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Dominican Republic Claims First World Baseball Classic Title

Dominican Republic Claims Second World Title

By Gabriel Fidler (@gabrielfidler)

The Dominican Republic used its patented blend of pitching, athleticism, and timely hitting to shut out Puerto Rico 3-0 in the 2013 World Baseball Classic championship game. The team did so in a record-setting way, winning all eight of their games to become the first undefeated WBC champs. The world title was the first for the Dominicans since the 1948 World Cup.

The game was almost washed out in the early innings, as rain poured down beginning in the second frame and lasting for over an hour. As it was the final contest of the Classic, tournament officials were eager to get in the game, but until the top of the fourth it looked like it would be a rain-shortened game. The weather became more favourable about halfway through the matchup and no delay was necessary.

Sam Deduno, who has only six career big league victories, dominated on the hill for the victors, never allowing Puerto Rico to stage any kind of threat. Deduno gave up a hit to AngelPagan to start the game and he advanced to second on a sacrifice, but Deduno struck out Carlos Beltran swinging and Yadier Molina went down looking.

Giancarlo Alvarado did not look nearly so sharp for Puerto Rico. Jose Reyes greeted the journeyman right-hander with a booming double into the right centre field alley and was bunted to third by Erick Aybar. RobinsonCanóo who came into the contest hitting .517 with a 1.410 OPS, was intentionally walked to put two runners on.

The move turned out to be a mistake by Puerto Rican manager Edwin Rodriguez, who had managed so superlatively throughout the Classic. Edwin Encarnacion, who had not connected for an extra-base hit in seven games, crushed a double to deep right centre and both runners scored.

Alvarado then threw a wild pitch, but got two consecutive flyouts to escape without further damage. With a 2-0 advantage, however, Deduno and the Dominicans coasted for the remaining nine innings.

Deduno hurled five innings and gave up only two hits and three free passes. Using his wicked hook and a 93-mph/150 kmh fastball with incredible movement, he mowed down five batters and set down seven consecutive batters are the Pagán’s leadoff safety. He finished the WBC with a 0.69 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, and 17 strikeouts in 13 innings.

Alvarado was done after one, and Rodríguez inserted Hiram Burgos, who had thrown 8 1/3 scoreless innings in the tourney. That move turned out to be the right one, as Burgos immediately got to work, needing only 10 pitches to register a scoreless second.

Burgos, a standout Milwaukee Brewers’ prospect, would match Deduno’s zeroes until the fifth. After his fourth strikeout to start the frame, Alejandro de Aza dropped a clinical bunt single down the third base line and beat the throw by a step. Reyes hit a soft groundball to Irving Falu at second base as de Aza motored to second.

Rather than risk losing both outs, Falú did not try to tag de Aza and instead opted to throw out Reyes. With two down, Aybar roped a two-bagger into the right field corner to plate the Dominicans’ third run of the game. The mental mistake almost certainly added to Puerto Rico’s deficit.

Dominican manager Tony Pena removed Deduno after five, entrusting the three-run lead to his dominant bullpen. Octavio Dotel threw a 1-2-3 sixth, and the Dominicans threatened again in the latter half of the frame.

With two down, Nelson Cruz ripped his fourth double of the tournament, tying him with Canó for the lead in that category. Carlos Santana worked his ninth free pass, tops among all players, and Burgos’ night was over.

Rodríguez inserted Jose de la Torre, who once more impressed. The Red Sox minor leaguer got the third out on strikes to keep Puerto Rico close. An inning later, and it was Xavier Cedeno who worked out of a jam after Reyes blasted another ball to the gap in right field, legging out a triple this time. Cedeño got Canó for the third out.

Puerto Rico had a runner on base in the final three innings, but could do nothing against the shutdown Dominican ‘pen. Pedro Strop got out of a two on, no out jam in the seventh with two strikeouts and a popout to end the only real chance for Puerto Rico, and Santiago Casilla struck out one in a scoreless eighth.

Fernando Rodney came on to pitch the ninth and upped his save records by one with an easy final frame. He recorded two strikeouts to earn his seventh save of the WBC and eighth of his career. The formermark may never be broken in the current format, as the Dominicans are only of only two teams (Japan, 2009) to have ever won seven games in one tournament.

The Dominican Republic finished the World Baseball Classic with an 8-0 record, the most wins in a tournament and the only undefeated record. It is now 14-4 in the tournament all-time, which ties South Korea for second-most victories and sets the mark for best winning percentage. The nation should shoot up the International Baseball Federation (IBAF) rankings about five spots from their current No. 13 ranking.

Reyes and Aybar led the team in the final game with two hits apiece as the team accrued only eight, though five went for extra bases. Canó was tabbed the World Baseball Classic MVP after a performance that included a .469 batting average, .514 OBP, and .781 slugging percentage. He led the tournament in four categories, including hits (15) and total bases (25).

Deduno improved to 2-0, while Alvarado dropped to 2-1. Deduno and the bullpen held Puerto Rico to only three hits after surrendering four the night before. Puerto Rico was 0-for-11 with runners in scoring position and left eight on base, striking out 10 times.

Puerto Rico should rise from No. 12 to the ninths spot in the IBAF charts thanks to its 5-4 performance, especially since three of those loses came to the victorious Dominican Republic. Its second-place finish is its best in a global tournament since a silver medal in the 1976 World Cup.

Stay tuned for continued coverage of the 2013 Classic and future editions, including the announcement of the All-World Team, the qualifying rounds for 2017, and much more.

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WBC: Dominican Downs the Dutch; Will Face Puerto Rico in Championship

Dominican Republic Advances to WBC Final

By Gabriel Fidler (@gabrielfidler)

The World Baseball Classic championship game will have a distinctly Caribbean flavour this year. The Dominican Republic fought off a gallant Dutch side to earn a 4-1 semifinal round victory and advance to the title match versus Puerto Rico. The undefeated Dominicans received a strong start from Edinson Volquez, who teamed up with three relievers on a four-hitter.

The Netherlands struck first in the win-or-go-home contest. Vólquez exhibited his usual first inning control problems, walking Andrelton Simmons and Jurickson Profar to start the game. They advanced on a ground ball and Simmons scored on a tapper to short by Wladimir Balentien.

Diegomar Markwell, who induced a number of key grounders in his last start, also against a power-hitting lineup in Cuba, started off well for the Orange. The southpaw gave up a hit to Robinson Cano in the inning, extending the Dominican second baseman’s streak to seven games, but was otherwise untouched.

Both starters matched zeroes through the next three frames. Vólquez, in particular, looked strong, retiring 11 batters consecutively beginning in the first frame. The streak ended with two outs in the fourth when Andruw Jones had the Netherlands’ first hit of the game.

Markwell was solid, picking off a batter in the second and getting out of the third after Miguel Tejada forgot to check the scoreboard before popping up a bunt with two down. The veteran Dutch pitcher finally ran into trouble in the fifth, though.

With one out, Markwell gave up back-to-back doubles to Carlos Santana and Moises Sierra, who had made a spectacular leaping catch on a fly ball that landed two seats into the stands in left field to end the first inning. Markwell registered the next out, but needed eight pitches to get it and the hurler was clearly tiring by the time he faced José Reyes.

The Dominican leadoff hitter worked the count full before blooping a single just over Markwell’s head that scored Sierra with the second run in the inning. Markwell stayed in to face Tejada, who stroked another hit over second base and the Dominicans continued to rally.

With Canó, a left-handed hitter, at the plate, Netherlands skipper Hensley Meulens pulled Markwell, who by WBC pitch restrictions could have faced the slugger as his last batter. Meulens inserted right-hander Tom Stuifbergen, who threw a wild pitch to score an elated Reyes.

Tejada moved to second, and with first now open, Stuifbergen gave Canó an intentional pass. That set the stage for Edwin Encarnacion to plate Tejada with yet another one-base hit to centre. With two outs, Canó was hustling on the play and tried to advance to third on the shallow single, but Roger Bernadina gunned him down with a perfect strike to Jonathan Schoop at third.

The damage was done, however, and Dominican Republic manager Tony Pena turned the ball over to his dominant bullpen. Kelvin Herrera pumped in 98-mph/158-kmh fastballs in scoreless sixth and seventh innings, working around a double to Balentien in the former.

Peña’s hitters were unable to put together another rally in the game, and with the score still 4-1, Fernando Rodney entered to pitch the ninth. The Classic record-holder added another save to the books with a 1-2-3, two-strikeout final frame and his teammates flooded the mound to congratulate him.

Vólquez earned his first win of the WBC with five innings of one-run ball. He gave up two hits and a pair of walks, striking out five. Herrera struck out three in two scoreless frames and Strop tossed a scoreless eighth. Rodney nailed down his sixth save, a Classic record for tournament and career.

Markwell fell to 2-1 in the Classic and was charged with all four Dominican runs on six hits and one base on balls. He threw 4 2/3 innings and did not strike out a batter. Stuifbergen, Leon Boyd, and Loek Van Mil finished off the game.

Dominican pitching scattered three free passes and four safeties over its nine innings. The Orange struck out 10 times and was hitless with runners on base. The victors collected nine hits and reached base 12 times while only whiffing once. Reyes and Tejada both had two hits for Peña, while Canó reached base in three plate appearances. The club was 3-for-5 with runners in scoring position.

The Netherlands failed in its bid to defend its world title, achieved in 2011. Still, the fourth-place finish is the best-ever by a European nation in the WBC. The Dominicans also earned revenge after the Dutch beat them twice in the 2009 Classic to prevent the team from advancing out of the first round.

With Japan, the two-time World Baseball Classic champion, also eliminated, this year’s title game will be the first all-Caribbean world title game since 1990, when Cuba defeated Nicaragua. Both the Dominican Republic (1948) and Puerto Rico (1951) last won a world title more than 60 years ago. Those two world championships are the only two times that Caribbean teams have met to crown a champion without Cuba represented in the game.

The Dominican Republic is the first team ever to win its first seven games in a Classic. The only other squad that was undefeated after two rounds, Korea, lost in the 2006 semifinals. Puerto Rico has earned its trip to the final the hard way, staving off elimination in the second round. They are 5-3.

The two Caribbean heavyweights will contest the world championship on Mar. 19 at 8 p.m. EST in AT&T Park in San Francisco. Tune in for all the coverage of the World Baseball Classic’s final game of 2013 and continued analysis after the new champion is crowned.

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WBC: Puerto Rico Ousts Two-Time Defending Champ Japan

Ríos, Puerto Rico Shock Defending Champs Japan

By Gabriel Fidler (@gabrielfidler)

Edwin Rodriguez, manager of the underdog Puerto Rico team, put together a game plan against the two-time defending World Baseball Classic champions Japan and stuck to it, and Alex Rios hit a two-run homer to give Puerto Rico a 3-1 win in the WBC semifinals. The loss by Japan eliminated them from the competition and ensured that there will be a new world champion.

Kenta Maeda, Japan’s star pitcher, did not allow a run in either of his starts in the first or second rounds, but struggled with the feel of his pitches early in the game. Maeda shook the rosin bag after almost every pitch, polishing the ball in hopes of improving his release.

Maeda clearly felt uncomfortable in a rocky first inning, walking Irving Falu and Carlos Beltran with one out to put a runner in scoring position for the heart of the order. He struck out Molina on three pitches, the last a beautiful slider, but could not get Mike Aviles for the third out.

Aviles stroked a base hit to centre field, and Falú turned on the wheels and raced home to give Puerto Rico a 1-0 lead. The RBI-single tied Aviles for second among run producers, one behind David Wright.

That was all in the inning for Puerto Rico, as Maeda settled down with a grounder from Álex Ríos, and journeyman right-hander Mario Santiago took the hill for Rodríguez. Puerto Rico’s skipper had drawn up a strategy that Santiago and five relievers executed perfectly: pitch quickly and avoid letting the Japanese hitters find their rhythm.

Santiago did just that in the first, needing only about 12 seconds in between pitches to deliver the next toss and, as the game wore on, it was clear that the plan was working. As is common in Japan, the Samurai lineup has complicated batting stances which involve multiple moving parts, and Santiago mowed down the first 10 batters he faced.

After the first, Maeda matched Santiago’s zeroes, using a double play to end the second and start the third inning. Maeda was not nearly as efficient as his opponent, though, exiting after the fifth inning having thrown 80 pitches.

Santiago had to leave in the fifth after injuring himself in the previous frame fielding a groundball. José de la Torre entered with Hayato Sakamoto on second and one out, and gave Japan its first rally by walking Sho Nakata. The Boston Red Sox’ prospect recovered, showing off his impressive arsenal by striking out the next two batters swinging.

Atsushi Nohmi got three outs in the sixth and Japan once more sent a runner into scoring position in the bottom half of the inning. With two out, Seiichi Uchikawa tripled to left centre when Angel Pagan misjudged his base hit and let it go by him to the wall.

Southpaw Xavier Cedeno came in to face Japan’s cleanup hitter, Shinnosuke Abe, and struck out the lefty on four pitches. Cedeño used the same approach as Santiago had, firing in pitches before Abe was comfortable in the box.

Puerto Rico took advantage of Japan’s inability to push runners over in the previous two frames in the seventh. Aviles stroked his second hit of the night to right and Ríos took Nohmi’s 1-1 offering deep into the night, watching in disbelief as the longball landed about a dozen rows in the left centre field bleachers.

The upstarts continued to threaten against reliever Tadashi Settsu. With two out, Jesus Feliciano walked and Pagán laced a safety to right centre to put runners on the corners. Toshiya Sugiuchi got Japan out of the jam, but the damage had been done and Puerto Rico had a 3-0 lead.

Cedeño continued to deal in the seventh, ending the frame with his second K, and Puerto Rico was six outs away from the improbable victory.

The Puerto Rican offence, which had struggled for most of the Classic, almost added another insurance run in the eighth, loading the bases with one out on an error, a nine-pitch walk to Aviles, and a single to Ríos, but Tetsuya Yamaguchi got the final two outs to keep Japan’s deficit at three.

Takashi Toritani made use of AT&T Park’s spacious alleys to rip a triple to right centre. Hirokazu Ibata, the MVP of second round play in Tokyo, blooped a single to right to plate Toritani, and Japan finally showed some life. Uchikawa rapped a one-base hit to right with one out to put runners on first and second, and Rodríguez dipped into his pen for J.C. Romero.

Romero, who closed out Puerto Rico’s victory over the United States only two days’ earlier, entered to face Abe. Japan ran into trouble before the at bat was complete, though, as Ibata missed a double steal sign and only Uchikawa took off for second.

Yadier Molina, Puerto Rico’s catcher, ran out almost all the way to second base to tag Uchikawa, and the Samurai now only had one out to plate the runner. Romero would deny Abe the chance to play hero with a ground ball to the far right side for which Rodríguez had Falú positioned perfectly. The second baseman dove into the hole behind first base, snared the ball, and threw with his back to the ground to nail Abe.

Despite two Ks from Yamaguchi in the ninth, Japan could not narrow the gap against Romero and Fernando Cabrera in the latter half of the frame. Puerto Rico mobbed the field to celebrate its victory in its first-ever appearance in the World Baseball Classic semifinals.

Santiago, who pitched last year in Korea, earned the victory, giving up only two hits in 4 1/3 shutout innings, striking out two and failing to issue a base on balls. De la Torre and Cedeño both hurled 1 1/3 scoreless frames, while the run was charged to Randy Fontañez. Romero got three outs and Cabrera the final two, earning his third save of the WBC in the process.

Maeda dropped to 2-1 in the Classic despite surrendering one run on four hits and two free passes in five frames. He struck out three to augment his tournament-leading total to 18, six more than the next closest. Five other pitchers toed the rubber for the losing side.

