You know when you’re watching the Olympics and find yourself totally caught up in a random sport, like weightlifting, and you’re rooting for everyone to win as if you’ve been following the athletes for years? That’s how I feel watching the World Baseball Classic. I’m rooting for every team to win, and feel really invested in every game. The goal of the WBC is to promote baseball around the world, and I hope people are watching outside of the countries where baseball is popular because there have been some really great games this year. It’s getting more exciting every day.
I cannot overstate how incredible the games were yesterday. I gush a little bit about Nelson Cruz below, but the whole day was amazing and exactly what the WBC should be.
For those of you just catching the WBC bug, take the time to relax and hang out in front of your television because there is another full day of games coming up. The Round 2 picture should clear up today. The Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico will likely advance and Canada and Mexico are likely eliminated. Colombia, USA, Italy, and Venezuela could go either way. Tiebreaker games are scheduled for Monday if needed.
Pool play continues. 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 last night and early this morning:
Pool C Game 3: Colombia 4, Canada 1
Canada struck first, but it was all Columbia from there on out. Julio Tehran of the Braves struggled a bit in the first inning, but overcame an early run to pitch five innings and help Team Colombia to its first ever WBC win. Colombia scored their first run when Donovan Solano drove in his brother Jhonatan Solano in the third inning, and the Seagers of Colombia contributed more runs later in the game as well:
Pool D Game 3: Venezuela 11, Italy 10, 10 innings
Mariner’s prospect Sam Gaviglio started this game for Team Italy. He gave up only two runs in a game that had quite a bit of back and forth scoring. Venezuela’s loaded offense eventually pulled out the win, but Italy fought, and showed why they’ve been successful internationally. For Venezuela, Martin Prado had five hits in the game, the first time that has happened in WBC history. His hit parade included the game-winning double.
Italy’s offense was helped by former Mariner Alex Liddi’s home run in the fourth inning:
The WBC thinks his last name is spelled Liddy, but I am hardly one to criticize name spelling.
Sadly, Salvador Perez and Francisco Rodriguez were both injured on a play in the ninth inning. Perez is out for the rest of the tournament, and Rodriquez says his injury is just a cramp.
Pool C Game 4: Dominican Republic 7, United States 5
This was The Game today. Everyone was anticipating this matchup, and no one was left disappointed. Played in Miami, the crowd had a distinctly Dominican tilt. The game began with Team USA running the scoreboard. The Dominican Republic began their comeback down 5-0 in the bottom the sixth inning. Three were many highlights, but the best, and one of the most memorable home runs I may ever see, was Nelson Cruz’s eighth inning three-run home run off Andrew Miller to give his country the lead:
I love his reaction. I love the emotion and excitement:
The crowd loves it too:
It kind of makes you think about what a Cruz home run in October would feel like.
Pool D Game 4: Puerto Rico 9, Mexico 4
Puerto Rico is determined to get another shot at the WBC Championship. Francisco Lindor had his first WBC hits, a two-run home run in the first and a solo home run in the seventh inning. That second home run was a giant hit, and he seems so casual about it:
Of interest to Mariners fans, Edwin Diaz finished the game for Puerto Rico. No hits, no runs, one walk. He did not earn a save because it was not a save situation (a closer in a non-save situation?! Who would do such a thing?!) thanks to all the home runs his team hit.
Pool E Game 2: Israel 4, Cuba 1
Israel was regarded as an underdog coming into the WBC, and here they are in Round 2, having not lost a single game. Jason Marquis made his second start yielding only one run, an Alfredo Despaigne home run. Josh Zeid got his second save of the tournament. Pool A MVP Ryan Lavarnway kept it up with a game-tying double in the fourth inning and a ninth-inning single.
Pool E Game 2: Japan 8, Netherlands 6, 11 innings
We finally got a chance to see the free extra-inning runners in action just a little while ago in Tokyo. Japan scored those free runners easily, first with a bunt to move them both into scoring position. Then, Sho Nakata hit a single to bring in the winning runs. Japan made it look easy, but the Netherlands wasn’t able to copy them and the WBC got what it wanted: an avoidance of long extra-inning games.
Things may have gone differently for Team The Netherlands without this ridiculous play from Team Japan second baseman, Ryosuke Kikuchi:
For those of you wondering, undefeated Japan will face undefeated Israel in Game 6 on Wednesday, the Ides of March. Each has another game between now and then, but it certainly a match up to look forward to.
Mariners in the WBC
Robinson Cano (Dominican Republic): 0-3, 1 walk, 1 strikeout, 1 run
Nelson Cruz (Dominican Republic): 1-3, homerun, 3 RBI
Jean Segura (Dominican Republic): Did not play
Tyler O’Neill (Canada): 1-4, strikeout
Yovani Gallardo (Mexico): Did not play
Sebastian Valle (Mexico): Did not play
Sam Gaviglio (Italy): 4.2 innings pitched, 5 hits, 2 runs, 2 walks, 1 strikeout
Pat Venditte (Italy): 1.2 innings pitched, 2 hits, 2 runs, 3 strikeouts, 1 home run
Drew Smyly (United States): Did not play
Edwin Diaz (Puerto Rico): 1 inning pitched, 1 walk, 1 strikeout
Emilio Pagan (Puerto Rico): Did not play
Felix Hernandez (Venezuela): Did not play. Neither did Larry Bernandez
All times are PDT, all games are broadcast on MLB Network and MLB.tv.
Pool C Game 5: Dominican Republic vs. Colombia, 9:30 AM
Pool D Game 5: Italy vs. Puerto Rico, 12:30 PM
Pool C Game 6: Canada vs. United States, 4:00 PM
Pool D Game 6: Mexico vs. Venezuela, 7:00 PM
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 at Estadio de Beisbol Charros de Jalisco March 9-13th.
Pool E: Cuba, Israel, Japan, Netherlands. Games take place in Tokyo, Japan at the Tokyo Dome March 12-16th.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Israel: Making their WBC debut this year, the team is considered to be an underdog. Jason Marquis, a former St. Louis Cardinals pitcher, is the biggest name. Former Major Leaguers Craig Breslow (in the Designated Pitcher Pool), Ike Davis, and Sam Fuld round out the roster, made up largely of Jewish Americans. They have a giant “Mensch on the Bench” mascot that hangs out in the dugout during games.
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).
Netherlands: Some big names fill out the roster for the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Andrelton Simmons, Xander Bogaerts, Jonathan Schoop, Didi Gregorius, and Jurickson Profar are the big Major Leaguers. It’s safe to say the Netherlands won’t have to worry about running out of short stops. Wladimir Balentien, the breaker of Sadaharu Oh’s Nippon Professional Baseball single-season home run record in 2013, will roam the outfield.
On Deck for Tomorrow:
Pool E Game 3: Netherlands vs. Israel, 3:00 AM
Pool C Tiebreaker: TBD vs. TBD, 3:00 PM
Pool D Tiebreaker: TBD vs. TBD, 6:00 PM