Can anyone stop the Dominican Republic?Until further notice, consider the World Basseball Classic a case of vinieron, vieron, conquistaron.:: 2017 World Baseball Classic ::Or as you learned it in Latin, not Spanish: veni, vidi, vici.The Dominican Republic not only came, saw and conquered at Marlins Park over the weekend, but
Can anyone stop the Dominican Republic?
Until further notice, consider the World Basseball Classic a case of vinieron, vieron, conquistaron.
:: 2017 World Baseball Classic ::
Or as you learned it in Latin, not Spanish: veni, vidi, vici.
The Dominican Republic not only came, saw and conquered at Marlins Park over the weekend, but it did so at volume levels North American fans would equate to Motorhead concerts, not baseball games in March.
If you were there on Saturday night, when the Dominicans escaped a 5-0 deficit to beat Team USA, 7-5, your ears are still ringing. Ditto on Sunday, when Welington Castillo's superb play at the plate against Colombia allowed the defending champs to run their winning streak in the Classic to 11 games.
Tony Pena and his band of All-Stars has moved on to San Diego for a second-round pool against Puerto Rico, Team USA and the winner of Monday night's Pool D tiebreaker game between Italy and Venezuela. Team Canada starter Ryan Dempster insists the Dominicans can be beat -- "you just have to go out there and out-execute them'' -- but we'll have to see it to believe it.
The World Baseball Classic runs through March 22. In the U.S., games air live exclusively in English on MLB Network and on an authenticated basis via MLBNetwork.com/watch, while ESPN Deportes and WatchESPN provide the exclusive Spanish-language coverage. MLB.TV Premium subscribers in the U.S. have access to watch every tournament game live on any of the streaming service's 400-plus supported devices. The tournament is being distributed internationally across all forms of television, internet, mobile and radio in territories excluding the U.S., Puerto Rico and Japan. Get tickets for games at Tokyo Dome and Petco Park, as well as the Championship Round at Dodger Stadium, while complete coverage -- including schedules, video, stats and gear -- is available at WorldBaseballClassic.com.
Here's five reasons why the Dominican Republic seems unbeatable:
1. That killer lineup
All you really need to know is that Adrian Beltre, the future Hall of Famer who last season hit 32 home runs and drove in 104 runs for the Rangers, bats seventh and the Pirates' Starling Marte hits eighth.
Rich Donnelly, a coach for Team USA, says you could pull names like Manny Machado, Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz, Jose Bautista, Carlos Santana and Jose Reyes out of a hat and always have a lineup that makes sense.
"Look at that lineup card, from top to bottom,'' Donnelly said. "You can turn it upside down, sideways, whichever way you want and you'd be happy.''
The Dominican Republic's starting nine delivered 36.8 WAR last season, led by Cano (7.3), Machado (6.7) and Beltre (6.4). That's 4.1 WAR per man, the same as the Cubs' starting lineup in the World Series and better than last year's National League All-Star team and the 1998 Yankees, who won 114 regular-season games.
2. Dominicans jump at the chance to play
The Dominican team gets all of the best players from its country to participate -- the same can't be said about every squad in the tournament. Even though the 37-year-old Beltre knew he would be limited to designated hitter duties at best, he worked like a fiend to rehab a strained calf suffered on the first day of Spring Training so he could play in the Classic.
Machado, born in Miami and raised by a Dominican-born mother and uncle, embraced the chance to experience international play as a Dominican. He's having such a good time that he hopes he can do this every four years.
3. They've got style, they've got swagger
Just ask Tanner Roark and Andrew Miller, who followed Marcus Stroman into Saturday's game as the Dominicans chipped away at their five-run deficit, or any of the Colombians whose hearts were broken by Bautista's ninth-inning throw to Castillo.
It's been eight years since the Dominican Republic lost a Classic game, and the team's confidence shows. It carries over to their joyous fans, who blow horns, beat tambourines and generally make like the backers of Real Madrid or Manchester United.
"We've got to win,'' U.S. third baseman Nolan Arenado said. "Dominican Republic won it last [time] and they haven't lost yet the last couple times. It's easy to be a fan for them.''
4. Martinez, and fresh arms coming
Carlos Martinez looks great as the Dominican Republic's No. 1 starter. He threw gas at Canada in the Pool C opener, having no problem covering four innings in 53 pitches. He should be able to pitch into the sixth inning in his second start, with the pitch limit expanded to 80 for the second round.
The soft spot for Pena in first-round games was the rotation behind No. 1 starter. Edinson Volquez and Wily Peralta don't strike fear in anyone like, say, Johnny Cueto.
Unfortunately, it seems Cueto may not be able to pitch in the Classic because he spent the first two weeks of Spring Training at home, caring for his father who suffered a minor stroke. He brought his dad to Scottsdale so he can keep an eye on him, and he may not be able to travel for the games in San Diego or Los Angeles.
• C. Martinez, E. Santana get next starts for Dominican Republic
5. The bullpen
Pena seems to have settled on the Mets' Jeurys Familia as his closer, with Rays closer Alex Colome and state-of-the-art setup men Dellin Betances (Yankees) and Hector Neris (Phillies) getting the ball to him. Hansel Robles, Fernando Abad and ageless archer Fernando Rodney are among those adding depth.
The Dominican bullpen allowed only five runs in 17 1/3 innings in the first round, and none of the runs were scored off the back-of-the-bullpen guys. Familia, Betances, Neris and Colome appear locked and loaded.
Can't wait to see these guys against that Puerto Rican infield or in a rematch against Team USA.
"They have All-Stars stars all over the field; we got a lot of All-Stars all over the field,'' Team USA manager Jim Leyland said. "There's a mutual respect there, I think. … I think [our players] know the Dominican Republic is a top-to-bottom fearsome lineup. We're going to play them. We did have a 5-0 lead on them, so it wasn't like we were intimidated or embarrassed by anything. We had our shot and we just didn't quite get it done.''
That's become a familiar refrain against the Dominican Republic powerhouse.
Phil Rogers is a columnist for MLB.com.