The third World Baseball Classic is in full swing as Pools C and D wrapped up play this weekend.
The Dominican Republican and Puerto Rico advanced out of Pool C, with the powerhouse Dominican team going 3-0 in the first round.
Team USA overcame an opening game loss to Team Mexico, and Team Italy shocked the baseball world with victories over Mexico and Canada to advance to the next round in Miami.
A stacked Dominican team cruised through Pool C with a 9-3 rout of Venezuela, a solid 6-3 victory over tournament-newcomers Spain, and a 4-2 comeback over Puerto Rico.
Yankees second-baseman Robinson Cano was named the MVP of Pool C with a .600 batting average, a home run, five RBIs, and a ridiculous 15 total bases in three games.
The Dominicans paced Pool C play with 19 runs total.
Puerto Rico handled business against Spain with a 3-0 shutout and solidified a spot in the second round with a gritty 6-3 victory over the favored Venezuelans. The Dominican Republic then defeated the Puerto Ricans in a moot game.
The Puerto Rican pitching led Pool C with a 2.33 ERA and a pitching staff devoid of any major league talent.
Their best pitcher was Giancarlo Alvarado, currently pitching in Japan, who racked up four shutout innings and four strikeouts against Spain.
Venezuela went home as one of the bigger disappointments of the tournament.
A lineup stacked with all-stars like Miguel Cabrera and Pablo Sandoval, went 1-2, with their only victory an 11-6 beating of Spain.
Spain went 0-3 in its first go-round in the WBC. The Spaniards were never really in the games against the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, but they hung tough with the disappointing Venezuelans before Cabrera and Sandoval homered in the 8th inning to break open the game.
Pool D may have been the most exciting pool in the tournament so far.
Team Italy put the entire world on notice by upsetting Team Mexico and invoking the mercy rule against Team Canada.
Team USA overcame a loss to win its final two games, and the WBC saw its ugliest moment when a benches-clearing brawl erupted during Canada’s 1o-3 win over Mexico, a loss that eliminated the Mexicans from the WBC.
Team Italy shocked Team Mexico by scoring two runs in the ninth inning against Giants reliever Sergio Romo. Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo crushed a ball deep to left that just went over the head of Edgar Gonzalez, allowing the tying and go-ahead runs to score. Pirates reliever Jason Grilli came in for the save.
The Italians continued their conquest of the WBC with a 14-4 dismantling of Team Canada. Twins’ prospect Chirs Colabello homered and drove in four runs and Mario Chiarini, one of the few Italian born-players on the team, drove in three.
For a moment it looked as though the Italians might run the table, until Team USA finally showed up. Team USA opened up the WBC facing a Mexican team in a must-win position.
In front of 44,000 fans at Chase Field in Phoenix, Team Mexico shut down the Americans 5-2, led by pitching heroics from Brewers’ starter Yovani Gallardo and Royals’ reliever Luis Mendoza.
It was an all-Dodgers offense for Team Mexico as Adrian Gonzalez and Luis Cruz drove in all five Mexico runs highlighted by a two-run blast by Gonzalez off of U.S. starter R.A Dickey to give Mexico a 4-0 lead.
Team USA trailed the Italians 2-1 heading into the fifth inning of their game Saturday night. But after 13 innings, the U.S. offense finally showed up. After Reds’ second-baseman Brandon Phillips tied the game up with an RBI single, and Joe Mauer walked, the USA finally the got the big hit they’d been waiting for. David Wright hit a grand slam to give the USA a 6-2 lead, they would not relinquish.
After Giants’ starter Ryan Vogelsong was shaky for four innings, his teammate Jeremy Affeldt, and Nationals’ lefty Ross Detweiler pitched five innings of shutout ball to secure the win for the U.S. This setup a do-or-die game against the Canadians on Sunday.
Preferring to live dangerously, Team USA overcame a 3-2 deficit with more late inning heroics to secure a spot in the second round. Orioles all-star outfielder Adam Jones stroked a two-run double to give the U.S. a 4-3 lead, and former Dodger Shane Victorino added an RBI single to score Jones to give the U.S. a 5-3 lead.
The Canadians loaded the bases in the bottom of the eighth and scored a run on an Adam Loewen ground-out to make it 5-4. The U.S. would add on some insurance in the top 9th, however, with a Jonathan Lucroy RBI single and a bases loaded double from Royals’ first-baseman Eric Hosmer.
The 9-4 victory gave the U.S. a 2-1 record, and Canada a 1-2 record sending the Canadians back home, but not before some major fireworks in the game between Canada and Mexico.
The Canadians got out to an early 4-0 lead in the first inning, but Team Mexico battled back to make it 4-3, until Team Canada exploded for six unanswered runs in the final four innings, including two RBI from Justin Morneau.
With Canada up 9-3 in the ninth inning, Chris Robinson bunted for a hit, a seeming violation of baseball etiquette, but a run-scoring tactic in tournament where run differential is important.
After Mexico pitcher Arnold Leon beaned Canada’s Rene Tosoni, the benches cleared and multiple players threw punches including Cruz and Red Sox pitcher Alfredo Aceves.
Both Mexico and Canada will join Venezuela on the list of disappointments for the 2013 WBC.
Team USA will be joined by Italy, the Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico for the next round of the WBC at Marlins Park in Miami beginning on Tuesday. Team USA will take on Yadier Molina, Carlos Beltran, and Team Puerto Rico at 5 p.m.