For those of you who are against the World Baseball Classic, I hope Saturday’s action changed your mind.
Let’s start with Pool C in Miami.
A day after losing to the US in ten innings, Columbia beat Canada, 4-1. For the second straight day, Columbia received a dominant start.
This time it was from Julio Teheran. He allowed just one run on two hits and a walk over five innings. He struck out three. Teheran walked Justin Morneau with one out in the first. Eric Wood and Freddie Freeman followed with singles, with Freeman driving in a run. That was all Canada would get against Teheran, as he retired 13 in a row.
Former KC Royal Yohan Pino allowed just one hit and a walk over the next three innings. He struck out two.
Canada also received a dominant start from Phillies minor leaguer Nick Pivetta. He allowed a run on five hits over four innings. He struck out one.
Columbia broke the 1-1 tie in the fifth on back-to-back one out singles, as Donovan Solano picked up the RBI (his second of the game). In the sixth, his brother Jhonatan walked to force in a run.
In the ninth, Canada collected two straight hits with two outs against Columbia’s Dayan Diaz (after he struck out the first two hitters out), but former Royal Jamie Romak struck out to end the game (1-for-4).
For the second straight day, Mauricio Ramos played left field (something he does not do in the Royals organization, as he is a third baseman). He went 0-for-3 with a walk.
For Canada, former Royal George Kottaras caught and went 0-for-3 with a strikeout.
On Saturday night, the Dominican Republic beat the US in dramatic fashion, 7-5. The DR scored all of their runs in the final three innings.
With Cleveland lefty Andrew Miller on the mound in the 8th inning for the US, the DR scored four runs. The inning started with a hit batter followed by a Carlos Santana single (Miller’s teammate in Cleveland). Nelson Cruz provided the thunder, as he blasted a three-run home run just inside the left field foul pole to give the DR the lead. Starling Marte hit a solo homer two batters later.
In the ninth, Jeurys Familia made quick work of the US batters, retiring the side on just 11 pitches (nine strikes).
The largest crowd in Marlins Park history got LOUD in the bottom of the sixth when Manny Machado started the DR scoring with a solo homer. From then on, the predominantly Dominican-cheering crowd never sat down or got quiet.
The loss for the US negated the dominant start from Marcus Stroman, who allowed just three hits over 4.2 scoreless innings. He struck out four.
Former Royal Edinson Volquez got the start for the DR and allowed three runs (one earned) on six hits and a walk over 3.2 innings. He struck out two. The outfield defense hurt Volquez in the third, costing him two runs (a dropped fly ball and then the two outfielders not picking the ball up and letting the runners keep running).
Eric Hosmer got the start at first base for the US and went 1-for-3 with a walk.
Columbia is 1-1 and will play the DR this afternoon (12:30pm ET). Canada dropped to 0-2 and play the US tonight at 7pm ET. Things could get interesting if tie-breakers come into play.
Things were just as dramatic in Pool D in Mexico on Saturday. Venezuela beat Italy, 11-10 in ten innings. The two teams combined for 29 hits and committed four errors.
Italy blew a 5-0 lead, as Venezuela scored eight runs across three innings (the fifth, sixth, and seventh). Italy then came back and tied the game, scoring two runs in the seventh and one in the eighth. The run in the eighth scored on Friday night hero John Andreoli’s two out single.
Venezuela retook the lead in the top of the ninth on Salvador Perez‘ two-run home run off switch-pitcher Pat Venditte.
Italy came right back and scored two runs in the bottom of the ninth to tie the game and actually could have won it, but a crazy play (and then ensuing injuries) ended the rally.
Rob Segedin got the rally started in the ninth by reaching on an Alcides Escobar error and then scored on a ground out. So with two outs, former Royal Alex Liddi (2-for-5, RBI) singled and current Royal Drew Butera (who was the DH and went 1-for-3 with a double and a run scored) walked.
