PHOENIX–At first blush, Mexico manager Rick Renteria’s decision to start Yovani Gallardo against the United States on Friday could be considered a gamble.
Gallardo is Mexico’s best pitcher, and Team USA is considered the favorite in Pool D. In a winner-take-all format, putting your best pitcher against the best team would be the obvious choice. But in the World Baseball Classic, where two teams move on, it might make more sense to pitch Gallardo against Canada, Mexico's likely competition for the second team to advance out of the pool, or perhaps against upstart Italy, Mexico's first opponent on Thursday.
But Renteria isn’t necessarily gambling when he sends Gallardo, who went 16-9, 3.66 for the Brewers in 2012, to the mound against the U.S., because he has two pitchers behind Gallardo who spent the bulk of last season in the major leagues.
Canada manager Ernie Whitt has no such luxury. He doesn’t have one starter who started a game in the big leagues last year. [...] Continue Reading »
Pools A and B have wrapped in the Far East, with Cuba and Japan advancing out of Pool A in Fukuoka, Japan, and host Taiwan and the Netherlands advancing out of Pool B.
Pools C and D begin tomorrow, and the Baseball America World Baseball Classic Guide is now available to take you the rest of the way. It's 60-plus pages packed with previews, rosters, features and analysis of all things WBC.
It's available exclusively for the Apple iPad or iPhone, so if you haven't already, download the BA App at the iTunes Store. The app is free, and the WBC Guide costs just 99 cents.
FUKUOKA, Japan—Power bats led Cuba to a 6-3 victory over Japan today as the Cubans held off a ninth-inning surge from Japan to win Pool A of the World Baseball Classic with a 3-0 record.
Cuba took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the third inning on a home run by right fielder Yasmany Tomas, who got the start over Alexei Bell. Tomas, 22, has shown plus raw power and has looked like one of the young breakout players on the Cuban national team.
Cuba made it 2-0 in the fourth when Jose Fernandez led off with a single to center field and scored on the next play on a Frederich Cepeda double. It was 3-0 in the sixth after Jose Abreu pulled a single to left field to score Luis Rivera. Alfredo Despaigne helped Cuba pull away in the eighth with a three-run homer to make it 6-0, punishing a mistake left up out over the plate before taking plenty of time to admire the trajectory of his hit. [...] Continue Reading »
South Korea improved to 14-5 all-time in World Baseball Classic play Tuesday, rallying for three runs in the eighth and beating host Taiwan 3-2 to move to 2-1 in the 2013 WBC.
And yet that is the end of the tournament for Korea, which was eliminated despite the victory. Taiwan, the Netherlands and Korea all went 2-1 in Pool B, while Australia went 0-3. Using the TBQ formula the WBC employs to break three-way ties—essentially distilling runs scored and runs allowed versus each other—South Korea lost out to Taiwan and the Netherlands, which advance to the second round. [...] Continue Reading »
Success in international tournaments is becoming routine for the Netherlands.
The national team reached the second round of the 2009 World Baseball Classic and won the 2011 World Cup in Panama. Tuesday in Taiwan, the Dutch added another success, beating Australia 4-1 to move to 2-1 in Pool B in Taiwan and advance to the second round of the 2013 World Baseball Classic.
The Netherlands saved top starter Rob Cordemans, the 38-year-old ace and six-time Dutch Major League ERA champ, for the third and final game, and Cordemans came through with a gem. With a 65-pitch limit as part of WBC rules, Cordemans tossed five scoreless innings, giving up two hits and striking out three without walking anyone.
Cordemans, who pitched in four Olympics (1996, 2000, '04 and '08), and continued his recent international success. He won both starts (one over Cuba) in the '11 World Cup and pitched 6.2 scoreless innings in the '09 WBC. [...] Continue Reading »
FUKUOKA, Japan—Chinese baseball took another step forward today, rallying for five runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to beat Brazil 5-2 and secure automatic entry into the 2017 World Baseball Classic.
The game was essentially the Relegation Bowl, with a pair of 0-2 teams with limited baseball history fighting for a victory to avoid having to play a qualifier to be in the 2017 WBC and thus perhaps miss the '17 event altogether.
