World Baseball Classic 2013: First-Round Matchups You Don't Want to Miss
We're only two days into the 2013 World Baseball Classic and we've already seen some excellent competition.
From Chinese Taipei's collective one-hitter against Netherlands to the Dutch's shocking upset of South Korea, this tournament has seen its share of ups and downs in the early going.
As the WBC begins to progress and Pool C and D start play, the tournament will only get more intriguing for fans looking to watch some of the best matchups baseball has to offer.
With that said, here are three matchups fans won't want to miss in the first round of the World Baseball Classic.
Venezuela vs. Dominican Republic: Thursday, March 7 at 6:30 p.m. ET
Two heavyweight offenses will go head-to-head when Venezuela and the Dominican Republic open Pool C play.
Even the average baseball fan can appreciate this matchup, as some of the biggest names in the MLB will represent their country, including Robinson Cano, Jose Reyes and Hanley Ramirez for the D.R. and Miguel Cabrera, Carlos Gonzalez and Pablo Sandoval for Team Venezuela.
With both of these clubs owning subpar pitching, this game is sure to be an offensive showing with some of the best hitters in the game.
Adding to the intrigue of this matchup is the fact that both clubs are considered top-five favorites to win the Classic, according to Vegas Insider.
Donning some of the most recognizable players in baseball, this game has all the makings to be an instant classic.
Japan vs. Cuba: Wednesday, March 6 at 5 a.m. ET
Considered the favorites by many—including myself—to advance to the second round from Pool A, Japan and Cuba will close out competition in the first pool on Wednesday.
Which matchup are you most looking forward to?
Japan is off to another solid start in hopes of defending its title, scoring five runs in each of its first two games and earning wins over Brazil and China.
The Cubans began their WBC run with a 5-2 victory over Brazil on Saturday night thanks to starting pitcher Ismel Jimenez, who scattered four hits and fanned six batters over 4.2 innings of work.
Team Cuba followed that win up with a 12-0 drubbing of China on Monday morning, making this one of the most sought after matchups in the early going of the WBC.
As the two-time defending champs of the WBC, Japan is considered a heavy favorite to earn the trifecta while Team Cuba shouldn't be counted out either.
These two countries have history in the WBC as well, as the Japanese defeated Cuba in the inaugural 2006 WBC final.
Mexico vs. United States: Friday, March 8 at 9 p.m. ET
Team USA will make its debut on March 8 against Mexico, and with fans still waiting to see the U.S. earn a WBC title, or even finish within the top three, Friday's game is the start to what could be an impressive run for the Americans.
Backed by slugger Ryan Braun and Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey, Team USA certainly has the talent to win a championship in 2013, but do they have the drive?
A team like Japan takes pride in representing its country, but with so many offseason workouts and duties for MLB players, the Americans don't always submit a total effort.
The Mexican club should be a good barometer to test this U.S. club, which should win Pool D rather easily.
If the U.S. is going to take this tournament seriously in 2013, the first test will be Mexico on Friday.
Follow me on Twitter for more WBC coverage: Follow @Pete_Schauer
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