Ibata and Uchikawa both had two hits for the Samurai, who mustered just six hits and two walks off Puerto Rican pitching. The team struck out eight times, left seven on base, and were 1-for-6 with runners in scoring position. Abe, the most highly regarded hitter in the lineup, was 0-for-4 and left three runners stranded.

Puerto Rico banged out nine hits and earned four free passes in its victory. Aviles reached base three times and had two safeties, joining Ríos and Pagán as the leader in that category. The team struck out only six times against Japan’s vaunted pitching staff.

Japan will have to wait until 2017 to avenge their loss in the semifinals and finishes 5-2 in the 2013 WBC. They are 17-7 in the three editions of the Classic, the most wins by any team. Puerto Rico now has 13 victories in the tournament, fourth most all-time.

Rodríguez and his men will await the results of the other semifinal matchup between the Netherlands and the Dominican Republic and have a day off to set his pitching staff. Puerto Rico will play in its first championship game, with first pitch scheduled for 1 a.m. GMT on Mar. 20.

We will have news and analysis of the final two games of the 2013 World Baseball Classic, so check back for all your coverage.

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WBC: Santana Blasts Dominican Republic Past Puerto Rico; Earns No. 1 Seed

Santana’s Blast Leads Dominicans in Shutout Win

By Gabriel Fidler (@gabrielfidler)

Carlos Santana broke a scoreless tie in the fifth inning with a monstrous solo home run and the Dominican Republic shut out Puerto Rico, 2-0, to win Pool 2 of the World Baseball Classic. The victors will face the Netherlands in San Francisco and be joined by Puerto Rico, who will take on Japan.

Both teams continued to exhibit the impressive starting pitching that has carried them through the Classic. Wandy Rodriguez toed the rubber for the Dominicans and did not allow Puerto Rico to put multiple runners on base in his six innings. Orlando Román was nearly as strong, giving up just two hits over five frames.

Neither country threatened until the third, when Carlos Rivera led off with a hit for Puerto Rico. Rivera exited with a strained muscle and Irving Falu pinch ran for the burly first baseman. Falú took off for second and stole the bag successfully, but Carlos Santana’s throw went into centre and Puerto Rico had a runner on third.

Rodríguez buckled down against Andy Gonzalez, who hit what turned out to be a game-winning double to defeat the U.S. the night before, and struck him out looking on his signature curveball. Jesus Feliciano was the next batter up, and Rodríguez induced a ground ball to shortstop. Falú was sprinting with the crack of the bat, but Erick Aybar ranged into the hole and threw a perfect strike off balance to home to nail Falú as Santana applied the tag.

With a runner now on first, the Dominican southpaw got Angel Pagan to fly out and the scoreless tie remained.

Román faced his first threat in the bottom of the inning. Santana walked to start things off and moved over on a single by Moises Sierra, who was making his first start of the WBC. Román got a huge strikeout for the first out and then got Jose Reyes to fly out. A grounder by Aybar ended the frame.

Puerto Rico almost capitalised on the plucky hurling of Román in the fourth. Luis Figueroa doubled with no outs, but Rodríguez continued to use his curve effectively, striking out Beltrán, getting the clutch-hitting Mike Avles to fly out, and after the runner advanced on the fly, bearing down on Álex Ríos for another K.

Neither side got another hit until the fifth, when Santana started the inning with his own rally, crushing a changeup well over the right field fence for his second four-bagger of the Classic. The solo shot travelled 427 feet, one of few balls that Marlins Park was not able to hold in the six games played there.

Román finished the frame with ease, but his afternoon was done after five innings. He took the loss despite allowing two hits and one walk, striking out four.

Rodríguez went six frames, finishing under the 80-pitch restriction for the second round. He retired the last nine in-a-row that faced him, whiffing four. He scattered two walks and a pair of hits for his first World Baseball Classic victory.

Efrain Nieves continued Puerto Rico’s strong pitching effort in the sixth and seventh, working around a baserunner each time. Jose Veras and Santiago Casilla matched his zeroes with one inning apiece of their own.

Aybar once more made a big defensive play to get Casilla out of trouble in the eighth. The Dominican reliever walked Martin Maldonaldo to start the frame and gave up a sacrifice Falú. González rocketed a ball at Aybar with one out, and the shortstop gunned won Maldonaldo advancing to third. Casilla put another run on base via a free pass, but finished with a ground ball.

The Dominicans struck against Ñieves in the bottom of the frame. Aybar reached on a one-base hit and moved to third on Robinson Cano’s first hit of the day and Puerto Rico’s manager, Edwin Rodriguez, went to his ‘pen. Randy Fontanez got the second out, but Canó created an extra run for the Dominicans with his baserunning.

With Francisco Pena, a defensive replacement and son of Dominican manager Tony Pena, batting, Canó took off for second. Peña stroked a hard-hit ground ball to the right side and Falú, forgetting there were two outs and racing instinctively to cover, was too close to second to field the ball. Aybar scored on the RBI-single.

Fontañez escaped without giving up another run, but had a scare on the third out, as Nelson Cruz discharged a line drive to the warning track in left centre field, but Eddie Rosario chased the ball down for the third out.

Fernando Rodney came on for the ninth and earned his fifth save of the tournament despite giving up a double to deep left field to his nemesis Aviles. Aviles is 4-for-8 in his big league career against the closer, but Rodney preserved the shutout and entered the record books for his efforts. Rodney, already the record-holder for most saves in a World Baseball Classic, saved his fifth game, setting the career mark in his first WBC appearance.

The Dominicans mustered only six hits and three walks, with Santana the only hitting star. He finished 1-for-1 with two walks. Canó improved his WBC hitting streak to six games. Puerto Rico had only three hits against Rodríguez and the three relievers and was 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position.

The Dominican Republic became the second team to go undefeated through the first two rounds of the WBC. The last was Korea in the 2006 tournament, though they would lose their next game, 6-0 in the semifinals to eventual champions Japan.

The Dominicans avoided a meeting with Japan with the victory, though they will put their winning streak on the line in the single-elimination semis against the Netherlands on Mar. 19 at 1 a.m. GMT. The Netherlands upset them twice in the last Classic to eliminate them in the first round. Puerto Rico will have to travel to San Francisco without an off day as they face Samurai Japan on Mar. 18 at 1 a.m. GMT.

Stay tuned for coverage of the two semifinal games and the championship match, as well as all your World Baseball Classic news and analysis.

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WBC: Puerto Rico Eliminates USA; Advances to Championship Round

Figueroa Pitches Puerto Rico Past U.S., Into Semifinals

By Gabriel Fidler (@gabrielfidler)

Puerto Rico scored a run in the first inning and Nelson Figueroa made it stand it up with six scoreless frames, and the team withstood a late rally from the United States to qualify for the World Baseball Classic semifinals. The 4-3 decision eliminated the U.S. from the WBC almost exactly four years to the day after the Americans sent Puerto Rico home in the second Classic.

Angel Pagan showed why he is considered the sparkplug of the Puerto Rican offence with a game-opening single up-the-middle off U.S. starter Ryan Vogelsong. The San Fransisco Giants’ pitcher got two quick outs, but Puerto Rico staged a two-out rally.

With the infield playing toward the middle, Yadier Molina drove a pitch the other way and reached on a single through a big hole on the right side of the infield. Mike Aviles then stroked a ball between first and second to score Pagán from second. The single drove in his eighth run of the tournament, tied for third-best.

Vogelsong denied Alex Riíos a chance to drive home the runners on the corners with a popout, but Puerto Rico had a 1-0 lead.

Nelson Figueroa took the hill in the bottom of the first and worked around an error by Aviles, inducing a double play by Ryan Braun with one out to end the frame. Neither starter allowed a hit in the second.

Puerto Rico had another chance in the third. Pagán worked a free pass to start the inning, by Jesús Feliciano grounded into a double play. The 3-6-1 twin killing would save a run, as Carlos Beltrán ripped his only hit of the ballgame into the right field corner for a double. Yadier Molina popped the next pitch to third to keep the U.S.’ deficit at one.

The fourth and fifth innings were quiet as the two nations received good innings from their hurlers. Vogelsong would leave with two outs in the fifth inning after nearing his pitch limit, and Vinnie Pestano took over with Beltrán on first after a walk.

Pestano gave up a single to Aviles and then loaded the bases on a base on balls to Ríos, hitting only .156 in the Classic. With left-handed hitting Carlos Rivera due up, Greg Maddux, pitching coach for the Americans, visited the mound and left the righty Pestano in the game. Despite Jeremy Affeldt, a southpaw with World Series experience, warming in the pen, Pestano was allowed to pitch to Rivera.

The Mexican leaguer earned a walk on six pitches, scoring a second run for Puerto Rico. Pestano was allowed to remain in the game and, after working an 0-2 count on Andy González, left a slider in the zone. González crushed the pitch into the left field corner for a two-run double, and Puerto Rico’s lead grew to 4-0.

U.S. manager Joe Torre finally yanked his struggling reliever and sent in Affeldt. The lefty got a one-pitch groundball from Irving Falú and the nightmarish inning was finally over.

Figueroa remained on the hill for the sixth. He gave up the second hit of the game for the red, white, and blue, but then struck out Brandon Phillips, who reached in every other plate appearance in the game. Molina finished the inning by throwing a laser to second to erase Jimmy Rollins, who was trying to steal.

Affeldt stayed on for a scoreless seventh, though Pagán reached on a bouncer to the left side and created havoc at first base until Affeldt retired the side. The U.S. would finally score their first run in the bottom of the frame, the longest it had ever taken the team to plate a run in a WBC game.

Joe Mauer stroked a triple into the gap in right centre with one out, and Giancarlo Stanton sent him home with a single to left off reliever Giovanni Soto. He was forced out on a grounder, but Eric Hosmer rapped a single to centre to put two runners on. José de la Torre, who pitched Puerto Rico out of a jam against Italy two days earlier, got Adam Jones to strike out looking for the third out.

Heath Bell kept Puerto Rico off the board in the eighth, and the American offence kept clicking after another de la Torre strikeout of Shane Victorino. Rollins singled to right and Phillips beat out a slow roller to shortstop to put two runners on.

Braun ripped a two-bagger into the left field corner to plate Rollins, and the U.S. had narrowed the score to 4-2. Puerto Rican manager Edwin Rodriguez summoned Xavier Cedeno to face Mauer, but the star catcher worked a six-pitch walk.

Fernando Cabrera was next out of the bullpen for Rodríguez and got the second out from Stanton on an eight-pitch at bat. Cabrera then walked Zobrist on four pitches, forcing in a run and narrowing Puerto Rico’s lead to one.

Rodríguez continued to work the lefty-right matchups and brought in southpaw J.C. Romero to face Hosmer. With right-handers Jonathan Lucroy and J.P. Arencibia on the bench, Torre left in Hosmer, who was 1-for-31 against left-handed relievers in 2012. The pitching substitution worked magic for Puerto Rico as Romero generated an easy tapper to second, and the game moved to the ninth with the score 4-3 in Puerto Rico’s favour.

Craig Kimbrel, who took the loss after a brutal outing the night before, pitched the ninth. The red, white, and blue closer worked around a leadoff hit to hold Puerto Rico scoreless, giving the U.S. hitters one final chance to tie the game.

Romero stayed on to close and looked extremely good. The veteran pounded his sinker low in the zone, mixing in the occasional changeup and slider and got Jones to strike out on six pitches. He turned up the heat on Victorino, catching him looking for a three-pitch strikeout.

Rollins then flew out to Pagán, who waited just long enough for the ball to settle in his glove before jumping in celebration as the Puerto Rican bench mobbed Romero on the mound. The victory was the biggest upset in recent memory for Puerto Rico, ranked No. 12 in the world, in recent memory.

The 2013 World Baseball Classic is over for the second-rated U.S. team, continuing their streak of disappointment in the tournament. Puerto Rico joins a semifinals that does not include the top two teams in the world, though it does feature two-time defending WBC champions and third-ranked Japan, No. 7 Netherlands, the most recent world champion, and a loaded Dominican Republic team.

Rollins and Phillips both had two hits for the losers, who had eight hits and drew three walks. The Americans left seven runners on base. The bottom five in the order was 2-for-22, struck out four times, and left 11 men stranded.

Pagán raised his WBC average to .391 with a 2-for-3 day, scoring once and drawing a walk. Aviles joined him with a brace of hits and the team struck out only twice against U.S. pitching, drawing four walks and collecting nine hits.

Vogelsong was the hard-luck loser, giving up two runs on four hits and two walks, whiffing one in 5 2/3. Figueroa improved to 2-0 in the Classic, lowering his ERA to 1.80 with six scoreless innings. He surrendered only two hits and a base on balls, striking out two. Romero earned his first save of the tourney.

Puerto Rico will have only a few hours to prepare for their final game of the second round. It takes on an undefeated Dominican Republic side to determine the seeding for the semifinals. The contest starts at 6 p.m. GMT on Mar. 16.

Check back for news and analysis of that game and the championship round of the World Baseball Classic.

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WBC: Dominican Republic Downs USA; Secures Spot in Championship Round

Dominican Republic Upsets USA, Advances in WBC

By Gabriel Fidler (@gabrielfidler)

In a game that truly earned the title of World Baseball Classic, Erick Aybar delivered a pinch hit, go-ahead single in the ninth inning to lead the Dominican Republic in a 3-1 victory over the United States. The dramatic victory qualified the Dominicans for the semifinal round and pushed the U.S.A. within one loss of elimination.

Both teams featured dominant pitching throughout the game, with neither nation able to mount a consistent offence. Despite the absence of ‘Captain America’, David Wright, the U.S. struck in the first against Samuel Deduno, who otherwise had a stellar performance.

Deduno, coming off a strong showing against Spain in the first round, looked shaky to start the game. He gave up a one-out single to Brandon Phillips before getting Ryan Braun swinging. Joe Mauer stroked a one-base hit off Deduno before Giancarlo Stanton bounced a ball up the middle that was stopped by a diving Jose Reyes. Reyes could not get a strong enough toss to second for the forceout and the U.S. had the bases jammed.

Deduno briefly lost control of the strike zone against Eric Hosmer, who took a four-pitch free pass to push across the first run for the U.S. The Dominican hurler followed with a full count against Adam Jones, but dropped a curveball down the heart of the plate to catch Jones looking. It was the last time that the U.S. would have multiple runners on base.

R.A. Dickey started for the United States and had a better feel of his knuckleball than in his first WBC start, but after retiring the first four Dominican batters, left a knuckler in Hanley Ramirez’s wheelhouse. Ramírez crushed the ball to the walkway in left centre, striking the ‘427 foot’ sign with the ball.

Dickey almost ran in to trouble with two outs in the inning after a single by Carlos Santana, sending him to second on a wild pitch. The right-hander got out of the frame with a groundball to keep the score level.

J.P. Arencibia led off the bottom of the second with a single against Deduno. After the runner advanced to second on a sacrifice, Deduno bore down, striking out Jimmy Rollins looking and getting a grounder from Phillips.

The Dominicans got two hits in the third, but Dickey once more battled out of the jam, and the two starters traded zeroes through the fourth. Deduno hit his pitch count after four, but struck out seven while scattering seven baserunners. The U.S. had a runner on base in all four of his frames, but Deduno worked around it every time with a tight curveball to compliment his 92-mph/148-kmh tailing fastball.

Dickey lasted five frames before exiting at the pitch limit. After a booming double by Nelson Cruz with one out in the fourth, Dickey sent down the final five batters he faced. He struck out four, walked one, and surrendered five hits.

From the bottom of the fifth onward, it was a battle of the bullpens. Both teams were up to the task, with each registering only one hit between the fifth and eighth innings. Kelvin Herrera was particularly impressive in relief of Deduno, working through the heart of the US order in the fifth and sixth, allowing no hits or base on balls.

