We’ll be keeping an eye on the World Baseball Classic from day one to the championship game. Today, the first of the four pools wrapped up with South Korea vs. Japan.
What Happened: Japan had an easy time with South Korea in the teams’ first meeting, but in the game that determined who was the official Pool A winner, four Korean pitchers combined for a six-hit shutout.
The Netherlands came within five outs of pulling off their second shocking upset of the tournament. But Yadier Molina singled to drive in two runs in the eighth as Puerto Rico scored three in the eighth to rally for a 3-1 win. With the win, Puerto Rico advances to the second round.
It may not top the Netherlands’ upset of the Dominican Republic, but Italy pulled off a shocker of its own on Monday, beating Canada 6-2 to eliminate the Canadians. Canada actually gave Team USA a closer game, as Dan Serafini and two relievers held Canada to two runs despite giving up seven hits and eight walks.
Mexico eliminated South Africa 14-3. Mexico led only 3-2 heading into the seventh, but scored 11 runs in the final three innings against a depleted South African bullpen.
The Stars: Former Braves prospect Jung Keun Bong struck out two, walked no one and allowed only three singles in 5 1/3 scoreless innings. First baseman Tae Kyun Kim’s fourth-inning RBI single was the game-winner. Kenji Johjima had two hits for Japan. Japanese starter Hisashi Iwakuma was nearly as good as Bong. He allowed only two hits but also walked three and allowed one run in 5 1/3 innings.
Justin Morneau was 4-for-5 with two doubles for Canada in the loss. Jason Grilli finished off the Canadians with 3 1/3 scoreless innings. Chris Denorfia was 4-for-4 with three doubles for Italy. Adrian Gonzalez doubled and homered twice while driving in six for Mexico. Jorge Cantu added a pair of doubles and a home run for Mexico.
Prospect Watch: Yu Darvish struck out three, although he did allow one hit, in a scoreless inning of relief work. Lefthander Toshiya Sugiuchi isn’t very big (listed at 5-foot-9, 185 pounds), but the 28-year-old showed a solid breaking ball and good secondary stuff in 2/3 of an inning of scoreless relief. Korean righthhander Hyun Wook Jong, 30, showed an excellent fastball and a nasty fall-off-the-table curveball as he struck out three of the six batters he faced.
Mariners prospect Alex Liddi was 2-for-4 with a double and a stolen base for Italy. Mariners prospect Greg Halman had the Netherlands’ lone extra-base hit (a double) and scored the Netherlands’ only run. Reds prospect Juan Carlos Sulbaran threw 1 1/3 scoreless innings of relief against Puerto Rico, striking out one while allowing two hits.