After Tuesday morning's weird mess of tiebreaking rules to sort out who advanced and who didn't from Pool B, Wednesday morning's World Baseball Classic action was refreshingly straightforward: Cuba and Japan had already clinched berths into the second round with their 2-0 records, and all that was left to be decided was seeding. The winner of their clash this morning would win Pool A. That's it. Not the most important of games, but Netherlands (the Pool B runner up) is almost certainly a more favorable matchup than Chinese Taipei and the second round is modified double elimination, so this game was hardly meaningless.
Let's get to an abbreviated version of the World Baseball Classic roundup after the jump.
Cuba 6 Japan 3
This one was pretty much all Cuba. They scored first in the third inning on a solo homer by Yasmany Tomas, scored again in the fourth and sixth to build a 3-0 lead, then Alfredo Despaigne (shown above being tagged out in the 2009 WBC) hit a three-run homer in the eighth to put the game out of reach. Japan chipped away with three runs in the top of the ninth, but it was too late by then. The easy win let Cuba spread out the pitching load to save pitchers for this weekend's second round, as no Cuban pitcher topped 50 pitches this morning.
Of course, Japan certainly had the same thing in mind. The second round games start Friday afternoon in Japan, and despite coming from the same pool Japan and Cuba are pretty heavy favorites to advance through to the semi-finals. Japan even had the knowledge that they'd play the prime-time game on Friday no matter the outcome of this game against Cuba, meaning that they get to play in front of a big home crowd win or lose. I'm sure that both of these teams would've liked to win and face Netherlands instead of Chinese Taipei, but the primary goal was staying healthy and getting the pitching staff set up for the weekend.
Anyway, the first half of the first round of the WBC is over, and now Pool A and Pool B have been condensed down into Pool 1. The second round pools are not round robin, but instead a "modified" double elimination with the top two teams advancing. Cuba will play the Netherlands at 10:00 PM ET on Thursday. Japan will play Chiense Taipei at 5:00 AM ET on Friday. The winners and losers of those games will then play each other.