The defending champs and the hopeful hosts are both moving on in a 2017 World Baseball Classic that has lived up to its billing as the premier global baseball tournament. For the Dominican Republic, Team USA and six other teams -- one of whom will be decided by an Italy-Venezuela
The defending champs and the hopeful hosts are both moving on in a 2017 World Baseball Classic that has lived up to its billing as the premier global baseball tournament. For the Dominican Republic, Team USA and six other teams -- one of whom will be decided by an Italy-Venezuela tiebreaker -- the daily drama continues in this week's second round of international action.
Pool E play between Cuba, Israel, the Netherlands and Japan is already underway at the Tokyo Dome. On Monday, the Dutch snapped Team Israel's stunning four-win streak with a 12-2 thumping, meaning that the two teams that advance from Pool E can't be decided before Wednesday's doubleheader.
The North American bracket, meanwhile, is shifting to San Diego's Petco Park for the second round, but the field of teams is not yet complete.
:: 2017 World Baseball Classic ::
The D.R., U.S. and Puerto Rico have all progressed to Petco's Pool F, and the fourth and final spot in Pool F will be decided by Monday's 9 p.m. ET Venezuela-Italy tiebreaker at Mexico's Estadio Charros de Jalisco. The whole enchilada's on the line in that one, and MLB Network and MLB.TV will have the coverage.
How did we get here and what's next? Let's get you caught up on the Classic.
The Gaslamp gang
The Dominican Republic and Team USA were widely expected to advance to San Diego, but it almost didn't work out exactly this way.
Colombia fought valiantly in Pool C at Miami's Marlins Park. On Friday, Jose Quintana befuddled the Team USA bats before the Americans came alive late and won it on a 10th-inning walk-off single from Adam Jones. And for the Dominicans to shake off Colombia on Sunday, it took arguably the best play of the tournament to date -- a perfect one-hop throw from Jose Bautista and tag from Welington Castillo to retire runner Oscar Mercado on what could have been the winning run in the ninth -- and an 11th-inning offensive onslaught created by the new rule that puts automatic runners on first and second from the 11th inning on.
The D.R. earned top seed honors over the U.S. with an instant classic Classic tilt Saturday, staging an eighth-inning comeback off uber reliever Andrew Miller. The Dominicans have now won 11 straight Classic games, going back to 2013.
That streak will be on the line Tuesday at Petco Park (9 p.m. ET, MLB Network and MLB.TV), where the D.R. will face a Puerto Rico team that advanced out of Pool D in Mexico with far less drama. Puerto Rico pounded out 29 runs en route to a 3-0 record, even mercy-ruling a Venezuela team with Felix Hernandez on the mound and Jose Altuve, Jose Cabrera, Victor Martinez and Carlos Gonzalez in the lineup.
"We have to face the best teams, and definitely Dominican is one of them," Puerto Rico manager Edwin Rodriguez said. "We're ready for them, and I'm sure they also have been watching us, too, in the same way we've been watching them. It's going to be a great game."
Team USA, which is under pressure to do what no other American team has done and reach the finals, ensured its advancement to the second round by routing Canada, 8-0, on Sunday.
"We're really enjoying this time together," third baseman Nolan Arenado said. "We love working together, and we want to keep going."
The U.S. will face the winner of the Venezuela-Italy tiebreaker at 9 p.m. ET on Wednesday at Petco Park. Mexico's 11-9 win over Venezuela -- a win in which Venezuela tried to mount a furious rally from an 8-1 deficit but ultimately came up short -- on Sunday night put Mexico, Venezuela and Italy in a three-way tie at 1-2. Under Classic tiebreaker rules, the two teams with the fewest runs allowed per defensive inning against the other two teams with identical records play a tiebreaker and the other is eliminated. After its win Sunday night, Mexico was initially under the impression that it had edged Venezuela by the slimmest of margins for the right to face Italy, but it turned out only eight defensive innings were counted from Thursday's loss to Italy, because Mexico did not record any outs in the ninth.
"It was a surprise," Venezuela manager Omar Vizquel said, "but we are happy to get another chance."
Big in Japan
Anybody who thought Team Israel, which is made up mostly of Minor Leaguers, didn't stand much chance of winning so much as a single game in this tournament looks a tad meshuggina, in retrospect. After going 3-0 to advance out of Pool A, Israel upended Cuba in the Pool E opener to prove that was no first-round fluke.
"The fact of the matter is that we've pitched extremely well, we've had timely hitting and we've played great defense," said manager Jerry Weinstein.
Alas, that wasn't the case Tuesday, as Jair Jurrjens kept the Israel bats in check and Didi Gregorius' five-RBI day sparked the Dutch's explosive offensive performance. Both teams are now 1-1.
Maybe Israel's advancement was tough to predict, but Japan's wasn't. After going 3-0 in the opening round, Japan was also the victor in the first Classic game to feature those funky extra-innings rules. A Sho Nakata single drove both of those runners home to send Japan to an 8-6 victory over the Netherlands on Sunday.
Japan and Cuba will play Tuesday at 6 a.m. ET on MLB Network and MLB.TV.
Eye on the prize
The top two finishers from round-robin play in both Pool E and Pool F will advance to the single-elimination championship rmound, which begins March 20 at Dodger Stadium.
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, Estadio Charros de Jalisco in Mexico 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.
Anthony Castrovince has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2004. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince.