The dust is settling on Pools C and D of the 2017 World Baseball Classic. And while the second-round field is not yet complete -- Venezuela and Italy still need to decide that Monday night -- one thing is for certain: Pool F will be loaded with star power.The Dominican
The dust is settling on Pools C and D of the 2017 World Baseball Classic. And while the second-round field is not yet complete -- Venezuela and Italy still need to decide that Monday night -- one thing is for certain: Pool F will be loaded with star power.
The Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Team USA -- three of the heavy favorites in the tournament -- have already punched their tickets to San Diego's Petco Park, which is set to host the Classic for a third time.
It will be another pitcher-friendly locale after the Dominicans and Americans emerged from Pool C, but good luck finding any ballpark that can contain these three offenses, who combined for 14 home runs in Round 1.
:: 2017 World Baseball Classic ::
It all begins Tuesday with a rematch of the 2013 Classic final between the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico (9 p.m. ET, MLB Network and MLB.TV). These proud baseball nations are arguably the two hottest teams in the tournament, and there's little doubt they've been keeping an eye on each other from opposite sides of the bracket.
"We have to face the best teams, and definitely Dominican is one of them," said Puerto Rico manager Edwin Rodriguez. "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."
The Dominicans had their way with Puerto Rico four years ago, gaining the upper hand in three separate matchups en route to their first Classic crown. But after outscoring its opponents 29-7 in Pool D, Puerto Rico's confidence remains at peak capacity.
"We know that the Dominican could be the team to beat because they won it last time, but I would think we can play anybody right now," said Puerto Rico outfielder Kiké Hernandez. "We're ready for any rival that comes along."
Meanwhile, Team USA took care of business by shutting out Canada, 8-0, on Sunday. Now it can take a breath and move forward in its quest for a first-ever Classic title, knowing it will have to erase some demons from 2013 to do so. It was the tag team of the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, after all, who beat the U.S. on back-to-back days to bounce America from the second round four years ago.
Oh, and there are more recent memories to erase; memories of Manny Machado and Nelson Cruz helping the Dominicans erase a 5-0 deficit in a hurry against Team USA on Saturday.
"I think they know the Dominican Republic is a top-to-bottom fearsome lineup," Team USA manager Jim Leyland said of his players. "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."
One day later, the U.S. will step into the second round against the winner of Monday's tiebreaker matchup between Venezuela and Italy. Leyland indicated Sunday night that Mariners southpaw Drew Smyly, who was added to Team USA's designated pitcher pool last week, will likely start the second-round opener (Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET, MLB Network and MLB.TV).
"We know from this point on the tournament gets tougher and tougher," said first baseman Eric Hosmer, "But we came here, took care of business, and did what we had to do. We're going to be ready for San Diego."
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, 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.
Matt Kelly is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @mattkellyMLB.