World Baseball Classic Update

March 10, 2009

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For those of you who are not sports fans, hang with me through the next couple of weeks. I’ll be hitting you with a heavy dose of WBC, but will return to a more regular mix of posts once the WBC is complete. I promise a non-sports post either Wednesday or Thursday (possibly both days, if I get more time to write).

This update covers the games from March 8 and March 9

Pool A

Game 5 (loser eliminated): Korea vs. Cuba (Sunday)
Korea ends China’s WBC with a 14-0 win. Korea starter Suk Min Yoon went 6 innings, allowing two hits and no runs. Korea was already up 4-0 in the 5th inning when they busted the game open by scoring five runs on three hits, two walks, one hit batter, and two errors. That’s not a pretty way to score runs, but it is effective. The mercy rule (one team ahead by 10 or more runs after 7 innings) was invoked after the top of the 7th.

Game 6 (determines the pool winner): Japan vs. Korea (Monday)
Korea avenged a game 3 loss to Japan with a 1-0 nail biter. Korea got their run on a walk and two singles against Japan starter Hisashi Iwakuma. Korea had just four hits in the game, but Korea’s pitches did no allow a run on six hits and no walks.

I find it a bit odd that Korea is the pool winner. My opinion is that the game 3 winner should be declared the pool winner, and the team that has a loss after the first 5 games is the pool runner-up. Japan shouldn’t feel too bad, as they lost a 1-0 squeaker and won a 14-0 rout – so they should be confident in their chances if they run into Korea again.

Pool A is complete.

Pool B

Game 1: Cuba vs. South Africa (Sunday)
This was a horrible mismatch on paper, and turned out to be a mismatch on the field as well. Cuba starting pitcher Norge Luis Vera allowed 2 hits in 6 innings, including no his through the first four innings. South Africa managed 4 hits in the game and finally dented the scoreboard in the 9th inning. Cuba hit 6 homers (5 solo shots) in the game, including 2 by Frederich Cepeda. Neither team committed an error.

Game 2: Mexico vs. Australia (Sunday)
In a stunner, Australia knocked off the home team Mexico 17-7. Australia hit four homers and set a WBC record for hits in a game with 22. Australia is kind of a low second tier club. They weren’t really expected to contend, but on the other hand, they are definitely a big jump up in talent from the likes of South Africa and Taipei. They’ll have their hands full with Cuba, and if they lose to Cuba, they would need to beat Mexico again in game 5 – something that the Mexico City crowd might not allow.

Game 3: (loser eliminated) Mexico vs. South Africa (Monday)
After being upset by Australia in their first game, Mexico bounced back with a 14-3 win over the toothless South Africa team. Adrian Gonzalez hit two homers and drove in six runs and Oscar Robles and Jorge Cantu also hit homers. This games was actually 3-2 after six innings, and the bats awoke for team Mexico. Elmer Dessens allowed two runs on three hits and no walks through six innings. Mexico will face the loser of Australia/Cuba in game 5. The winner of that game will advance to the next round.

Pool C

Game 3 (winner advances): USA vs. Venezuela (Sunday)
Rockies catcher Chris Iannetta saved a run by preventing a wild pitch, and then broke open the game with a three run double (advancing to third on the throw home) to make the game 6-3. The game also included homers by Kevin Youkilis, Ryan Braun, and Adam Dunn. Oddly, one of the guys on TV (a guest, I believe) initially credited the Dunn homer to Derek Jeter, in spite of the fact that the 6’6”, 275 pound Dunn looks absolutely nothing like Jeter. Well, I guess they are both human beings.

Game 4 (loser eliminated): Italy vs. Canada (Monday)
Wow. Italy beats Canada 6-2. I had Canada advancing as the #2 team in pool C, but that was not to be. Chris Denorfia was 4-4 with three doubles and two RBI. Dan Serafini (1st round MLB draft pick in 1992) didn’t allow any runs until the 4th inning, when he allowed the only two runs of the game. Interestingly, neither Denorfia nor Serafini were actually born in Italy. There is not birth or residency requirement in the WBC, so you see a lot of people (Americans, especially) playing for the country of their ancestors. This is true of many teams, not just Italy – I’m not suggesting that there is anything wrong with this, just that it’s an interesting aspect to the WBC.

Next: Italy and Venezuela face off in game 5, with the winner getting a trip to the next round.

Pool D

Game 3 (loser eliminated): Dominican Republic vs. Panama (Sunday)
The Dominican Republic bounced back from their upset loss to the Netherlands by shutting down Panama 9-0. Miguel Olivio hit two homers. Dominican starting pitcher Johnny Cueto went 4 2/3 innings. He allowed just two hits and a walk, but he did plunk two batters.

Game 4 (winner advances) Netherlands vs. Puerto Rico (Monday)
This game was closer than Puerto Rico would have liked, but they managed to punch their ticket to the next round with a 3-1 win over the Netherlands. The Netherlands scored in the top of the first and held a 1-0 lead until the 8th inning, when catcher Yadier Molina (of the famous catching Molinas) drove home two runs with a double.

Next: Game 5 will be a rematch of the Domincan Republic and Netherlands. The Netherlands has now strung together two good games – can they beat the Dominican Republic again and clinch a spot in the next round? I like the Dominican Republic to win the WBC, so I can’t turn against them now – I think the DR does bounce back and beat the Netherlands.

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