Pools C and D are underway and Pools A and B are officially in the books. Israel, the Netherlands, Cuba, and Japan move on to Pool E in Round 2. Japan beat up its opponents in Pool B and I’m looking forward to potentially seeing them play the teams full of Major Leaguers.
The United States plays their first game this afternoon against Colombia, followed by Felix Hernandez and the rest of Team Venezuela against Puerto Rico.
Four teams are in each pool and each pool will play a six game round robin, with a seventh game tie breaker if necessary. The top two teams in each pool will advance to the next round. Here are the results from the late game yesterday and the early games today:
Pool C Game 1: Dominican Republic 9, Canada 2
Unsurprisingly, the Dominican Republic put on a power show and took a bite out of Team Canada’s dreams. Spurred by either the Rally Plantain or the loaded roster (there’s no way to know which one it was), the Dominican Republic jumped out in front with a four-run second inning and never gave Canada a chance. Nelson Cruz, Robinson Cano, and former Mariner Adrian Beltre all contributed to the victory.
It wasn’t all fire power though. Here’s a great catch by Manny Machado:
Pool D Game 1: Italy 9, Mexico 8
The story of this game is Italy’s amazing comeback. Mexico carried a 9-5 lead into the bottom of the ninth inning. Three Italian doubles (one of which was hit by Alex Liddi), an error, a walk, a single, and then a walk off single ensued and Italy carried the day. Yovani Gallardo had the start for Mexico, and it did not go well for him. We Mariners fans are telling ourselves that WBC stats don’t mean anything.
The story of this game for me was seeing my old buddy Japhet Amador playing for Team Mexico. In 2013 I went on my honeymoon to the Arizona Fall League. He was in the Houston Astro’s organization that year and played first base for the Peoria Javelinas. We saw him hit a monster home run, and he was probably the most memorable player we saw. I can’t tell you how excited I am to see him again.
Pool B Game 5: Cuba 4, Australia 3
Cuba moves on to Round 2 with this win. Australia will head home, frustrated at being unable to escape the first round again. All of Cuba’s runs came on Alfredo Despaigne’s enormous fifth inning grand slam:
Pool B Game 6: Japan 7, China 1
Samurai Japan sweeps Pool B with a win in the final game over China. Japan has been a home run machine and hit two more this morning. Japan continues to Pool E, which will play in Tokyo. The Japanese fans are exuberant supporters of their team, so we’ll get to see more crowds like this:
All times are PST, all games are broadcast on MLB Network and MLB.tv.
Pool C Game 2: Colombia vs. United States, 3:00 PM
Pool D Game 2: Venezuela vs. Puerto Rico, 6:00 PM, Felix Hernandez will be starting for Team Venezuela!
Pool B: Australia, China, Cuba, and Japan. Games take place in Tokyo, Japan at the Tokyo Dome March 7-11th.
Pool C: Canada, Colombia, Dominican Republic, United States. Games take place in Miami, FL at Marlins Park March 9-13th.
Pool D: Italy, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Venezuela. Games take place in Jalisco, Mexico March 9-13th.
Canada: The most exciting part of Team Canada is Tyler O’Neill getting some meaningful baseball experience. Current and former Major Leaguers representing our neighbors to the north include Freddie Freeman, Justin Morneau, Ryan Dempster, and Eric Gagne. Canada has a tough draw against the Dominican Republic, Colombia, and the United States, but it wouldn’t be a total surprise if they advance.
Dominican Republic: With three current Mariners (Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz, Jean Segura) and two former Mariners (Adrian Beltre, Fernando Rodney) representing the Dominican Republic, they are obviously favorites to win it all. The Dominican roster would be a stellar team in MLB, so they should be enjoyable to watch.
Mexico: Yovani Gallardo and Sebastian Valle represent the Mariners on Team Mexico, along with former Mariner Vidal Nuno. Adrian Gonzalez will be joining the team to play for his brother and Mexico’s manager, Edgar. Yasiel Puig is not playing in the WBC. Rumor is he missed submitting paperwork on time. Playing in front of a home crowd, Mexico could reach the second round, but faces tough pool opponents to get there.
Italy: A few familiar names great us on Italy’s roster: current Mariner Pat Venditte and prospect Sam Gaviglio and former Mariner Alex Liddi. Italy knocked Mexico out of the tournament in 2013 to advance to Round 2. Italy tends to fare well in international play, so they could be a sleeper pick in Pool D.