Garin Cecchini followed with an RBI single. The Venezuelan centerfielder missed his cutoff man and reliever Francisco Rodriguez hustled over to pick the ball up and quickly flipped to Perez at home to get Butera trying to score the winning run. Butera tried to not crash into his teammate, but it was awkward and they hit, and Perez seemed to hurt his already reconstructed left knee (reports coming from the Venezuela team is that there is no structural damage, but he is done for the WBC). K-Rod also got hurt on the play (though he may have just cramped up), but without him getting to the ball, Butera would have scored.
In the top of the tenth, Jose Altuve singled with one out and scored on Martin Prado’s fifth hit of the game, a double. Italy went down in order in the bottom of the tenth.
Esky went 2-for-5 and drove in three, two coming on a double in the sixth that tied the game at 5-5.
In Saturday’s night cap, Puerto Rico beat host Mexico, 9-4. Cleveland shortstop Francisco Lindor got the Puerto Rican scoring started in the top of the first with a two-run homerun.
Mexico came back to cut the deficit to 5-4, but Puerto Rico scored four runs in the top of the ninth to break the game open. Three of those runs came on a Javier Baez home run off Joakim Soria. (2/3IP, 2H, 3R, 0ER, BB, K). All three runs were unearned off Soria because the catcher dropped a pop up, which led to a Carlos Beltran walk (3-for-4, RBI). Soria also allowed an inherited run to score.
Former Royal Reymond Fuentes started in center field for Puerto Rico and went 0-for-3 with a walk and a run scored. For Mexico, former Royal Brandon Laird started at third base and went 2-for-4 with a two out RBI and a run scored. His double was their only extra base hit.
So, Italy is now 1-1 and plays 2-0 Puerto Rico this afternoon (3:30pm ET). Winless Mexico plays 1-1 Venezuela tonight at 10pm ET.
Now to the second round of pool play in Tokyo.
Israel continues to shock the playing field, as they beat Cuba, 4-1. Veteran starter Jason Marquis dominated, allowing just one run on four hits and a walk over 5.2 innings. He struck out four, but only threw 69 pitches. Cuba scored their lone run on a solo homer in the 2nd inning by Alfredo Despaigne.
After Marquis the Israel bullpen trio of Zack Thornton, Brad Goldberg, and Josh Zeid allowed just one hit and two walks over the final 3.1 innings. Zeid earned another save, striking out two of the final three Cuban batters he faced in the ninth.
Israel’s first hit came with two outs in the fourth, a Ryan Lavarnway RBI double (Israel had three walks to that point). In the sixth, they took the lead on a Zach Borenstein RBI single (two batters later Blake Gailen drove in a run with a double).
Former Royal Cody Decker pinch-hit in the sixth and went 0-for-2 with a strikeout.
In the other second round game in Tokyo, host Japan beat the Netherlands, 8-6 in 11 innings. It was the first game in this year’s WBC to implement the international extra innings rule.
Once the game reaches the 11th inning, runners are put at first and second base to start. Japan elected to sacrifice bunt both runners into scoring position and then Sho Nagata followed with a two-run single to take an 8-6 lead (Nagata had hit a three-run homer in the third).
On the other hand, the Netherlands elected to swing away and Jurickson Profar popped up on the infield. Xander Bogaerts followed with a force out and Kalian Sams popped up to the catcher to end the game.
Prior to the 11th inning, both teams scored a single run in the second and four runs in the third. Japan took the lead in the fifth, only to see the Netherlands tie the game in the bottom of the ninth on Jonathan Schoop’s two out, RBI single (he had homered in the second).
Former Royal Nori Aoki started in right (then moved to left field) for Japan and went 2-for-4 with two walks and two runs scored.
So, Israel is now 1-0 in the second round (4-0 overall) and will play 0-1 Netherlands at 6am ET on Monday. Japan is now 1-0 in the second round (4-0 overall) and will play 0-1 Cuba 6am ET on Tuesday.
*It will be another action packed day for the WBC.