The World Baseball Classic moves to Miami today with two second-round matches. The first is today at noon CT, when Anthony Rizzo and Team Italy take on the powerful Dominican Republic team. The game is televised on the MLB Network, as are all WBC games.
Italy advanced to the second round as the number two team in the Phoenix pool. They showed some offensive firepower by beating Canada 14-4 and Mexico 10-3, but Ryan Vogelsong and the US bullpen kept them in check in a 6-2 loss to Team USA. The Dominican Republic won all three games from pool play; defeating Venezuela 9-3, Spain 6-3 and Puerto Rico 4-2.
The format for the second round is modified double-elimination, and the top two teams in Miami will go on to the final four in San Francisco.
Starting for the Azzurri is Tiago Da Silva, who is actually Brazilian-born but has played in the Italian League for several years, is married to an Italian woman and has moved there more or less permanently. He's also probably the shortest right-handed starter you're going to see at only 5'9". But if Da Silva can get the game into the later innings, Team Italy has a few "passport players" with strong major league credentials, like Pirates closer Jason Grilli.
Taking the mound for the Dominican Republic is Edinson Volquez. Volquez started game one for the Dominican Republic against Venezuela, but only threw one inning and 11 pitches as that game had a 50-minute rain delay during the bottom of the first inning.
The Dominican lineup is strong from top to bottom, but Robinson Cano is especially putting on a show and is an early favorite for tournament MVP. That title was won by Daisuke Matsuzaka in both previous WBC tournaments, by the way.
The Dominican Republic is the home team for this game.
I'll be back after the game with a recap of this game and of the earlier game today between Japan and the Netherlands, who were just playing for pride and seeding. We'll also have a preview and game thread of tonight's clash between the United States and Puerto Rico.
Discuss among yourselves, as Al would say.