As of this weekend, the 2023 World Baseball Classic is in full swing. All four teams and 20 teams are now in action. The first round features four groups of five teams and each team plays every other team in its pool once. The teams with the two best records in each group advance to the quarterfinals and what is essentially an eight-team, single-elimination tournament. Here’s the full WBC schedule and here’s everything you need to know about this year’s event.
Here are our takeaways from the USA’s win over Great Britain, and here’s everything you need to know about the rest of Saturday and Sunday’s WBC action.
- USA 6, Great Britain 2 (box score) (takeaways)
- Puerto Rico 9, Nicaragua 1 (box score)
- Colombia 5, Mexico 4 in 10 games (box score)
- Venezuela 5, Dominican Republic 1 (box score)
- Korea 7, Czech Republic 3 (box score)
- Cuba 7, Chinese Taipei 2 (box score)
- Japan 7, Australia 1 (box score)
- Italy 7, Netherlands 1 (box score)
- Canada 18, Great Britain 8 in 7 games (box score)
- Venezuela 9, Puerto Rico 6 (box score)
He qualified for the quarterfinals
He was relegated
Santander, Peralta help Venezuela stun Dominican Republic
The Dominican Republic entered the WBC hailed as perhaps the most talented team the competition has ever seen, and it didn’t take long for the baseball gods to remind everyone that it can happen in this sport. Venezuela pulled off the upset Saturday. It’s their first win over the Dominican Republic in the WBC (previously 0-5).
Martín Pérez walked Cy Young winner Sandy Alcantara and five Venezuelan pitchers held the Dominican team’s strong lineup to one run on six hits. They scored 15. Anthony Santander and David Peralta were the offensive heroes. Santander hit a game-tying solo homer and Peralta drove in three runs, including a two-run, two-hit, two-out single against Alcantara.
Venezuela’s 7-8-9 players did most of the damage: Santander, Eugenio Suárez and Peralta went a combined 5-for-10 with a double, a triple, a homer and 5 RBIs. Juan Soto and Jeimer Candelario each had two of the Dominican Republic’s six hits. Astros righty Luis Garcia did a hero job out of the bullpen for Venezuela. He struck out seven in three hitless innings.
Venezuela is on the rise again
In terms of talent level compared to results throughout the history of the WBC, dating back to 2006, Venezuela is certainly the most underwhelming team in the competition before this tournament began. Loaded with high-level MLB talent in nearly every tournament, Venezuela has finished seventh, third, 10th and eighth. It has a chance to be the best showing ever here in 2023 now, after starting pool play against two of the best teams in the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico.
On Sunday night in Miami, Venezuela brought the thunder against Puerto Rico. Spearheaded by a pair of triples — one each from Anthony Santander and Salvador Perez — they raced to a 7-0 lead. Perez was the star of the game for Venezuela as well, going 4 for 4 with five RBIs. In addition to the home run, he doubled twice en route to nine total bases.
Here’s Perez’s three-run shot in the second that gave Venezuela a ton of breathing room:
It was 9-1 Venezuela through 5 1/2 innings before Puerto Rico got back into the game. A huge rally in the bottom of the sixth saw Puerto Rico score four times. He walked with one out in the eighth to make it 9-6, but Silvino Bracho came in to get the final six outs — making it just five batters he faced, thanks to a double play that wiped out his inherited runner — and lock it down.
Venezuela has been in the driver’s seat in a pool that has belonged to Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic for years.
Colombia upsets Mexico in extra innings
There have been plenty of upsets in the early days of the WBC and, for my money, Colombia vs. Mexico has been the most entertaining game of the tournament so far. Colombia took a 3-1 lead in the fifth inning, but Randy Arozarena tied the game with a two-run homer. Then, after Colombia took a 4-3 lead in the seventh, Alex Verdugo tied it with a single.
The extra-innings tiebreaker rule applies in the WBC (always was) and Colombia scored the game-winning run in the top of the 10th when shortstop Luis Urias erased a potential hump in the bottom of the game. Right-hander Guillermo Zuñiga, currently a Cardinals minor leaguer, overwhelmed Mexico with a fastball that touched 102 mph to close the game. He was electric.
First baseman Reinaldo Rodriguez, who plies his trade in the Mexican League, led off Colombia with a two-run home run against Julio Urias. He had an RBI single later in the game. Arozarena went 2 for 4 with a double and a home run, and was intentionally walked with two outs and the winning run on second base in the bottom of the ninth.
