Wins over both China and Chinese Taipei have given the United States the necessary requirements to make medal round play beginning on Aug. 22.
It wasn't easy, having lost two one-run games to South Korea and Cuba. It also wasn’t without controversy, as they beat China handily in a bean-ball affair. This was either an ugly display of control issues for the Chinese pitchers, or an ugly display of sportsmanship.
There were seven hit batters total. This included the pegging of Matt LaPorta, a prized prospect of the Cleveland Indians acquired in the CC Sabathia trade. What made LaPorta's beaning more eye-opening was the fact that the ball ended up hitting him in the head and sending him to the ground.
Everything has checked out for LaPorta after a hospital visit and you should expect to see him in the lineup by the time the US plays their semifinal game.
South Korea will be the No. 1 seed no matter the outcome in their game with the Netherlands by way of their win over Cuba. South Korea will play the loser of the United States-Japan game to take place on Wednesday morning.
Cuba will take on the winner of this matchup, but either way both Cuba and Korea's margin of victory over Japan and the US combined is three runs.
The semifinals should be evenly matched however it shakes out. Given the close games all four teams have played against each other, save Japan and the Unites States, we should get a good gold medal game as well.
Each team has different things working for them. Japan and Cuba are the favorites, while Korea is the team that has yet to be beaten. The United States is the hottest offensive team in the tournament going.
Despite only scoring four runs, the US pounded out 10 hits against Chinese Taipei, led by Dexter Fowler's three.
Fowler is one of the top prospects in all of the minor leagues and his struggles have been a disappointment up to this point. He lost the lead-off spot for the game against China, but after getting on base four times paired with Brian Barden's four strikeouts, a change might be in order once again.
The United States has shown they can score at will, not just putting up nine runs against the likes of China, but scoring seven runs against undefeated Korea. USA baseball has outscored their opponents by 16 runs.
The effort against the Chinese was a collective one and while the constant bean-balls helped, it wasn't the reason for the offensive outburst.
This game saw a few struggling hitters in Nate Schierholtz and Taylor Teagarden get going as they knocked in three and two runs respectively.
For Schierholtz it was more eventful of course because of the collision at home plate that was rather questionable on his part. However, in a situation in which every run can make the difference when it comes to a tiebreaker, Schierholtz was simply taking nothing for granted.
Of all the players to play in all six games, Schierholtz was the one having the most problems. He upped his average to .200 and more than doubled his RBI total with the games against China and Chinese-Taipei.
Mike Hessman has been taking LaPorta's spot in the lineup as far as who is getting the playing time, and so far he continues to scuffle, going 0-10 in the last two games. The Red, White, and Blue could really use Hessman's power to kick in or LaPorta’s return paired with a little bit of fire.
Terry Tiffee, the team leader in hits with 11, continues to set the tone for the young US team. Tiffee and John Gall combined make up for about 33 percent of the team's total hits.
The United States will complete their run of Asian teams on Wednesday morning with Japan. Both teams will make the medal round, but as pointed out, seeding is on the line and the United States might prefer to win the game in order to face Cuba in the semifinals.
Tentatively, college phenom Stephen Strasburg will go for the United States against Japan, which lines up Trevor Cahill to pitch in the semifinals. Cahill did moderately well against Cuba in the preliminary round, allowing just two runs.