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As of this weekend, the 2023 World Baseball Classic is fully underway. All four pools and all 20 teams are now in action. The first round features four five-team pools and each team plays every other team in its pool once. The teams with the two best records in each pool advance to the quarterfinals and what is essentially a single-elimination eight-team tournament. Here is the full WBC schedule and here is everything you need to know about this year’s event.
Here are our takeaways from USA’s win over Great Britain and here’s everything you need to know about the rest of Saturday’s and Sunday’s WBC action.
The Dominican Republic came into the WBC hailed as maybe the most talented team the event has ever seen, and it didn’t take long for the baseball gods to remind everyone anything can happen in this sport. Venezuela pulled off the upset Saturday. It is their first ever win over the Dominican Republic in the WBC (previously 0-5).
Martín Pérez out-pitched reigning Cy Young winner Sandy Alcantara and five Venezuelan pitchers held the high-powered Dominican lineup to one run on six hits. They struck out 15. Anthony Santander and David Peralta were the heroes on offense. Santander hit a game-tying solo homer and Peralta drove in three runs, including the go-ahead two-run, two-strike, two-out single against Alcantara.
Venezuela’s 7-8-9 hitters did most of the damage: Santander, Eugenio Suárez, and Peralta went a combined 5 for 10 with a double, a triple, a homer, and 5 RBI. Juan Soto and Jeimer Candelario each had two of the Dominican Republic’s six hits. Astros righty Luis Garcia did hero’s work out of the bullpen for Venezuela. He struck out seven in three scoreless and hitless innings.
In terms of talent level compared to results throughout the history of the WBC, which goes back to 2006, Venezuela is surely the team that had most disappointed in the event before this tournament started. Loaded with high-level MLB talent nearly every tournament, Venezuela has finished seventh, third, 10th and eighth. It has a chance to be the best showing ever here in 2023 now after starting pool play against two of the best teams in the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico.
Sunday evening in Miami, Venezuela brought the thunder against Puerto Rico. Spearheaded by a pair of three-run homers — one each from Anthony Santander and Salvador Perez — it stormed out to a 7-0 lead. Perez was the star of the game for Venezuela, too, going 4 for 4 with five RBI. In addition to the home run, he doubled twice en route to nine total bases.
Here’s the Perez three-run shot in the second that gave Venezuela a ton of breathing room:
Salvy smash. 😤
Team Venezuela can’t stop crushing! #WorldBaseballClassic pic.twitter.com/VGIeAZLaAJ
It was 9-1 Venezuela through 5 1/2 innings before Puerto Rico crawled back into the game. A massive rally in the bottom of the sixth saw Puerto Rico score four times. It tacked on another in the eighth to make it 9-6, but Silvino Bracho came on to get the final six outs — doing so in just five batters faced, thanks to a double play erasing his inherited runner — and locking this one down.
Venezuela is in the driver’s seat in a pool that has been owned by Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic for years.
There have been upsets abound in the early days of the WBC and, for my money, Colombia vs. Mexico was the most entertaining game of the tournament thus far. Colombia raced to 3-1 lead in the fifth inning, but Randy Arozarena tied it with a two-run homer. Then, after Colombia took a 4-3 lead in the seventh, Alex Verdugo tied it with a ground-ball single.
The extra-innings tiebreaker rule is in effect in the WBC (always has been) and Colombia scored the game-winning run in the top of the 10th when shortstop Luis Urías muffed a potential inning-ending humpback liner. Right-hander Guillermo Zuñiga, currently a Cardinals minor leaguer, overwhelmed Mexico with a fastball that touched 102 mph to close the game out. He was electric.
First baseman Reynaldo Rodriguez, who plies his trade in the Mexican League, led the way for Colombia with a two-run home run against Julio Urías. He had an RBI single later in the game. Arozarena went 2 for 4 with a double and a home run, and was intentionally walked with two outs and the winning run at second base in the bottom of the ninth.
Colombia is 1-0 in the WBC and will play Great Britain on Monday. They would put themselves in good position to advance with a win. Mexico is 0-1 and their next game is a highly anticipated matchup with USA on Sunday night. A sellout crowd is expected at Chase Field.