For most of the game, Brazil appeared to be in control, carrying a 2-0 lead into the bottom of the eighth. That's when suddenly, the free-swinging, light-hitting Chinese team started to show some semblance of an offensive approach, combined with a meltdown by a Brazilian bullpen that's had its lack of depth exposed in Japan's come-from-behind, 5-3 victory on the first day of the tournament.
Weqiang Meng singled to lead off the inning. After Yanyong Yang struck out swinging, Xiao Cui and Xu An drew back-to-back walks to load the bases for three-hole hitter Lei Li. Brazil manager Barry Larkin removed Astros righthander Murilo Gouvea from the game and went to the low-90s fastball of Mariners righthander Thyago Vieira.
Vieira promptly walked Li to make it a 2-1 game. Ray Chang, a 29-year-old who played in Triple-A for the Twins last year and is by far the team's best player, came through with a two-run single to give China a 3-2 lead. After a Fujia Chu groundout, Vieira hit Wei Wang with a pitch to load the bases, prompting Larkin to summon Hugo Kanabushi from the bullpen.
Kanabushi's control was no better, as he issued back-to-back, bases-loaded walks to Zhenhong Lu and Meng to push Brazil ahead 5-2 before 16-year-old Daniel Missaki came on to get the final out of the eighth inning.
"No doubt that was the biggest hit of my life," Chang said. "I've played seven, eight years of professional baseball and I've had some clutch hits in my career, but nothing like this. This is not just for a Single-A, Double-A team, this is for an entire country. We knew how big this game was and you could see the emotions on the guys' faces after the win how much it meant to them. To be able to play a part in that in the end, it's just surreal. I can't even believe it. It's an awesome feeling."
After an opening loss to the Netherlands, South Korea had to have a win against Australia to stay in the running to be one of the two teams that will advance to the second round of the World Baseball Classic out of Pool B in Taichong, Taiwan.
Behind former Red Sox farmhand Song Seung Jun and an 11-hit attack, the Koreans did just that, beating Australia 6-0 for their first WBC win of 2013.
Leadoff man Lee Yong Kyu had two and scored twice, while first baseman Lee Seung Yeop and DH Lee Dae Ho, the heart of the Korean lineup, had three hits apiece. South Korea jumped on Cubs farmhand Ryan Searle for four hits and four runs in the first two innings, giving Song a working margin early. [...] Continue Reading »
FUKUOKA, Japan—In a nearly empty stadium that had the energy of a library, Cuba trounced China 12-0, invoking the mercy rule after the top of the seventh inning to improve to 2-0 in the first round of the World Baseball Classic.
The official attendance of the game was listed at 3,123, but whoever was counting must have included every player, coach, scout, media member and stadium employee who walked through the gate because the stadium was virtually empty. In reality, there appeared to be about 86 fans in the stadium, with neither team proving to be much of a draw for the fans in Fukuoka, creating the feeling of an Arizona Fall League game in a dome.
China kept the game competitive early, with Cuba holding a 2-0 edge after three innings, but Cuba broke things open in the bottom of the fourth. Right fielder Alexei Bell, who wore batting gloves to the postgame press conference, hit a two-run homer to give Cuba a 4-0 lead. Later in the inning, left fielder Alfredo Despaigne brought two runs home with a double to left field to make it 6-0.
FUKUOKA, Japan—China kept the game close in the early innings, but Japan scored four runs in the bottom of the fifth en route to a 5-2 victory on the second day of the World Baseball Classic.
While Japan improved to 2-0, the 2013 national team hasn't looked strong as the ones that won the two previous WBCs with Ichiro Suzuki, Yu Darvish and Daisuke Matsuzaka. Games against Brazil and China should have been easy victories for Japan, but it took a late-inning comeback to beat Brazil and Japanese hitters had trouble handling well-below-average stuff from Chinese pitchers in a game in which some scouts before the game thought the mercy rule would have to come into play.
Chinese starter Xia Luo was only throwing 82-84 mph but managed to keep runs off the board, limiting Japan to one run over 3 2/3 innings. China manager John McLaren said that he shuffled around his pitchers before the game, so Luo didn't know until game time that he would be getting the start.
