Davey Johnson's United States baseball team showed that they are a force to be reckoned with come play on Aug. 13.
Team USA took three out of four games from Team Canada in an exhibition series played in North Carolina this past weekend. USA lost the first game in extra innings, but went on to dominate the Canadian team in the final three games from Durham, NC.
By far the biggest offensive standout was Cleveland Indians' outfielder Matt LaPorta, who homered three times in the series. All three home runs were of the solo variety, but LaPorta made them count, as all either extended a one-run lead or gave the team the lead early in the game.
His long ball in the second inning of Game Three was a majestic blast to center field off a 3-2 offering from Canadian pitcher Chris Begg. He followed that up with a ball hit so far it hit a building in left field.
The top of the rotation for Team USA proved that they are going to be tough to handle. Oakland Athletics' pitchers Brett Anderson and Trevor Cahill started the first two games and each pitched four innings of shutout baseball.
Anderson gave up three hits, walked one, but struck out four in the first game. While Cahill allowed just a hit and walk with three strikeouts.
However, it was veteran Brandon Knight of the New York Mets that put up the best pitching performance for the United States in the series. Knight went five innings in game three, giving up just two hits, one walk, no runs, and struck out 10 hitters.
Jake Arrieta pitched Game Four and gave up three runs in four innings. The fifth starter figures to be Stephen Strasburg, who pitched three innings of relief in Game Four. Strasburg gave up three hits and one run with three strikeouts.
While the pitching was great for the United States, there is no doubt about where the strength of this US team lies—the offense.
Led by LaPorta, Terry Tiffe, Nate Schierholtz, and Mike Hessman, Team USA outscored Team Canada 36-12 in the four-game set.
While LaPorta and his 400+-foot home runs will get the most attention, it was Nate Schierholtz that provided most of the offensive punch for the United States. Schierholtz was the leading RBI man and run scorer, accounting for 12 of the U.S.'s 36 runs. Schierholtz hit two home runs, one of the grand-slam variety, and a triple.
Terry Tiffe, from the Dodgers' organization, led all players that played in all four games in average and on-base percentage. Tiffe hit .500 and knocked in five runs off two dingers and three doubles in the series.
Mike Hessman showed that 32-home run power he displayed with the Toledo Mud Hens by hitting a blast to center field in Game Three. Hessman would follow that up by hitting two more in Game Four to tie him with LaPorta for the most in the series.
Game Four was a great note for the United States to end the series on. The game was shortened to seven innings, plus an additional exhibition inning to get everyone some work, pitching wise. Team USA managed to hit a home run in all seven innings.
The one Achilles heel, in terms of the offense, has to be their strikeout-to-walk ratio. The entire team walked just four times in the four games, yet they struck out 34 times as a team. The biggest culprits were Hessman (8) and Jason Donald (7).
Donald, who started all four games, was the lone player on the United States roster who did not register a hit in the series. Jayson Nix was the one player who didn't get used much. He played in one game and went 1-2.
The bullpen was marginal for Davey Johnson. Closer Jeff Stevens took the lone loss after he let up the winning run in Game One in extra innings. However, he came back later to strike out two in the ninth inning of Game Three.
The two most reliable arms out of the 'pen were Angels' prospect Kevin Jepsen and Twins' farmhand Brian Duensing. They combined for five innings, giving up no runs off just two hits and striking out three in three appearances.
Game One Preview: South Korea, Aug. 13, 6:00 AM EST on NBC Online Stream
You can also catch the replay if you are a normal human, anywhere from five in the morning to five in the evening. Check your local listings closer to the date.
South Korea is the definition of a team that clubs you to death. Team South Korea scored 60 runs in the final seven games of the qualification tournament. They only hit two home runs, both by one player, but managed to string together plenty of hits as one of the more potent offenses in the Olympics.
South Korea won Bronze in the 2000 Olympic Games, and they are led by Seung-Yuop Lee, who hit those two previously mentioned home runs.
The United States will have to do their best to spread out all the Korean hits. There is no doubt that they will hit, it's just a matter of not making them happen all at once. Brett Anderson will be on the mound.