Image credit: Shohei Ohtani (Getty Images)
Italy 7, Netherlands 1
What Happened: Italy’s six-run third inning wiped away the drama of who would win the final game of Pool A play. But thanks to a wild five-team tie that would result from Italy’s win, it didn’t wash away the drama of who would advance. Sal Frelick‘s two-run single and Nicky Lopez‘s two-run triple were the big hits for Italy, but with the tiebreaker being determined by runs allowed, it was Italy’s pitching staff that earned it a spot in the quarterfinals round. Matt Harvey made his second start for Italy, allowing one run in four innings. Five relievers then held the Netherlands scoreless for the final five innings.
Stars of the Game: Frelick was 3-for-5 with a double and 2 RBIs. He is hitting .389/.421/.556 during the World Baseball Classic. Lopez was 2-for-4 with a triple and two RBIs.
Prospect of Note: Frelick is the Brewers’ No. 2 prospect and has shown his knack for hitting throughout the tournament.
What It Means: Here’s the full story on the five-way tiebreaker, but the simplest summary is by beating the Netherlands and keeping the Dutch to just one run scored, Italy punched its ticket to the quarterfinals. It will face Japan in a game with a spot in the semifinals on the line.
Japan 7, Australia 1
What Happened: Japan’s dominance of Pool B was completed with an easy six-run win over Australia. The first two batters of the game (Lars Nootbar and Kensuke Kondoh) reached, setting up Shohei Ohtani‘s three-run home run that gave Japan a lead it never came close to relinquishing. Yoshinobu Yamamoto was in complete command, allowing one one baserunner (a Robbie Perkins single) in four innings of work. Kensuke Kondoh later added a double as he continued to swing a hot bat.
Stars of the Game: Yamamoto’s mid-90s fastball and splitter were too much for Australia’s lineup. Only two balls left the infield in his four innings of work. Ohtani has been everything expected of the world’s most well-rounded player. He is now hitting .500/.684/1.000 with seven walks to go with his six hits. He has three doubles, a home run and a stolen base in four games.
Prospect of Note: Yamamoto is one of the best pitchers in the world who isn’t pitching in the U.S. He credited Yu Darvish with helping him for this start.
“Tonight what I thought was my command was not what I was expecting, and I pitched a little bit more than I was expected,” Yamamoto said. “I’d like to minimize my pitch count. After the previous games, I spoke with Yu Darvish and used the high pitch, that’s how learned from Darvish, and in today’s game, I think I’ve got a good combination of the high fastball and low fastball, so I thank Yu Darvish a lot.”
What It Means: At 4-0, Japan has clinched the first seed coming out of Pool B. It dominated the pool and finished with a +30 run differential. Its average margin of victory was over seven runs a game. This game was not nearly as important for Australia as the next one. Thanks to its upset victory over South Korea, Australia just needs to beat the Czech Republic in a game in which it is favored to wrap up the second seed in the pool and a spot in the quarterfinals. If Korea beats China in the other Pool B finale, Australia would still be able to advance even with a loss as long as it does not allow many runs to the Czechs.