Pool A (or the Man, what's taking the rest of you so long? Pool):
Having already concluded, there isn't any news to report from Pool A. The Korean and Japanese teams have headed to Arizona to work out and prepare for the Pool 1 beginning in PetCo Park. Once Pool B concludes, the winners will head to SD where they'll meet the Asian teams in what hopes to be as thrilling as Pools A and B have shown thus far.
In what could be one of the most exciting games of the first round, upstart Australia will face the 2006 WBC runner-up Cuba (10:00PM ET, MLBN, ESPN Deportes). Both teams came off sound victories over Mexico and South Africa, and the winner of this game is guaranteed a berth to the second round of play against Korea and Japan. The Loser will then face Mexico in an elimination game, possibly resulting in the second host country being eliminated.
The game has started, and Cuba is up 1-0. Cuba starter Albertin Chapman is burning triple digit gas. Travis Blackley is looking pretty solid as well, although he's going through the Franklin Morales School of What You Can and Cannot Do Once You Begin Your Pitching Motion.
***UPDATE WHILE TYPING***
Australia has tied it at 1 as Ben Risinger singles Luke Hughes in from 3B - and then advanced to 2B on a Passed Ball.
I love the potential of upsets.
Cuba has taken a 2-1 lead on a Yoennis Cespedes HR.
Team Italy hopes to retain some of the magic they found last night while eliminating Canada from the WBC in front of a sad crowd of 12,411. Venezuela, however, hopes to repeat their success from Saturday's 7-0 shutout of the Italian squad, in yet another potential upset situation.
Venezuela beat Italy and Australia in 2006 to advance to the next round, and hopes that history is on its side today. Italy has all the momentum, however, and has all the underdog favor on their sides tonight. Italy will have to find another pitching performance to quiet the Venezuelan bats, and Venezuela will have to pull out all the stops in their questionably-utilized pitching staff if either side hopes to advance to Miami with the USA.
(5:00PM ET, ESPN2, ESPN Deportes)
ITALY HAS BEEN ELIMINATED
Despite a solid 3 innings from Italian starter Adam Ottavino, the Italian bullpen gave absolutely no help until it was far too late. Venezuela pounded the Italians for 10 runs on 14 hits, 3 walks, and a critical error on Nick Punto. Not to blame everything on the pitching, the Italians left 11 men on base, including a bases-loaded situation in the 7th inning.
A depressing finish for the Italian squad, no doubt, but the feather in their cap is that they not only won a game this year, it was also against a non-schlub team, and it resulted in an elimination. The big message they sent to the international baseball world was "Don't Look Past Us"
Lines of the game:
Venezuela 1B Miguel Cabrera: 3-4, 2R, RBI, BB, HR
Venezuela SP Enrique Gonzalez: 4.0IP, 2H, 3K
Italy SP Adam Ottavino: 3.0IP, H, BB, 3K
Team Dominican Republic and the Netherlands will repeat their Pool-opening match tonight (6:30PM ET, MLBN, ESPN Deportes) in an elimination matchup that should turn some heads. Having been stunned by a 3-2 loss after an error-laden 1st inning, Dominica plans to use the snag the Netherlands caught to their advantage. This snag, of course, is simply the loss of momentum after the Dutch bullpen surrendered a 1-0 lead to the Puerto Ricans in the 8th inning to drop the match 3-1.
THE NETHERLANDS HAVE ELIMINATED THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
Just like the last Dutch victory, the killing blows came on a comical series of errors, wild pitches, and heads-up baserunning on the part of the Netherlands. Every pitcher in the game pitched very well, and the only flaws came from Leon Boyd and Carlos Marmol. Ubaldo Jimenez set a WBC record by striking out 10 batters in 4 scoreless, 2-hit innings of work, and Pedro Martinez tossed another 3 scoreless frames in his quest for not only Dominican Glory, but perhaps a contract in his twilight years.
Lines of the game:
Dominica SP Ubaldo Jimenez: 4.0IP, 2H, 10K, 0BB, 0R
Netherlands SP Tom Stuifbergen: 4.0IP, 5H, 3K, 2BB
Pool C will be decided tomorrow, and I'll have a pre-game up for everyone tomorrow!