After nine days, the first round of the World Baseball Classic comes to an end with plenty left to be decided. Even as we have a good sampling of what each team is capable of, we still don't know what to expect.
That is the great thing about baseball, especially in a short-series event like the World Baseball Classic. All it takes is one pitcher having a bad inning or a defensive miscue to turn a game in one direction.
With just three games left in Pool Play, here is a look at what to expect from the World Baseball Classic on Sunday.
Pool C: Spain at Venezuela (12:30 p.m. ET)
Spain is just trying to save face in the event after dropping its first two games against Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. The offense has been the biggest problem, as Spain has managed just three runs in two games (two of them coming in the bottom of the ninth against the Dominicans).
Venezuela has as much talent as any team in this event. The lineup should have no problem exploiting a soft Spanish pitching staff. Given the way Spain has struggled to push runs across the board, Spain's pitching can get away with some things it wasn't able to against the Dominican Republic on Friday.
The middle of the Venezuelan lineup, which includes Miguel Cabrera, Pablo Sandoval and Carlos Gonzalez, should have a field day on Sunday. You can't contain those three hitters for long, especially in a situation where they need to win.
Power will be the order of the day for Venezuela, as it will romp Spain on Sunday and close out its run in the 2013 World Baseball Classic in style.
Pool C: Dominican Republic at Puerto Rico (7:30 p.m. ET)
What will be the best game on the Sunday slate?
To the surprise of no one, the Dominican Republic has been on cruise control in Pool C. The only game that was likely to present a challenge was the opener against Venezuela, yet the Dominicans powered their way to nine runs on 13 hits and won easily.
After another easy victory against Spain on Saturday, the Dominican Republic is merely biding its time waiting for the second round to begin. Puerto Rico stands in the way, though it is hardly a dangerous opponent.
Even with the strong pitching effort on Friday night against Spain, Puerto Rico was helped tremendously by several baserunning blunders and mental mistakes from the Spanish squad in that 3-0 victory.
Puerto Rico wasn't even impressive in that victory, as an error by Spain's third baseman Jesus Merchan in the first inning led to two unearned runs.
But Puerto Rico came back with a great all-around effort against Venezuela on Saturday, shutting down that powerful lineup and scoring six runs after Carlos Zambrano had a mini-meltdown in the fourth inning after cruising through the first three frames.
Not that the Dominican Republic has nothing to play for, but even with its foot off the gas pedal knowing its spot in the second round is secure, it is hard to imagine a loss to Puerto Rico on Sunday—a mismatch of epic proportions in the World Baseball Classic.
Pool D: United States at Canada (4:30 p.m. ET)
Even before the United States took the field on Saturday night against Italy, it knew what it had to do on Sunday in order to advance.
Because of the chaos in Pool D, the Canada-United States matchup became the most important of the Pool, especially if you are a fan of those two countries.
Texas Rangers pitcher Derek Holland will take the bump for the United States. He has a good arm but has struggled to command it in the zone, so don't be surprised if manager Joe Torre has a quick hook in this game that the U.S. has to win.
Canada counters with Pittsburgh Pirates pitching prospect Jameson Taillon. He has tremendous stuff, yet has had problems missing bats due to lack of fastball command in the zone. If he is missing his spots early, the powerful American lineup could make it a quick day.
The United States is built on its offense, so it is imperative that it shows some of that pop in this must-win game. Canada got its adrenaline going in that brawl against Mexico on Saturday. We saw how good this lineup can be in that game, especially the middle part of it.
Justin Morneau, Michael Saunders and Chris Robinson combined for 10 hits, seven RBI and five runs against Mexico.
This year's event was designed to spotlight the United States, but don't underestimate Canada in this spot.