Sunday afternoon in Chase Field, Canada and Great Britain put on a hitting display. Britain scored three runs in the top of the first, but then Canada answered with a five-spot in the bottom half. It was 10-5 Canada through three innings and then the teams combined for nine runs in the fourth. Britain actually closed the gap to 10-8 before Canada’s six-run fourth made this one a laugher.
In all, the two teams combined for 26 runs on 25 hits. The 26 runs are a WBC record for a single game, and this contest only went seven innings. Believe it or not, there were only three home runs. Harry Ford‘s three-run shot for Great Britain took care of the three runs in the fourth that cut the Canada lead to two. Canada’s two homers were solo shots from Edouard Julien and Owen Caissie.
The star of the game had to be Cardinals outfielder, for Canada, Tyler O’Neill. He was 4 for 4 with a double, two walks, four runs and four RBI. One of the biggest blows of the game was a bases-clearing double in the bottom of the third to move Canada’s lead from 7-5 to 10-5.
Tyler O’Neill brings them all home and Team Canada is piling it on! #WorldBaseballClassic pic.twitter.com/Fv5rNwSJXS
Also for Canada, leadoff man Julian had the home run but also walked four times, scoring three times.
Canada moves to 1-0 while Great Britain falls to 0-2. Canada next plays Monday night at 10 p.m. ET against USA.
Pool A in Taichung, Taiwan, brought us a massive five-team tie. All five Pool A teams — Chinese Taipei, Cuba, Italy, Netherlands, Panama — went 2-2 during pool play. Wins by Cuba and Italy early Sunday morning locked in the five-team tie. As you can imagine, the five-team tiebreaker is very complicated. Here’s the tiebreaker formula:
The tied teams shall be ranked in the standings according to the lowest quotient of fewest runs allowed divided by the number of defensive outs recorded in the games in that round between the teams tied.
Runs allowed divided by defensive outs. Got that? It’s complicated, unnecessarily I’d argue, but those are the rules. Once the dust settled Sunday morning, Cuba and Italy emerged from Pool A. They have the lowest quotients and have advanced to the quarterfinals. Here is Italy realizing they’ve advanced after recording the final out Sunday:
The gory math is right here, if you’re interested. Cuba and Italy advance while Chinese Taipei, the Netherlands, and Panama go home. Also, because Chinese Taipei had the highest quotient, they have been relegated. They must go through a qualifying tournament to earn a spot in the next WBC. Panama went through a qualifier last fall and has an automatic berth in the next WBC.
The tiebreaker formula created late-inning drama during Sunday’s game between Italy and the Netherlands despite a fairly lopsided score. The Netherlands put the first two runners on base in the top of the ninth inning. Had they scored at least four runs in the inning, their quotient would have been lower than Italy’s, and they would have gone to the quarterfinals even with a loss.
Pool A play is complete. Italy will face a powerhouse Japan team in a win or go home quarterfinals game Thursday. Cuba’s opponent in the quarterfinals is still TBD. Australia can clinch that quarterfinals spot with a win over the Czech Republic on Sunday.
On paper Japan, Korea, and Puerto Rico were heavy favorites in their games against Australia, the Czech Republic, and Nicaragua, respectively, and the games went as expected. The favorites won all three games with relative ease. Japan went a perfect 4-0 in pool play and outscored their opponents 38-8 in the four games. The singular Shohei Ohtani hit a three-run homer Sunday.
Nicaragua hung tight with Puerto Rico until the fifth inning, when Puerto Rico used a parade of singles to put a five-spot on the board and take control of the game. Korea jumped out to a 5-0 lead in their first inning of a must-win game and nursed the lead the rest of the way. Stress-free wins for Japan, Korea, and Puerto Rico on Saturday.
Puerto Rico is 1-0 and Japan has advanced to the quarterfinals, which begin Wednesday. They will play Italy. Korea is 1-2, and to have any chance to advance, they must beat China on Monday while Australia loses to the Czech Republic. A three-team tie between Australia, Korea, and the Czech Republic would then be sorted out similar to the five-team tie in Pool A.
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