Colombia is 1-0 in the WBC and will play Great Britain on Monday. They would put themselves in a good position to advance with a win. Mexico is 0-1 and Their next game is a highly anticipated match against USA on Sunday night. A sellout crowd is expected at Chase Field.
Canada wins wild victory under the mercy rule
On Sunday afternoon at Chase Field, Canada and Great Britain put on an impressive display. Britain scored three runs in the top of the first, but then Canada responded with five runs in the bottom. It was 10-5 Canada through three innings and then the teams combined for nine runs in the fourth. Britain actually closed the gap to 10-8 before Canada’s fourth six run made it laughable.
Overall, the two teams combined for 26 runs on 25 hits. The 26 runs is a WBC record for a single game, and that contest was only seven innings long. Believe it or not, there were only three home games. Harry Ford’s 3-pointer for Great Britain provided three runs in the fourth that cut Canada’s lead to two. Canada’s two homers were solo shots by Edouard Julien and Owen Caissie.
The star of the game had to be Cardinals outfielder for Canada Tyler O’Neill. He was 4 for 4 with a double, two walks, four runs and four RBIs. One of the biggest hits of the game was a bases-clearing double in the bottom of the third to move Canada’s lead from 7-5 to 10-5.
Also for Canada, shortstop Julian homered but walked four times, scoring three times.
Canada moves to 1-0 while Great Britain falls to 0-2. Canada will play next Monday night at 10 p.m. ET with the US.
Cuba, Italy emerge from five-team Pool A tie
Pool A in Taichung, Taiwan, brought us a massive five-team draw. All five Pool A teams — Chinese Taipei, Cuba, Italy, Netherlands, Panama — went 2-2 during pool play. Wins by Cuba and Italy early Sunday morning locked in the five-team tie. As you can imagine, the five-team tiebreaker is very complicated. Here is the tiebreak formula:
The tied teams will be ranked according to the lowest quotient of fewest runs allowed divided by the number of defensive outs recorded in the games in that round between the tied teams.
Runs separated by defensive outs are allowed. I understood? It’s complicated, I’d say unnecessarily, but those are the rules. As soon as the dust settled on Sunday morning, Cuba and Italy emerged from Pool A. They have the lowest odds and have made it to the quarterfinals. Here’s Italy realizing they’ve moved on after Sunday’s final was recorded:
The ugly math is here if you’re interested. Cuba and Italy advance while Chinese Taipei, the Netherlands and Panama return home. Also, because Chinese Taipei had the highest quotient, it has been relegated. They must go through a qualifying tournament to earn a spot in the next WBC. Panama went through a qualifier last fall and has an automatic berth in the next WBC.
The tiebreaker formula created some late-game drama during Sunday’s match between Italy and the Netherlands, despite a fairly one-sided scoreline. Holland put the first two runners on base in the top of the ninth inning. If they had scored at least four runs in the inning, their total would have been lower than Italy’s and they would have gone to the quarterfinals even with a loss.
Pool One game has been completed. Italy will face a strong Japan side in a win-or-go match at home in the quarter-finals on Thursday. Cuba’s opponent in the quarterfinals is still TBD. Australia can clinch that quarter-final spot with a win over the Czech Republic on Sunday.
Japan, Korea, Puerto Rico win upsets
On paper, Japan, Korea and Puerto Rico were heavy favorites in their games against Australia, the Czech Republic and Nicaragua, respectively, and the games went as expected. The favorites won all three games with relative ease. Japan went a perfect 4-0 in pool play and outscored their opponents 38-8 in the four games. The only Shohei Ohtani hit a three-run Sunday.
Nicaragua was tight with Puerto Rico until the fifth inning, when Puerto Rico used a rally of singles to put five runs on the board and take control of the game. Korea jumped out to a 5-0 lead in their first game in a must-win game and nurtured the lead the rest of the way. No-stress wins for Japan, Korea and Puerto Rico on Saturday.
Puerto Rico is 1-0 and Japan advanced to the quarterfinals, which begin Wednesday. They will play Italy. Korea is 1-2 and must beat China on Monday to have any chance of advancing, while Australia loses to the Czech Republic. A three-team tie between Australia, Korea and the Czech Republic will then be arranged similarly to the five-team tie in Pool A.