hardly the only thing that dampened the aftermath of the stirring late-night victory Tuesday that kept the United States alive in this tournament.

Though the trouncing merely established the seeding for the tournament's semifinals this weekend in Los Angeles, it did nothing to help flagging Team USA's spirits after a day that began with yet another vital injury -- which created major problems on the field -- and nearly ended with another.

U.S first baseman Kevin Youkilis left the squad because of a sore ankle, making him the fifth Team USA player to be felled by an ailment of some sort. After the game, third baseman David Wright ducked into an X-ray room because he had fouled a ball off of his big toe in the first inning and cracked a toe nail. Wright said the X-rays were negative.

During the game, Washington Nationals outfielder Adam Dunn made three errors while subbing for Youkilis at first base, underscoring a major dilemma for Manager Davey Johnson. Even amid an earlier news conference in which he reveled in the previous night's come-from-behind 6-5 victory in the bottom of the ninth over Puerto Rico, Johnson lamented the team's injury situation and his inability to adequately respond.

Johnson complained that he could not promptly replace injured players with qualified fill-ins because of WBC rules, and was apprehensive about shifting players to uncustomary spots -- even by necessity -- for fear he would draw the wrath of their ballclubs if they suffered injuries. On Sunday, Johnson had sent catcher Brian McCann out to left field when he ran out of available outfielders.

"I've got to play some guys in positions they're not used to playing, and that is an issue, a concern," Johnson said after the game.

Especially because the pressure on Team USA to make a strong showing three years after finishing sixth in the inaugural WBC is huge, USA Baseball Executive Director Paul Seiler said. The U.S. team will play Sunday against the team that wins the bracket that finishes Thursday in San Diego. Cuba and Japan squared off late Wednesday. The winner plays South Korea on Thursday night.

"When we compete internationally, you almost have two extremes," Seiler said. "The one extreme is: What went wrong? The other extreme is: Congratulations. There's really no middle ground with us."

Dunn, who has played first base in the past but is projected as an outfielder for the Nationals, got the start at first because of Youkilis's injury, even though, Johnson said, "it's not something the Nationals want me to do with him." Seiler said he had not contacted the Nationals and did not expect they would voice concerns.

"We're in a pinch here," Seiler said. "I'm sure if we reached out to the Nationals . . . it wouldn't be an issue."

Venezuela scored six runs off Jeremy Guthrie during a second inning ignited when Dunn incomprehensibly fielded a ground ball and threw so far out of the reach of catcher Chris Iannetta in an attempt to nail base runner Carlos Guillén that Iannetta didn't even extend his glove for it.

That misfire, which led to four unearned runs, was followed by three nearly identical doubles down the left field line by Gregor Blanco, José López and Miguel Cabrera as Venezuela sent 10 batters to the plate.

Dunn's second error -- he threw the ball into center field trying to prevent a stolen base -- did not cost the U.S. team any runs, but it was almost as ugly. His third error came when he mishandled a routine ground ball in the eighth.

Johnson said Youkilis traveled to Boston's camp in Fort Myers to have his injured left ankle examined and would probably not rejoin the team. Pitcher Matt Lindstrom (strained rotator cuff), third baseman Chipper Jones (strained right oblique muscle), second baseman Dustin Pedroia (strained left oblique muscle) and outfielder Ryan Braun (sore right side) all have suffered injuries during the WBC. Only Braun is expected to return.

Because Pedroia was injured before Team USA played its first second-round game, he was replaced by Baltimore Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts. Pedroia, Jones and Lindstrom can be replaced before the semifinals, but Johnson is limited to the players placed on the provisional roster before the WBC began. The only first baseman he has on the list -- Derrek Lee -- is injured, Johnson said.

These things "need to be addressed," Johnson said. "Because of the integrity of the game, the welfare of the players entering the season. You just can't have this becoming a circus down here, guys playing out of position."

Venezuela expanded its lead in the seventh on a three-run home run by Max Ramírez off pitcher LaTroy Hawkins. A two-run homer by Mark DeRosa in the fifth highlighted the scoring for Team USA.

"We're fine," DeRosa said. "After last night, anything was going to be a letdown. That was one of the great moments in a lot of guys' careers."

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