Luke Gregerson, Tim Collins, and Steve Cishek worked the sixth through eight innings for U.S. manager Joe Torre. Cishek hurled an impressive 1-2-3 inning in the eighth against Robinson Cano, Edwin Encarnacion, and Ramírez, catching the latter looking on strike three and leaping off the mound with a triumphant fist pump.

The U.S. got only their sixth hit of the game in the eighth, but Pedro Strop was not troubled by the Mauer safety, striking out Giancarlo Stanton looking and getting a fly ball from Eric Hosmer to send the game to the ninth.

Torre sent in his closer, Craig Kimbrel, with the game tied at one and the 6-7-8 hitters due up for the Dominican Republic. Cruz torched his second double of the game, this time sending it to the opposite alley from his first two-bagger.

Stanton, the rightfielder for the Americans, made a nice play to cut off the ball, diving to catch the ball off one bounce and throwing a laser into second, just behind Cruz. Kimbrel gave up only one double in all of 2012 while finishing games for the Atlanta Braves.

Santana bounced out slowly to second, and Cruz was off with the pitch, making it to third without drawing a throw. With Ricardo Nanita, the only member of the Dominican lineup without big league experience due up, Dominican skipper Tony Pena sent in pinch hitter Erick Aybar.

Aybar took a called strike two on a horrendous call by the home plate umpire, bounding out of the box in disbelief, but ripped the next ball to shallow right field. Cruz came racing home with the Dominicans’ first run since the second inning, and Aybar had a RBI-single as the well-represented Dominican fans erupted into pandemonium. The dugout for the visitors erupted as well, and Cruz was battered with praise as he made his way to the bench.

Peña’s men were not finished with Kimbrel, as Aybar took off for second on the next batter, stealing second base and putting another run in scoring position. Kimbrel got out number two on a strikeout, but Reyes struck a single to left field and Aybar sprinted home to make it 3-1. By this point, both the players and fans for the Dominican Republic were in an absolute frenzy as the U.S.’ fans looked on helplessly.

Torre had finally had enough from Kimbrel, who had a 1.01 ERA in 2012, inserting Mitchell Boggs. Boggs got a ground ball to put an end to the rally, but the Dominican Republic had firmly taken the momentum.

Fernando Rodney entered to close out the game and did just that. Peña’s stopper got a 1-2-3 inning, striking out one for his fourth save of the Classic, tied for most all-time. Strop improved to 3-0, setting WBC records for most wins in a tournament and eclipsing the previous mark for career victories by a reliever.

While Aybar may have been the player of the game, Cruz and Santana each notched two hits to lead the Dominican. U.S. pitchers struck out nine of their opponents and held the Dominicans hitless with runners in scoring position until Kimbrel’s implosion.

Kimbrel suffered his first loss for Team U.S.A., ruining a night that had seen the Americans hold the powerful Dominican bats to six hits until the ninth frame. Mauer was the sole hitting star for the U.S., collecting a pair of safeties to raise his average in the tournament to .444.

The red, white, and blue certainly missed the contributions of Wright, who came in hitting .438 with a Classic-leading 10 RBI. The team was only 1-for-6 with runners in scoring position and struck out nine times while leaving eight runners stranded.

Wright will be questionable with a sore back for the Americans’ next game against Puerto Rico. Torre will only have a day to regroup before facing intra-national rivals in Marlins Park. Game time is scheduled for 7 pm. EST on Mar. 15. The loser will return home, while the winner will join the Netherlands, Japan, and the Dominican Republic in San Francisco.

Before flying across the country, the Dominicans will have one more game to determine whether they will face the Dutch or the Japanese in AT&T Park. The 1 p.m. EST game on Mar. 16 will pit them against the winner of the U.S.-Puerto Rico contest.

Stay tuned for coverage of the final two games of the second round and the single-elimination finals of the 2013 World Baseball Classic.

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WBC: Puerto Rico Rallies Eliminating Italy

Puerto Rico Eliminates Italy, One Win from Semis

By Gabriel Fidler (@gabrielfidler)

It was a different night but the same story for Italy in the World Baseball Classic. After taking the lead on a big hit, this time by Anthony Rizzo, Italy wasted the efforts of an intrepid starting pitcher and allowed its opponent to come back late against their bullpen. Once more, their experienced closer, Jason Grilli, sat idly in the bullpen as a more experienced opponent chipped away at the lead before taking it for good.

This time it was Puerto Rico who was the beneficiary, as it took advantage of sloppy play by the Italians in the late innings to claim a 4-3 win. In the process, Puerto Rico narrowly escaped elimination and is now one win away from qualifying for the semifinals of the WBC. Italy finished 2-3 in the 2013 Classic.

Both starters were effective in the early innings. Italy sent Alex Maestri, the country’s top Italian-born hurler, to the mound. After a leadoff double to Ángel Pagán, Maestri set down the next nine hitters, five by ground ball, working low in the zone with a tight high-70s/mid-120s curveball and slider combination, mixing in a fastball that hit 90/145 consistently.

Giancarlo Alvarado was nearly as effective for Puerto Rico. Relying heavily on a high-80s/low-140s cut fastball that he located well, the right-hander gave up a hit in the first three innings, but got out of each inning unscathed.

Puerto Rico’s best threat early in the game was the fourth. Irving Falú worked a seven-pitch walk and went to third on a one-out single by Yadier Molina. Maestri threw a wild pitch to move Molina into scoring position, but the righty got Mike Aviles and Álex Ríos on outs to the left side of the infield.

Alvarado started to wear down in the fifth. Anthony Granato stroked a single to right with one out and went to second on catcher interference by Molina. Nick Punto reached on the play. Chris Denorfia had a one-base hit to load the bases, and Alvarado exited the game.

Xavier Cedeño came in with the sole purpose of getting out Anthony Rizzo, the Azzurri’s top hitter, but grooved a fastball that the first baseman ripped to the gap in right centre. All three runners crossed home, and Italy had a 3-0 lead.

José de la Torre, who struck out the side with a runner in scoring position only one night before, came in to face the dangerous combination of Alex Liddi and Chris Colabello, and a ground ball and a strikeout to escape the threat.

Maestri left the hill after getting into a jam in the fifth. Chris Cooper relieved with runners on first and second and one out, and got Pagán and Falú out to preserve Italy’s three-run advantage for another frame.

Hiram Burgos was the new pitcher for Puerto Rico and got three quick outs. Cooper gave up a hit with one out to Yadier Molina in the bottom of the sixth. He advanced to second on an error by Granato at shortstop and, with two down, another miscue by Granato gave Puerto Rico its first run. Cooper finally acquired the third out to keep the score at 3-1.

Neither side threatened in the seventh as Burgos and Cooper turned in strong innings, though Italy nearly struck against Burgos in the eighth. The Milwaukee Brewers’ minor leaguer gave up two hits with two outs, but stopped the rally with a ground ball out.

Cooper would not be so fortunate in the bottom of the inning. He was pulled after walking a slumping Carlos Beltrán, who went to third on a hit by Molina. With Grilli still not warming, Marco Mazzieri, Italy’s manager, elected to bring in veteran change-up specialist Brian Sweeney to face Aviles and Ríos. He got Aviles to erase Molina on a force out, but then allowed a RBI-single to Ríos to make it a one-run game.

Pat Venditte relieved and got the second out at a price, inducing a fly out to centre that score Aviles with the tying run. Italy’s centerfielder, Chris Denorfia, threw the ball home from deep centre, and Ríos went to second on the throw.

Andy González bounced a ball deep into the hole at shortstop and it eluded a diving Liddi, the third baseman. Jack Santora, who had entered as a defensive replacement for Granato, made a nice play to snag the ball, but the long throw to first pulled Rizzo off the bag, and Ríos sprinted from second and score untouched.

Italy’s mental mistakes continued after a hit to Eddie Rosario, as Santora threw to third on a grounder by Pagán. The toss was high and González slid in safely to load the bases on the Azzurri’s third error. Venditte bore down and got Falú for the third out, but all the air had been visibly sucked out Italy’s collective lungs.

Burgos stayed in for the first two outs, both retired by strikeout, though the first was on a 3-2 count to Punto, who thought it was ball four and ran all the way to first before someone told him he had been ruled out. Southpaw J.C. Romero came in to get the left-handed Rizzo. Rizzo walked, but Fernando Cabrera got Liddi to go down swinging for the first out.

Italy out-hit Puerto 9-8, but its three errors were the death blow to its chances of advancing in the bracket. Denorfia had three hits and Rizzo reached base three times, but the team and was 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position and left 10 men stranded. Liddi and Colabello, both of whom had key hits earlier in the Classic, were 0-for-8 with four strikeouts, leaving seven men stranded. Italy struck out 11 times.

Molina had a three-hit day for Puerto Rico, who also left 10 men on base, hitting .067 with runners on second or third. It received strong pitching from Alvarado and Burgos in particular. Puerto Rico’s starter went 4 1/3 innings, scattering five hits and a walk while allowing two earned runs. Alvarado whiffed four.

Burgos, who earned the victory, threw 3 2/3 scoreless frames, striking out four. He allowed three hits and issued two free passes.

Maestri toed the rubber for 4 1/3 shutout innings, striking out three. He surrendered three hits and two walks. Cooper was solid, allowing only a hit and a walk in 2 1/3, notching one K. Sweeney took the loss, giving up Puerto Rico’s final run and getting only one out.

Italy will return for the 2017 World Baseball Classic, while Puerto Rico will take on the loser of the matchup between the Dominican Republic and the United States. That game will take place on Mar. 15 at 7 p.m. EST.

Stay tuned for all the news and reviews of the final six games of the World Baseball Classic.

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WBC: David Wright Leads Team USA to Victory

Captain America Strikes Again in US Win

By Gabriel Fidler (@gabrielfidler)

David Wright, dubbed ‘Captain America’ after his clutch grand slam against Italy, came through again in the second round of the World Baseball Classic. The U.S. third baseman doubled his WBC-leading RBI total to 10 in a 7-1 victory over Puerto Rico.

The final score was not indicative of how hard a battle this was for the U.S. Four of the runs came in the Americans’ last two times at bat, as Puerto Rican pitching kept them off balance for most of the game.

The U.S. was first to score, plating a run in the opening frame. Ryan Braun walked against Mario Santiago and scored on a double by Joe Mauer, who reached base four times in the game.

Puerto Rico, which scored the fewest runs of any team to make the second round, looked helpless against Gio Gonzalez, making his first appearance in the Classic. The southpaw did not allow more than one baserunner to reach base in any inning, regularly hitting the mid-90s/low-150s with a nasty two-seam fastball and using a nifty curve.

The red, white, and blue gave González an insurance run in the third inning. Brandon Phillips stroked a hit to left to start the frame, and Ryan Braun followed with an infield hit to the hole at shortstop. After a walk to Mauer loaded the bases, Wright drove in his first run on a grounder. The U.S. would leave two on in the inning, but took a 2-0 lead.

Neither team threatened in the fourth, and González finished his outing with a 1-2-3 fifth, striking out two batters. The U.S. fell short of another big inning in the bottom of the frame, but pushed across its third run.

Rollins singled to right and moved over on a sacrifice bunt. Santiago struck out Ryan Braun, but strike three bounced away from catcher Yadier Molina and Braun raced to first. That was all for Santiago, who went 4 1/3 innings. Andres Santiago walked Mauer to load the bases and Wright came through with a RBI single through the right side of the infield. Puerto Rico got the next two outs, but it was now 3-0.

Neither nation added to the scoreboard in the sixth, and Vinnie Pestano followed Jeremy Affeldt’s scoreless sixth with his own in the seventh. The U.S. once more scraped together a run, this time with two outs. Eric Hosmer beat out an infield hit to shortstop and stole second base. Adam Jones laced a single to centre to make it 4-0.

Puerto Rico finally got on the board in the eighth. Pinch hitter Jesus Feliciano was hit to start the frame and moved to third on a double by Eddie Rosario, a 21-year old top Minnesota Twins’ prospect. Feliciano scored on a grounder by Ángel Pagán. David Hernandez prevented Puerto Rico from getting any closer, though.

With the U.S. only now firmly in control, three more insurance runs were tallied in the bottom of the frame. Jimmy Rollins started things off with a single over second base and Braun beat out another ground ball single to the left side of the infield.

Joe Mauer earned his third free pass to load the bases, but Wright once more stepped up, crushing a double to deep centre, the longest ball hit during the game. He was stranded at second, but Craig Kimbrel got three outs in the ninth and the 7-1 score was final.

The irony of Wright’s moniker is that it was cemented in a game which featured two teams from the United States, as Puerto Rico is a territorial dependency. Wright tied Hisayoshi Chono, who hit the mark earlier in the day, and Jose Abreu for most RBI in a game in the 2013 Classic. The mark is still short of Ken Griffey, Jr.’s memorable seven RBI-day in 2006 against South Africa.

Rollins, Braun, and Giancarlo Stanton joined Wright with two hits, with the first hitters scoring twice as well. Puerto Rican pitching kept the U.S. from finding its groove until the eighth inning, as the U.S. stranded 12 runners and hit 3-for-15 with runners in scoring position.

Rosario was the only Puerto Rican with two knocks against the U.S. The team banged out only seven hits and was 0-for-7 with baserunners on second or third.

Mario Santiago took the loss, though he pitched out of two predicaments in his 4 1/3 frames. He gave up three runs on five hits and two walks, striking out three with a 96-mph/154-kmh fastball. Six other pitchers toed the rubber for Puerto Rico, with José de la Torre’s sixth inning the most impressive. The Boston Red Sox minor league struck out Rollins, Phillips, and Braun with two on.

González got his first WBC victory for the U.S. He hurled five shutout innings, allowing just three hits while whiffing five. Five relievers closed out the game.

Italy and Puerto Rico will battle to remain in the World Baseball Classic on Mar. 13 at 7 p.m. EST in Marlins Park. The loser will go home in the double-elimination bracket. The United States will have a day off to prepare for the Dominican Republic on Mar. 14 at 7 p.m. EST. The winner will automatically qualify for the semifinals in San Francisco.

Stay tuned for news and analysis of the rest of the Classic.

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WBC: Dominican Republic Rallies; Sends Italy to Loser’s Bracket

Dominican Republic Squeaks By Upstart Italy

By Gabriel Fidler (@gabrielfidler)

Chris Colabello and Italy gave the Dominican Republic a scare, leading the heavily favoured Dominicans until the seventh inning. Jose Reyes and Robinson Cano joined Colabello in hitting home runs in a 5-4 Dominican victory.

Colabello hit a huge longball against Canada and got Italy off to a good start in the first inning with another. With the score 1-0 and runners on the corners, Italy’s designated hitter stroked a three-run tater to right field off EdinsónVolquez. Vólquez allowed only Colabello’s hit in the inning, but got into trouble by walking the first three batters of the game.

Italy’s Tiago da Silva, a top starter in the Italian Baseball League, held the Dominican lineup scoreless in the bottom of the frame, though he gave up a double to Canó. Neither club scored in the second.

Vólquez settled down quickly after the homer and pitched a second-straight 1-2-3 frame in the third. Reyes got the Dominican Republic one run closer with a home run to lead off the third. The blast hit the top of the foul pole in right field and bounced fair. Reyes had only missed a home run to same spot by a few feet in the first.

Da Silva kept dealing into the fifth inning, mixing a change and curveball in the mid-70s/high-110s with a fastball that regularly touched 90/145.Vólquez ran out of fuel in the fifth, giving up two hits with one out, but Juan Cedeño and Lorenzo Barcelo bailed him out of the jam.

Da Silva got two Ks in the fifth and Italy still held a 4-1 advantage going into the sixth, despite having only mustered three safeties.

