World Baseball Classic Thread: 3/16

The US team survives, but is bogged down with more injuries, Venzuela and Puerto Rico play for a guaranteed semifinal spot, and Cuba and Mexico try to stave off elimination against each other.

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More after the cut.

Yesterday:

Pool 1: Japan 6 Cuba 0

Daisuke Matsuzaka did indeed deliver, striking out 8 in his six shutout innings against the Cuban team. He didn't walk anyone, but it took him 86 pitches to do it. (One pitch over the limit). Aroldis Chapman did not have a good game for Cuba, by any means, allowing 3 runs in 2 1/3 innings, but he did hit 100 according to gameday. Japan's offense was unsurprising, scoring 6 runs on 12 hits (11 singles and 1 double) - Ichiro scored and drove in a run, despite being 0-5. The Cubans did manage 8 hits, but couldn't string them together, and their power was strangely absent. A bit off topic, since he didn't pitch yesterday - who else loves Watanabe and his great submarine pitching?

Pool 1: Korea 8 Mexico 2

Although Mexico struck first, scoring 2 runs in the top of the second, the Korean side tied it in that same inning, and afterwards managed to eke out a small lead, and pulling away in the seventh. Korea used a little havoc to great advantage, with a stolen base allowing them to score the tying run in the second on an error, and a double steal in the seventh that helped them put it away for good. Their three home runs probably didn't hurt any either. Oliver Perez allowed all three home runs, and left in the 5th innings to be relieved by Elmer Dessens. Korea's starter Ryu Hyun-Jin didn't have a great start, leaving the game after 2 2/3, after allowing 2 runs. More uncomfortable, the Kim In-Sik, the Korean manager later put in Kim Kwang-hyun and Yoon Suk-Min, 2 of Korea's other three starters. While neither threw enough pitches to keep them out of games, it still seems to show a certain lack of confidence in the bullpen.

Pool 2: USA 9 Netherlands 3

The USA really made their point early in the game, and although the Netherlands tried to make it interesting in late innings, they couldn't muster enough offense to really come within striking distance. Jimmy Rollins was great, hitting a triple and a two-run homer. Jeter was unclutch, hitting 0-3, and still hitless in round 2. Braves catcher Brian McCann replaced Ryan Braun (when Braun was mildly injured), playing left field and hitting a double. Adam Dunn hit his third home run of the classic (with the bases empty and after the US was well in the lead, so therefore unclutch). The other two members of the 2009 WBC 3 HR club are Frederich Cepeda of Cuba and Mexico's Karim Garcia. (Dunn did it in fewer AB's but only because he has six walks) Chipper Jones is out for the duration - because he played in the first game, he can't be replaced until the next round, but if the USA makes it to the semis, it has been speculated that Evan Longoria will be asked to participate. Matt Lindstrom is also out with injury, which might just be as well. There was a little awkwardness between Lindstrom and the Dutch, which Tom Verducci of SI covered.

 

Today:

Pool 1: 11:00 PM ET - Cuba v. Mexico

Both of these teams are a little sapped pitchingwise. In yesterday's game against Japan, Cuba brought out Ismel Jimenez, Yulieski Gonzalez, and Yunieski Maya for 30 pitches or more, making them unavailable to pitch today (along with yesterday's starter), while Mexico will miss only Oliver Perez. (But Mexico's pitching is a little more pathetic to begin with). Cuba will start Norge Luis Vera, who was great for Cuba in Round 1, but against South Africa. Mexico's starter is Jorge Campillo, who has so far given up only 1 run in 4 2/3 innings of work. Of course, Cuba trounced Mexico very recently, winning when the game ended on the mercy rule as Cuba put up nine runs in the bottom of the seventh. But, that time, Cuba relied on Gonzalez and Maya for a combined four innings. If Mexico can chase Vera early, I think they can send Cuba home tonight. On the other hand, if Cuba's sluggers like Gourriel and Despaigne can wake up against weak Mexican pitching, Cuba could win in seven again.

Pool 2: 8:00 PM ET - Venezuela v. Puerto Rico

While neither of these teams is facing the threat of elimination, they are playing for a nice prize - an automatic seat in the semifinals. I'm sure both teams would like to avoid rematching with the US for elimination tomorrow. Although not the initially best looking pitching corps in the tournament, the PR boasts the best team ERA of any team left in the classic - in 34 innings so far, they've only allowed 2 runs. 2! Venezuela has allowed 20. Tonight, PR will send Ian Snell to the mound, who went four innings in his previous WBC start, allowing one run. Against him, Venezuela will look to Feliz Hernandez, who is five years old. This will be his first start of the classic, although he pitched 4 innings in relief of Carlos Silva, allowing only 1 run. Of course, both teams have great hitters on their squads; I think the real question will be which pitching staff falters first.

 

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