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2023 World Baseball Classic Day 5: United States, Venezuela get off to winning starts

Team USA opened their tournament with a resounding win over their former imperial overlords.

World Baseball Classic Pool C: Great Britain v United States Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Day 5 of the World Baseball Classic brought the most baseball-packed day of pool play with eight games on the slate. Malachi covered the early half of games that included an Colombia extra-inning thriller over Mexico and a Puerto Rico demolition of Panama. I’ve got the nightcap covered, with the United States opening their tournament against Great Britain and a Dominican Republic-Venezuela matchup that I’m sure many had circled on their calendars.

Pool D: Dominican Republic (0-1) 1, Venezuela (1-0) 5

Perhaps the most anticipated game of pool play saw Venezuela all but silence a potent Dominican batting order. Just look at these lineups:

The showdown featured a matchup of two of the better pitchers in MLB last season, with the reining NL Cy Young Award winner Sandy Alcantara taking the mound for the DR to challenge the Rangers’ Martín Pérez, who at one point was challenging for the AL ERA crown. It was the latter who came out on top surrendering a run on four hits in 3.1 innings.

Meanwhile the Marlins’ ace got tagged for three runs in 3.2 innings playing in his home ballpark. DR actually opened the scoring in the top of the first with Julio Rodríguez leading off with a single before Juan Soto drove him home with an RBI double.

Anthony Santander answered with a solo shot in the second to level the scores, allowing his team to grab a lead two innings later, one that they would not surrender. Salvador Perez led off with a double followed by a walk from Gleyber Torres and single from Andrés Giménez to load the bases, and with two outs David Peralta smacked a two-run single to make it 3-1 Venezuela as part of a three-RBI night for the newly-minted Dodger.

On the pitching side, the night belonged to Luis Garcia. The Astros starter is the foremost casualty of MLB’s crackdown on balks and illegal pitches, as his “rock-the-baby” windup is not allowed by the letter of the law. He pitched three scoreless innings, striking out seven batters as Venezuela went on to win, 5-1.

Pool C: Great Britain (0-1) 2, United States (1-0) 6

The United States cruised to an easy victory while a pair of runs bookending the game from Great Britain made the scores more respectable. The ageless Adam Wainwright gave them four innings of one-run ball to go along with four strikeouts while Rockies starter Kyle Freeland made the other meaty contribution from the mound surrendering a further run in three innings.

You’d need all the fingers on your right hand to count the MVPs at the top of the Team USA lineup between Mookie Betts, Mike Trout, and Paul Goldschmidt, but it was the middle of the lineup that really did the damage. Team GB actually opened the scoring in the first on a Trayce Thompson solo shot, but Team USA responded emphatically with five runs across the third and fourth innings. Nolan Arenado grabbed the lead with a two-run double in the third as part of a three-RBI night that included a pair of RBI doubles.

Kyle Schwarber provided the big blast an inning later, clobbering a three-run bomb to make it 5-1 United States.

Pirates closer David Bednar struck out the side to secure the save on Team USA’s 6-2 victory.

Pool B: Czech Republic (1-2) 3, Korea (1-2) 7

South Korea picked up a much-needed win to stay alive in the pool, with Padres infielder Ha-Seong Kim launching a pair of home runs. He and starting pitcher Se Woong Park of the Lotte Giants of KBO were the stars of the show as Korea smacked a five-spot on the board in the first to end this contest from the get-go. Park struck out eight in 4.1 innings of work allowing only a double in the fifth.

Korea batted around in the first, with Kunwoo Park leading off with a double followed by three straight one-out singles. A pair of walks later brought Cardinals shortstop Tommy Edman to the plate to ground a two-out single off the Czech shortstop to cap off the five-run flurry. Kim’s pair of home runs came to lead off the second and seventh innings, impressively going to either field.

Czech Republic scored a pair in the seventh on a Matej Mensik two-run double and one in the eighth to make it a respectable loss, 7-3

Pool A: Chinese Taipei (2-2) 1, Cuba (2-2) 7

Chinese Taipei were no match for Cuba. Early loud contact and dominant pitching ensured that the Cuba won this matchup of island nations from opposite sides of the world. Cuba scored four in the first thanks to a two-out double from Alfredo Despaigne followed by a two-run blast by Erisbel Arruebarrena. Yoán Moncada added his own solo shot an inning later, and Cuba were coasting at this point.

Elian Leyva and Miguel Romero combined to give Cuba five innings of scoreless pitching, each tallying four strikeouts against just one hit. Four Cubans had multi-hit games while three contributed two-RBI nights to easily defeat Chinese Taipei, 7-1.

To quote Malachi’s writeup of the other Saturday games from just a little while ago, here’s the chaos that Cuba and Taiwan could be facing on Sunday morning:

If you’re up early, make sure you watch Italy/Netherlands [at 7am EST] since that’s the final game of Pool A and if the Dutch win, they’ll advance to the quarterfinals. But if Italy takes it, then everyone in Pool A has a 2-2 record and we have some weird tiebreakers to consider!

Buckle up.

Today at the WBC:

Japan vs. Australia
Time: 6:00 a.m. EST
Venue: Tokyo Dome, Japan

Netherlands vs. Italy
Time: 7:00 a.m. EST
Venue: Taichung Intercontinental Baseball Stadium, Taichung

Nicaragua vs. Israel
Time: 12:00 p.m. EST
Venue: loanDepot Park, Miami

Great Britain vs. Canada
Time: 3:00 p.m. EST
Venue: Chase Field, Phoenix

Venezuela vs. Puerto Rico
Time: 7:00 pm EST
Venue: loanDepot Park, Miami

Mexico vs. United States
Time: 10:00 pm EST
Venue: Chase Field, Phoenix

Australia vs. Czech Republic
Time: 11:00 pm EST
Venue: Tokyo Dome, Tokyo, Japan