8-game slate! Saturday lineup a Classic fan's dream

March 11th, 2023

Because of the time zone issues that come with hosting an event in multiple hemispheres, the World Baseball Classic, so far, has had a staggered schedule. Pools A and B, in Taichung and Tokyo, respectively, have already had each of its teams play at least two games, while Pools C and D, in Phoenix and Miami, haven’t begun yet. One of the beauties of this tournament is that games can take place all over the world but still be in the same bracket. But we haven’t had a full day of Classic madness just yet.

That changes on Saturday.

The Czech Republic and Japan opened Saturday's play from the Tokyo Dome and the final one will start at 11 p.m. ET. If you want -- and you should! -- you can watch the World Baseball Classic all morning, all afternoon and all night.

Having high-stakes baseball in early March is exciting enough. But each of these games has a riveting storyline of its own, whether you’re a WBC fan, an MLB fan or, presumably, both. Here’s one thing to watch for in each game.

FINAL: Japan 10, Czech Republic 2
Japan has been the best team in the tournament so far -- and Saturday was no different. After the upstart Czech Republic got on the board first, Team Japan ripped off seven unanswered runs and was off to the races, advancing to the second round in the process. New Red Sox signee Masataka Yoshida went 2-for-2 with three RBIs, giving him a .625 average through the first three games. got in on the action with an RBI double, and Shugo Maki pinch-hit for Ohtani late with a homer to punctuate the victory. The Czech team is down but not out, with a big game against Australia looming on Sunday at 11 p.m. ET.

FINAL: Chinese Taipei 9, Netherlands 5  
In front of their electric home crowd, Chinese Taipei pulled off another stunner. For the second straight game, Yu Chang rocked the house with a massive home run -- this time a grand slam -- as Chinese Taipei held off the Netherlands, the Pool A favorite entering the tournament. Chinese Taipei is back at it against Cuba tonight at 11 p.m. ET, while the Netherlands plays Italy on Sunday at 7 a.m. ET; both games are on FS2. Both teams control their destiny and can advance to the quarterfinals with a victory.

Nicaragua vs. Puerto Rico

Do you remember who the MVP of the last World Baseball Classic was? It was , who was fantastic in leading Team USA to its first-ever WBC championship. Well, he’s back six years later, this time playing for Puerto Rico and earning the start in its Classic opener. Hopefully his manager, Yadier Molina, has some experience dealing with pitchers. Stroman will face Brewers farmhand Carlos Rodriguez, who will lead Nicaragua in its first-ever WBC game. For a country with a rich history of baseball, it will be a truly historic day.

Colombia vs. Mexico

You would think Mexico -- currently ranked No. 5 in the WBSC rankings -- would have a rich history in the Classic, but the country has never finished higher than sixth. If the Mexicans are looking to get out of this pool, this is a huge game for them, with the United States and Canada looming. They’ve got the right pitcher on the mound -- team captain , complete with some incredible Mexico flag cleats -- and prime-time-mid-day television coverage as well. Colombia is in only its second Classic and has its hands full with Urías and an extremely motivated Mexican team.

Dominican Republic vs. Venezuela
7 p.m. ET, FS1

This is the second-best matchup of the day. The Dominican lineup, even without Vladimir Guerrero Jr., is downright terrifying, but the Dominicans' secret weapon, and the real reason they’re favored to win this tournament, is their starting pitching. They kick off with defending National League Cy Young winner , with and right behind him. The poor Venezuelan pitcher faced with going up against that lineup before anyone else has to will be the Rangers' , who shouldn’t be intimidated; he does face the Astros several times a year, after all. Keep a close eye on Venezuela's , who sure seems seems like the type of player who might erupt in this tournament.

Great Britain vs. United States
9 p.m. ET, FOX

The stacked USA lineup may have to boost a shaky pitching staff, particularly atop the rotation, but if you’re worried about the lack of zip on 's fastball -- which has been a serious worry so far in Spring Training -- this could provide him with a get-right game; he won’t face a weaker lineup than Great Britain’s all season. Great Britain hasn’t announced a starting pitcher yet, but facing this Turner/Trout/Goldschmidt/Arenado/Tucker gauntlet, maybe the Brits know, but they’re just keeping him in hiding for his own protection.

Czech Republic vs. Korea
10 p.m. ET, FS1

This is how much great baseball there is on Saturday: You get to watch the Czech team twice. Korea has gotten off to the worst start imaginable so far, losing both of its games despite a roster that looked capable of potentially putting together a deep run in the Classic. For all the love the Czech team has garnered, this is absolutely a must-win for them. With a win vs. Japan perhaps too much to hope for, earning a split on Saturday would be a massive victory.

Chinese Taipei vs. Cuba
11 p.m. ET, FS2

Cuba bounced back from its rough start to the Classic with a critical win over Panama on Thursday, and while they still need a little help, a win over Chinese Taipei here could be enough to get the Cubans into the next round; they’ll need the Netherlands to help them out against Italy on Sunday. This has been a Cuban team unlike any other, and there’s a non-zero possibility that this is the last time you ever get to see  play. I can’t think of a better reason to watch right there.