Italy’s starter finally tired in the bottom of the sixth. With one out, Canó blasted a solo home run and Marco Mazzieri, Italy’s skipper, pulled da Silva. Nick Pugliese came in to face the 4-5-6 hitters for the Dominican Republic, and they unloaded two hits, while a walk with two outs jammed the bases. Pat Venditte entered and got a fly out to keep the score at 4-2.

Pedro Strop followed Barcelo with more dominant relief work in the seventh, and the Dominicans unloaded against Venditte. With one down, Reyes hit a single up-the-middle and was followed by a safety from Erick Aybar. Canó blooped a ball into shallow left field that fell between the shortstop and left fielder, though the official scoring was an error on the shortstop.

With the bases loaded, a walk to Edwin Encarnacion plated Reyes, and Aybar came round on a sacrifice fly from Hanley Ramirez. Nelson Cruz then drove in Canó with a RBI-single, and the Dominicans had their first lead of the game at 5-4.

Italy had two final chances to score, but Santiago Casilla hurled a scoreless eighth and Fernando Rodney came on for the save. Rodney gave up a walk, but had a three-up, three-down inning thanks to a strikeout and a double play.

The victory moved the Dominican Republic one win away from a guaranteed spot in the semifinals, though they will have to face the winner of U.S.A.-Puerto Rico to qualify. Italy drops into the loser’s bracket in the double-elimination second round. They will play the loser of the same game, with only the winning team staying alive.

Canó had his fourth consecutive three-hit game to lead the Dominican. He scored twice, as did Reyes, who joined Cruz with a brace of hits. The Dominican Republic was only 2-for-9 with runners in scoring position and left eight on, but was aided by a strong defence that did not commit an error.

Punto had two of Italy’s four hits, raising his Classic average to .467, though the team walked six times against only five strikeouts. They had very few chances against a dominant Dominican bullpen that threw 4 2/3 scoreless innings and allowed only one hit. Strop earned the win, Casilla the hold, and Rodney his third save of the WBC.Venditte took the loss.

Italy will have to play on back-to-back days with their game against the other losing team from the pool. The game will be held at Marlins Park on Mar. 13 at 7 p.m. EST (midnight GMT on Mar. 14). The Dominicans will get the day off before hitting the field on Mar. 14 at 7 p.m. EST.

Both games will be covered here, along with all the rest of the World Baseball Classic, so check back for more coverage, analysis, and other information.

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WBC: Shinnosuke Abe Powers Japan Past Netherlands

Abe’s Two-Homer Inning Propels Japan in Win

By Gabriel Fidler (@gabrielfidler)

Shinnosuke Abe set a World Baseball Classic that will likely never be broken, stroking two home runs against the Netherlands in an eight-run second inning. Japan made the early lead hold in a 10-6 victory that gave the Samurai a No. 1 seed in the semifinals. The Netherlands will join them in San Francisco and take on the top team from Pool Two in Miami.

It was the Netherlands who went on top first. Andrelton Simmons led off the game by crushing the second pitch he saw into the left centre field seats. It was his second longball in two days. Japanese starter Kenji Otonari immediately settled down, striking out the side.

David Bergman, a veteran of the Honkbal Hoofdklasse in Japan, looked strong in a 1-2-3 first inning. Otonari continued where he left off in the second, getting two more strikeouts.

Samurai Japan exploded in the second against Bergman. Abe led off with a solo shot to right field to tie the game, and Bergman loaded the bases on a walk, a hit batter, and a bunt single that Katsuya Kakunaka beat out. Nobuhiro Matsuda drove home one with a safety, but Hisayoshi Chono upstaged him with a bases-clearing double into the left field corner.

With the score at 5-1, Bergman looked to right the ship, getting the second out but walking Hirokazu Ibata. Dutch manager Hensley Meulens yanked his starter and inserted Jonatan Isenia to stop the bleeding.

With two on, Abe stepped to the plate and blasted Isenia’s pitch to almost the exact same location as his first longball, collecting three RBI and giving Japan an 8-1 lead. That was all in the inning, but the damage was done.

Both sides were quiet from the third through the sixth innings. Isenia was solid in two innings of relief and Mark Pawelek overcame a wild warmup to through 1 1/3 scoreless innings with two strikeouts.

Koji Yamamoto, Japan’s manager, received superb relief work during the middle frames. Otonari exited after three innings, striking out six, walking one, and allowing only the dinger to Simmons. Hirokazu Sawamura, Mashiro Tanaka, and Takeru Imamura followed with shutout frames. Tanaka in particular was impressive, whiffing two with unhittable stuff.

The Orange finally narrowed the gap in the seventh against Masahiko Morifuku. Curt Smith drew a walk to start the inning, Kalian Sams doubled, and Xander Bogaerts plated Smith on a slow bouncer to second that the speedy infielder beat out for a hit. Randolph Oduber hit a sacrifice fly to score Sams with the Netherlands’ third run.

Kevin Heijstek threw his second straight scoreless inning in the bottom of the frame, and the Netherlands rallied in the eighth. Hainley Statia, started for the injured Wladimir Balentien, reached on an infield hit to the hole on the left side and went to second on a walk to Jonathan Schoop. Two straight grounders almost ended the threat, though the second by Smith scored Statia.

Sams stepped up to the plate and drilled a single to centre to knock out Morifuku and score Schoop. Bogaerts greeted Tetsuya Yamaguchi with a line drive into the left field corner. Bogaerts legged out two bases and the Orange had two runners in scoring position.

Quintin de Cuba, a defensive replacement in the fifth, stroked his first hit of the Classic to plate Sams, and the Netherlands were only down by two with runners once more on the corners. Oduber, who had a key double in the Dutch victory over Cuba the night before, struck out to end the threat with the Netherlands now trailing only 8-6.

With the Dutch suddenly rallying, Japanese refocused in the bottom of the eighth. Sho Nakata led off with a single and was erased on a poor sacrifice bunt attempt by Katsuya Kakunaka. Kakunaka created his own threat, though, stealing second and advancing to third on a passed ball.

Nobuhiro Matsuda worked a free pass and went to second on defensive indifference, and Chono collected two more RBIs with a safety to left. Chono was caught stealing to end the frame, but Japan had rebuilt their lead to four.

The Orange attempted a comeback against Kazuhisa Makita in the ninth, but it fell short. Statia hustled for another infield hit with one out and moved up on a Schoop single. Andruw Jones stepped up to the plate still looking for his first hit of the day after eight in the previous six games, but grounded to second to force Schoop at the keystone sack. The Netherlands had one final chance with runners on the corners, but Curt Smith could not catch up to a Makita fastball and struck out.

Otonari earned his first win of the tournament and seven other hurlers finished off the game. Bergman took the loss, surrendering seven runs on four hits and two walks in 1 2/3. The Dutch bullpen threw 7 1/3 innings, scattering six baserunners and allowing only one earned run.

Japan’s offence, which came alive in the second round, banged out nine hits, one fewer than the Netherlands, but made the most of them. The Samurai left only three runners on base and were 5-for-10 with runners in scoring position.

Abe, Chono, and Matsuda all had two hits, with Chono pacing the team in RBI with five. Abe hit the first two home runs of his Classic career, but lost out on Pool 1 MVP honours to Ibata, who hit .556 and was a consistent performer when Japan’s bats were scuffling.

Statia, Sams, and Bogaerts all had two hits for the Netherlands. Sams was the only player to score twice and his double was the third for him in the WBC. The Orange left eight runners on base and struck out 13 times.

Japan will take on the Pool 2 runner-up from Miami on Mar. 18 at 1 a.m. GMT in San Francisco. The Netherlands will face the winner 24 hours later, with the victors in both games playing for the world championship a day later.

Stay tuned for coverage of the second round pool in Miami and the World Baseball Classic finals in AT&T Park.

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WBC: Dominican Republic Wins Pool C

Dominicans Win Pool C in 4-3 Duel with Puerto Rico

By Gabriel Fidler (@gabrielfidler)

Robinson Cano hit a home run and Dominican Republic skipper Tony Pena pushed all the right buttons in managing his pitching staff, and the Dominicans beat Puerto Rico 4-3 at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan. Neither team had a lead larger than two at any point, and only one inning featured multiple runs scored. Both teams advance to the second round of the World Baseball Classic in Miami, with the Dominicans taking the higher seed.

The visitors took the lead in the first. Erick Aybar reached on an infield single that deflected off Puerto Rican first baseman Martin Maldonaldo. Canó stroked a one-base hit to centre and Edwin Encarnacion plated Aybar with the game’s first run. Orlando Roman would bear down on the next three hitters, getting out of the jam without allowing another run to score.

Neither team would threaten until the bottom of the fourth when Alex Rios rapped a safety off Wandy Rodriguez to lead off the inning. One batter later, Mike Aviles took the first pitch he saw from reliever Lorenzo Barcelo into the left centre field seats to give Puerto Rico a 2-1 lead.

Canó, who was named Most Valuable Player in the pool at the game’s conclusion, equalled Aviles’ feat, ripping a dinger to left centre to start the fifth. The Dominican Republic would not score again in the inning, but the host’s lead was quickly erased.

After a 1-2-3 inning by Barcelo, the Dominicans grabbed the lead. Carlos Santana hit a single down the left field line and moved over on a sacrifice. Alejandro de Aza, who reached base in all three of his plate appearances, struck a double to the wall in centre that nearly gave the visitors a two-run advantage. Santana scampered home on the play to make it 3-2.

Barcelo and Octavio Dotel split the bottom of the sixth, working around a hit and an error. Dotel got a double play to end the frame, and the Dominicans once more set to work.

Edwin Encarnacion was plunked to start the seventh and Miguel Tejada followed him with a long fly ball to left field. Encarnación had to wait at third when the ball bounced over the wall, but Tejada had a ground rule double. Nelson Cruz plated the lead runner with a groundball and an intentional walk to Carlos Santana and a wild pitch put runners on the corners.

Xavier Cedeño, who earned the save in Puerto Rico’s first win, struck out the final batter in the inning to keep the margin at 4-2.

Pena’s relief hurlers would prevent the Puerto Ricans from gaining any momentum on offence. Dotel pitched the seventh with a strikeout and Cedeño got a three-up, three-down inning in the eighth.

Puerto Rico missed drawing even by about five feet in the bottom of the eighth. Ángel Pagán smoked a ball to left centre, turning on the wheels to leg out a triple to start the frame against San Francisco Giants’ teammate Santiago Casilla.

Casilla buckled down against the 2-3-4 hitters for Puerto Rico, striking out Irving Falu on a combination of fastballs and a nasty curveball, which had Falu whiffing on a 3-2 count. Casilla had another six-pitch at bat against Ríos, striking him out looking.

With two outs and Pagán still on third, Carlos Beltran, Puerto Rico’s cleanup hitter, stepped up, and put a charge in the first pitch he saw. The ball sailed to dead centre, but fell to centerfielder Eury Pérez just in front of the wall.

Randy Fontanez gave up two hits to the Dominicans in the ninth, but the visitors held the momentum and the advantage after Pérez’s heartbreaking catch. Peña turned to closer Fernando Rodney for the bottom of the ninth, and the Tampa Bay Rays’ closer got his second save of the Classic with a 1-2-3 final frame.

Canó had his third-straight three-hit game, keeping hit batting average at .600 in the 2013 Classic. Aybar, Encarnación, and Tejada all collected a hitting brace for the victors, who had all four runs scored by different players. The team left 11 men on base and hit .167 with runners in scoring position, but took advantage of its three extra-base hits.

Aviles was the only Puerto Rican with multiple hits or RBIs, notching two of each. With the exception of Aviles’ blow, Dominican pitching kept their Caribbean neighbours from ever getting a rally going, giving up seven hits and one walk, but getting two double plays and seven strikeouts.

Barcelo earned the win for the Dominican Republic and allowed a run on two hits in two frames. Rodríguez had a solid start, scattering four baserunners over 3 1/3 with two strikeouts. Pena’s ‘pen surrendered only one run and four hits in 5 2/3 frames.

Román started for Puerto Rico and was one out shy of four full frames. He gave up five hits, a walk, and a run, whiffing two. José Berrios, only 18, took the loss after coughing up two runs on three hits and a base on balls.

The defeat dropped Puerto Rico to 9-3 in Hiram Bithorn in World Baseball Classic play, making the Dominicans one of three nations to beat them on their home turf. No. 12 Puerto Rico will have to face the United States, ranked second in the world, to start round two. The matchup between the only nation to field two teams in the WBC occurs on Mar. 13 at 1 a.m. GMT. The Dominican Republic, rated No. 13, will contest ninth-ranked Italy on Mar. 12 at 6 p.m. GMT.

Stay tuned for the second round as the Classic has only seven teams remaining. You can find all your news, recaps, and analysis right here for the remainder of the 2013 WBC.

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WBC: USA Rallies Late, Defeats Canada to Advance

U.S. Escapes Canada, Advances to WBC Second Round

By Gabriel Fidler (@gabrielfidler)

The United States, ranked second in the global baseball charts, survived a tenacious Canadian team and piled on two big innings late in the game in a 9-4 victory. The Pool D finale was a winner-take-all event, and it was the U.S. who will advance to Miami to join Italy, the Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico as the top seed from the pool.

Both countries received battling efforts from their starters, each of whom gave up two runs in a single inning, but faced several threats. Sixth-rated Canada’s relief pitchers could not keep up with talents of the U.S. all-stars.

It appeared that the Americans would strike first when David Wright led off the top of the second with a booming double to the wall in right centre. He moved to third on a fielding error that put runners on first and second. Adam Jones bunted Wright and Ben Zobrist over, but Wright was caught in a rundown on a sharply struck ground ball off the bat of Eric Hosmer and the U.S. failed to score.

It was Canada who first claimed the lead against U.S. starter Derek Holland. In the bottom of the frame, Justin Morneau led off with a double on the first offering from Holland, and two pitches later, left-handed hitting Michael Saunders blasted a two-run homer off the southpaw. The four-bagger to the right field corner gave Canada a 2-0 lead. Holland gave up two more hits in the inning but kept the margin at two.

After the rough second inning, Maple Leaf starter Jameson Taillon settled in for the third, striking out two in the 1-2-3 frame. The Pittsburgh Pirates’ top prospect caught both Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Braun looking.

Canada failed to add to their lead in the third and the U.S. figured out Taillon. Joe Mauer started things off with a hit and moved over on a walk to Wright. Ben Zobrist tapped a bouncer between the pitcher’s mound and third base, and beat out a wild throw from Taylor Green. The throwing error caused Mauer to score and Zobrist moved to third with no outs. Jones had another sacrifice to drive in a run, this time of fly ball variety, and the score remained 2-2 through four.

Both teams were retired 1-2-3 in the fifth, with Dustin Molleken taking over for Taillon, who allowed one earned run on four hits and a walk. Holland went five innings, retiring the final seven batters he faced, though he had to settle for the no decision. He struck out four and surrendered two runs, also allowing four hits and a base on balls.

Canada took back the lead in the sixth. Joey Votto walked and went to second on Justin Morneau’s second safety of the game. New U.S. pitcher Glen Perkins looked like he might work out of the predicament after catching Saunders looking at strike three and inducing a fly ball for the second out, but Adam Loewen ripped a RBI-single to make it 3-2.

A pressing American offence got two hits in the seventh and had runners on second and third with one out, but PhillippeAumontretired Brandon Phillips and Ryan Braun. The Philadelphia Phillies’ pitcher pumped his fists in exultation after Braun grounded out and Canada needed only two more outs to advance.

Desperate for an insurance run, Heath Bell registered a three-up, three-down inning for Canada in the seventh and turned the ball over to the U.S. hitters for the eighth.

