USA TODAY Sports
The US takes on Puerto Rico in a battle of brothers tonight at 7:00 Central time. This afternoon, the Dominican Republic came from behind to beat Italy. Earlier, Japan topped the Netherlands for a number-one seed in the semi-finals.
Team USA takes on Team Puerto Rico in their first game of the second round of the World Baseball Classic. Gio Gonzalez takes the hill for Tean USA, while Team Puerto Rico calls on Mario Santiago. Santiago signed with the Dodgers this off-season after pitching for the SK Wyverns in Korea in 2012. Previously he had been in the Royals system, getting as high as Triple-A Omaha.
I'm going to assume you're familiar with the players you need to know on both teams.
So read the recaps of the previous two games in the tournament and discuss among yourselves. An overflow thread will post at 8:30 p.m. CT.
Italy vs. Dominican Republic
The Italian Azzurri jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first inning, but the Dominican Republic pitching staff kept them in check the rest of the game and the Dominican Republic edged out a 5-4 victory.
Team Italy has been surprising the whole tournament with solid play and a better-than-expected offense, but they were heavy underdogs against the mighty Dominicans. The Italian starting pitcher Tiago Da Silva pitched in the domestic Italian League, so he could be forgiven if he was nervous pitching in a major league stadium for the first time.
But instead it was Dominican starter Edinson Volquez who looked nervous. He struggled to find the plate and walked the first three Italian batters he faced. After Alex Liddi hit a sacrfice fly, Chris Colabello, a long-time independent league player who played his first season of organized baseball at Double-A for the Twins last year, hit a three-run home run off of the Padres ace to give Italy a 4-0 lead.
The diminutive Da Silva kept the powerful Dominican lineup off-balance for 5.1 innings. His only weakness was for the long-ball, as Jose Reyes hit a solo home run in the third and then Robinson Cano hit a tremendous solo home run off the upper-deck facade in the sixth, after which Da Silva left the game. Da Silva finished allowing two runs on five hits, including the two solo homers. He walked one and struck out three.
Meanwhile, Volquez calmed down in the second inning and wouldn't be threatened again. He pitched 4.1 innings and allowed the four runs on three hits and four walks. Volquez fanned three.
Italy's four runs in the first held until the seventh inning when Pat Venditte opened the inning by loading the bases on three-straight singles by Reyes, Erick Aybar and Cano. Venditte was pulled for Luca Panerati who walked the first batter he faced, Edwin Encarnacion, to force in a run. After Hanley Ramirez hit a sacrifice fly to tie the game, Nelson Cruz gave the Dominican Republic their first lead of the game with a solid single to right field.
The Dominican bullpen was able make that one-run lead last. Santiago Casilla pitched a perfect eighth inning and while Fernando Rodney walked Tyler LaTorre with one out, he next got Drew Butera to ground into a game-ending double play.
Pedro Strop got the win in relief. He pitched one inning and allowed just one single. He neither walked nor struck anyone out. Venditte took the loss for Italy. Over two-thirds of an inning, Venditte allowed three runs on three hits. He neither walked nor struck anyone out.
Should have used the other hand, Pat.
Robinson Cano continues to make a case for tournament MVP, as he went 3 for 5 with a double and a home run. Reyes was 2 for 5 with that home run and Cruz was 2 for 4 with the eventual game-winning RBI single.
Italy now take on the loser of the US/Puerto Rico clash tomorrow, with the loser being eliminated from the tournament. The Dominican Republic takes on the winner of the US/Puerto Rico game on Thursday, with the winner clinching a trip to the semi-finals in San Francisco.
Netherlands vs. Japan
Paced by two Shinnosuke Abe home runs, Team Japan scored eight times in the second inning and then hung on to beat the Netherlands, 10-6.
This game was played just to determine seeding in the final four, but Samurai Japan put on a show anyway for the 30,000 fans in the Tokyo Dome. Trailing 1-0 after an Andrelton Simmons home run led off the game, Japan tied the score when Abe led off the second inning off of Dutch starter David Bergman. Bergman then loaded the bases on a walk, hit batsman and bunt single. After striking out catcher Ginjiro Sumitani for the first out, Japanese third baseman Nobuhiro Matsuda gave Japan the lead with a soft single to center field. With the bases still loaded, Japan's lead-off hitter Hisayoshi Chono cleared them with a three-run double. Bergman exited after issuing another walk, but Abe connected off of new pitcher Jonaten Isenia for a three-run home run, his second of the inning.
With the score 8-1 after two innings, it looked like this game was going to end by the mercy rule. But neither team scored again until the seventh inning when the Netherlands pushed two across on a Xander Bogaerts single and a Randolph Oduber sacrifice fly. When the Netherlands scored three more runs in the eighth to make the score 8-6, what had been a laugher became a close game.
But Chono singled home two more Japanese runs in the bottom of the eighth, giving him five RBI on the day. The Dutch team put two on with only one out in the top of the ninth off reliever Kazuhisa Makita, but Andruw Jones grounded out and Curt Smith struck out to end the game.
Kenji Otonari got the win for Japan. He pitched three innings and only allowed that lead-off home run to Simmons and a walk to Bogaerts. He struck out six Orange hitters. Bergman took the loss for the Netherlands. He was charged with seven runs, all earned, on four hits over 1.2 innings. Bergman walked two and struck out one.
Chono went 2 for 5 with a double and those five runs batted in. Abe exited after hitting the two home runs; he was 2 for 2 with four RBI.
Ultimately, the game was played a bit like a big spring training game, as both teams had clinched spots in the finals. A lot of reserves got the start today and other regulars exited after a few innings. The only real advantage that Japan gets out of this is that they will get an extra day of rest before the finals if they win their semi-final match. They'll play the second team from the Miami group on Sunday. The Netherlands will play the first place team on Monday.