NEW YORK -- Brazil's road back to the World Baseball Classic began as it was expected to: with a win over Pakistan in the opening game of the WBC qualifiers in Brooklyn on Thursday.
Opening pool play at MCU Park on Coney Island, the home of the Mets' Class A affiliate Brooklyn Cyclones, the favored Brazilian team rolled to a shortened seven-inning 10-0 win over Pakistan, which was playing its first WBC game.
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"First game of the tournament, I think it's always kind of about managing the anxiety, the jitters. I certainly think we can play a cleaner ballgame. I'm certainly happy with the results," said Brazil's manager, Hall of Famer Barry Larkin. "We'll definitely have to get better if we expect to advance."
The win earned Brazil a spot in the winner's bracket game against Israel on Friday at noon ET. Pakistan meets Great Britain in the 7 p.m. elimination game. The winner of Sunday's championship game at 6 p.m. will travel to Seoul, South Korea, next March and compete against host Korea. All games can be streamed live on WorldBaseballClassic.com.
Whichever team wins this weekend's qualifier -- Brazil, Pakistan, Israel or Great Britain -- will earn the final spot in the 16-country field for the 2017 World Baseball Classic. Brazil is looking to advance out of the qualifying rounds for a second straight tournament, after doing so in 2013.
"I was very pleased with how we were able to pull it together and continue to put pressure on the other team," Larkin said after the tournament-opening win.
On Thursday, Brazil got offense from up and down the lineup, with eight of nine starters recording hits. Right fielder Juan Carlos Muniz broke the game open with a two-run inside-the-park home run in the bottom of the fifth inning, a line drive that Pakistan center fielder Muhammad Sumair Zawar dove for and missed. Dante Bichette Jr., son of former Rockies All-Star Dante Bichette, also had an RBI triple in a three-run third inning for Brazil that opened the scoring.
The game ended by rule in the seventh when Brazil, the home team, opened up a 10-run lead. Starting pitcher Jean Tome and relievers Eric Pardinho -- just 15 years old, but throwing 94 mph -- and Edilson Batista combined for the shutout.
"The whole team, we all wanted to go out and show everybody what we've got," Bichette Jr. said. "As the game went on, we started to get more comfortable and started taking off."
Both of Bichette's sons, Dante Jr. and Bo, are infielders for the Brazilian team. (Their mother, Mariana, was born in Brazil. She was in attendance with Dante Sr., as well as her parents.) Dante Jr., the older brother at 23, is a corner infielder in the Yankees' system. Bo, a shortstop, was drafted by the Blue Jays in the second round this year and is ranked the organization'sNo. 12 prospect by MLBPipeline.com.
Pakistan, the only country of the four playing in Brooklyn without a professional or MLB-affiliated player, acquitted itself admirably despite the loss. In the country's first at-bat of WBC play, Zawar lined a clean single to center field. Pakistan also notched three extra-base hits in the game -- two doubles by second baseman Faqir Hussain and another by catcher Umair Imdad Bhatti.
Pakistan manager Syed Fakhar Ali Shah -- whose father, Syed Khawar Shah, founded Pakistan Federation Baseball, the sport's governing body in the country, in 1992 -- noted that this is a new experience for his team, the largest-scale international baseball tournament the country has ever participated in. And he promised improvement in Pakistan's next game, on Friday against the loser of Thursday night's Israel-Great Britain matchup.
"The result will be much better. Because the good thing about my players is, they're very optimistic," Shah said. "Every match, every ball, my players are learning."
The fact that they're playing on such a bigger stage than they were used to he said, only motivates them more.
"My players have never been in any kind of big media," Shah said. "So when they get someone out, they feel so good -- 'Oh, it's not that hard.' In the field, they make a catch, they feel good about it. It's not so hard. We taught that. So they feel easy now, and they feel proud."