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WBC Tonight: March 16

Japan advances to the semifinals. Team USA comes out second in Pool C. And Puerto Rico wins a huge but pyrrhic victory.

World Baseball Classic Quarterfinals: Italy v Japan Photo by Gene Wang/Getty Images

This is an unusual edition of WBC Tonight because there is no World Baseball Classic tonight. Your next contest is Puerto Rico and Mexico in the first Miami quarterfinal at 6pm Central time on FS1. The Cubs’ Marcus Stroman will pitch for Puerto Rico and the Dodgers Julio Urías goes for Mexico.

Japan vs. Italy quarterfinal

In the history of the WBC, Japan has never failed to make the final four. And that streak stayed alive in the 2023 WBC as Japan had little trouble finishing off Italy, 9-3 before the loud hometown crowd in the Tokyo Dome.

Shohei Ohtani started for Samurai Japan and kept Italy off the board for four innings. Meanwhile, Japan took a 1-0 lead on a ground out by Masataka Yoshida in the third inning. Two batters later, Kazuma Okamoto made it 4-0.

But Italy made a game out of it when they got to Ohtani in the fifth inning. Or more accurately, Ohtani got to Italy when he hit two hit batsmen which, along with a single, loaded the bases for Diamondbacks minor leaguer Dominic Fletcher. Fletcher then singled home two.

But Japan would strike back with three more runs in the bottom of the fifth on back-to-back doubles by Munetaka Murakami and Okamoto.

Yoshida would hit a solo home run for Japan and Dominic Fletcher would hit a solo home run for Italy off of Yu Darvish pitching in relief, but the game was pretty much over by that point.

Japan now flies to Miami where they will play the winner of Mexico/Puerto Rico on Monday night.

Pool C—Phoenix, Arizona

Team USA advanced out of pool play with a 3-2 win over Colombia last night. Mike Trout drove home all three Team USA runs.

Colombia went with a bullpen game against the powerful Team USA lineup and for the most part, it worked. Starter Luís De Avíla went 1.2 innings without allowing a run. The only hit De Avíla allowed was a one-out triple in to Mike Trout in the top of the first. But after a walk to Paul Goldschmidt, De Avíla got Nolan Arenado to hit into an inning-ending double play and end the threat.

Team USA opened the scoring in the third when Mookie Betts singled off reliever Santiago Florez with two outs. Then Betts went to second on a wild pitch and Mike Trout did this.

Not dramatic, but effective.

Colombia took a 2-1 lead on USA in the bottom of the third inning off Team USA starter Merrill Kelly. Reynaldo Rodríguez gave Colombia the lead with this double.

But Trout gave Team USA the lead back with this two-run single in the fifth.

When previewing Team USA, we noted that while the American starting pitching looked shaky, the bullpen was strong. And they proved that last night with six pitchers each pitching one inning and allowing just two hits total, both singles, and a walk over the final six innings. Those relievers struck out nine.

The final standings of Group C

Mexico 3-1

USA 3-1

Canada 2-2

Great Britain 1-3

Colombia 1-3

By virtue of Great Britain’s earlier 7-5 win over Colombia, Great Britain has qualified for the 2026 WBC and Colombia will have to go through qualification. So Great Britain now has three years to try to improve those sad uniforms.

Team USA will now face Venezuela in Miami on Saturday night at 6pm Central time. That game will be broadcast on your local Fox affiliate.

Pool D—Miami, Florida

We knew this win-or-go-home contest for Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic would be full of emotion, but we never realized how much emotion until the controversial end, But on the field, Puerto Rico defeated the Dominican Republic, 5-2. With the loss, pre-tournament favorite the Dominican Republic failed to make it out of group play.

Two-time All-Star Johnny Cueto started for the Dominican Republic and Reds 32-year-old rookie Fernando Cruz, with 14.2 innings in the majors, went for Puerto Rico. But Cruz kept the Dominican Republic from scoring over his 1.2 innings of work. Meanwhile, Puerto Rico got to Cueto for four runs in the top of the third. The first came on this home run by Christian Vázquez.

Nice use of the jacket there.

Puerto Rico went on to score three more runs in that inning on singles by Francisco Lindor, Kiké Hernández and a ground out by MJ Melendez.

Puerto Rico made it 5-1 in the top of the fifth inning with this Little-League home run by Lindor.

The Dominican Republic looked like they had a chance to get back into the game when they loaded the bases with no one out in the bottom of the fifth against Alexis Díaz. But Manny Machado hit into a double play that, while it scored a run, pretty much ended the rally.

The controversy in this game came after it was over. The final four innings were dominated by strong relief pitching and Puerto Rico finished the game with Mets closer Edwin Díaz. But I’m sure you have heard what happened next.

Honestly, this just looks like a fluke to me that could have happened anywhere. The Puerto Rico players did not appear to behaving roughly with Díaz and the jumping up and down didn’t seem to be much different l than a regular season walk-off home run would see. But of course, those who dislike the WBC have jumped on this as an excuse to have it cancelled. Never mind that no one has called for Spring Training to be cancelled over a season-ending injury to Gavin Lux.

But the bad news is Díaz has a torn patellar tendon and is expected to miss the entire 2023 season.

The final standings for Group D were:

Venezuela 4-0

Puerto Rico 3-1

Dominican R. 2-2

Israel 1-3

Nicaragua 0-4

So Nicaragua is forced into qualifying for the 2026 WBC and Israel qualifies for their third-straight tourney.