Marquee matchups become commonplace as the World Baseball Classic advances into the later rounds, and Pool F is set to feature one in every game. That includes Wednesday's at Petco Park in San Diego between Venezuela and the United States, two world powers who earned second-round spots as the runners-up
Marquee matchups become commonplace as the World Baseball Classic advances into the later rounds, and Pool F is set to feature one in every game. That includes Wednesday's at Petco Park in San Diego between Venezuela and the United States, two world powers who earned second-round spots as the runners-up from their respective first-round pools.
First pitch is scheduled for 9 p.m. ET.
:: 2017 World Baseball Classic ::
Expect a heavyweight battle with great players all over the field for two teams also competing in a bracket with reigning Classic champions Dominican Republic and reigning runner-up Puerto Rico. There are 50 MLB All-Stars spread out across the four Pool F team rosters.
Cross-reference the United States and Venezuela rosters and you'll find 30 All-Stars -- though three, Venezuelan catcher Salvador Perez (injury) and American pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Brett Cecil (unavailable) won't be active. The United States has 20 All-Stars on its roster, led by former MVPs Andrew McCutchen and Buster Posey, while Venezuela has 10 All-Stars, led by former MVP Jose Cabrera and 2016 AL MVP finalist Jose Altuve.
Both teams entered play as favorites to advance out of pool play, though Venezuela nearly found itself eliminated several times. Venezuela lost its final game of pool play to Mexico to finish a 1-2 record, but still qualified for a tiebreaker game on Monday night. Venezuela then trailed in the ninth inning in that tiebreaker game against Italy before scoring three runs in the ninth to advance.
The United States finished pool play with a 2-1 record after recording an extra-inning win against Colombia and a resounding one in the finale against Canada. The Americans dropped a dramatic 7-5 game to the Dominican Republic in between.
Three things to know about this game
• Venezuela has Cabrera, who hit a game-tying home run in the ninth inning against Italy in Monday's tiebreaker game, to thank for being here. But its best players throughout pool play were Martin Prado (.438 average, 5 RBIs) and Alcides Escobar (.467 average), who also sprinkled in some fine defensive plays at shortstop.
• The U.S. leaned heavily on Christian Yelich (.500 average, 3 runs) and Brandon Crawford (.455 average, strong defense) in pool play, as well as a starting staff that didn't allow a run in 12 2/3 innings. The U.S. also features two of the top five finishers in the NL MVP voting from each of the past two seasons: McCutchen, Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado and Daniel Murphy.
• The two teams haven't played one another since 2009, when both advanced out of the same pool in the second-ever Classic. Venezuela went on to finish third in the tournament, while the U.S. finished fourth that year.
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.
Joe Trezza is a reporter for MLB.com.