Joe Mauer bounced a ball up-the-middle to lead off the frame, going to second on a walk to Wright. Zobrist tried unsuccessfully to bunt the runners over, popping out to the catcher for the first out. Jones picked up his teammate with a two-run double to deep left centre and gave the U.S. its first lead in the game. Shane Victorino made up for back-to-back strikeouts with runners on with a single through the hole into left field to make it 5-2.

David Hernández, rusty from over a week without use, was the recipient of some bad luck in the bottom of the eighth, giving up a run on two infield singles and one safety to the outfield on a 10-pitch at bat to plucky Canadian catcher Chris Robinson. The RBI went to Loewen, who scored Votto on a groundball. U.S. manager Joe Torre once more used his bullpen well, inserting Steve Cishek with two outs and runners on second and third and getting a ground ball out to end the threat.

With the score now 5-4, the red, white, and blue looked to regain the momentum and add an insurance run to the score, but they got their best offensive output of the tournament. Phillips started with a double and came around to tie the game on a Jonathan Lucroy safety. A third walk to Wright and an infield hit to Zobrist loaded the bases, and Hosmer, a late addition to the squad, roped a long double to centre to make it 9-3. The two-bagger was his third hit of the game.

Craig Kimbrel, the U.S. closer, exhibited filthy stuff in the bottom of the ninth, averaging 95/153 on a late-tailing fastball to catch two batters looking, including slugger Votto to end the game.

The win went to Bell and the loss to Henderson, who started the disastrous eighth inning. Both Torre and Team Canada skipper Ernie Whitt used six pitchers in the game.

Canada left eight men on base and hit .273 with runners in scoring position, while the US stroke a .353 mark in the same situations. Zobrist had three infield singles to pace the American team in hits. Jones and Hosmer each drove in three and Wright crossed the plate on three different occasions. Braun and Rollins both had stolen bases.

Canada is eliminated from the World Baseball Classic with a 4-2 record in all rounds, leaving them at 9-5 all-time. The United States will face the loser of the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico contest on Mar. 13 at 1 a.m. GMT. Stay tuned for more recaps, news, and analysis.

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WBC: Japan Routs Netherlands; Ties Home Run Record

Japan’s Six Homers, Maeda Demolish Dutch, 16-4

By Gabriel Fidler (@gabrielfidler)

Japan tied a World Baseball Classic record with six home runs, breaking out of a tournament long slump and taking it out on an overwhelmed Netherlands team. The 16-4 victory ended in the seventh on the mercy rule, and the Samurai qualified for the semifinals in a sold out Tokyo Dome.

After hitting only .256 with a .271 slugging percentage in its first four games, Team Nippon unloaded against the Netherlands, sending no fewer than five batters to the plate in any inning. Japan scored in every inning, falling two short of tying their own WBC mark for runs in a game. Its total was the highest in the 2013 tournament, while the 17 hits tied Italy’s mark for highest in 2013. Japan did set a Classic record for total bases (38) and extra-base hits (10). Only Cuba can claim to have knocked six four-baggers in a game.

Takashi Toritani was the first Japanese player to send one yard, leading off the game with a four-bagger to right centre. The diminutive infielder is not known for his power, so his homer might have been considered to be a harbinger of the display to come.

Japan knocked veteran Orange starter Rob Cordemans out of the game in the second. Nobuhiro Matsuda hit a two-run homer and was followed by a double from the bat of Toritani. After a walk to Hirokazu Ibata, Seiichi Uchikawa sent them all home with a longball just to the left of dead centre. With the score 5-0 and still only one out, Cordemans hit the showers.

Kenta Maeda started for Japan and pitched remarkably. While Japan piled on run after run, Maeda set down the first five batters of the game before allowing the only hit against him in the second. Working low in the zone, he mixed breaking pitches with a strong fastball that was consistently in the low-90s/high 140s.

Atsunori Inaba became the oldest player to homer in the World Baseball Classic in the third, hitting a solo shot to make it 7-0. Though Maeda was pitching as if he had a one-run lead, Japan put the game utterly out-of-reach in the following frame. Yoshio Itoi, who had Japan’s only extra-base hits entering the game, blasted a dinger that travelled well over 400 feet to right centre.

Despite a 10-0 lead, Japan kept piling on, scoring without hitting a home run in an inning for the first time in the fifth. Ibata had a double and scored on a Shinnosuke Abe two-bagger.

After the Curt Smith safety in the second, Maeda sent down the next 10 Orange hitters and left after five complete innings and only 66 pitches. The right-hander struck out nine, one shy of Ubaldo Jiménez’s 2009 high-water mark.

Japan made it 12-0 in the sixth on a single by Sho Nakata and a two-bagger by Matsuda. Matsuda joined Toritani as Samurai to collect more than one extra-base hit in the game.

With Maeda out of the game, the Netherlands seized the opportunity to put a few runs on the board against Tetsuya Utsumi. Kalian Sams walked to start the frame and moved to second on a single by Andrelton Simmons. Roger Bernadina was plunked to load the bases, bringing up Wladimir Balentien, who hit over .300 against Utsumi in Japan in 2012.

The right fielder for the Orange delivered a bases-clearing blow to dead centre, legging out a double to make it 12-4. Andruw Jones drove home Balentien with a single, but got caught trying to stretch and was thrown out. The rally temporarily prevented the mercy rule from being effected, as it states that a team must be ahead by 10 or more after seven innings.

Japan but a final seal on the rout in the seventh, getting four runs of their own with only one swing. After singles by Ibata and Abe and a hit batter of Itoi, Hayato Sakamoto drove a pitch to deep left centre for a prodigious grand slam.

Maeda earned his second win and has yet to allow a run in 10 innings, striking out 15. Utsumi gave up all of the Orange’s runs in two-thirds of a frame, and Tetsuya Yamaguchi and Hideaki Wakui finished off the game.

Cordemans took the loss after giving up six runs on three homers, a double, and a single in 1 1/3. Tom Stuifbergen pitched two innings, striking out three, but gave up three earned runs on five hits. Kevin Heijstek did well in 2 2/3 frames, giving up one earned run on four hits, but avoiding the longball while striking out two. Berry Van Driel and Jonny Balentina finished off the game for the losers.

The Dutch will have to face Cuba for the right to go to the semifinals. They will square off again on Mar. 11 at 11 a.m. GMT. Japan will face the winner to determine seeding for the third round of play. Stay tuned for coverage of that important matchup and all other World Baseball Classic games.

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WBC: Cuba Crushes Chinese Taipei

Cuba Overpowers Chinese Taipei, 14-0

By Gabriel Fidler (@gabrielfidler)

Cuba used a prodigious display of power to eliminate Chinese Taipei from the second round of the World Baseball Classic, 14-0. The mercy rule victory featured four home runs and two doubles among 12 hits, and Cuba is one win away from punching their ticket to the semifinals in San Francisco.

Overshadowed in the hitting clinic was the dominance of Danny Betancourt, who threw six shutout innings. The right-hander scattered three hits and two walks, but retired 11 of the final 12 batters he faced. Betancourt sent three down on strikes.

Frederich Cepeda got Cuba started on the right foot. After a José Fernández single in the first, Cepeda blasted a two-run homer to right centre. Chinese Taipei’s starter, Ching-Lung Lo, would keep the deficit at two through three innings.

Chinese Taipei had its chances in the early innings. Their best chance to score in the game came in the second. Betancourt struggled to find the zone in the first two frames, and Yung-Chi Chen and Chih-Kang Kao both singled in the second.  Chinese Taipei was unable to capitalise, and Betancourt did not let them get another runner to second.

With Betancourt keeping the momentum in Cuba’s favour, a four-run fourth ended Chinese Taipei’s chances of a comeback against the No. 1 team in the world. Cepeda walked to start off the inning and went to third on a bunt hit by slugger José Abreu. Abreu moved to second after the  Chinese Taipei reliever threw the bunt wildly.

Alfredo Despaigne seized the opportunity to drive in a run with a single to centre before Yasmany Tomás unloaded the bases on three-run homer to right centre. The next two batters would reach as well, but Cuba settled for four runs after putting the first six men aboard.

Yu-Chin Lin looked like he might keep the game close, coming in after the Tomás longball and getting Cepeda, Abreu, and Despaigne 1-2-3 in the fifth. After a strikeout to Tomás to begin the sixth, however, the wheels fell off for Lin and Chinese Taipei.

Frank Morejon and Bárbaro Arruebarruena followed with singles into the left field corner, both of whom were robbed of extra bases by Dai-Kang Yang’s strong throws. After a hit batter, Yuliesky Gourriel stroked a single to centre, scoring one and ending Lin’s night.

Fernández continued his red-hot approach at the plate with a bases-clearing double into the right field corner, and it was 10-0 Cuba. A double by Cepeda would add on another run, but Cuba was still flexing its muscles.

Abreu clouted a tape measure shot to dead centre to score Cepeda. The blast travelled well over 400 feet, nearly scraping the ceiling in the Tokyo Dome. Despaigne attempted to equal the feat a batter later, crushing a four-bagger to left-centre that travelled almost as far.

After putting eight straight men on base and scoring all of them, Cuba finally relented, with 18-year old reliever Jen-Ho Tseng getting two quick outs to end the shellacking. It was the fifth pitcher of the day for  Chinese Taipei. Had another run scored, the game would have ended on another version of the mercy rule.

Norberto González and Raicel Iglesías disposed of a deflated  Chinese Taipei side in the seventh. Chen had his second hit in the game, which was their first safety since the second inning. Chinese Taipei had only six baserunners in the contest.

Cuba, meanwhile, went 12-for-29 as a team. They left only three runners on base, hitting .667 with runners in scoring position. Fernández, Cepeda, Abreu, and Despaigne all had a brace of hits. Cepeda scored three and drove in as many, tying Fernández for the team lead in RBI.

Betancourt earned his second win of the WBC and has now thrown 10 2/3 scoreless innings with 11 strikeouts and a 0.60 WHIP. González has hurled four scoreless frames in relief.

After earning the win, Cuba will await their next matchup, which will take place on Mar. 11 at 11 a.m. GMT. They will face the loser of the Netherlands and Japan on Mar. 10 and the winner of the game will earn a guaranteed place in the semifinals.

Chinese Taipei could not recover from its heart-breaking loss to Japan the night before and finishes its best-ever performance in the WBC with a 5-3 record. They are now 6-7 in three World Baseball Classics, but have earned a spot in the 2017 tournament after having to qualify this time around.

Stay tuned for all your WBC news and analysis.

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WBC: Japan Defeats Chinese Taipei in 10 Inning Thriller

Persistent Japan Rallies By Chinese Taipei in 10, 4-3

By Gabriel Fidler (@gabrielfidler)

Third-ranked Japan avoided an embarrassing upset with three late rallies, beaten a heartbroken Chinese Taipei side in 10 innings, 4-3. Chinese Taipei led the ballgame until the eighth innings and did not trail until the final frame, but could not piece together enough offence in the World Baseball Classic thriller.

Both teams threatened in the first two frames, but Chinese Taipei claimed the early advantage with a run in the third inning. Yen-Wen Kuo jumpstarted the offence with a double to centre off Atsushi Nomi and was sacrificed to third.

Nomi then walked a batter and hit another to load the bases, and surrendered a free pass to Szu-Chih Chou to drive in Kuo. Nomi’s night was finished after 2 2/3. He gave up three hits and a pair of walks, striking out two.

Meanwhile, Chien-Ming Wang looked his vintage self against third-ranked Japan. Using a devastating sinker and some inspired defence, he worked around hits through six scoreless frames. Only one hit went for extra bases, a double into the corner in right by Yoshio Itoi in the fourth.

Chinese Taipei put another run on the board in the fifth. Che-Hsuan Lin ripped a double down the right field line and Cheng-Ming Peng singled him home. With Japan scuffling, tt appeared the two-run advantage would be enough for Wang and the Chinese Taipei bullpen.

Masahiro Tanaka was the third pitcher out of the ‘pen for manager Koji Yamamoto. He looked the staff ace he was expected to be in the sixth and seventh frames, striking out four. He set all six batters down in those two innings, mixing an unhittable split-finger and mid-90s/low-150s fastball.

The Samurai would stun a coasting Chinese Taipei in the eighth with a tenacious rally. Hirokazu Ibata started the frame with one of his three hits and moved to third on a Seiichi Uchikawa bouncer into the right field gap. Shinnosuke Abe, Japan’s cleanup hitter, got his first hit of the Classic in a big way, driving in Ibata with a single.

Uchikawa was out on a poorly executed bunt by Itoi, but Hayato Sakamoto broke out of his 2-for-15 slump with a run-scoring single to tie the contest. Chinese Taipei got out of the inning, but were clearly stunned at the turn of events.

The shock wore off quickly for Peng and Chih-Sheng Lin. Peng laced a safety to right to lead off, and Lind drove him to third with a two-bagger against the suddenly floundering Tanaka. Chou drove in Peng to put Chinese Taipei up again, 3-2, and the squad looked to have regained their momentum as Tanaka exited.

A grounder by Chih-Kang Kao turned into a two-base fielder’s choice as Lin got hung up going home, but avoided the tag long enough to keep runners at second and third. With only one out, reliever Tetsuya Yamaguchi buckled down and induced a popout before giving way to Kazuhisa Makita, who would end the rally.

Chinese Taipei once again held the lead and had their closer, Hung-Wen Chen on the hill. Chen got the first out, but walked Takashi Toritani, who swiped second base. Ibata stepped up with two outs and delievered another hit, scoring Toritani from second. That was all for Japan, but Chinese Taipei once more needed a rally.

A single by Yi-Chuan Lin in the bottom of the ninth was a promising start, but Makita made an impressive dive in front of the mound to snare a blooped bunt, and Che-Hsuan Lin was forced to sacrifice with one out instead of none. Peng walked to put runners on the corners, but Makita struck out cleanup hitter Chih-Sheng Lin to send the game to extra innings.

Japan once more had its rally hats working. Ryoji Aikawa led off with a single and advanced to second on a walk. A sacrifice by Sakamoto put two runners in scoring position and Sho Nakata, who was 0-for-4, crushed a ball to the warning track in left. The ball was caught on the warning track, but the go-ahead run scored to give the home team, batting first against pool winners Chinese Taipei, the lead for the first time.

Toshiya Sugiuchi entered for the bottom of the tenth, and gave up back-to-back hits with one out, but induced a twin killing to deliver an improbable victory for the Samurai.

Japan scored their four runs on 13 hits, only Itoi’s going for extra bases. Ibata had three hits to lead the squad, while Uchikawa and Sakamoto each had a brace. Japan left 10 runners on base, but hit a respectable .286 with runners in scoring position and struck out only twice.

Chinese Taipei had 11 knocks shared among nine batters. Peng and Chien-Ming Chang were the only hitters with a pair of safeties. A big difference in the game was the 11 strikeouts rung up on Chinese Taipei hitters, who hit .200 with baserunners on second or third.

Makita earned the win thanks to his own sacrificial defending, staying in the game despite landing awkwardly. He was one of seven pitchers to toe the rubber, with Sugiuchi earning the save.

Chen took the loss by allowing two runs in 1 1/3, walking two and giving up two hits. Wang pitched well enough for the victory, but the bullpen gave up four runs in four innings in relief and registered only one strikeout.

The victory will give Japan a day of rest before taking on the seventh-ranked Netherlands, who upset top-rated Cuba earlier in the day. First pitch is at 11 a.m. GMT on Mar. 10. No. 5 Chinese Taipei will have to regroup in only a few hours before taking on the top-rated team in the world, with the loser going home. The showdown commences at 10 a.m. GMT on Mar. 9.

Stay tuned for WBC results, recaps, and analysis.

