Don't let anyone tell you the World Baseball Classic is pointless. Don't let anyone tell you it is boring. Stop listening to other people and turn on some of these games. Maybe it's because I was able to watch live international baseball while getting ready in the morning, but the Japan vs. Chinese Taipei game was incredible. And it was followed up by another great matchup between Spain and Puerto Rico in the afternoon.
Japan vs. Chinese Taipei
The crowd, watching in anticipation of every pitch, every hit, and every big play, made the atmosphere at the Japan Dome more like Game Seven of the World Series than an international match played in the third installment of the WBC. So, again, don't tell those fans these games don't matter.
Japan trailed most of this game and was on the verge of being upset by Chinese Taipei - and it surely wouldn't be the first upset this tournament has given us. In the top of the eigth, Japan finally managed to string together some good at-bats against Chinese Taipei. They scored two runs in the top of the eighth to tie the game only to watch Chinese Taipei score one in the bottom of the inning to re-take the lead.
Japan is the two-time reigning champion of this tournament. Did you think they would go down that easily? Nope, Japan rallied. They scored one run in the top of the ninth to force extras. Then, in the top of the tenth, they broke through and took their first lead of the game. Sho Nakata's sacrifice fly in the tenth proved to be the winner as Toshiya Sugiuchi shut the door and earned the save for Japan.
Canada vs. Italy
Canada and Italy kicked off the first round of Pool D play. Unfortunately for Canada, Italy continued their hot streak. They mercy-ruled the Canadian team like this was a bad adult slow-pitch softball game. Actually, the game was relatively competitive until the seventh inning.
With the Italian team already leading 6-4, Italy broke out in the seventh. They answered the two-spot Canada put up in the top of the inning with three of their own in the bottom of the seventh. Then, in the eighth inning, Italy walked off winners.
Thanks to WBC mercy rules, Italy's five runs in the bottom of the eighth put the club ahead by 10 runs after the seventh inning. And that was it. A Mario Chiarni single in the bottom of the eighth wrapped things up. Essentially, it was a walk-off hit when the team already had a nine run lead. Strange, but still quite entertaining. Italy will face the United States on Saturday.
Spain vs. Puerto Rico
In the only Pool C action of the day, Spain took on Puerto Rico in Puerto Rico's own territory. The game was played at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in Puerto Rico. Unlike the other two games today, this contest did not have quite as much drama.
Puerto Rico simply dominated. They only scored three runs, but their pitching was fantastic. Three pitchers - Giancarlo Alvarado, Hiram Burgos, and Xavier Cedeno - combined to throw nine innings of five hit ball. The pitching staff yielded just one walk and combined to strike out seven.
Puerto Rico struck early and held on to win. RBI by Carlos Beltran, Mike Aviles, and Carlos Rivera all led to the Puerto Rican team's three-run first inning. Puerto Rico will take on Venezuela next on Saturday.
All World Baseball Classic Scores:
Japan 4, Chinese Taipei 3
Canada 4, Italy 14
Spain 0, Puerto Rico 3