"He was moving the ball around and he was changing speeds," McLaren said. "He was getting ahead of them. When you get ahead, I don't care what level you are, there's a lot of pitchers in the big leagues who don't throw hard that have feel for pitching. I was really proud of him."
Luo gave up one run in the bottom of the second inning, when left fielder Sho Nakata singled on a ground ball to left field, scoring right fielder Yoshi Itoi. With Luo out of the game, Japan tacked on four runs in the fifth, with Seiichi Uchikawa driving home a run on a single to right field, followed by a Yoshio Itoi double that scored three runs.
Japanese starter Kenta Maeda posted a strong line with five shutout innings, one hit, one walk and six strikeouts. That had more to do with China's lack of impact at the plate than anything special from Maeda, who sat at 87-90 mph and mixed in a sharp breaking ball.
"We have a long way to go," McLaren said. "We strike out a lot and we don't work the count, but give us time. Give us time."
China's hitters were quiet for the first eight innings, but they rallied to score two runs in the ninth inning after back-to-back singles by Weiqiang Meng and Xiao Cui along with a couple of wild pitches to move them along.
"We haven't been playing baseball as long as Japan and Korea, but we're going to get better," McLaren said. "We're working at it hard. They're starting to play baseball on a regular basis in China, so we just want the fans in China and the young kids to see us playing on TV, give them inspiration to play the game."
Netherlands and host Taiwan entered Saturday's game tied atop Pool B with first-game victories against South Korea and Austrlia, respectively. The winner of their contest would be nearly ensured of being one of the two teams to advance to the second round out of pool play, making it the most crucial of the World Baseball Classic so far.
Taiwan responded with a dominating performance, rallying from an early 3-0 deficit to win 8-3 in front of a capacity crowd of 20,035 in Taichung. Six Taiwan pitchers limited the Netherlands to one hit, a two-run second-inning single by Dashenko Ricardo (Giants). [...] Continue Reading »
FUKUOKA, Japan—Brazil kept the game competitive early for the second straight day, but the bullpen couldn't hold back Cuba in a 5-2 loss to Cuba in the World Baseball Classic, dropping Brazil to 0-2 and putting Cuba at 1-0 in Pool A.
White Sox righthander Andre Rienzo held Brazil scoreless through four innings, but Cuba got on the board in the fifth inning and continued doing damage against Brazil's bullpen, after Rienzo had surpassed his WBC-mandated first-round pitch count of 65.
In the fifth inning, after second baseman Jose Fernandez drew a walk and catcher Eriel Sanchez struck out on a bunt attempt, shortstop Erisbel Arruebarruena singled to center field, sending Fernandez to third. Facing center fielder Guillermo Heredia, Rienzo induced a ground ball to shortstop Marcio Tanaka in what what likely would have been an inning-ending double play, but Arruebarruena was running on the pitch and beat the flip to second base. Heredia was out at first base, but Fernandez scored from third base to give Cuba its first run.
With Rienzo having hit his pitch count, righthander Ernesto Noris—a 40-year-old Cuban emigre—came on in relief and surrendered a line-drive single to left field by right fielder Alexei Bell, scoring Arruebarruena to give Cuba a 2-0 lead. Cuba tacked on three more runs in the sixth inning, with Arruebarruena driving in two of the runs on a single to left field.
Cuban starter Ismel Jimenez struck out six with no walks and four hits over 4 2/3 scoreless innings. Brazil had chances to score early in the game but couldn't capitalize. "We had runners on base early in the ballgame," manager Barry Larkin said, "but Jimenez made pitches when he had to."
In the second inning, left fielder Tiago Magalhaes hit a one-out double to center field, then advanced to third on the single by right fielder Juan Carlos Muniz 9also of Cuban descent). Brazil couldn't push a run across the plate, however, as catcher Diego Franca struck out swinging and Muniz, 37, got thrown out stealing second to end the inning.
In the third inning, second baseman Felipe Burin grounded a two-out single up the middle, then moved ahead to second base on a line-drive single to center field by third baseman Leonardo Reginatto (Rays). First baseman Daniel Matsumoto put a charge into a ball over the head of Heredia in center field, but Heredia tracked it down for the final out of the inning.
