First-round play at the 2013 World Baseball Classic is in full swing, with both Pool A and Pool B finishing their games and Pool C and Pool D just kicking off.
The weekend boasts some tantalizing matchups, whether it be the United States versus Mexico, Puerto Rico versus Venezuela or the Dominican Republic versus Puerto Rico.
There is also a second-round game between Japan and Chinese Taipei on the slate for Friday.
Here's a look at the WBC action through the weekend. The full schedule can be found at WorldBaseballClassic.com.
|2||Friday, March 8 at 5:30 p.m.||Spain at Puerto Rico|
|3||Saturday, March 9 at 11 a.m.||Dominican Republic at Spain|
|4||Saturday, March 9 at 5:30 p.m.||Puerto Rico at Venezuela|
|5||Sunday. March 10 at 12:30 p.m.||Spain at Venezuela|
|6||Sunday, March 10 at 7:30 p.m.||Dominican Republic at Puerto Rico|
|2||Friday, March 8 at 2:30 p.m.||Canada at Italy|
|3||Friday, March 8 at 9 p.m.||Mexico at United States|
|4||Saturday, March 9 at 2:30 p.m.||Canada at Mexico|
|5||Saturday, March 9 at 9 p.m.||United States at Italy|
|6||Sunday, March 10 at 4 p.m.||United States at Canada|
Pool 1 (Second Round)
|2||Friday, March 8 at 5 a.m.||Japan at Chinese Taipei|
|3||Saturday, March 9 at 5 a.m.||Game 1 Loser at Game 2 Loser|
|4||Sunday, March 10 at 6 a.m.||Game 1 Winner at Game 2 Winner|
*Complete bracket can be found at WorldBaseballClassic.com
The Dominican Republic and Venezuela are the favorites in Pool C. The Dominican Republic boasts 21 current Major League Baseball players, while Venezuela sports 16 major leaguers .
Both teams are loaded on offense.
The Dominicans sport position players such as Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz, Jose Reyes, Hanley Ramirez, Edwin Encarnacion, Erick Aybar and Carlos Santana.
The Venezuelans boast position players such as Miguel Cabrera, Pablo Sandoval, Carlos Gonzalez, Elvis Andrus, Asdrubal Cabrera, Martin Prado, Omar Infante, Marco Scutaro and Gerardo Parra.
Venezuela has the better starting pitchers, while the Dominican Republic has a stronger relieving corps.
Venezuela's pitching isn't incredibly deep, but it does sport solid right-handers Anibal Sanchez and Jhoulys Chacin.
The Dominican Republic's top starting pitchers are left-hander Wandy Rodriguez and right-hander Edinson Volquez. Fernando Rodney, Santiago Casilla and the ageless Octavio Dotel all reside in the bullpen.
Puerto Rico has the offense and relief pitchers to be a darkhorse in the pool, but the starting pitching is weak and it's hard to imagine the squad doing better than the Dominican Republic and Venezuela.
Alexis Rios, Carlos Beltran and Angel Pagan, as well as relievers Hector Santiago, Xavier Cedeno and left-hander Javier Lopez will try to prove me wrong.
Spain, a newcomer to the tournament, has current major leaguers Rhiner Cruz, Fernando Martinez, Paco Rodriguez and Engel Beltre, but that's it. It would be a shocker if the Spanish advanced to the next round.
As for Pool D, it's likely going to be USA, Mexico and Canada battling for the top two spots in the group.
USA's talent is undeniable, boasting 15 All-Stars, three MVPs and 2012 National League Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey (whose knuckleball, by the way, is to die for).
On the other hand, talent isn't everything, evidenced by the fact that the best finish in the tournament for the Americans is fourth.
Canada may be favored in the odds, but I actually like Mexico better.
Not only do the Mexicans possess four-time All-Star and three-time Gold Glove Award winner Adrian Gonzalez, they also have speed on the basepath with second baseman Danny Espinosa, two strong starting pitchers in Yovani Gallardo and Miguel Gonzalez and a solid bullpen (Sergio Romo, David Hernandez and Oliver Perez).
Canada shows off Joey Votto, Justin Morneau and Brett Lawrie, but there isn't much beyond that in the lineup or the pitching staff.
The Big Three for Italy are: young first baseman Anthony Rizzo, outfielder Chris Denorfia and reliever Jason Grilli.
Friday's second-round game between Japan and Chinese Taipei should be interesting. This is the first time in three WBC appearances that Taipei has advanced to the second round of the tournament. Japan, of course, has won the only two WBCs in history.
Taipei is hitting .274 as a team, with two home runs and six doubles through three games. The squad has notched 14 runs in that span.
Taipei has also pitched relatively well, with a 2.42 ERA, 0.92 WHIP and 17 strikeouts in 26 innings pitched.
Japan is doing what it does best: play small ball. The Japanese are only hitting .217 through three games—with only one extra-base hit—but somehow they've scrapped for 13 runs.
That has to do with the fact they've compiled 18 walks in that time, as well as four stolen bases.
The Japanese have posted a 3.46 ERA, 0.96 WHIP and 33 strikeouts in 26 innings pitched.
Yoshio Itoi of Japan and Dai-Kang Yang of Chinese Taipei each have four RBI apiece so far. Yang has a home run.
Japan is certainly favored against Chinese Taipei on Friday, but the way Taipei has been playing, I wouldn't call it an easy matchup for the Japanese.
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