Venezuela Avenges Loss to U.S., Wins Group

Venezuela's 15-6 loss to the United States on Sunday night was embarrassing on the field, but the off-field repercussions were much worse. Newspapers back in the home country excoriated manager Luis Sojo and the team's other coaches, calling them liars and incompetent. That's led to a media blackout from the team, which also dealt with a hostile reaction from Venezuelans in Canada as a result of displeasure with Hugo Chavez.

That reaction figures to get much worse when they head to Miami, but at least they're heading their as winners of their pool. Their bullpen, which gave up 13 runs on Sunday, backed up Carlos Zambrano's strong start and they roughed up Orioles pitcher Jeremy Guthrie for four runs to pull ahead 5-1. A late Chris Iannetta homer made the score 5-3, but Francisco Rodriguez came in to close out the ninth,

Mets fans should feel pleased about the way K-Rod pitched. He was throwing hard, throwing strikes and would have been out of the inning with no trouble if not for an error behind him. Yankee fans shouldn't be quite so pleased with Derek Jeter. Jeter reached on the error, but made the second out of the inning by getting thrown out as the trail runner on a double steal. It's sacrilege to suggest that the great Jeter would ever give less than 100%, but he certainly looked like someone running as if he expected the catcher to throw the ball to third base. Rodriguez whiffed Kevin Youkilis two pitches later and Venezuela had the win.

Venezuela will try to avoid becoming the latest victim of the Dutch on Saturday, while the U.S. will battle Puerto Rico. That reunites commonwealth with country, as well as Jeter and Bernie Williams.

Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City and is a contributor to and in addition to his duties for

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