World Baseball Classic Discussion and Game(s) Thread: 3/10

An upset and a near upset last night, and two rematches in the works today.  E8f10bd3-deee-4434-8568-8bb1a22e1c7b-e8f10bd3-deee-4434-8568-8bb1a22e1c7b_medium

via www.southernledger.com

Yesterday's Games:

Pool B: Game 3 - Mexico 14 South Africa 3

Not an altogether surprising result, although the game was very close until the seventh inning, and Mexico didn't really put it out of reach until the ninth. Gift Ngoepe had the best day at the plate for South Africa, hitting two triples, while on the mound, most of the South African pitchers got into some trouble - but Shannon Ekermans, currently a Junior at North Dakota State University, pitched a nice hitless innings, striking out 2 of 3 batters faced. For Mexico, starter Elmer Dessens pitched very nicely, going six deep while only allowing 3 hits and 2 runs (1 earned). Cherry Hudson Jr. scored three times, reaching base on a single and two walks, and Adrian Gonzalez was definitely the belle of the ball, hitting two home runs and a double, driving in six. Mexico stays in it to play the loser of today's Cuba v. Australia and South Africa goes home.

Pool C: Game 4 - Italy 6 Canada 2

Wow, Italy. The real story here is just that Canada's offense just couldn't put runs on the board despite good days by Justin Morneau (4-5, 2 2B) and Jason Bay (2-2, 2B, 2 BB). Problematically, Russell Martin, who had hit well against the US went 0-5. Most of the Canadian pitchers got roughed up, but none of them were really killed, and Jesse Crain finished up in the 8th and 9th by facing four batters and striking out all of them. For Italy, Chris Denorfia had a pretty brilliant game, going 4-4 with a walk and three doubles.Cooper and Grilli really pulled through in relief for Italia, combining for six scoreless innings, allowing only three hits (but 5 walks) between them. No doubt why home field advantage didn't hold up for Canada here - evidently only about 12,000 people showed up to watch this game.

Pool D: Game 4 - Puerto Rico 3 Netherlands 1

This was a crazy, close game with the Netherlands loading the bases in the first, but managing only one run. But with that one run, they managed to lead all the way until the 8th innning, when Puerto Rico rallied, and Yadier Molina came to the plate with the bases loaded and knocked in two with a double. Both pitching staffs had good days, obviously, and I know Sulbaran's performance has been discussed in other places. The Netherlands will now have a rematch against the DR today.

Today's Games:

Pool B: Game 4 - 10:00 PM EDT - Cuba v. Australia

While Australia did show that they could hit against Mexico, I think that hitting against Cuba will be a far greater challenge - and that Australia just won't be up to it. I can't find pitching matchups yet, but Cuba might turn to Pedro Luis Lazo, who is used mostly in relief, but did start a game in 2006's classic; Yulieski Gonzalez would be another solid option.

Pool C: Game 5 - 5:00 PM EDT - Italy v. Venezuela

When these teams met on Saturday, Venezuela shut out Italy 7-0, but since then, Venezuela lost to the US, and Italy won against Canada. Even though with the huge score the US put up, I didn't think Venezuela looked too bad against the US, and I think they're offense is going to win this for them. Because pitching for both teams is going to be rough. Italy is starting Adam Ottovino, a Cardinals prospectand former 1st rounder, who was not great in 2008 in AA, but looked alright in A+ in 2007 (but in the FSL, which is pitcher friendly. Jason Grilli, who the Italians have called on in relief a lot, will not be available, and neither will Chris Cooper. Venezuela's starter, Enrique Gonzalez is a 26 year old who started 18 games for Arizona in 2006. The winner faces the US on Wednesday, and the loser is eliminated.

Pool D: Game 5 - 6:30 PM EDT - Dominican Republic v. Netherlands

I don't know - I'm starting to drink the Netherlands Kool-aid. I still think the DR is more likely to win, but I mean, the Netherlands has played some surprisingly good baseball, and also gotten really lucky. While I still think the Dominican is going to take this, I'd say that the Netherlands has established itself as above the WBC bottom shelf. Although it didn't do them very much good in their first matchup, I think DR's pitching will give them the serious advantage here, as they're starting Ubaldo Jimenez , who put up a nice 115 ERA+ for the Rockies last year, against the Netherlands' Tommy Stuifbergen, who is only 20 years old, and displayed some nice stuff for the GCL twins in limited innings in 2007. (Sulbaran, btw, is not available, since he threw 30 pitches yesterday)

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