Following up on the First Round Review post, lets look at the 2nd round, which establishes the 4 teams battling it out in San Francisco for the 2013 World Baseball Classic championship.
Here’s the two semi-finalist “pools” and how they finished up:
Pool 1: Japan, Netherlands, Cuba, Chinese Taipei
Japan cruises through the 2nd round and advances with two quick wins, while Chinese Taipei shows it is a one-trick (or in this case, a one pitcher) pony and gets wiped out by Cuba in an elimination game. Meanwhile the Netherlands continued to surprise, giving Cuba a rare international loss in the opening round and then following it up with a come-from-behind win in the do-or-die game, scoring 2 in the 8th and 1 in the 9th to win 7-6 and ensure their trip to San Francisco. Nats and former Nats were all over this game, as Shairon Martis pitched, Randolph Oduber played left field and Roger Bernadina sat out after getting a HBP in the previous night’s game). Still, another huge upset for the Netherlands to advance at the expense of both Cuba and South Korea in this tournament. In the final seeding game, Japan took care of business and will play the Runner-up of Pool 2 in the WBC semis.
Pool 2: Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, USA, Italy
Italy gave the D.R. a scare in the first game, but Puerto Rico did not do the same to Team USA, getting dominated behind 5 shutout innings from Gio Gonzalez. The D.R. then came up clutch in the long-anticipated USA matchup, getting to USA closer Craig Kimbrel and dinging him for two runs in the top of the 9th to steal away a win in a game where neither team really hit that well. Italy’s cinderella run came to an end at the hands of Puerto Rico, setting up a loser-goes-home rematch with USA. In that game on 3/15/13, the US team just didn’t show up; allowing journeyman Nelson Figueroa to shut them down on just 2 hits through 6 innings and failing to either hold the rag-tag P.R. team or to score any runs when needed. Ryan Vogelsong didn’t pitch badly but didn’t shut down the Puerto Rican team, and the USA goes home, losing 4-3. In the seeding game, the D.R. took care of business (as Japan did against lesser competition) and set-up the semis as follows.
Japan goes against Puerto Rico in one semi while the Dominican Republic goes against Netherlands in the other. At least we have a clear-cut final ahead of us, with the two dominant teams in the world (outside of the US of course) setup to play a potentially awesome final. I disasgree with those that think it was a “good thing” the US failed to get to the semis; I think viewership and interest would have been much higher had the US team made the semi-finals. Either way, I’m predicting that the D.R. takes out Japan in the final.