We’ll be keeping an eye on the World Baseball Classic from day one to the championship game. Today things really got going with action in three different pools. We’ll keep updating the results throughout the day.
What happened: The Netherlands was supposed to be heading to a quick exit in Pool D, but they instead stunned the Dominican Republic, as four Dutch relievers combined to pitch five scoreless innings, while three Dominican errors proved the difference in a 3-2 Netherlands’ win. The Netherlands had only three hits, all singles, in the game, but all three of the team’s runs were unearned thanks to the errors.
In the other game from Pool D, Ivan Rodriguez hit two home runs, Carlos Delgado added another and Javier Vazquez combined with three relievers on a shutout as Puerto Rico handled Panama 7-0.
In Asia, we also had a surprise, as it’s now fair to ask if China has passed Taiwan in baseball? At the international level it’s hard to argue after China beat Taiwan for a second straight time. This time it was a 4-1 win that sent Taiwan home, while giving China a chance to advance to the second round if they can beat South Korea in the final game of Pool A play. In the nightcap of Pool A, defending champion Japan became the first team to advance to second round with a 14-2 blowout of South Korea. The game was called by the mercy rule after seven innings.
The U.S. beat Canada 6-5 in the first game of Pool C. Canada took an early lead thanks to a home run by Joey Votto, but home runs by Kevin Youkilis, Brian McCann and Adam Dunn led the U.S. comeback. In the other Pool C game, Italy was able to hang with Venezuela as long as starter Mark DiFelice was in the game, but when Jason Grilli entered in the fifth, everything fell apart for Team Italy. Carlos Guillen’s opposite-field home run was part of a four-run fifth and Melvin Mora added another home run in the seventh in a 7-0 Venezuela win.
The Stars: Ray Chang, a Pirates minor leaguer who is the cleanup hitter and shortstop for China, went 3-for-4 with a home run, a double and 2 RBIs to give China all the runs they needed. China’s starting pitcher Lu Jiangang allowed only one run and four hits in 5 1/3 innings. Miguel Tejada homered off of Sidney Ponson in the Dominican Republic’s loss. Pedro Martinez allowed one hit and struck out four in three scoreless innings.
Ivan Rodriguez had the best day of anyone as he went 4-for-4 with two home runs and a double and four RBIs. Delgado went 3-for-4 with a home run for Puerto Rico as well, while Javier Vasquez threw 4 1/3 scoreless innings.
As mentioned above, Youkilis, Dunn and McCann all homered for Team USA, while Votto went 4-for-5 with a home run, a double and two RBIs for Canada.
Prospect Watch: Red Sox prospect Che-Hsuan Lin scored Taiwan’s only run as part of a 1-for-4 day. Korea 26-year-old first baseman Tae Kyun Kim provided one of the few highlights for Korea with a two-run home run off Daisuke Matsuzaka. Japan’s 29-year-old third baseman Shuichi Murata hit his second home run of the tournament as part of a 2-for-4 day. Japan’s 26-year-old shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima went 3-for-4 with two doubles and two runs scored. Mariners’ prospect Greg Halman went 0-for-4 with four strikeouts in the Netherlands’ win over the Dominican Republic.
Mariners’ righthander Phillippe Aumont got in a jam, as he allowed a walk and two hits, but he worked his way out of, striking out two in a scoreless inning of relief work. He showed a fastball that sat at 95-96 mph to go with a nasty breaking ball. Twins righthander Carlos Gutierrez pitched a scoreless inning in relief for Puerto Rico.
Coming Up: China will face South Korea in an elimination game beginning Sunday at 6:30 a.m. ET.