Japan 8, Netherlands 6 (11 innings)
Japan continues to win games, but not as impressively as everyone expects them to. Samurai Japan was able to beat the Netherlands, but it took eleven innings and the help of the international tiebreaker rule (runners placed on first and second base to start the inning beginning in the eleventh). The game-winning hit was a two-run single by 1B Sho Nakata which scored 2B Ryosuke Kikuchi and LF Nori Aoki, who were the two runners placed on base to start the inning by the international tiebreaker. Yes, a win is a win, but Japan's form does not bode well for them as the competition continues to get tougher as the tournament progresses. The Netherlands being this successful in a baseball tournament may be shocking, but it shouldn't be. The Netherlands proper is pretty good at baseball and Curacao (yeah, the Curacao that's always in the Little League World Series) is a Dutch territory. Throw in a few Americans of Dutch descent and you have a pretty good ball club.
Dominican Republic 10, Colombia 3 (11 innings)
I know this score looks like a typo. It isn't. The Dominicans' seven-run eleventh was a mix of the Colombians running out of available good pitchers and the international tiebreaker giving the DR a couple of extra baserunners. As the fact that the game made it to the eleventh implies, this was a close game for the ten innings played under normal baseball rules. Colombia nearly won the game in the bottom of the ninth inning. The third base coach sent RF Oscar Mercado (who entered the game as a pinch runner for catcher Jhonatan Solano in the ninth) from third on a one-out line drive to left by 1B Reynaldo Rodriguez. Mercado was out at home on a very close play thanks to a good throw from LF Jose Bautista and an excellent scoop and protection of the ball by DR catcher Wellington Castillo as Mercado slid headfirst into home - despite the protestations of virtually the entire Colombian dugout (which resulted in the ejections of Rodriguez and LF Tito Polo). They literally came within inches of the upset and advancement to Pool F in San Diego. Even with the loss, Colombia was not eliminated from the Second Round until the United States beat Canada later in the evening (see below for details on this game). While they failed to advance, Colombia had a solid tournament, including nearly defeating both the USA and Dominican Republic, and qualified for the 2021 edition of the WBC.
Carlos Santana (Dominican Republic, 1B) - 3-6, 1 R, 1 RBI, 1 K - Santana topped his spectacular offensive performance against Team USA on Saturday with a three-hit effort on Sunday. Santana finishes the First Round with a .400 batting average and .867 OPS, which are especially impressive numbers considering he struggled some in the Pool C opener again Canada (1-5, 1 R).
Giovanny Urshela (Colombia, 3B) - 1-5, 1 RBI, 1 K, 1 E - Urshela completed a disappointing Classic with another one-hit effort. He finishes the tourney with a .143 average and .286 OPS. Hopefully, this is merely the result of Gio being in a slump at the wrong time and not a true measure of his ability level against elite competition.
Puerto Rico 9, Italy 3
This was a close game early and the Italians led for an inning and a half, but when the Puerto Ricans took the lead in the bottom of the second, they did not look back. Puerto Rico scored in each of the first five innings of the game,which was enough for a blowout win without any further scoring. The win gave PR a 3-0 record in Pool D and the pool championship. They will open Pool F in San Diego on Tuesday night against the Dominican Republic. Italy now faces a tiebreaker game on Monday against Mexico (see below for details on their game) for the final spot in Pool F out of Pool D.
Chris Colabello (Italy, 1B) - 0-2, 1 BB, 2 K - Colabello struggled at the plate for the second straight day, but will have a chance to redeem himself in the tiebreaker contest.
Luis Lugo (Italy, SP) - L (0-1), 2.1 IP, 5 H, 4 R (3 earned), 3 BB - What may very well be Lugo's lone appearance of the WBC did not go well. Hopefully, this does not have an adverse effect on his confidence once he returns to Tribe camp.
Francisco Lindor (Puerto Rico, SS) - 2-4, 1 R, 1 RBI, 1 SF - Lindor continued to hit well on Sunday, managing to be productive even when recording an out. Also, he was stellar in the field,as per usual. Lindor finishes the First Round with a .455 batting average and 1.500 OPS.
Roberto Perez (Puerto Rico, C) - 0-2, 1 R, 2 BB, 1 K - Perez made his 2017 WBC debut yesterday and displayed solid plate discipline to salvage a day on which his bat was ice cold. It will be interesting to see if he gets any playing time in the Second Round in San Diego.
United States 8, Canada 0
Like Saturday, the United States got out to a big lead early on Sunday. Unlike Saturday, however, Team USA held on to it. Admittedly, Canada is not exactly as difficult of an opponent as the Dominican Republic, but after Saturday's collapse, it was not wise to assume anything until the 27th out had been recorded. The Americans were ahead 7-0 at the end of two innings, with 3B Nolan Arenado's three-run home run in the second inning being the hit that effectively put the game out of Canada's reach (6-0 USA at the time). The real difference between the two games was the pitching, however. Starter Danny Duffy allowed only two hits in four shutout innings while striking out seven. Mychal Givens,Tyler Clippard, Jake McGee, and Nate Jones combined for five innings of two-hit shutout relief while striking out eight (the 15 combined strikeouts tied a WBC record) and walking only one. The US will open their Second Round on Wednesday night at Petco Park. In regards to Canada: Yes, I know many of their best players opted not to play (while this is an issue for all countries not named Cuba in the WBC, Canada doesn't have the depth of other countries whose superstars declined to play in the Classic). Yes, I know they were in a difficult group. Yes, I know that Canada is a hockey country first. None of that, however, explains how the only nation not called the United States that is home to a major league club can lose every game in the WBC and have to qualify for the 2021 tourney. Simply put, this year's WBC was not one of Canadian baseball's prouder moments.
Mexico 11, Venezuela 9
Mexico took a significant early lead (5-1 through three innings). Following a scoreless fourth for both teams, Venezuela went on an 8-6 run in the next three innings to pull within two runs. While the game remained scoreless for the last two innings to preserve the win for Mexico, the slugfest took a toll on the Mexican pitching staff. This is important because Mexico's victory set up a tiebreaker game today between Mexico and Italy with the winner advancing to Pool F in San Diego. This loss was especially heartbreaking for Venezuela because not only were they eliminated from the tiebreaker game, but they also came in last and thus have to qualify for the 2021 Classic. It remains to be seen what effect this disastrous effort will have on manager Omar Vizquel's stature in Venezuela and his chances of becoming a major league manager down the road.
STANDINGS - FIRST ROUND (FINAL)
Dominican Republic - 3-0 (CHAMPIONS)
United States - 2-1 (ADVANCES TO POOL F)
Colombia - 1-2 (QUALIFIES FOR 2021 WBC)
Canada - 0-3 (NEED TO QUALIFY FOR 2021 WBC)
Puerto Rico- 3-0 (CHAMPIONS)
Italy - 1-2 (ADVANCES TO TIEBREAKER GAME)
Mexico - 1-2 (ADVANCES TO TIEBREAKER GAME)
Venezuela - 1-2 (NEED TO QUALIFY FOR 2021 WBC)
STANDINGS - SECOND ROUND
Israel - 1-0
Japan - 1-0
Netherlands - 0-1
Cuba - 0-1
So that does it for Day 7 of the WBC as well as the First Round. Day 8 will be a quiet one, but the two games to be played have huge implications. In Tokyo, Israel will be looking to secure their spot in Los Angeles while the Netherlands seek to remain in contention for the final four. In Guadalajara, Italy and Mexico will face off for the final opening in the Second Round. Come back tomorrow for a recap of both of these crucial games.