World Baseball Classic Roundup: Panama Holds Off Italy To Keep Quarterfinal Hopes Alive
Panama 2, Italy 0
What Happened: Jose Ramos homered, Allen Cordoba added an RBI single and Panama held on to beat Italy and keep its hopes of advancing alive. Italy had runners on the corners and no outs in the bottom of the ninth, but Javy Guerra struck out John Valente and got Nicky Lopez to ground into a game-ending double play. Panama’s pitchers combined on five-hit shutout and got help from multiple highlight-reel plays by their defense, continuing the team’s strong defensive showing in the tournament.
Stars of the Game: Ramos went 2 for 4 and scored both of Panama’s run. He homered in the second inning and came around to score after leading off the seventh with a single.
Prospects of Note: Ramos, the Dodgers No. 23 prospect, led the way for Panama. Brewers No. 2 prospect Sal Frelick went 2 for 4 with a double for Italy.
What It Means: Panama wraps up pool play 2-2 and now must wait to see if it will advance. They need Taiwan to beat Cuba on Saturday night and then lose to the Netherlands on Sunday in order to advance. Italy, meanwhile, falls into a difficult spot. They have to beat the pool favorite Netherlands in their finale to have any shot of advancing.
- Kyle Glaser
Australia 12, China 2 (7 innings)
What Happened: Robbie Glendinning homered for the second straight game, Rixon Wingrove hit a bases-clearing double and Australia thumped China in a game that was ended due to the mercy rule. Australia scored three runs in the bottom of the first, led 5-0 after three innings and added five more runs in the fourth to turn it into a rout early.
Stars of the Game: Wingrove opened the scoring with his bases-clearing double in the first inning and finished 2 for 3 with four RBIs. Glendinning went 2 for 4 with a two-run homer and a stolen base, former Australian Baseball League MVP Darryl George went 2 for 3 with two RBIs and three runs scored and Angels farmhand Aaron Whitefield went 2 for 2 with a double, two RBIs, three runs scored and a stolen base. First baseman Jie Cao went 2 for 3 with two doubles for China.
Prospects of Note: Wingrove, a Phillies prospect, and Whitefield, an Angels minor leaguer, led the way for Australia. Reds minor leaguer Kyle Glogoski pitched 2.2 scoreless innings with one hit allowed, three walks and five strikeouts for the Aussies.
What It Means: Australia is in great shape to advance and now needs only to beat the Czech Republic to secure a spot in the quarterfinals. China hung tough against Japan and led the Czech Republic in the ninth inning, but they were not competitive in this one and fell to 0-3 in the tournament.
- Kyle Glaser
Japan 10, Czech Republic 2
What Happened: For two and a half innings, the Czech Republic did the impossible. The Czechs carried a one-run lead through the first third of the game, before Japan settled in and pulled away. With two outs in the first, a throwing error by Takumu Nakano allowed Marek Chlup to score from second. Masataka Yoshida's two-run double and Tetsuto Yamada's RBI single gave Japan a 3-1 lead in the third. Doubles by Kensuke Kondoh and Shohei Ohtani paced a four-run fourth inning as Japan widened its lead. Shugo Maki homered in the eighth.
Stars of the Game: Japan's starter Roki Sasaki was generally dominating in his first WBC start. He did allow a first-inning double to Chlup and an unearned run, but he averaged 100 mph with his fastball and touched 102. He threw 23 pitches of 100 mph or harder. Kondoh had a pair of doubles. Yoshida was 2-for-2 with a double.
Prospect of Note: Sasaki is the best pitcher who isn't pitching in the major leagues. In addition to his exceptional velocity, Sasaki got 22 swings-and-misses among his 66 pitches thanks to his nasty splitter.
What It Means: This was a completely expected result. In fact a Czech Republic win would have ranked as arguably the biggest upset in WBC history. Japan is now 3-0 with a game against Australia remaining. If South Korea beats the Czech Republic in their game, Japan will already have clinched a spot in the quarterfinals before it plays again. For the Czech Republic, the win over China has already given the team a solid shot to be automatically qualified for the next World Baseball Classic. China is unlikely to win its remaining game against South Korea. But even if it did, the Czech Republic would hold the head-to-head tiebreaker. The only way the Czechs can be relegated as the bottom finisher in the pool is if they end up in a three-way tie at the bottom of the pool with China and Korea and lose the tiebreakers.
- J.J. Cooper
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Taiwan 9, Netherlands 5
What Happened: The Netherlands could have wrapped up a spot in the quarterfinals with a win, but cheered on by an incredibly loud crowd, Taiwan jumped out to an early lead and held on. Yu Chang's transformation from Taiwanese star to Taiwanese legend continued. Chang hit a second-inning grand slam for his second home run of the WBC as part of a five-run inning. Taiwan added two more runs in the third inning and cruised from there.
Stars of the Game: Chang is hitting .500/.571/.1.083 with two home runs in the tournament. He's been the middle-of-the-order threat that Taiwan needs. Li Lin was 3-for-5 with a double and two RBIs in support for Taiwan. Ray-Patrick Didder had a late home run for the Netherlands after coming off the bench.
Prospect of Note: Pirates 19-year-old righthander Antwone Kelly threw a scoreless inning of relief work for the Netherlands.
What It Means: Welcome to potential chaos. There are two games left in the pool. If Cuba beats Taiwan and Italy beats the Netherlands, than all five teams will finish pool play with identical 2-2 records. In that case, since no one would have a head-to-head tiebreaker advantage, the tiebreaker would be defensive runs allowed divided by outs made. When it comes to that tiebreaker, the Netherlands and Cuba are in the best shape. If Taiwan and/or the Netherlands win their final games, they can clinch a spot in the second round without having to worry about tiebreakers. The same tiebreaker would also determine who ends up being relegated from automatic qualification for the next World Baseball Classic. Considering Taiwan's awful runs allowed quotient, the team could easily go from being the pool's No. 1 seed with a win against Cuba to potentially finishing in fifth and being forced to go to the WBC qualifying tournament with a loss and an Italy win over the Netherlands.
- J.J. Cooper
Here's the current run quotients heading into the final day of play.