Australia: The big news on Team Australia is our very own and most favorite, Ryan Rowland-Smith! If you’re not excited to see Hyphen pitch again, the WBC may not be for you (However, to each their own. I’m not here to judge). Former Mariner Travis Blackley is also on the pitching roster. Sadly, the other Australian from Blackley’s time with the Mariners, Chris Snelling aka Doyle, is not on the roster. The team has some major league talent, but are up against tough Japanese and Cuban teams in their pool.
Cuba: No Major Leaguers will be on the Cuban roster because players who have defected are not eligible. The one name that will ring a bell with an American audience is Yoelkis Cespedes. Yes, he is related to that other Cespedes. Only 19 years old, he has drawn comparisons to his brother. It’ll be fun to see him flash some of the same talent.
China: Team China hasn’t had much success in the WBC, but unlike neighbor Japan there doesn’t seem to be much public pressure. The only player with any Major League experience on the roster is Bruce Chen, who came out of retirement to pitch for China after previously pitching for Panamanian national team. Former Mariners manager John McLaren will manage China for the second time in the WBC.
Japan: Winners of the first two World Baseball Classics, they were eliminated in the semi-finals in 2013. The team called Samurai Japan is under pressure from a population of baseball fanatics in Japan to avenge that loss. The only Major Leaguer on their roster is Nori Aoki. Throwing seven (!) different pitches, the ace of the team is Tomoyaki Sugano from the Yomimuri Giants. Tetstuto Yamada of the Yakult Swallows recorded a Triple Three (.300 batting average, 30 home runs, and 30 stolen bases) in 2015 while leading the league in home runs (38) and stolen bases (34).
Colombia: Making their WBC debut, Colombia is an underdog in Pool C. The stars of the team are pitchers Jose Quintana, coming off an All-Star year with the Chicago White Sox, and Julio Teheran, of the Atlanta Braves. Jorge Alfaro, Donovan Solano, Jhonatan Solano, and Giovanni Urshela have some Major League experience.
United States: Ah, the team that makes you wonder how good they would be if their country and players only cared about the WBC. This is a bit unfair because the players who are playing for Team USA are gushing and excited for the experience. The United States has never made it to the finals of the WBC, and while they certainly have the talent to advance, other countries have more oomph. The roster is made entirely of Major and Minor League players, including the Mariner’s own Drew Smyly, who will be making an appearance.
Venezuela: This is a good baseball team. It is fun to look at their roster in the same way it is fun to look at the Dominican Republic’s roster. Lots of good Major League players, and thinking about a team with all these good players is exciting. Our very own Felix Hernandez will be the ace for his home country. Former Mariner Omar Vizquel (taking over for another former Mariner, Luis Sojo) is managing the team. The question for Venezuela is how well their pitching will hold up.
Puerto Rico: Like Venezuela and the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico has some exciting talent on the roster. Also like Venezuela, the pitching is the question mark. Mariners closer Edwin Diaz and pitching prospect Emilio Pagan hope to help the rest of the staff advance the team to Round 2. The infield of young stars Francisco Lindor, Javier Baez, and Carlos Correa join veterans like Carlos Beltran and Yadier Molina. Puerto Rico played in the championship game last year. They may lack the pitching to get back.
Mariners in the WBC
Tyler O’Neill (Canada): 0-3, walk, strikeout
Robinson Cano (Dominican Republic): 1-4, walk
Nelson Cruz (Dominican Republic): 1-3, run, walk, strikeout
Jean Segura (Dominican Republic): Did not play. Boo, Tony Pena, boo.
Yovani Gallardo (Mexico): Starting pitcher, 4 innings pitched, 4 hits, 4 runs, 5 strikeouts, 3 home runs
Sebastian Valle (Mexico): 0-4, strikeout
Sam Gaviglio (Italy): Did not play.
Pat Venditte (Italy): 1 inning pitched, 3 hits, 3 runs, 1 walk, 1 strikeout
On Deck for Tomorrow:
Pool C Game 3: Colombia vs. Canada, 9:00 AM
Pool D Game 3: Venezuela vs. Italy, 12:00 PM
Pool C Game 4: United States vs. Dominican Republic, 3:30 PM
Pool D Game 4: Puerto Rico vs. Mexico, 6:30 PM
Pool E Game 2: Cuba vs. Israel, 7:00 PM