Team USA: Beat Puerto Rico or Go Home

Tonight at 7 pm, you can watch and see who’s going to lose to Louisville, or watch team USA perhaps play it’s last game of the WBC. Should be a good matchup, and Puerto Rico is a tough team. Yesterday’s loss was their first of the tournament. On the other side, USA has lost twice already, once to Puerto Rico. And Puerto Rico beat them like 72-3. 11-1, actually.

But, as with baseball, the best team only wins 2/3 of the time (or something like that, don’t quote my number there). Puerto Rico has looked the best of any team so far, but the US is still a very good team. Although they do have some extra issues to deal with coming in to this game. Ryan Braun may have to sit, he’s having an MRI on his knee (sorry Brewers fans) and reliever Matt Lindstrom is having the same on his shoulder. Even if they are both fine, something tells me their not in today. Both players are somewhat replaceable, but Braun’s absence significantly reduces the offense. Whether you replace him with Victorino or DeRosa, neither are quite the hitter. Of course, they are both better defenders. Braun did say he intended to play today, but I’ll believe it when I see it.

Lindstrom is a key part of the bullpen, but, since this is an elimination game and if they WIN they are guaranteed to move on, I expect that everyone in the bullpen is of use. So missing Lindstrom may not matter now or the next game. Ted Lilly is slated to start the game, and if he gets into any trouble they can go to their bullpen. Remember, this team still could take Lilly after 3 and get 1 inning each from Grabow, Hawkins, Shields, Broxton, Howell, and Putz feeling fairly confident that they won’t give up more than a two or three runs from that combo. They’ve also got Hanrahan, Zeigler and a few others if those guys get in trouble. And if I were Davey Johnson, I’d have no qualms about sending Jake Peavy out there for a few innings. Remember, if they win this game, the next game doesn’t matter. They can have Jeremy Guthrie start the next game (not that he’s bad) and have him go 5 or 6 innings no matter what.

Of course, if the team hits like they hit in the first Puerto Rico game, it won’t matter. They’ve certainly got the bats. If you DH Jeter, you can play him, Rollins, Roberts, McCann, Dunn, Youkilis, Wright, Granderson, and Braun at the same time. If Braun’s out, it’s DeRosa or Victorino. They should be able to get something together. Judging by last round, they’ll face PR’s #3 pitcher Jonathan Sanchez of the Giants. He has been nothing special in the majors, but was great in the game against the Netherlands – 4 IP, 4 K, 1 BB 0 ER. And if he doesn’t pitch well, PR’s got quite a strong bullpen as well. Regardless, it’s do or die time for both teams, and after tonight one of the strongest teams coming in to the tournament will be going home.

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