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Around The World: March 9, 2017 - Chris Colabello helps spark amazing Italian comeback against Mexico

Carlos Santana and Chris Colabello made their 2017 WBC debuts on Thursday as South Korea punched their ticket for 2021 and Cuba secured a spot in the Second Round. Read about all of this plus Chinese geopolitics and an epic collapse by the Mexican team as the IBI's Arthur Kinney takes you Around The World...

South Korea 11, Chinese Taipei 8 (10 innings)

It took ten innings, but the battle for the last automatic spot in the 2021 World Baseball Classic out of Pool A was settled without the need to bring in the international tiebreaker (runners on first and second to start the 11th inning).  South Korean catcher Euiji Yang drove in the eventual game-winning run on a sacrifice fly and pinch hitter Taekyun Kim followed with a two-run homer to provide some insurance runs.  Pitcher Seung Hwan Oh came back to the mound for his second inning and closed out the game to pick up the individual win and secure the Koreans' spot in the '21 Classic.

In regards to Indians, Shao-Ching Chiang was ineligible to pitch in this game due to pitch limit rules and Ping-Hsueh Chen did not take the mound and thus ends the WBC without throwing a pitch.

Australia 11, China 0 (8 innings - mercy rule)

Australia virtually assured their qualification for the 2021 tourney with this easy victory over China and set up a battle for the second Pool B spot in Pool E with Cuba (see recap below).  With Chinese Taipei needing to qualify for the '21 WBC and the qualifier likely to be held in Taiwan, it raises the question of where the mainland Chinese team will contest their likely qualification effort in 2020.  While Taiwan would be the obvious choice for geographical/travel cost reasons, geopolitics make that unlikely (mainland China doesn't even recognize Taiwan as an independent country).  While it is difficult to speculate regarding the makeup of qualifying pools until we know who needs to qualify from this year's tournament, it seems that China will be a prime candidate for inclusion in the US-based qualifying pool, which usually consists of countries who aren't good fits in any of the other qualifying pools.

Dominican Republic 9, Canada 2

The Dominican Republic unsurprisingly defeated the Canadians with relative ease.  While it would be easy to assume that the United Sates are the Dominicans' only real challenger in the pool and that the DR's advancement to Pool F in San Diego is all but assured, the Asian pools have taught us to assume nothing when it comes to the 2017 WBC.  The same applies to counting out Team Canada.

Carlos Santana (Dominican Republic, 1B) - 1-5, 1 R - While he didn't put up the gaudy offensive numbers that Jose Reyes and Jose Bautista did on Thursday, he did have a solid all-around day, including in the field where he kept a pair of early game defensive miscues by Reyes from being more costly to the Dominican nine than they already were.

Italy 10, Mexico 9

I am typing this immediately following the completion of this game.  I don't believe what I have just seen.  The only way to describe this is "The Mexicollapse".  The Mexicans entered the bottom of the ninth with a four-run lead on the Italian side.  Sounds like an easy lead to defend.  Not for Mexico.  Not only did they allow five runs to Italy to hand them the victory, they did so without recording a single out.  How does this happen?  Here's a quick summary (if you want the details, go to mlb.com's Gameday page for this game and read the play-by-play for the bottom of the ninth, I'm trying to keep this column shorter than a Russian novel):  Double, RBI double (by Indians minor league invitee Chris Colabello), double (scoring Colabello), error, walk, pitching change, single, single, BALLGAME!  It's only one game, but with Puerto Rico and Venezuela looming as the two remaining opponents in the closest thing the WBC has to a "Group of Death" and the psychological blow of losing a game in this manner - it was a damaging loss for Mexico.

Chris Colabello (Italy, 1B) - 2-4, 2 R, 1 RBI, 1 K - Despite grounding into a double play, Colabello had a stellar evening at the plate in the Pool D opener and played a role in Italy's spectacular ninth inning comeback (see above).  If he can play this well for his entire time in the WBC, it can only help his confidence when he returns to Tribe camp.

Cuba 4, Australia 3

Pool B went as expected, with Japan and Cuba advancing to Pool E (also to be played at the Tokyo Dome), but only because of one swing of the bat of Cuban slugger Alfredo Despaigne, whose fifth-inning two-out grand slam accounted for all of Cuba's scoring in their one run victory over the Australians.  Cuba and Japan will be favored in Pool E due to their track record at the international level, but they are far from a sure thing to take the top two spots and advance to Dodger stadium.  They both struggled during Pool B play and the teams coming over from Pool A in South Korea are hardly pushovers.  The Second Round in Tokyo begins Saturday night (US time) and is shaping up to be as exciting as the First Round of the WBC in Asia was.

STANDINGS

Pool A (Final)

Israel - 3-0 (CHAMPIONS)
Netherlands - 2-1 (ADVANCES TO POOL E)
South Korea - 1-2 (QUALIFIES FOR 2021 WBC)
Chinese Taipei - 0-3 (NEED TO QUALIFY FOR 2021 WBC)

Pool B

Japan - 2-0 (ADVANCES)
Cuba - 2-1 (ADVANCES)
Australia - 1-2
China - 0-2

Pool C

Dominican Republic - 1-0
United States - 0-0
Colombia - 0-0
Canada - 0-1

Pool D

Italy - 1-0
Puerto Rico - 0-0
Venezuela - 0-0
Mexico - 0-1

EXHIBITION GAMES

Minnesota Twins 10, Colombia 7

Giovanny Urshela (Colombia, starting 3B) - 0-4, 1 K - Urshela did not perform well in Colombia's two exhibition games (combined 0-7, 1 K).  However, these performances are not really important to either the Colombian team, who were using these games primarily to get used to playing with each other before the games start mattering this evening against the United States in Miami, or to the Indians, who are more interested in the developmental benefit of Urshela's exposure to high level competition in the WBC regardless of how Gio or Team Colombia perform during the tournament.

Boston Red Sox 7, United Sates 5

No Indians in action.

Venezuela 6, Texas Rangers 4

No Indians in action.

Colorado Rockies 10, Puerto Rico 2

Francisco Lindor (Puerto Rico, starting SS) - 1-3, 1 RBI - Lindor went 1-for-3 in each of his pre-WBC performance for the Puerto Rican side.  While a multi-hit game would've provided him some momentum entering the tournament, I'm sure Puerto Rican manager Edwin Rodriguez would much rather have him save the big offensive numbers for the games that count.

Roberto Perez (Puerto Rico, PH) - 0-1, 1 K - Perez struck out in the eighth inning pinch-hitting for relief pitcher Jean Cosme, who was in the batting order due to backup DH Enrique Hernandez being moved to left field, thus costing Puerto Rico their designated hitter.  Between backup catcher duty in the first pre-tournament game and only getting into the final tune-up due to an unusual situation leaving PR without a DH, it does not look like Roberto will significant playing time in the WBC proper.

That's a wrap for day 4 of the WBC.  We'll be back tomorrow to recap day 5, which will include the WBC openers for the four nations yet to play a tournament game, including Team USA.


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