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WBC: Netherlands Continues to Roll; Downs Cuba with the Long Ball

Stellar Defence Sparks the Netherlands in Cuba Upset

By Gabriel Fidler (@gabrielfidler)

The Netherlands tied a World Baseball Classic record with five double plays and coupled it with a slugging offence to shock top-ranked Cuba in a 6-2 victory. The Orange ripped six extra base-hits and eight singles and kept Cuba off balance for the entire game to move one out away from the WBC semifinals.

Diegomar Markwell did just enough to keep Cuba from mounting a rally, working low in the zones and inducing grounder after grounder. In his six innings, 13 of 18 outs were recorded on a groundball and the Netherlands tied the double play record by the sixth inning. The orange-and-black had a twin killing in each of the first four frames, an unofficial record.

Both clubs were on the basepaths for the entire game. The Netherlands started the contest by loading the bases against Ismel Jiménez, Cuba’s ace, but could not push a run across. The red-and-blue had a similar fate against Markwell in the bottom of the frame, but the southpaw worked around a José Fernández double to keep the game scoreless.

Both teams would get on the board in the second. Curt Smith led off the inning with a home run to left centre to give the Dutch a lead, and Kalian Sams followed with a double. Andrelton Simmons, who excelled in the field all afternoon, drove him home with a single. A one-base hit by Schoop would end Jiménez day early, though Simmons was thrown out at third by Guillermo Heredia, the centerfielder.

Alfredo Despaigne cancelled out Smith’s dinger with one of his own, crushing the first pitch he saw from Markwell into the right centerfield seats. Markwell would get out of the inning on a double play.

Both teams failed to score for the next three innings. Markwell, who had been up in the zone during the first two frames started working his breaking ball downward to much success, though he allowed at least one hit in every inning. The barrage of bouncers kept Cuba from finding a rhythm, but Cuba’s reliever Freddy Alvarez also settled the Orange down during the middle innings.

Álvarez ran out of steam in the sixth after throwing four full innings. Sams, who was hitless in the first round, had his second two-bagger of the game with one out, though Álvarez would follow him with out number two. The right-hander’s night was over after walking Simmons, and Yadier Pedroso entered.

Schoop, who had a dynamic home run in Fukuoka only days earlier, drove Pedroso’s second pitch over the left centre field wall for a three-run blast and a shocking 5-1 lead for the Netherlands.

Markwell finished his night in the bottom of the frame and prevented the red-and-blue from rallying back from Schoop’s four-bagger.

The Orange looked ready to break the game open in the seventh, loading the bases on three straight hits with no one out. Two of the safeties were of the infield variety, with Xander Bogaerts beautiful bunt the most notable. Reliver Yander Guevara somehow escaped the jam and turned things over to the Cuban hitters for the bottom of the inning.

Víctor Mesa, Cuba’s manager, gathered his entire team before they hit the dugout, speaking passionately with his usual animation. The talk appeared to be especially inspirational for Yuliesky Gourriel, who entered the day 1-for-13 in the Classic. Gourriel ripped the first pitch he saw for a solo shot to left centre, tying teammate Frederich Cepeda and Korea’s Seung-Yeop Lee for the all-time lead in homers.

Reliever Leon Boyd was hit hard in the frame, giving up two more hits, but got out of the eighth with a 5-2 lead.

Simmons and Schoop teamed up once more to take away Cuba’s run in the next frame. Simmons laced a pitch off the wall in left centre and Schoop planted a double in the left field corner to drive him home. That was all for the Orange, but the run gave them a four-run cushion against Cuba’s vaunted offence.

Boyd looked better in the eighth, retiring all three men to face him, but not without a little performance from Smith. With two out, the Netherlands’ first baseman raced into the camera well to try and catch a foul ball and fell into a cameraman, coming up with the ball. The umpires did not cover the Tokyo Dome’s enormous foul territory so quickly and ruled it as the third out, but replays showed he did not actually catch the ball.

The Dutch once more loaded the bases in the ninth, but could not come up with any more insurance runs. Loek Van Mil did not any additional help in closing the game out for the Netherlands, mowing Despaigne, Gourriel and Yosbany Peraza down 1-2-3.

With the victory, the Netherlands moves onward in the double-elimination bracket to face Japan in the Dome. They will do battle on Mar. 10 at 11 a.m. GMT. Cuba will have less time to regroup against Chinese Taipei in a 10 a.m. GMT contest on Mar. 9.

Six Orange hitters had multiple hits, led by Schoop’s 3-for-6, four RBI performance. He finished a single short of the cycle. Simmons, Sams, and Andruw Jones all got on base three times, with the first two both scoring a pair of runs.

Gourriel and Fernández each finished with a brace of hits. Fernández is hitting .583 for the tournament, but Cuba’s 4-5-6 hitters were only 2-for-11, leaving five men on base. The team hit only .154 with runners on, leaving six stranded after Markwell’s double play magic erased five additional baserunners.

The Dutch won without striking out a batter. Markwell got the victory for his six innings of one-run ball. He walked one and allowed nine hits. Jiménez was charged with loss, lasting only five outs and surrendering two runs on five hits and two walks. Six other hurlers finished the game, with Raicel Iglesías the only to retire more than one batter without giving up a run.

Cuba will have to beat Taiwan to avoid their worst finish in the World Baseball Classic and one of their most meagre showings in their long history. Check back for more about that fixture and the rest of the World Baseball Classic.

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WBC: Dominican Republic Downs Venezuela

Canó, Dominican Republic Thump Venezuela in Pool C Opener

By Gabriel Fidler (@gabrielfidler)

The Dominican Republic left no doubt that it is one of the chief contenders for the world championship with a 9-3 drubbing of a good Venezuelan side. The 13th-ranked Dominican stroked 13 hits, including five of the extra-base variety, to take down eighth-rated Venezuela in the first game of Pool C in the World Baseball Classic.

Edinson Volquez looked dominant on the hill for the Dominican Republic to start the game, retiring Elvis Andrus, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Miguel Cabrera on only nine pitches. Vólquez got Andrus swinging, though Cabrera hit a ball to the warning track in left centre.

In the bottom of the frame, Jose Reyes led off with single, one of four hits for the Toronto Blue Jays’ shortstop. Erick Aybar attempted to bunt him over, but Venezuela’s starter Anibal Sanchez threw the ball away to put two on base.

Robinson Cano made Sánchez pay, ripping a two-run double down the left field line. Another fielding miscue advanced Canó to third. Hanley Ramirez tapped a ball to shortstop and, with Canó going, Andrus tried to get the runner at third, but Canó beat the throw.

The Dominican Republic once more took advantage of the opportunity. Nelson Cruz laced a one-base hit to left and the Dominicans claimed a 3-0 advantage. Sánchez continued to struggle, walking Carlos Santana on four pitches, but the rain that had been falling since the beginning of the game became a downpour and time was called.

Play resumed after 50 minutes, but Sánchez’ night was over after retiring only a single batter and giving up three hits and a walk. His out was recorded on a strikeout of Edwin Encarnacion after Canó’s double.

Cesar Jimenez relieved, and got Venezuela out of the predicament on a nifty line drive double play. Ricardo Nanita hit a ball to right and Ramírez tagged and raced toward the plate, but Carlos Gonzalez nailed Ramírez by two or three paces for the third out.

After the rain delay and long inning, Vólquez did not return, with Angel Castro taking the hill in his place. Venezuela’s manager Luis Sojo used nine pitchers in the game, one short of the WBC record. Castro put two runners on base, but escaped the jam thanks to two marathon catches by Nanita in the cavernous left field foul territory of Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

The Dominicans were not stymied by the change in pitchers. Alejandro de Aza led off with a single and Reyes followed with a single to left. Erick Aybar once more attempted a bunt, but this time was unsuccessful because of a strong fielding play. Jiménez allowed the popup to drop and nailed de Aza at third.

Canó stepped up with one out and runners on first and second and ripped another two-bagger to the same location as his first double. The blow played Reyes, and Aybar would come around on a sacrifice fly by Encarnación after Edgar Gonzalez relieved. González got a popup from Ramírez to finish the inning, but the Dominicans now held an overwhelming 5-0 advantage after two.

Pablo Sandoval got Venezuela on the board in the third inning. Marco Scutaro and Asdrubal Cabrera walked and, with one out, Miguel Cabrera blasted another ball that once more was caught at the warning track, this time in right field. Sandoval picked up his teammate, though, crushing a two-run double to left centre to make the score 5-2. Carlos González followed with an infield single, but Venezuela could not push across another run.

Édgar González got two strikeouts in a scoreless third, and Venezuela chipped away at the three-run margin in the fourth. Martin Prado laced a ball to Canó’s favourite spot and advanced to second, scampering to third on a ground ball. Prado raced home on a wild pitch, but it appeared that Venezuela would score again.

Scutaro blasted a two-base hit to left centre and, after a pitching change, Andrus reached on an infield single. Asdrubal Cabera struck out in a seven-pitch at bat, but Miguel Cabrera walked to load the bases. Sandoval could not replicate his success of the previous inning, lifting a ball to centre to end the frame.

New pitcher Jhoulys Chacin worked around two hits in the fourth to keep the margin at 5-3, but Venezuela could not capitalise in the top of the fifth despite putting two runners on base.

Chacín gave up a solo shot to Ramírez to lead off the bottom of the fifth and gave up a walk with one out, but got out of the inning on a twin killing. Neither club could mount a rally in the sixth.

With all momentum lost after the Ramírez home run, Venezuela went down 1-2-3 in the seventh. It was the second straight three-up, three-down inning for Dominican pitching.

The Dominican hitters put the game away in the seventh, though they did so with some help from Venezuela. Ramírez walked with one out and move to second on a wild pitch. The mistake caused a run to score after Nelson Cruz ripped a ground-rule double to plate the runners.

Santana and Nanita would reach on free passes to jam the sacks, and de Aza sent two of them on a double into the right field corner. The 9-3 margin would hold up, as both teams were scoreless the rest of the way.

Canó had three hits for the Dominican Republic and Cruz and de Aza joined him with a brace, though Reyes’ four safeties was the best of the WBC so far. The squad hit .350 with runners on base. Santana walked in all four of his plate appearances.

Six different batters had hits for Venezuela. Asdrubal Cabrera and Prado both walked twice. Sandoval had the only RBIs for the maroon-and-gold. Venezuela committed an error in the field, but also turned four double plays and had an outfield assist.

Sánchez took the loss and threw only 20 pitches, meaning he could start again in Pool B action. Pedro Strop was given a discretionary victory as the five outs he got were more than any other pitcher for the D.R. He struck out two and did not allow a baserunner.

Both teams will have a day off to regroup. The victors will take on Spain on Mar. 9 at 4 p.m. GMT. Venezuela will square off against host Puerto Rico later that day at 9:30 p.m. GMT. Stay tuned for more World Baseball Classic news, reviews, and analysis.

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WBC: Cuba Defeats Japan; Wins Pool A

Well-Rounded Cuba Holds Off Japan, 6-3

By Gabriel Fidler (@gabrielfidler)

Fully hitting its offensive stride, Cuba used a powerful hitting attack to defeat Japan 6-3 in the Fukuoka Dome. Both sides had already qualified for the second round of the World Baseball Classic, but Cuba takes the No. 1 seed to Tokyo, befitting of its top ranking in the International Baseball Federation charts.

Both teams received good starting pitching and the crowd in the Dome spent all but a few pitches cheering loudlyin unison for Japan and banging ‘Thunder Sticks’ together to create a riotous and deafening atmosphere. Despite playing on home turf, third-rated Japan batted first because of tournament rules and almost took a 2-0 lead in the top of the first frame.

With two outs, HirokazuIbata reached on a bouncer up-the-middle. The MVP of the Japan’s Central League, Shinnosuke Abe, stepped to the plate against Wilbur Pérez and blasted a 1-1 pitch to deep right centre. Cuba’s centerfielder, Guillermo Heredia, raced into the alley and caught the ball at the fence.

Kenji Otonari was perfect through the first two frames, and Japan threatened again in the second, putting two runners on base with one out, but could not produce a run.

After a third inning in which he put a runner in scoring position and gave up another warning track out to Abe, Cuban manager Víctor Mesa pulled Pérez to protect the perilous 1-0 lead. The left-hander gave up three hits and a walk, sending three down swinging.

YasmanyTomás broke Otonari’s six batter hitless streak in a dramatic way. Leading off the first, Tomás took a 1-1 pitch and crushed it about 20 rows into the left centre field bleachers. The blow was the longest of the tournament, beating even teammate José Dariel Abreu’s prodigious home run a day before. The blast travelled around 440 feet by unofficial estimation.

Otonari would escape the inning without allowing another run, but his night was over after three frames. He struck out two and walked none, giving up one other hit.

Japan continued to press for a run against reliever Yander Guevara. With two outs, Sho Nakata hit a grounder to BárbaroArruebarruena, who had otherwise showed impressive defensive chops. The Cuban shortstop booted the ball, giving the Samurai a chance in the fourth. AtsunoriIbata, at 40 one of the oldest players in the WBC, stroked a single between first and second, but Guevara struck out Nobuhiro Matsuda to end the inning. Matsuda had been three for his last eight.

Cuba added a run against reliever Masahiro Tanaka. Tanaka, normally the ace of Japan’s staff, had struggled against Brazil in Game One. Koji Yamamoto, Japan’s manager, inserted the right-hander for a tune-up before the second round.

Tanakastruggled against Brazil using the more slippery American baseball, which is different than the ball used in Japan. He looked no more comfortable to start the fourth. José Fernández greeted him with a single and scored on a booming double by FrederichCepeda. After catching Abreu looking, Alfredo Despaigne hit a single to put two runners on base.

Tanaka suddenly found his groove, striking out Tomás and Eriel Sánchez to end the frame. Cuba had the 2-0 lead, but Japan was far from out of it, having put six runners on base during the first four innings.

Guevara allowed a walk, but Japan once again failed to capitalise and Tanaka took the hill for the bottom of the fifth. The righty continued where he left off in the fourth, mixing a fastball that was hitting the mid-90s/high-140s with a splitter and a nasty breaking pitch to strike out the side.

Japan could not capitalise on Tanaka’s performance in the sixth despite having runners on first and third with one out. Reliever Norberto González entered with two outs and got Inaba on a double play, erasing Nakata, who reached in all four plate appearances.

After HirokazuSawamura relieved to start the frame, Cuba took back the momentum and increased their lead. A red-hot Fernández ripped a double to deep right centre field and Abreu drove in Cuba’s third run two batters later. The slugger stole second base but Sawamura marooned him on second.

González continued to induce ground balls in the seventh, retiring Japan 1-2-3. Masahiko Morifuku also threw a scoreless frame, and the score was still 3-0 entering the eighth.

Cuba’s hurler stayed on the hill for another frame with similar results, needing only 14 pitches to get outs from all three batters. The red-and-blue would get González an additional cushion in the bottom of the inning against new pitcher Takeru Imamura.

With one out, Cepeda walked and Abreu hit a long single down the left field line. Despaigne made Imamura pay, ripping a three-run homer to left centre that travelled almost as far as Tomás’. Two strikeouts by Imamura would get Japan out of the eighth, but the lead had grown to 6-0.

González remained on the mound to start the ninth, and finished his run of nine batters retired in-a-row with a long flyout on the warning track in centre field. Mesa called in RaicelIglesías for some extra work, but the righty walked Nakata and pinch hitter KatsuyaKakunaka on full counts.Despite six-run margin, Cuba’s manager yanked his pitcher.

Darién Núñez became the sixth pitcher to take the hill for the red-and-blue. The southpaw fared no better than Iglesías, walking pinch hitter Yuichi Honda on five tosses. Mesa, much to the disbelief of those watching, pulled the left-hander and brought in Vladimir García.

García went to a full count on Hisayoshi Ch?no as Mesa stood gesticulating in the dugout, continuing to bellow in frustration as he had all inning. Desperate to throw a strike, García gave Ch?no something to hit, and Japan’s leadoff hitter bounced a ball over the pitcher’s mound that Arruebarruena made an acrobatic dive to snare.

