Japan 8, Cuba 5
Japan remained undefeated in the 2017 World Baseball Classic with a win in their rematch with Cuba. While Japan hasn't exactly dominated their opposition, they are 5-0 and a perfect win-loss record is impossible to argue with. Samurai Japan will conclude their Second Round today against Israel. Despite being undefeated thus far in the Classic, Japan is not yet assured of advancement to Los Angeles for the final four yet (a loss to Israel triggers a complicated tiebreaker (see Netherlands-Cuba recap below for more details). Cuba continued an ugly World Classic that saw them need an Alfredo Despaigne grand slam to avoid being eliminated in the First Round by Australia and open their Second Round with a loss to Israel (more on this in the Cuba-Netherlands recap below).
Puerto Rico 3, Dominican Republic 1
The Dominicans suffered their first loss of the 2017 World Classic to a Puerto Rican side who showed that their dominance of Pool B in Guadalajara (where they outscored their opponents 29-7 en route to perfect 3-0 record) was not a fluke or the result of weak opposition. Catcher Yadier Molina had a multi-hit, multi-RBI effort to lead the Puerto Rican offense while the pitching staff (including Joseph Colon - see below) combined to allow only one run on six hits. While the loss was a setback for the Dominican, there are two spots in the final four up for grabs in Pool F and this was not only just one game, but also probably their hardest of the pool, so it's not the end of their title hopes.
Carlos Santana (Dominican Republic, 1B) - 0-4, 1 K - While this was not exactly Santana's best day at the plate during the Classic, it is not one to be overly concerned about as no one else in the Dominican lineup could figure out Puerto Rican pitching yesterday either.
Francisco Lindor (Puerto Rico, SS) - 1-3, 1 R, 1 BB - Lindor had another solid offensive day on Tuesday, reaching base twice and scoring once in four plate appearances.
Joseph Colon (Puerto Rico, RP) - 1.2 IP, 1 BB, 2 K- A walk was all that stood between Colon and a perfect outing as he got five outs on 24 pitches (13 strikes). Hopefully, an outing like this against a lineup of major leaguers is a sign that Colon is ready to pitch as well in the big leagues as he has in Triple-A.
Netherlands 14, Cuba 1 (7 innings - mercy rule)
The final indignity of a subpar World Classic for the Cubans came in the form of a mercy-rule loss to the Netherlands. While the Netherlands' roster is fortified by players from Curacao (part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands but not part of the Netherlands proper - sort of like how Scotland is part of the United Kingdom, but not part of England) as well as some Dutch-Americans, the Netherlands is not a country that baseball powerhouses like Cuba lose to, at least not without significant embarrassment. I'm not sure what exactly is wrong with Cuban baseball at the moment, but it is clearly dysfunctional. Such dysfunction was most evident in the fact that the only player who seemed to be firing on all cylinders was Despaigne, the one player on the squad who gets a chance to play outside the Cuban baseball bubble (he plays for the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks of Japan's Pacific League during the summer). The Cuban squad is the one team who knows their fate following this game. They finish Pool E 0-3 and are eliminated and on a plane headed home to Havana - assuming the whole team doesn't defect rather than face the scorn of their countrymen (that's a joke by the way). For the other three teams in the pool, it's a bit more convoluted. If Japan beats Israel, then Japan wins the pool and the Netherlands advance as the runner-up. If Israel wins, it triggers a three-team tiebreaker, with the winner taking the pool title and the first ticket to Southern California and the other two playing a tiebreaker for the other spot in the final four at Chavez Ravine. The tiebreaker criteria (runs allowed per inning, then earned runs allowed per inning, then batting average [all excluding games against Cuba], then casting lots if all else fails) make it difficult, if not impossible, to give a complete picture of all of the possible scenarios (this is how the confusion regarding Venezuela happened), so I'm not going to try to do so.
Japan - 2-0
Netherlands - 2-1
Israel - 1-1
Cuba - 0-3
Puerto Rico- 1-0
United States - 0-0
Venezuela - 0-0
Dominican Republic - 0-1
That does it for a crazy Day 9 of the WBC. Join me again tomorrow for a recap of Day 10 as Pool E may or may not wrap up and the United States and Venezuela start their Second Rounds in San Diego.