Even after Team USA's comeback win against upstart Italy and Team Canada's surprising, brawl-filled upset against Mexico, there's plenty of World Baseball Classic action from the last 24 hours to go over. Angel Pagan (shown above, not playing for Puerto Rico) and Puerto Rico claimed a second round berth along with the Dominican Republic, while Japan obliterated the Netherlands on their way to yet another WBC semifinal berth.
After the jump, let's break down the Saturday/Sunday morning WBC action in advance of today's climatic USA/Canada battle to decide the final spot in the second round.
Japan 16 Netherlands 4 (7 innings)
This tournament got off to a rocky start for Japan; they only beat Brazil and China by a total of five runs, they lost to Cuba in the seeding game at the end of Pool A, and then they almost dropped their second round opener to Chinese Taipei before a couple of late rallies. After four moslty unsatisfying performances, though, Team Japan showed up this morning to pound Netherlands into submission and remind everyone why they've won the first two WBCs and were one of the favorites coming into this tournament.
Japan got to 16 on the backs of five home runs from five different players. Takashi Toritani lead the game off with a solo blast. In the second, Nobuhirl Matsuda hit a two-run homer and Seiichi Uchikawa hit a three-run blast and the route was on. From there, Yoshio Itoi, Atsunori Inaba, and Hayato Sakamoto all added home runs at various stages of the route, as Japan scored at least once in each of the abbreviated game's seven innings. As if that wasn't enough, Japanese ace Kenta Maeda absolutely shut down the Dutch in his five innings of work, striking out nine and only allowing one hit in five innings of shutout ball. By the time the Netherlands got onto the board in the sixth inning against Tetsuya Usumi, they were down 12-0.
The win makes the Japanese team the first to claim a semifinal berth, while the Netherlands now drops down into the losers bracket to play Cuba. That game will happen at 6 AM ET tomorrow morning. The winner of that game will claim the second semifinal berth and play Japan for seeding purposes at 6 AM on Tuesday.
Puerto Rico 6 Venezuela 3
Even though both teams had a game on the schedule after this one, this game was essentially a one game playoff to determine the second team to advance out of Pool C after the Dominican Republic. For Puerto Rico, a win would clinch advancement and give them a chance to win the group on Sunday head-to-head against the Dominican. For Venezuela, a win would put them just one more win against a weak Spain team away from advancing.
Venezuela jumped out to an early 2-0 lead thanks to a rally that started with an Omar Infante double. Marco Scutaro singled him in, then moved to second after Asdrubal Cabrera was hit by a pitch. Pablo Sandoval doubled and drove Scutaro in, but Cabrera was thrown out at the plate by right fielder Alex Rios. That ended the rally on the spot, and with that rally ending that was pretty much the last good news Venezuela would get all afternoon. Puerto Rico immediately tied the game back up when Mike Aviles hit a bases loaded single in the top of the fourth that scored Irving Falu and Alex Rios, though Yadier Molina added to the game's weirdly high TOOTBLAN quotient by getting thrown out at third, ending the inning and the rally. Puerto Rico didn't stop at two, though. Angel Pagan singled in Martin Maldanado to give them a 3-2 lead in the fifth, the Mike Aviles hit a bases loaded sac fly in the eighth. Luis Figueroa followed that up with a two-run double and that was pretty much it for Venezuela.
As mentioned above, Puerto Rico will play the Dominican Republic at 7:30 PM ET tomorrow night to determine Pool C's winner for seeding purposes, but their win clinches them a spot in the second round. Spain and Venezuela play at 12:30 PM in a game of shame, with both clubs looking for their first and only WBC win of 2013.
Dominican Republic 6 Spain 3
Much like Puerto Rico's win over Spain, the Dominican Republic jumped out to an early lead agains the Europeans on Saturday afternoon and then hit cruise control, presumably confident that Spain would not be part of any tiebreaker they might find themselves in and thus, the DR had no reason to worry about run differential against them. There's not much else to day here. Robinson Cano had three hits, drove in a run, and scored once. Nelson Cruz had two hits and drove in a couple of runs. Carlos Santana hit a two-run homer in the eighth. Fernando Rodney redefined basic human conceptions of how crookedly one can wear a baseball cap and still pitch. That's about it. Both of these teams will play again tomorrow, but neither game will really matter.