Ch?no was safe by the time the shortstop could look for an out, and Nakata crossed the plate with the Samurai’s first run. Takashi Toritani then plated a second run on sacrifice fly, and Kakunaka made it 2-0.

With two outs and García throwing strikes, Mesa continued to show his passionate nature, marching to the mound to confer with his hurler, telling Sánchez, the catcher, to remain behind the plate as he conferred with García.

The talk did not appear to do any good, as Ibata stroked a line drive into the first base hole to score Honda. With the chanting crowd reaching a fever pitch, Japan sensed there might be more, but García struck out RyojiAikawa to end the game.

It was the first time since the 2008 Olympics that Cuba had beaten a full strength Japan. Cuba scored six runs on 10 hits, and an extra-base hit was involved on every score. Fernández improved his WBC average to .625 with two more hits, and Abreu and Despaigne joined him with a brace. Six different hitters scored for the red-and-blue, which hit .375 with runners in scoring position.

Ibata and Nakata each had two of Japan’s seven hits. The Samurai left 10 runners on base and were only 2-for-10 with runners in scoring position.

Otonari took the loss despite a strong effort, while the 36-year old Pérez earned his first-ever WBC victory. Guevara and González picked up holds. The team struck out eight to Japan’s 10.

Both teams advance to Tokyo, where Cuba will take on the Netherlands on Mar. 8 at 3 a.m. GMT. Japan will face Asian rivals Chinese Taipei at 10 a.m. GMT on Mar. 9. The WBC changes to double elimination from the second round onward, with the top two teams from each second round bracket advancing to the semifinals.

Check back for more news, analysis, and previews of the rest of the World Baseball Classic.

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WBC: Korea Wins but Eliminated

Korea Eliminated Despite Win Over Chinese Taipei

By Gabriel Fidler (@gabrielfidler)

With excitement befitting of the stakes at hand, Korea and Chinese Taipei battled for the right to advance to the second round of the World Baseball Classic.Fourth-ranked Korea used a dramatic eighth inning to earn a 3-2 victory, but it was the host, Chinese Taipei, who advanced via tiebreaker rules. It is fifth-rated Chinese Taipei’s first-ever second round appearance, while Korea, which has the most wins in WBC history, had never failed to advance.

Chinese Taipei, Korea, and the Netherlands all finished 2-1 in the pool, so a tiebreaker was necessary to determine the two teams that would move on to Tokyo. Using a complicated formula involving run differential, it was determined that Chinese Taipei was more deserving to join Cuba, Japan, and the Dutch in the second round.

Both teams threatened throughout the game, which featured only a single 1-2-3 inning per side. Each manager used his game liberally as the tension mounted throughout the game.

Chinese Taipei was the first to take advantage of their runners on base. Dai-Kang Yang led off the third with an infield single, though Korean starter Won-Jun Chang got the next two batters, including a bunting Che-Hsuan Lin, who plays for the Houston Astros. But with two outs, Chih-Sheng Lin, Chinese Taipei’s cleanup hitter, stroked a single to centre to plate Yang. Szu-Chih Chou followed with a single, but Chang struck out Yung-Chi Chen, hero of the 2006 WBC.

The hosts added another run an inning later. Yen-Wen Kuo ripped a two-out double into the right field corner. After Kyung-Eun Noh relieved, Yang stroked a single over the mound to plate Kuo and give Chinese Taipei a 2-0 advantage.

After loading the sacks and failing to score in the fourth, Korea came very close to finally putting a run on the scoreboard in the fifth. Keun-Woo Jeong reached on a fielding error with one out and, two batters later, cleanup hitter Dae-ho Lee, who hit .455 for the tournament, stepped up to the plate.

Lee launched a ball into the alley in right centre and Jeong raced around the bases, but Lin sent a good throw in from centre that was cut off by Kuo, who fired the ball to catcher Chih-kang Kao as Jeong reached the plate. Kao planted himself firmly over the plate as he caught the ball, and Jeong barrelled into him.

Chinese Taipei’s catcher held steady and Jeong was out, failing to even touch the plate. It was the second time Jeong was cut down on the basepaths, as in the first inning he tried to advance to third after stealing second with a wild throw and was out 8-5.

Korea’s second reliever, Hee-Soo Park, continued where he had left off in the fifth and retired Chinese Taipei 1-2-3 to give Korea a quick chance to threaten again. Ching-Lung Lo entered for Chinese Taipei, though, and got two strikeouts to continue the shutout for Chinese Taipei.

Neither team got a safety in the seventh and Chinese Taipei got nothing out of a hit in the eighth. In the bottom of the frame, Chinese Taipei’s manager, Chang-Heng Hsieh, sent in setup man Hong-ChihKuo to get the ball to his closer.

After failing to create much momentum on offence throughout the game despite 10 baserunners, Korea finally got firing on all cylinders. Kuo, a seven-year MLB veteran, gave up a ground rule double to Seung-Yeop Lee to lead off the frame. It was his third double in as many games. Lee moved to third on a passed ball and, with no outs, the Blue Bogy finally had a rally going.

Dae-Ho Lee drove his man home with a safety to left, but Kuo buckled down and got the next two outs. It appeared that the southpaw would get out of the inning with the 2-1 lead intact, but Jung-Ho Kang took Kuo deep to left field, with the four-bagger landing well over the wall.

Kuo struck out the final batter to ensure that Korea would not advance in spite of the win. Chinese Taipei’s arch-rivals had to win by at least five runs to advance, so the home run gave Korea nothing but a bit of pride after Seung-Hwan Oh got the last three outs for the save.

Chinese Taipei out-hit the blue-and-white 9-8, but left nine runners on base. They were 1-for-6 with runners in scoring position. Yang was the only hitter from Chinese Taipei with two hits and only Chou also reached base twice.

Korea also stranded nine baserunners, though they had only three reach scoring position. Kang and Dae-Ho Lee both recorded a brace of hits. Jeong walked twice and had Korea’s only stolen base.

Four hurlers toed the rubber for the loser. Yao-Hsun Yang started and threw 2 2/3 frames, working around three baserunners. He struck out one. Ching-Ming Wang hurled 2 1/3 innings, going unscathed despite three hits and a walk with no strikeouts. Lo had the strongest outing, striking out two in two frames. Kuo was the final pitcher.

Korea’s manager Joong-Il Ryu went to the ‘pen more liberally, sending six pitchers to the mound. Chang tossed 3 2/3, allowing six of Chinese Taipei’s nine hits and both of their runs. He struck out a pair. Won-Sam Jang earned the victory in relief, throwing a scoreless eighth. Oh whiffed two in a perfect ninth.

Korea qualifies for the 2017 Classic, but will drop from the No. 4 position in the world rankings. Korea is now 14-5 in WBC history. By virtue of their defeat of the Netherlands, Chinese Taipei is the Pool B winner and will face No. 3 Japan, who finished second in Pool A. After going 1-4 in the two previous Classics, Chinese Taipei is 5-1 in all rounds of the 2013 edition.

The two sides will face off in the Tokyo Dome on Mar. 8 at 10 a.m. GMT. Chinese Taipei will be the home team. Stay tuned for news, reviews, and analysis of this year’s WBC.

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WBC: China Defeats Brazil, Qualifies for 2017 Classic

China Qualifies for 2017 WBC with Dramatic Comeback

By Gabriel Fidler (@gabrielfidler)

China used a late rally to stun baseball darlings Brazil and cement their spot in the 2017 World Baseball Classic (WBC). Brazilian relievers walked in three runs in a disastrous eighth inning that gave China a 5-2 victory.

The game started off promisingly for Brazil as start Oscar Nakaoshi looked impressive in his second Classic start. China’s Tao Bu was almost as consistent, but the blue-and-yellow struck first in the second innings.

Daniel Matsumoto was hit by an errant Bu pitch to start the frame and advanced to second on a wild pitch. China caught an unlucky break when J.C. Múñiz struck a soft liner off Bu’s foot which caromed through the shortstop hole while Matsumoto raced around with the first run. Brazil would put another runner on after a Chinese error, but Bu showed his veteran poise in retiring the third out.

China almost evened the score in the bottom of the frame. The hot-hitting Ray Chang ripped a single to deep left centre to lead off the inning. Fujia Chu dropped down a bunt that confused Nakaoshi and third baseman Leonardo Reginatto and Chu beat out what was meant to be a sacrifice.

Wei Wang advanced Chang to third with a long fly to right, but Nakaoshi turned up the heat on the next two batters, striking both out to end the threat.

After exchanging zeroes in the third, Chang gave China another scoring chance in the fourth. The team’s only professional player laced another safety to almost exactly the same spot, but legged out two bases. Chu tried once more to bunt him over, but struck out. Chang moved to third on a wild pitch, but Nakaoshi sent his sixth man of the day down swinging and got a grounder to escape the jam.

Bu would go one inning longer than his opponent before exiting due to pitch count restrictions. He retired the final eight batters he faced, keeping Brazil off-balance with a mixture of breaking pitches and a high-80s/mid-140s fastball. Bu did not walk a batter and collected two strikeouts, failing to go to a three-ball count on a single batter.

After four complete innings, Nakaoshi gave way to Murilo Gouvea, Brazil’s star reliever. Since the start of the WBC in November, Gouvea had thrown 8 2/3 frames and had given up only one run. The right-hander immediately took control against the Chinese lineup.

Gouvea did not allow a hit between the fifth and seventh innings, using a fastball with late movement to blow away the Chinese lineup, hitting the low-90s on several pitches.

In the top of the seventh, Brazil got an insurance run for Gouvea, who looked as if one run would be an impregnable deficit for China to overcome. Tiago Magalhães and Reinaldo Sato started things off with one-base hits against reliever Qingyuan Meng.

The third batter, Múñiz, laid down a perfect bunt toward the third base side of the mound and raced to first, beating out a late throw to load the bases. Diego França scored Magalhães on a grounder and pinch hitter Pedro Okuda walked to load the bases.

New reliever Jiangang Lu, one-of-two veteran hurlers along with Bu, got two consecutive fly balls to left, the first off Paulo Orlando, Brazil’s most experienced hitter.

China could not take advantage in the bottom of the seventh against Gouvea, who picked up two of his strikeouts and needed only nine pitches to finish the frame. Lu also continued his strong work in the eighth, retiring his third through fifth-straight batters.

With both pitchers sailing through the late innings, it appeared that Brazil, who was favoured in the contest, would claim their first guaranteed spot in a Classic. The tone of the contest, however, suddenly altered in the bottom of the eighth.

After retiring six in-a-row, Gouvea gave up an infield single to Weiqiang Meng, but appeared to have righted the ship against the next batter, getting an easy four-pitch strikeout. Brazil’s hurler quickly lost control of the strike zone, walking .111-hitter Xiao Cui on five pitches and then loading the bases on a four-pitch walk to Xu An.

Manager Barry Larkin had seen enough, and called in his closer Thyago Vieira, who was electric against Panamá in November. The 20-year old right-hander entered to face the heart of the order as he had twice in the qualifier. Vieira started off with two balls and then almost hit Lei Li with the third pitch. The concern on his face was obvious, and Larkin stood staring in disbelief in the dugout and Vieira threw a fourth ball to walk in a run.

Next up was Chang, who was 2-for-3 in the game and had the biggest hit in Chinese baseball history in 2009. Chang ripped a three-run homer and two singles to almost singlehandedly defeat Chinese Taipei, but stepped to the plate needing only to push across a single run with one out.

After having been stranded on third to end the second and fourth frames, Chang took matters into his own hands, lining a third consecutive hit to left centre. Cui and An raced home, and China suddenly had its first lead of the 2013 tournament.

Vieira got Chu to erase Chang on a fielder’s choice and needed only one more out to keep the deficit at three. Instead, he hit Wei Wang to reload the bases.

Larkin dipped into the bullpen again, and Hugo Kanabushi took the hill. The southpaw ran the count full against Zhenhong Lu, who was hitless in the Classic before sending him to first on the base on balls. Li scored China’s fourth run, and Kanabushi completed the catastrophe with a four-pitch walk to Meng.

With the bases still loaded and China now up 5-2 despite only two hits in the inning, Larking inserted Daniel Missaki. Missaki, looking every inch of his 16 years of age, did what the others could not do, running a fastball with late-breaking movement on the edge of the plate for a called strike one. After a ball, he got a second strike with the same pitch and then induced a grounder to final end the inning.

All told, China sent 11 men to the plate and drew five free passes and a hit batsman. The three-run lead was more than enough for Lu, who gave up a hit to Sato in the ninth but erased him on a double play, putting an exclamation point on the victory with a strikeout of pinch hitter Alan Fanhoni.

Lu earned the victory with 2 2/3 frames of scoreless relief, scattering a walk and a hit and whiffing a pair. Gouvea, meanwhile, went 3 1/3 innings and surrendered a single hit, but walked three and gave up three hits. He had three Ks.

Chang had three of the red-and-gold’s six safeties. China walked six times, including two by Cui. Sato and Múñiz both had a brace of hits, though Brazil only managed six against what most believed was the thinnest pitching staff in the tournament. Reginatto’s five-game hitting streak ended, though he led Brazil with a .478 average in the WBC. The blue-and-yellow left six runners on base.

China will await their assignment for the 2017 World Baseball Classic, while Brazil will be relegated to the qualifying rounds. After a sweep through the 2012 qualifiers, Brazil’s record in the WBC is now 3-3, while China is 2-7. Stay tuned for news, reviews, and analysis leading up to the next Classic, including all the coverage of this year’s WBC.

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WBC: Netherlands Eliminate Australia Behind Strong Outing from Cordemans

Cordemans Helps Orange Eliminate Australia

By Gabriel Fidler (@gabrielfidler)

Robbie Cordemans hurled five shutout innings for the Netherlands and Jonathan Schoop hit a two-run homer in a 4-1 victory over Australia. The Dutch team all but bought their ticket to second round action in Tokyo with the victory, while the Aussies were relegated to the qualifying rounds.

The Dutch offence would give Cordemans the early cushion and their starter would make it hold. Andrelton Simmons led off the first with a booming double into the left field corner and was bunted to third by Schoop. Roger Bernadina rapped a single up the middle to drive him in, and the Netherlands were up by one.

An inning later, Curt Smith started things going for the Netherlands with a safety to left centre. Dashenko Ricardo laid down a bunt to move him over, but beat it out, advancing to second on a wild throw by Australian starter Dushan Ruzic. Simmons would drive Smith home on a grounder, but the Dutch were not finished.

Schoop took a 2-0 pitch from Ruzic and deposited it over the left centre field fence for a 4-0 lead, which was more than Cordemans would need. The blast would force Ruzic from the game after he got Bernadina for the third out.

With the Orange offence in charge, Cordemans kept the pressing Australian hitters off-balance for five complete innings. Using a deceptive changeup, the right-hander allowed only one baserunner to make it to third and gave up two hits while sending three down swinging. He struck out two of the last three hitters he faced, using only 67 pitches.

After Ruzic exited, Australian manager Jon Deeble inserted game one starter Chis Oxspring in relief of Ruzic. Oxspring was just what the Baseballroos needed to keep the win within sight. The southpaw battled through his first two innings before settling down, showing his veteran experience in the third and fourth.

With the Dutch eager to blow open the game, they loaded the bases with one out in Oxspring’s first frame, starting with a double by Wladimir Balentien. After struggling with his control to the first four batters, the Aussie pitcher induced a double play grounder to third to end the frame.

