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We're into round two of the World Baseball Classic, with Pool E already underway and Pool F kicking off on Tuesday night with a significant matchup. While this is being written, Japan and Cuba are facing off, with Japan attempting to remain undefeated and improve its round two record to 2-0 while Cuba attempts to secure its first win of the second round and avoid certain elimination.
Following that contest, though, is a 9 p.m. ET matchup between Pool C's winner, the Dominican Republic, and Pool D's top team, Puerto Rico. Then at 11 p.m. ET, the Netherlands will take on Cuba, which will have different meaning depending on the results of Japan vs. Cuba.
Both the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico are yet to lose in this year's tournament, and both have star-studded rosters that could conceivably win the whole thing. Puerto Rico features talents like Carlos Beltran, Carlos Correa, and Francisco Lindor, while the Dominican has a fearsome top of the lineup comprised of Jean Segura, Manny Machado, Robinson Cano, Jose Bautista, and, sadly for opposing pitchers, even more. They both might be able to make it out of this round two pool and into round three, but winning a head-to-head contest here will make it far easier to do so.
The late game might just be important for the Netherlands, if Cuba loses, as it would allow it to avoid falling behind Japan by too much in the standings while giving them one more win than Israel currently has. If Cuba manages to give Japan its first loss of the tourney, however, then we've got all four teams in Pool E sitting at 1-1 records heading into this game, and the winner of Netherlands vs. Cuba will leapfrog to the top.
[Update: Japan defeated Cuba, 8-5, and moved to 2-0 in second round play while Cuba is now 0-2 there.]
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