Arruebarruena finished 2-for-4 a run scored and drove in two runs, while Cuban DH Frederich Cepeda went 2-for-4 with a walk and scored a run. The 32-year-old Cepeda, a Cuban national team stalwart playing in his third WBC, is now 24-for-54 (.444) all-time in WBC play.
Matsomoto went 2-for-4 and drove in a run for Brazil, which scored two unearned runs in the sixth to close the gap. Reliever Raciel Iglesias struck out five in three scoreless innings for Cuba to shut the door and earn the save.
In 2009, the Netherlands' national team was one of the World Baseball Classic's biggest stories, pulling off a pair of upsets against the Dominican Republic to advance to the second round.
That, and the Dutch 2011 World Cup championship, made Saturday's 5-0 victory against South Korea a bit less of a surprise to international baseball observers. But it was still an upset, considering South Korea's 12-4 overall record in the first two Classics.
The Dutch got four scoreless innings from lefthander Diegomar Markwell, a former Blue Jays farmhand and international veteran. The 32-year-old earned the victory and got a significant assist from another Dutch national team vet, righthander Orlando Yntema, who pitched in the U.S. minors in the Giants system. [...] Continue Reading »
FUKUOKA, Japan—Brazil nearly pulled off another upset, but Japan rallied for three runs in the top of the eighth inning to win 5-3 in the World Baseball Classic opener in the Fukuoka pool.
Brazil jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the top of the first and caught a break when Japanese starter Masahiro Tanaka, one of the main attractions for scouts in the WBC, was pulled after only two innings and 26 pitches. Tanaka, 24, allowed one run (it was unearned) with four hits, no walks and no strikeouts.
"His first outing was rough," said Japan manager Koji Yamamoto through an interpreter. "Today in his second inning, although he was facing (Brazil's) seventh and eighth hitters, it was not solid pitching, so that's why we changed (pitchers)."
Brazil third baseman Leonardo Reginatto went 3-for-4 with two doubles and drive in two runs, including a fifth-inning double into the left-center field gap to give Brazil a 3-2 lead.
Brazil held on to that edge until the eighth inning, when Japan first baseman Hirokazu Ibata tied the game with an RBI single to right field. Shunnosuke Abe, the MVP of Japan's Central League last year who was out of the starting lineup due to a knee injury, lined a rocket off the glove of the diving second baseman, who got the force out at second base but scored center fielder Hisayoshi Chono from third base to make it 4-3. Third baseman Nobuhiro Matsuda made it 5-3 with a line drive single to center field.
In the first game of the 2013 World Baseball Classic, Wang Chien-Ming tossed six scoreless innings to lead host Taiwan to a 4-1 victory against Australia.
The former Yankees 19-game winner, who pitched in the majors for the Nationals last year but is an unsigned free agent, allowed just four hits and struck out two while walking none against an Aussie lineup featuring four former major leaguers.
Taiwan got on top early against Australia's Chris Oxspring, also a former major leaguer, with a run in the first inning. They chased Oxspring with two more in the third as the former Padres righty gave up three runs and five hits in 2.2 innings. Taiwan had 10 hits overall off seven Aussie pitchers to please the home crowd of 20,035.
Mets farmhand Stefan Welch homered for Australia's lone run.
World Baseball Classic provisional rosters will be announced Thursday, with the U.S. roster released in the morning and the other 15 provisionals in the afternoon. Cuba, however, scooped MLB Network by releasing its roster on its own.
The Cuban team, which opens play March 2-6 in the same pool with host Japan, Brazil and China, features several familiar names and veterans of Cuban national teams, such as infielder Yulieski Gourriel and outfielder Frederich Cepeda. Gourriel, who was No. 8 on BA's Top 10 WBC prospects list in 2009, is now a 28-year-old seasoned veteran of international play, a membrer of Cuban national teams since the 2002 Intercontinental Cup. Cepeda, 32, also made his senior national team debut in that 2002 tournament and was the hero of the 2004 Olympics. [...] Continue Reading »
After an unprecedented fall of qualifying tournaments from Taiwan to North America to Germany, the third edition of the World Baseball Classic has set its 16-team field.
The first-round pools will be round-robin play, with the two top records moving on to a modified double-elimination second round that will be played in Japan and Miami. Two teams from each second-round pool will move to the final four in San Francisco, where the semifinals and finals will be played March 17-19 in San Francisco.