In the fourth, Oxspring had difficulty finding the strike zone to the leadoff hitter Randolph Oduber, losing him on a walk and bobbling a sacrifice bunt by Simmons to put runners on first and second with no outs. But first baseman Mike Walker made a good play on another Schoop bunt and got the lead runner at third. Oxspring then took over, striking out Bernadina looking and getting Balentien, the cleanup hitter, on a foul pop fly to get out of the jam.

Oxspring pitched five frames out of the ‘pen, retiring seven in-a-row at one point, starting the run with another double play. He walked four, but only surrendered a single hit, leaving after the seventh inning.

The green-and-yellow had their best chance to draw the game even in the seventh. David Bergman, like Cordemans an ace in the Honkbal Hoofdklasse (the top league in the Netherlands), gave up a leadoff double to Welch, who blasted the seventh pitch of the at bat into the right field corner. Bergman got the next two outs before giving way to Jonathan Balentina, who hit pinch hitter Corey Adamson with his only pitch.

Top Orange reliever Leon Boyd game in to get the Netherlands out of the predicament, but gave up a RBI single to Brad Harman. It was the Aussie second baseman’s first hit of the tournament. Boyd got out of the inning by striking out former major leaguer Chris Snelling.

Xander Bogaerts had his first-ever international hit, a double, to lead off the eighth. Andrew Russell, who came in for Oxspring, stranded him on three straight ground balls, and Australia had one final chance.

Dutch closer Loek Van Mil came in to finish off things, but gave up back-to-back one out hits to Walker and Adamson. Harman almost stole player-of-the-game honours from Cordemans with a blast off the 7-foot-1 hurler, but the long fly ball landed in the glove of Oduber in left field.

A palpable sigh of relief settled across the diamond, and Van Mil struck out the final hitter of the inning to earn the save and all but assure that the Netherlands will be joining Japan and Cuba in the second round of the Classic.

Cordemans ran his WBC shutout streak to 11 2/3 innings and earned his first-ever victory in the tourney. Bergman got five outs, giving up a run on two hits with no strikeouts and Boyd tossed 1 1/3, allowing two safeties and a base on balls. Van Mil closed things out with the scoreless ninth. Ruzic took the loss for the green-and-yellow.

Eight different players had a single hit for the Netherlands, which collected four extra base hits. The Orange struck out only once against Aussie pitching. Simmons had his third double and scored a run and Andruw Jones raised his average to .429, reaching base twice.

Walker was the only batter with two hits for Australia. He batted .455 in the tournament, one of few bright spots for a listless Aussie offence. For the third-straight game, the Australians could not get anything going from their bats, stranding eight batters in scoring position. The team was 1-for-8 with runners on second or third.

China fails to advance to the second round, but will avoid the WBC qualifying rounds. Australia will have a long road back to the Classic as it will enter the qualifiers for the first time. Stay tuned for more previews, recaps, and analysis of the 2013 Classic and the round to the 2017 WBC.

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WBC: Korea Shuts Out Australia to Keep Hopes Alive for Second Round

Song Delivers as Korea Shuts Out Australia

By Gabriel Fidler (@gabrielfidler)

Korea scored three runs in the first inning against Australia and Seung Song made the advantage stand up in a 6-0 victory over punchless Australia. The Blue Bogy was much more effective on defence and received the timely hits they were missing against the Netherlands two days prior.

Song utilised a filthy splitter to keep the Baseballroos swinging on pitches out of the zone, striking out five and scattering four baserunners in four innings. He retired six in-a-row late in his outing.

The Korean lineup gave him a 3-0 advantage before he ever took the mound as the first seven batters of the inning reached base. Seung-Yeop Lee ripped a double in the inning and Hyun-Soo Kim had a two-run single against Ryan Searle, who walked two and hit one in the frame.

Korea was back at it again in the second. Yong-Kyu Lee started things off with a single to left and came around on another two-bagger by Lee. Searle got out of the inning, but the four-run advantage was too much for an Australian offence that failed to put a rally in motion throughout the game.

Searle struggled through three innings before giving way to Steven Kent, who pitched two strong innings. The left-hander gave up only one hit to Dae-Ho Lee, erasing the slugger on a double play. He struck out one.

Australia had its best chance in the fifth inning. Tim Kennelly worked a seven-pitch at bat for a double, but Allan de San Miguel struck out after working a 3-0 count. James Beresford then blooped a hit to left centre, but Kennelly could not advance and reliever Hee-Soo Park got Mitch Dening to fly out to right and then struck out No. 3 hitter Luke Hughes.

Clayton Tanner put the blue-and-white away in the sixth, but Kyung-Eun Noh struck out two of the three hitters he faced in the bottom of the frame to prevent Australia from lessening the deficit.

Korea added another run in the seventh. Yong-Kyu Lee had his second hit to start things off, with Keun-Woo Jeong replacing him on a fielder’s choice. Dae-Ho Lee singled the run home and the Blue Bogy grabbed a 5-0 lead.

Australia’s struggles continued against Korea’s reliever in the seventh, despite a Kennelly leadoff hit. Noh and Tae-Hyon Chong teamed up to retire the final three batters.

Korea loaded the bases with two outs in the top of the eighth, and Jeong crushed a pitch to left field, but the wind blew it down and Australia escaped with no further damage.

The Aussies had their only other real opportunity in the bottom of the inning after Stefan Welch blooped a ball that landed in shallow left centre. Yong-Kyu Lee made a last-second attempt after Hi-Hyon Son pulled away at the last minute. Welch advanced to third on a ground ball, but Seung Lak-Son would retire Mike Walker, who had two hits on the day, to end the threat. It was the only time Australia had a runner reach third.

Korea struck a final time in the ninth off Ryan Rowland-Smith, who spent several years in the Seattle Mariners’ rotation. Seung-Yeop Lee led off with a safety and advanced to second on a single by Dae-Ho Lee, later scoring on a grounder by Jeong Choi. James Beresford made a nice play for the out, backing up a diving Welch at third and catching the ball after it tipped of Welch’s glove and nailing Choi by a step.

Son finished off the shutout by striking out two batters in the ninth. Park got four outs, two by strikeout and Noh struck out two-of-five batters in relief. Chong and Son finished off the game. Korean hurlers whiffed 12 batters and were backed up flawlessly by a defence which had committed four errors against the Netherlands.

Korea was 4-for-9 with runners in scoring position after going hitless against the Netherlands in the same situation. Australia was 1-for-11 in their attempts to drive men home from second or third.

Seung-Yeop Lee and Dae-Ho Lee both had three hits and a RBI. Yong-Kyu Lee reached base four times, twice on hits. Ah-Seop Son reached base in all four plate appearances.

Seven hurlers toed the rubber for Australia. Searle gave up four runs on four hits and two walks, striking out two. Kent was easily the most effective reliever, though Tanner (1 IP), Brad Thomas (1/3 IP), and Matthew Williams (2/3 IP) did not allow a run. Kennelly reached base in all three plate appearances and joined Walker with a brace of hits.

Barring a surprising turn of events, Australia will be eliminated from the Classic and will have to win their final match to avoid relegation to the qualifiers. The Aussies will take on the Netherlands in their final contest on only 18 hours rest. First pitch is at 4:30 a.m. GMT on Mar. 5. Korea will face Chinese Taipei, who is undefeated in Pool B action. The showdown between the Asian arch-rivals is set for 11:30 a.m. on Mar. 5.

Stay tuned for more news, reviews, and analysis.

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WBC: Cuba Crushes China

Abreu, Bell Launch Cuba to Second Win

By Gabriel Fidler (@gabrielfidler)

Cuba finally found its firepower against an overmatched Chinese pitching staff, putting up crooked numbers in the fourth and fifth innings on their way to a 12-0 mercy rule-shortened victory. José Abreu mashed a grand slam and Alexei Bell ripped a two-run homer to qualify Cuba for the second round.

Danny Betancourt started on the mound for Cuba and was dominant through 4 2/3, ensuring that China never had a chance to get any momentum offensively. He struck out eight, two shy of the WBC record, and allowed only one hit and a walk.

Cuba got on the board quickly in the first as José Fernández reached on an error and scored on a triple by Frederich Cepeda to the warning track in right centre. The red-and-blue loaded the bases in the second, but China’s starter Xin Li battled out of the jam.

Fernández stroked a single to start the third and scored on a safety by Abreu, but Li would once more escape the predicament. Li would finally be reached in the fourth after a series of strange events.

Báarbaro Arruebarruena legged out an infield hit to lead off the inning, and reached second on a throwing error by Li. China then tried to appeal that the Cuban shortstop had missed first base after stepping on Fujia Chu’s foot, but the umpires had to tell them to throw to first to complete the appeal. After discussion with China manager John McLaren and Li via interpreter, the appeal was denied. Once McLaren left the field, Arruebarruena sped off to third and swiped the bag before a pitch was thrown.

Two batters later, Alexei Bell ripped a home run to left centre, making the score 4-0. Li allowed another single to Fernández before exiting the game. Yu Liu relieved and Cepeda laced a ground-rule double down the left field line. Two batters later, Alfredo Despaigne thumped another two-bagger to the same area to plate both runners. Liu would get out of the inning, but not before Cuba had a 6-0 advantage.

The red-and-blue broke the game wide open in the fifth. Liu got the first out, but walked Arruebarruena. A hit by Guillermo Heredia and a walk to Yasmany Tomás loaded the bases before Fernández had his third hit of the day. The single to deep right plated two.

Cepeda walked to once more jam the sacks full, but Abreu unloaded them with a monstrous grand slam to left-centre. The blast travelled well over 400 feet. Liu retired the next two batters, but Cuba had a 12-0 lead.

Three Cuban relievers closed out the game, combining with Betancourt on the three-hit shutout. The red-and-blue settled for the 12-run mercy rule victory, though they put two runners on in the sixth.

Abreu led the squad with five RBI, falling short of Ken Griffey, Jr.’s WBC record of seven. Fernández paced Cuba with three hits and four runs scored, driving in two. Abreu was one of four players with a hitting brace, as was Despaigne, who drove in two. Cepeda upped his career average in the WBC to .457 with a double and a triple, two of six extra-base knocks by Cuba.

Betancourt accounted for all of Cuba’s strikeouts, earning his first WBC victory. Yadier Pedroso got four outs around a hit and a walk, and Vladimir García and Alexander Rodríguez finished off the game.

Li threw 3 1/3 innings, giving up four earned runs on eight hits and two walks. He struck out two, and pitched much better than his line would suggest, keeping Cuba off balance until the fourth. Liu was shelled for seven runs on five hits and three walks in 1 2/3. Song Ran gave up two hits in a scoreless sixth.

“Baseball is new in China,” McLaren told the media after China’s first game. “The guys play really hard. We are just trying to get better every day.”

China will attempt to avoid relegation to the qualifying rounds against Brazil on Mar. 5 at 8 a.m. GMT. The loser of the contest will have to earn a place in the 2017 WBC via a play-in tournament, while the winner will guarantee their spot.

Cuba and Japan will tangle to see who wins Pool A in the final game of the group. First pitch is scheduled for 10 a.m. GMT on Mar. 6. Stay tuned for more news, reviews, and analysis.

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WBC: Japan Improves to 2-0 After Win Over China

Maeda, Itoi Deliver Second Win for Japan

By Gabriel Fidler (@gabrielfidler)

Kenta Maeda threw five innings of one-hit ball and Yoshio Itoi blasted a three-run double to give Japan its second victory in the World Baseball Classic. China rallied in the ninth, but Japan held on for a 5-2 decision and China’s first loss of the tourney.

The matchup was the second scare in a row for the third-ranked Samurai. To the surprise of almost everyone, the contest was a pitchers’ duel through four and one-half frames. Xia Luo started for China and showed poise well beyond his 20 years, most evident after a difficult second inning.

After surrendering a walk and a stolen base to Itoi with one out, Luo dug in and induced a weak groundball to the mound for the second out. Sho Nakata bounced a ball to the left side that snuck through for a RBI single, and Luo hit the next batter.

With two runners on base, Luo went to a full count on Nobuhiro Matsuda, just missing the zone on the sixth pitch of the at bat. With the bases now loaded, Luo then retired Hayato Sakamoto to end the threat.

In the third, Luo struck out former major leaguer Kazuo Matsui in a 1-2-3 inning, and exited once hitting the 65-pitch limit in the fourth. The right-hander was the hard luck loser after working around three hits and two walks in 3 2/3, whiffing a pair.

Maeda needed only 56 pitches to dispose of the red-and-gold through the fifth. There was plenty of concern among Japanese officials when Maeda was struggling to get his fastball into the mid-80s/130s, but he touched 90 mph/145 kmh several times on the gun and using a nasty slider and breaking pitch to carve up the inexperienced Chinese lineup.

The righty gave up only a walk and a double to Lei Li, retiring the last five batters he faced. Maeda struck out six in his first-ever WBC win.

Japan added four much-needed insurance runs in the fifth. Matsuda led off with an infield single and Sakomoto laid down a bunt to push him over. Matsui walked to put two runners on against Dawei Zhu, who then gave up a run-scoring safety to Seiichi Uchikawa. After a walk to cleanup hitter Shinnosuke Abe, Kun Chen entered for China.

Itoi offered Chen a rude greeting, crushing Chen’s second pitch to dead centerfield, missing a home run by less than 10 feet. The two-bagger emptied the bases and gave Japan the 5-0 lead.

The bullpens dominated the game the rest of the way. Tetsuya Utsumi was the second pitcher for Japan, retiring all five batters he faced, two with the K ball. Hideaki Wakui struck out the only batter he faced before yielding to Hirokazu Sawamura.

Sawamura showed the best fastball of the tournament, striking out the side on 11 pitches in the eighth. The righty used a nice hook to complement a fastball that consistently hit 94 mph/151 kmh.

The Chinese ‘pen matched Japan’s veteran hurlers late in the game. Lu Shuai struck out Itoi and Nakata in a 1-2-3 eighth, and Jiangang Lu finished off the game with three quick outs, sending down Matsuda looking on strikes. Red-and-gold hurlers retired the final eight batters of the game.

China’s hitters made things interesting in the ninth against Tetsuya Yamaguchi. Pinch hitter Weiqiang Meng singled to right and Xiao Cui followed with a second-straight base hit through the hole on the right side to put runners on first and second with no one out.

Manager John McLaren, hoping for more magic, went to his bench once more and Jia Delong came off the bench to hit. Yamaguchi got him swinging, but threw a wild pitch to the next batter, Lei Li, that advanced both runners. Li struck out on a pitch that bounced in front of the plate, but the ball bounced to the backstop and Meng raced home with Brazil’s first run.

Li made it to first as the area behind home plate was too spacious for Japan to recover in time. Ray Chang, the only professional player on China’s roster, bounced a grounder to third to score Cui, and China had a runner on second with two outs. Yamaguchi was too much for pinch hitter Wei Dong, striking him out looking to end the game.

Samurai hurlers allowed only three hits and a walk, striking out 15 batters. China held Japan to six hits, but walked six batters, recording five strikeouts. Uchikawa and Nakata both had two hits to pace Japan, while Itoi reached base in two plate appearances.

China will have less than 24 hours to regroup for a battle with Cuba on Mar. 4 at 7:30 GMT. Japan will take three days off to prepare with their showdown with the same Cuban side. First pitch is at 10 a.m. on Mar. 6.

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Who will win the 2017 World Baseball Classic?

  • Puerto Rico (31%, 27 Votes)
  • Dominican Republic (13%, 11 Votes)
  • USA (13%, 11 Votes)
  • Mexico (11%, 10 Votes)
  • Other (8%, 7 Votes)
  • Cuba (8%, 7 Votes)
  • Venezuela (6%, 5 Votes)
  • Netherlands (5%, 4 Votes)
  • Japan (5%, 4 Votes)
  • Chinese Taipei (1%, 1 Votes)
  • South Korea (1%, 1 Votes)
  • Canada (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 88

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