Baseball: New Rule, Cuba Down USA in Extra Innings

Nino Colla@TheTribeDailySenior Writer IAugust 15, 2008

Davey Johnson wasn't real excited about the new rule instituted for this year's Olympics that puts runners on first and second to start an inning after the tenth.

He also wasn't real happy about losing his reserve second baseman, Jayson Nix to a bad eye injury after Cuban relief pitcher Pedro Lazo threw at his head on an obvious bunt attempt.

For what reason would Lazo throw at Nix on an obvious bunt attempt, with a two run lead, runners on first and second and nobody out?

Perhaps he was a little miffed that Nix tied the game up a few innings earlier with a solo home run?

Whatever the intent, Lazo stifled the American's threat with a sacrifice fly and a ground out after Brian Barden's pinch hit sacrifice bunt. It was his sixth inning of relief, just two days after throwing three innings against Japan.

Lazo seemed gassed after he pitched the tenth, but Cuban Manager Antonio Pacheco stuck with the big and burly thrower, despite the two runs given up, to get the win. Lazo threw one more inning than starter Luis Rodriguez did.

It looked as if the Cubans were going to make it a clinical workout for their hitting against United States starting pitcher Trevor Cahill. They scored two runs in the first inning of Cahill, but the Oakland Athletics prospect managed to walk the tight rope successfully after that.

Cahill surrendered six hits and four walks in his five innings, but he allowed just those two runs to keep his team in the game. Cahill's toughest test was the fifth inning after he recorded the first two outs. Left-fielder Matt LaPorta botched a rather lazy fly ball, which was followed by Cahill walking a batter.

Infielder Jason Donald made a rather questionable flip to second on a routine grounder that was beat out by Cuba and the bases were all of a sudden loaded. However, Cahill got a first pitch ground out.

USA would get on the board in the 4th inning with a Nate Schierholtz RBI double. Schierholtz would advance on a wild pitch and score on John Galls left field bloop-double.

Jason Donald led off the 5th inning with a walk. But two failed bunt attempts by Dexter Fowler and then a third pitch strikeout quickly was followed by Donald's caught stealing, and any chance the US had was quickly extinguished. The 6th saw Matt Brown reach on a walk, steal second and advance to third on a fly ball. With a chance to put his team on top, LaPorta recorded one of his four strikeouts to kill yet another chance for Team USA.

Cuba looked like they would steal one away from the US in the 8th when young power hitter Alfredo Despaigne took Jeremy Cummings deep. Jayson Nix saved the day with his surprising home run in the bottom of the inning and the game would go to extras.

Kevin Jepsen took the hill in the 10th inning and immediately gave up a lead-off triple to Alexei Bell. However the hard throwing Angels prospect blew away Despaigne and catcher Ariel Pestano and got pinch hitter Yoandry Urgelles to ground out.

Surprisingly, Davey Johnson opted to stick with the struggling Taylor Teagarden at catcher, instead of bringing in the powerful Mike Hessman or catcher Lou Marson. Teagarden got hit by the pitch and moved over to second on a Donald bunt. With chances to win the game, Fowler and Nix both pop out to end the inning.

That put into effect the new rule that is supposed to "speed up the game." A rule US veteran Terry Tiffee called "bogus" and one Johnson never liked from the start.

Quickly the Cuban's bunted their base runners over with closer Jeff Stevens on the mound instead of ground ball specialist Mike Koplove. Michel Enriquez promptly singled past the first baseman to give Cuba a two run lead.

The United States attempted to follow suit, which lead to the Nix injury. Nix was taken to the hospital and the report on him is as expected. He will probably miss the rest of the Olympics after undergoing microsurgery to close a wound above his eye.

If one thing Team USA learned was that they can hang with the Gold medal favorites in Cuba, who beat Japanese sensation Yu Darvish and lasted a powerful Canada team. The same Canada team the United States will try and even up their record against Friday night at 10:30 p.m. EST.