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2023 World Baseball Classic Day 6: Venezuela flexes muscle, America falls

Concluding a wild day at the WBC.

World Baseball Classic Pool D: Venezuela v Puerto Rico Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images

Sunday was one of the best days of baseball you’ll ever see, and we were particularly spoiled on the international front. John covered the first half of WBC games earlier today, but I think I lucked out with the night half. We saw Venezuela put up another stellar performance against a rival powerhouse, the tournament’s Cinderella stories collide, and most delightful of all, the United States were smacked around. Let’s dive in.

Pool D: Venezuela (2-0) 9, Puerto Rico (1-1) 6

In the fourth game of the so-called Group of Death, Venezuela continued to impress. The South American side went up 7-0 in the first two innings, capped off by Sal Perez’s long ball in the second inning:

One sympathizes with Puerto Rican starter José Berríos, trying to rebound from an ugly 2022 but posting a pitching line of 1.0 IP, 5 H, 5 ER, 2 BB, 1K. Venezuela’s lineup is perhaps the most contact-oriented in the tournament, making the risks of missing spots greater for an opposing pitcher, and Berríos missed more than he hit.

PR was able to mount something of a comeback, with Eddie Rosario hitting a solo shot to right in the bottom of the second. While it gave Puerto Rico some signs of life, Venezuela answered with a run in each of the fourth and fifth innings to go up 9-1. However, the soft underbelly of a talented Venezuelan squad was always going to be the relief corps, and that came through on Sunday.

A walk and two singles in the bottom of the sixth got PR back on the board before Jhoulys Chacín allowed a trio of inherited runners to cross the plate on a single, RBI groundout and sac fly.

MJ Melendez got the Puerto Rican team as close as they got in the eighth with an RBI double, but Silvino Bracho engineered a clutch double play before locking down the ninth, moving Venezuela to 2-0 in round robin play.

Pool C: Mexico (1-1) 11, United States (1-1) 5

Mexico came into the WBC as one of the dark horses in the field, with a talented lineup and deep pitching staff. After dropping their tournament opener to Colombia, the Mexican side rebounded with a huge win over their American rivals, kicked off by Joey Meneses’ two-run blast:

Kyle Tucker came around in the second to halve the lead, but Brady Singer’s four runs allowed in the fourth allowed the red, white and green to pull away.

Mexico’s a tough team for me to root for because I truly, deeply dislike Alex Verdugo, but there’s something about them that I find electrifying. Maybe it’s beating up the US. Who can say? Meneses ended the day with five RBI, the key cog in a relentless attack against a relatively weak American pitching staff.

Will Smith did edge the States just a little bit closer by taking JoJo Romero deep in the seventh inning. A few batters later, however, Mexico poured on three more runs off Daniel Bard, pushing the lead to 11-2. The Mexican bullpen struggled mightily in the eighth however, as Bobby Witt Jr. and Tim Anderson both notched RBI doubles to get the US to within a touchdown.

That ended up being as good as it got for the Americans, as Gerardo Reyes navigated the top of the lineup in the ninth, surrendering just a single hit in retiring the side. Both the US and Mexico were favorites to advance out of Pool C, but at 1-1 each, the table looks awful crowded. Should either squad see a sudden, upset loss in their remaining games the path to the quarterfinals could get a lot murkier.

Pool B: Australia (3-1) 8, Czech Republic (1-3) 3

In a matchup of the WBC’s emotional favorites, the baseball ‘Roos continued their run of solid, blue collar baseball play. Two batters in, Alex Hall got the Aussies on the board:

Not to be outdone in the battle for baseball’s heart, the Czechs responded with MLB veteran Eric Sogard notched an RBI single in the third. The two sides remained deadlocked for three full innings, before Logan Wade drilled a double to right field. Two runs came in to put Australia up 3-1, before scoring another three in the eighth and two in the ninth.

To their credit, Czechia put up two more in their half of the eighth, but they just couldn’t keep up with how deep, if deplete of stars, Australia can be. The Czechs fall to 1-3, bounced from the tournament. Australia meanwhile punches their ticket to the quarterfinals, finishing second in the group behind Japan. It’s the first time the ‘roos have advanced out of the pool stage, and they immediately become an underdog in the next round.

Today at the WBC:

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

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

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

Israel vs. Puerto Rico
Time: 7:00 p.m. EST
Venue: loanDepot Park, Miami

Canada vs. USA
Time: 10:00 pm EST
Venue: Chase Field, Phoenix