Pool E play wrapped up Wednesday in the World Baseball Classic, while Pool F action continued with the United States attempting to make a run at its first WBC title.
In Pool E, Israel had to notch an upset win over Japan in Tokyo to keep its Cinderella story alive, while Team USA and Venezuela were set to clash in Pool F with a chance to join Puerto Rico atop the group.
Here is a rundown of Wednesday's World Baseball Classic results, as well as additional analysis regarding how each game played out.
Wednesday's WBC Results
|2017 World Baseball Classic: March 15 Games and Scores|
|E||Israel vs. Japan||8-3, Japan|
|F||Venezuela vs. United States||4-2, USA|
Japan 8, Israel 3
Needing a victory to force a tiebreaker game against the Netherlands, Israel fell short Wednesday in a contest against Japan that was very much up for grabs until the sixth inning.
Neither team was able to score through five innings, as the respective starters were strong and worked around trouble when they needed to.
Israel turned to Josh Zeid as its starter, after he served as the team's closer in the opening round. He excelled in his new role, allowing four hits, two walks and no runs in four innings.
According to Sung Min Kim of River Ave Blues, Israel managed to hold down mighty Japan like no team could previously:
Israel, however, was also unable to score, as 24-year-old Kodai Senga was nearly unhittable.
Senga locked down Israel for five innings, allowing just one hit and one walk while striking out four.
Israel had hope once Japan lifted Senga from the game, but Japan's defense made life miserable for the underdogs even after Senga was gone, as seen in this video from WBC Baseball:
The complexion of the game changed in the bottom of the sixth inning when Japan's bats finally came to life.
The hit parade started when outfielder Yoshitomo Tsutsugoh continued his impressive WBC by clubbing a solo home run to give Japan a 1-0 lead:
That set the wheels in motion for a huge inning, as an RBI double by Nobuhiro Matsuda, an RBI single by Seiji Kobayashi, an RBI single by Ryosuke Kikuchi and a bases-loaded hit by pitch absorbed by Norichika Aoki made it 5-0 in favor of Japan.
While that was all the offense Japan needed, it tacked on three more runs in the bottom of the eighth inning by virtue of a two-run double by Seiichi Uchikawa and an RBI single by Matsuda.
Israel needed a miracle in the top of the ninth to keep things going, and while it did manage to make things interesting by scoring three runs, Kazuhisa Makita finally managed to close the game out.
Despite the decisive loss, Israel's World Baseball Classic debut was a success since few expected it to advance past the first round.
Japan continued to do what it always does, as it is a perfect 6-0 and two victories away from winning its third WBC in four tries.
The Japanese team has advanced to the semifinals in each World Baseball Classic thus far, and after turning in a somewhat disappointing third-place finish in 2013, its current level of play suggests a deeper run is in the cards this year.
United States 4, Venezuela 2
The United States' bats showed up just in time to help it earn a 4-2 victory over Venezuela.
The Americans found themselves trailing 2-1 heading into the bottom of the eighth when Adam Jones drilled a game-tying home run off Chicago Cubs relief pitcher Hector Rondon. Christian Yelich then singled, and Eric Hosmer connected on the game-winning long ball two batters later.
MLB Network shared the clutch home runs that rescued the United States from its early offensive struggles:
As for Venezuela, Rondon's rough outing ruined a brilliant start from Seattle Mariners ace Felix Hernandez. He threw five shutout innings, allowing just three hits in the process and setting the stage for a road victory for his club.
However, the bullpen couldn't hold it, as the Americans scored their other run in the seventh with a Jonathan Lucroy sacrifice fly when they were trailing 2-0.
The United States wouldn't have even been in position to make the late comeback had it not received impressive pitching as well. The combination of Drew Smyly, Sam Dyson, David Robertson, Andrew Miller, Pat Neshek and Luke Gregerson allowed just one earned run throughout the game.
Smyly was particularly impressive as the starter, going 4.2 innings and striking out eight.
Venezuela's lone runs came from a sacrifice fly by Ender Inciarte in the third and a solo homer from Rougned Odor in the seventh, which MLB Network passed along:
It wasn't enough to outlast the Americans, who established a formula of formidable pitching and timely hitting that could carry them to an eventual World Baseball Classic title.