The favorite coming into the tournament and the 2013 WBC champions, the Dominican Republic started off play in Pool C with an offensive onslaught against team Canada. Jose Reyes and Jose Bautista each had three hits and were big in the scoring as Bautista’s three run home run would have been enough alone to back four scoreless innings from Carlos Martinez and a dynamic bullpen that included Dellin Betances, Fernando Rodney and Jeurys Familia.
In addition to the DR, team USA was expected to easily move on to round two, but it wasn’t an easy route. In game one it took ten innings for the American team to beat team Colombia 3-2. Chris Archer threw four perfect innings while Jose Quintana went 5.2 and allowed just one run on one hit. With a stacked line-up, it was Andrew Jones who came through with both of team USA’s RBI including the walk off in the tenth.
While Colombia missed out on a game one win, they knocked out Canada in game two. The Solano brothers, Jhonatan (WAS) and Donovan (NYY) came through big with four hits, three RBI and two runs between them in the 4-1 win. One bright spot for Cananda in their elimination were 2.1 scoreless innings thrown by the 41 year old Eric Gagne. The great Canadian closer hasn’t pitched in the Majors since 2008 and before a short stint in the Canadian independent leagues last year, hadn’t pitched professionally at all since 2009, but he was as good as ever against the Colombians.
Later on Saturday, the US went up against the Dominican Republic in one of the most anticipated first round match-ups and it lived up to the billing. Marcus Stroman was nearly as good as David Price in USA’s first game as he went 4.2 scoreless. The US took the early lead thanks again to Adam Jones, this time knocking in Ian Kinsler on a fielding error by Starling Marte. Reaching third on the play, Jones would score on a Christian Yelich single. The US would add three more before Manny Machado would homer in the bottom of the sixth and Carlos Santana added another with a single. In the eighth, Santana would be a part of the offense again, this time against his teammate Andrew Miller. Miller hit Jose Bautista to start the inning, then after a Santana infield single, Nelson Cruz hit a three run shot to left to give the DR the lead for the first time in the game. Marte would make up for his error earlier in the game with a solo home run and that was enough to take the game for the DR.
Going into the final day, many possible tie scenarios were possible, either if Colombia were to beat the DR or Canada to beat USA, but both favorites came through to advance into round two. The road was bumpy for the Dominicans who were only able to work a 3-3 tie with Colombia through 11. With runners at first and second to start the 11th, the Dominican Republic didn’t need any extra help as they scored seven runs after starting the inning with a sacrifice bunt and intentional walk. Carlos Santana and Jose Bautista had started the inning on base and ended it that way as well as their back to back singles drove in the final runs of the game.
For team USA, things were more simple as they dominated team Canada from the start. Three in the first and four in the second (thanks to a three run Nolan Arenado home run) would be plenty as Danny Duffy pitched 4 scoreless innings, striking out 7. With a 0-3 finish, team Canada will almost certainly have to qualify for entry into the next World Baseball Classic. Canada has never made it into the second round and had to qualify for the tournament in 2013 after going 0-2 in 2009.
For team USA and the Dominican Republic, however, the tournament continues. After the first series in Miami, they will now head to San Diego to take on the top two teams from Pool D, team Puerto Rico and the winner of today’s tiebreaker game between Italy and Venezuela. The top two teams from the San Diego round will move on to the final round in Los Angeles.