Baseball’s biggest international tournament also announced 32 core players who have committed to appear in the WBC, including 21 current and former major leaguers. That group includes Team USA’s Joe Mauer and David Wright; Venezuela’s Triple Crown winner, Miguel Cabrera, and World Series MVP Pablo Sandoval; Puerto Rico’s Carlos Beltran and Yadier Molina; Team Canada’s Brett Lawrie and Justin Morneau; Netherlands outfielders Roger Bernadina and Andruw Jones; Mexico’s first baseman Adrian Gonzalez and lefthander Jaime Garcia; Italian-American righthander Jason Grilli and Italy’s first homegrown big leaguer, Alex Liddi; and Dominican Republic middle infielders Robinson Cano and Jose Reyes.
The selection of rosters going forward involves nations working with major league clubs, players and agents to find players willing to play games that matter in March. MLB does work with national governing bodies to help them secure players, but it’s up to individual players to decide which country to play for if they have more than one option, such as Gonzalez (who will play for Mexico again) or Giancarlo Stanton, who was born in the U.S. but could play for Puerto Rico. Also, no major league organization can have more than 15 players involved in the Classic. [...] Continue Reading »
UPDATE: Brazil won the qualifier, beating Panama 1-0.
Host Panama took a big early lead and held off Colombia 9-7 to advance to the winner-take-all final against Brazil.
Big league veteran Carlos Lee hit a two-run homer as part of a five-run second inning, and 39-year-old Ruben Rivera added a solo shot for insurance in the seventh for Panama. Ramiro Mendoza got the victory with 2 1/3 scoreless innings, while Cubs righthander Manny Corpas got the final outs for the save. Rays farmhand Isaias Velasquez had a pair of hits and three RBIs to set the pace for the Panamanian offense. Veteran righty Alberto Acosta, who pitched in the Yankees' system in the late 1990s, got the start and got five of his 10 outs via strikeout. [...] Continue Reading »
Taiwan completed a near-perfect run through the overmatched field in the World Baseball Classic qualifier field at New Taipei City, allowing the host nation to earn a spot in the WBC proper in March.
Taiwan beat New Zealand 9-0 in the qualifier finale as five pitchers combined on a four-hit shutout. Taiwan won its three qualifier games by a combined score of 35-0, beating the Philippines and New Zealand twice. [...] Continue Reading »
Righthander James Wilson scattered six hits and gave up only one run in 4 2/3 innings, and New Zealand took advantage of seven Philippines errors to earn a 10-6 victory and earn a spot in the finals opposite Taiwan in the World Baseball Classic qualifier.
Righthanders Jonathan and Lincoln Holdzkom both pitched, with Jonathan, a member of the Reds organization, recording three of his four outs via strikeout; brother Lincoln got the last four outs for the save, pitching on one day's rest after throwing 46 pitches in a loss to Taiwan in New Zealand's opener. [...] Continue Reading »
Astros farmhand Murilo Gouvea retired the first 10 batters he faced, and Rays farmhand Leonardo Reginatto scored two of Brazil's runs and drove in a third as Brazil upset Panama 3-2 to open the World Baseball Classic qualifying tournament.
Managed by Hall of Fame shortstop Barry Larkin, Brazil left nine runners on base but overcame that to beat the host nation in front of 13,728 fans at Rod Carew Stadium. The Panamanian lineup featured three big leaguers in the middle with Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada batting second, Phillies all-star catcher Carlos Ruiz hitting third and veteran Carlos Lee hitting cleanup. Gouvea retired Tejada twice, but left in the eighth with a 3-2 lead when Ruiz and Lee chased him with back-to-back singles.
Righthander Kesley Kondo, a Sao Paolo native who pitched the last two seasons out of the University of Utah's bullpen, relieved and got out of the jam. He retired a pair of ex-big leaguers, 39-year-old Ruben Rivera and 40-year-old Jose Macias, on groundouts to retire the side. Kondo, 22, posted a 3.40 ERA in 2012 for the Utes in 48 innings, and gave way to hard-throwing Thyago Vieira for the ninth. The Mariners farmhand, whose fastball has reached 97 mph, retired the side in the ninth to record the save.
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