After barely surviving the opening round of the 2013 World Baseball Classic, the United States is back in action on Tuesday night against Puerto Rico to begin Pool 2 play. The game highlights a three-game schedule for Day 11.
Also in action was the Netherlands, facing Japan for seeding purposes one day after upsetting Cuba to earn a spot in the semifinals. The day's other game features Italy and the Dominican Republic in each nation's Pool 2 opener.
Here's a recap of all the action on Day 11, which will be updated throughout the day as the results roll in from Miami, where the second-round games are taking place in Team USA's group.
Japan Defeats the Netherlands, 10-6
Japan took another positive step in its quest to win a third consecutive World Baseball Classic championship by withstanding a late rally from the Netherlands. The victory secures the top seed out of Pool 1 for the Japanese squad.
The game got off to a perfect start for the Netherlands. Andrelton Simmons, who was one of the heroes in the victory over Cuba, led off with a long home run. The Atlanta Braves shortstop has been one of the tournament's most impressive players so far.
Things got ugly in the second inning for the surprise semifinalists, though. Japan brought 12 batters the the plate, scored eight runs, chased Dutch starter David Bergman and took firm control of the contest. It was the type of hitting performance that helped Japan win the first two WBC titles.
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Designated hitter Shinnosuke Abe sparked the offensive explosion. Japan's most dangerous hitter hit two homers in the inning, a lead-off shot and a three-run blast to cap the scoring, to further justify the pre-tournament hype he received.
Japan seemed to put it on cruise control from there, getting scoreless innings of relief from Hirokazu Sawamura, Masahiro Tanaka and Takeru Imamura.
Then, in the seventh inning, the Netherlands started to mount a comeback. Three straight batters reached base to start the frame, the third being Boston Red Sox prospect Xander Bogaerts, who drove home Curt Smith. Randolph Oduber added a sacrifice fly.
The rally continued in the eighth with three more runs for the Netherlands, cutting Japan's lead to 8-6. Smith brought home a run on a groundout while Kalian Sams and Quintin De Cuba provided RBI singles for the Dutch.
Japan finally stopped the bleeding in the bottom of the inning, however, scoring two runs to pad its lead courtesy of a Hisayoshi Chono single. The Netherlands was silenced in the ninth inning by Kazuhisa Makita, giving Japan the 10-6 win.
The Dominican Republic Uses Late Rally to Down Italy, 5-4
After Edinson Volquez walked the first three batters he faced on Tuesday and Italy jumped out to a 4-0 lead behind Chris Colabello's three-run home run, things didn't look good for the Dominican Republic.
Lucky for them, the stars came out in the late innings to save the day.
Jose Reyes homered and scored two runs, Robinson Cano added a jimmy-jack and Nelson's Cruz's broken-bat single to right field capped a three-run rally in the seventh inning to give the Dominicans the lead for good on Tuesday in Miami Marlins Ballpark.
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Volquez reminded us all just how scary he can be during the early innings. His three walks to start the game got Italy off on the right foot, and after a sacrifice fly, Colabello cleared the bases to give the Italians an early jump on one of the WBC's favorites to win it all.
But the Dominicans responded as the game went on, particularly by chipping away at the 4-0 lead and using their bullpen to complete shut down the Italian offense. After Volquez left after 4.1 innings, the bullpen allowed just one hit and three baserunners. Pedro Strop gets the win (his second of the WBC) while Fernando Rodney worked around a one-out walk to get a Drew Butera to ground into a double-play to end the game.
The Dominicans will now grab some momentum heading into the winner's game of Pool 2, as they will now await the victor between Puerto Rico and the United States—scheduled to be held on Tuesday night.
USA defeats Puerto Rico, 7-1
After Jimmy Rollins and Brandon Phillips began the game by grounding out to short, Ryan Braun got on with a two-out walk. Minnesota Twins catcher Joe Mauer wasted no time in blasting a double to deep center, thus bringing in the first run of the game.
For five innings, that's all Gio Gonzalez would need.
Gonzalez was superb for 5.0 innings, allowing three hits, no runs and striking out five batters in the process. The Washington Nationals ace allowed just two opponents to reach second base in that time.
Intra-division rival and New York Mets third baseman David Wright rewarded Gonzalez for his efforts.
Wright grounded into a fielders choice with the bases loaded in the third inning. In a game-defining moment, however, Wright beat out the throw to first and allowed Phillips to cross home plate and make it 2-0.
Two innings later, Wright struck again. This time, he hit a single to right field that scored Rollins and made it 3-0.
Gonzalez exited with a potential win in tact.
In the sixth inning, Irving Falu hit a one-out single. Jeremy Affeldt quickly responded by forcing Alex Rios to ground into an inning-ending double-play—a play that summed up Puerto Rico's efforts.
This was a trend for nearly two full innings, as neither team managed to get on the scoreboard. Fortunately for the U.S., Adam Jones drove in Eric Hosmer and brought the lead to 4-0 to support this masterful pitching performance.
In the 8th inning, however, Angel Pagan cut the lead to 4-1 with an RBI groundout. Jesus Feliciano scored on the play and had many thinking that Puerto Rico would finally make their comeback.
Until Mr. Wright struck again.
With one out and the bases loaded in the bottom of the eighth, Wright launched a Xavier Cedeno pitch over Pagan's head. Rollins, Braun and Mauer would all score as Wright pulled up with a double.
His fifth RBI of the game gave Team USA a 7-1 lead—an advantage that they would not lose
For the top of the ninth, reigning MLB Rolaids Relief Man award winner Craig Kimbrel came on to close things out. After allowing Yadier Molina to crack a one-out single, Kimbrel put Puerto Rico away.
Phillips flips it to Rollins, Rollins throws it to Hosmer and it's over—team USA wins.
The Americans will now play the Dominican Republic on Mar. 14. Puerto Rico will play Italy in an elimination game.