The 2013 World Baseball Classic is starting to heat up. Action continues in Pools C and D, the second half of the opening round, while play is already underway in Round 2 for the countries that emerged from Pools A and B.
Quickly, the tournament is proving to be exciting and unpredictable. After dominating the group stage, including a victory over two-time defending champion Japan, Cuba was beaten by the Netherlands to open the second round on Day 6.
It was a day that also featured an upset by Italy, which knocked off Mexico, accomplishing more in one game than most prognosticators expected from it in the entire event. So the four games on Day 7 clearly had a high standard to live up to.
Here's a complete recap of the day's action, which will be updated throughout the day. The United States' first game of the event against Mexico highlights the Friday schedule.
Mexico 5, United States 2
One of the most unexpected results of the tournament saw Mexico's pitching, led by starter Yovani Gallardo, shut down the United States in the latter's opening game of the 2013 World Baseball Classic on Friday night.
It is no secret that this United States team was constructed with the sole purpose of winning the event and trying to get casual American fans interested in the World Baseball Classic. But after this loss, the U.S. is just one loss to Italy on Saturday from being eliminated.
You have to give credit where credit is due. Mexico was clearly the better team Friday night. Adrian Gonzalez had the big hit in the game, a two-run home run in the top of the third inning to give his team a 4-0 lead.
That would be more than enough for Mexico, as Gallardo struck out four and allowed just one run in 3.1 innings. The bullpen came in and allowed just six hits and one run in 5.2 innings.
R.A. Dickey started for the United States and wasn't sharp. He gave up six hits and four runs in just four innings of work. His knuckleball didn't have the same hard movement we grew accustomed to seeing last season, making it much easier to hit.
Mexico will close out its run in Pool D with a game against Canada at 2:30 p.m. ET on Saturday. With a victory, Mexico will secure a berth in the second round.
The United States, meanwhile, will try to stay alive when it takes on Italy in its second game of the event at 9:00 p.m. ET. Both games can be seen on the MLB Network.
Puerto Rico 3, Spain 0
Puerto Rico played a sloppy game against Spain, yet still managed to win in impressive fashion. A three-run first inning set the tone for the Puerto Rican team and proved to be all the offense they would need.
After that first inning, it was all pitching for both teams. Spain could only muster up five singles in the game and ran itself out of a few potential rallies with baffling stolen-base attempts and poor fundamental baseball.
Puerto Rico starting pitcher Giancarlo Alvarado set the tone for the rest of the staff, throwing four innings and allowing just one hit with four strikeouts. Hiram Burgos followed him, throwing 4.2 innings of four-hit ball and nearly closing the game out before reaching the pitch limit.
Up next, Puerto Rico (1-0) will take on Venezuela (0-1) on Saturday at 5:30 p.m. ET. Spain (0-1) will try to get things going against the loaded Dominican Republic (1-0) at 11:00 a.m. ET.
Italy 14, Canada 4 (F/8)
It was raining in Arizona Friday. We are not just talking about the weather outside, as the Italian bats made it rain inside Chase Field. They put a hurting on Canada, invoking the mercy rule in the bottom of the eighth inning.
First baseman Chris Colabello led the attack for Italy, going 4-for-5 with a home run, two doubles and four RBI. In total the Italians churned out 17 hits in the 14-4 romping.
Despite what the score says, this actually turned into a competitive game for a few innings. Italy led 6-1 after five innings, but Canada scored once in the sixth and twice in the seventh to make it 6-4.
But in the bottom of the seventh the floodgates started to come open, as Italy scored three runs to make it 9-4. The bottom dropped out for Canada in the bottom of the eighth, because Jim Henderson and R.J. Swindle combined to give up six hits and five runs without recording an out.
The win moves Italy to 2-0 in Pool D. With the modified run-differential tiebreaker, it is going to take a great performance by Mexico, Canada or the United States to overtake Italy, though Mexico and the U.S. have yet to play.
Japan 4, Chinese Taipei 3
Japan survived a scare from Chinese Taipei and avoided an elimination showdown with Cuba by staging a late rally and pulling out a 4-3 win in extra innings. A loss would have put the 2006 and 2009 champions within one defeat from getting knocked out.
Instead, Japan will now face the Netherlands for an automatic spot in the semifinals. Chinese Taipei must go up against Cuba, with the loser being eliminated from championship contention.
Chien-Ming Wang was the star of the game for Chinese Taipei. The former member of the New York Yankees and Washington Nationals pitched six scoreless innings, giving up just six hits and one walk while striking out one.
If the sinkerballer, who's currently a free agent, was hoping to generate some interest by playing in the WBC, he's doing exactly what he needs to do. It was his second straight scoreless outing, previously shutting down Australia, and he left with a 2-0 lead.
That advantage was courtesy of Szu-Chi Chou, who walked to bring home a run in the third inning, and Cheng-Min Peng. The star first baseman singled to bring another run across the plate in the bottom of the fifth.
Chinese Taipei, which won Pool B, held the lead until the eighth inning. That's when the only champion the WBC has known mounted a rally.
Japan started the inning with three straight hits, including an RBI single by slugging catcher Shinnosuke Abe to bring his squad back within one. Hayato Sakamoto then equalized the game with an infield knock, which scored Yuichi Honda.
Hung-Wen Chen then entered the game to stop the slide for Chinese Taipei. He got Sho Nakata to fly out with a man on third base, and that proved critical.
No sooner had Japan tied it up when Chinese Taipei grabbed the lead back. Chou picked up his second RBI of the day, bringing home Peng to put his team within three outs of advancing in the Pool 1 winner's bracket.
However, as you'd expect from such a wild game, Japan wasn't prepared to give up that easily. With two outs in the ninth, Hirokazu Ibata looped a single to center field and Takashi Toritani came across to tie it yet again.
Finally, after holding Chinese Taipei off the board in the bottom of the ninth, Japan grabbed its first lead of the game in the 10th. Nakata, who squandered a chance in the eighth, came up with a sacrifice fly to score Nobuhiro Matsuda.
Toshiya Sugiuchi closed the door for Japan in the bottom of the 10th. Not before a little drama, of course.