Japan 7, China 1
While not as big of a blowout as many expected, Japan still defeated China easily to win Pool B and force China to qualify for the next edition of the WBC. The state of the Chinese team entering this game was made clear by the decision to not start Bruce Chen, who was pulled from China's opener early specifically so he would be eligible to pitch in this game. Japan, who won every game of the First Round, but was not as dominant as they were predicted to be, now face a much tougher test in Pool E as they will play Israel and the Netherlands, as well as a Cuban side seeking revenge for their blowout loss in the pool opener.
United States 3, Colombia 2 (10 innings)
In a matchup that may be indicative of a surprisingly good Colombian side, a disappointing Team USA, both, or nothing in particular (trying to read too much into any one game in this tournament has proven to be an impossible task), the United States needed extra innings to defeat a Colombian side expected to contend with Canada for the pool's final automatic qualification spot in the 2021 WBC. While Andrew Miller did not pitch in the game, he did warm up on two occasions. The first was in the bottom of the eighth in case he was needed to close out the game if the US took the lead. The game remained tied going into the ninth and he did not take the mound. He was also warming up when the game ended in the bottom of the tenth as he was the only pitcher left that Team USA could use without affecting pitcher availability for the rest of the round. The game was actually a good one and very exciting with some tense late game moments, and USA finally closed out the win thanks to a walkoff two-out RBI single to left center by Adam Jones in the bottom of the 10th inning.
Giovanny Urshela (Colombia, 3B) - 0-4, 1 K - While this was not a stellar effort from Urshela, it was an opportunity for him to face major league pitching in a major league park in front of a major league-size crowd, something he did not have a chance to do last season. More than likely, he will have at least two more such opportunities in this tournament. This may not seem like a big deal for someone who has played in the major leagues before, but having an experience in such an atmosphere more recent than 2015 can only be a positive for Gio should he get a call-up to Cleveland this season.
Puerto Rico 11, Venezuela 9 (7 innings - Mercy Rule)
Omar Vizquel's Venezuelan squad did not get their World Classic off to a good start on Friday. While many expected Puerto Rico to be a stronger squad than Venezuela, no one thought they were this much stronger. While some of this certainly is due to a worse than usual performance by Venezuela and a better than usual one from Puerto Rico, Venezuela getting mercy-ruled in baseball is still a shocking result. This is not Venezuela's B team either. They started "King Felix" Hernandez on the mound and had Miguel Cabrera, Carlos Gonzalez,and Victor Martinez batting 3-4-5 in their lineup. Maybe this game was a fluke. If it's not, however, it either means Puerto Rico may be the new global juggernaut in baseball or that Venezuelan baseball is not what it used to be.
Francisco Lindor (Puerto Rico ,SS) - 0-2, 1 BB, 1 HBP - While Lindor was hit by a pitch in his last plate appearance in the seventh inning, he remained in the game and did not require a pinch runner, so he appears to have not been injured by the pitch. Prior to that, his night was a relatively quiet one in contrast to the gaudy numbers put up by most of his teammates. In fact, Francisco was one of only two batters to not get a hit on Friday for Puerto Rico (LF Angel Pagan being the other). He still did get on base multiple times, however, even if one of those times was not a particularly pleasant experience. Once he does get going at the plate, Puerto Rico's opponents need to watch out. They may get mercy ruled in five innings.
Pool B (Final)
Japan - 3-0 (CHAMPIONS)
Cuba - 2-1 (ADVANCES TO POOL E)
Australia - 1-2 (QUALIFIES FOR 2021 WBC)
China - 0-3 (NEED TO QUALIFY FOR 2021 WBC)
Dominican Republic - 1-0
United States - 1-0
Colombia - 0-1
Canada - 0-1
Puerto Rico - 1-0
Italy - 1-0
Mexico - 0-1
Venezuela - 0-1
That's all for Day 5 of the WBC. The North American first round pools continue today, including the highly-anticipated (and sold out) clash between Team USA and the Dominican Republic. Second Round play also begins late tonight (Sunday afternoon in Tokyo) with the Pool E opener between Cuba and Israel, and ATW will be back tomorrow to recap all of the Day 6 action.