The World Baseball Classic is well underway, and soon a single winner will emerge from the teams of 16 countries. Then, they will go on to represent our planet in an intergalactic baseball tournament to establish dominance over some neighboring exoplanets recently announced by NASA. (This article has been written by someone with only a vague grasp of recent news).
Pool A is finishing its first round games with a rousing Korea-Chinese Taipei match-up that started at 4:30 this morning, but the World Baseball Classic’s very first phase is near completion. Israel dominated the division, taking down the Netherlands last night in Seoul and becoming early undefeated tournament darlings. Phillies pitching prospect Kenny Koplove, on Team Israel, hasn’t been tapped as his team swept through Pool A, but former Phillies farmhand Josh Zeid is serving as the team’s closer, locking up their third win in a row Wednesday night with a strikeout of a man named Randolph Oduber.
Let’s get back stateside, for the time being! For some reason, Major League Baseball’s teams were forced to face the internationally assembled squads of WBC, and the Phillies scattered (or soon to be scattered) around the globe were participants in the madness.
Venezuela 11, Royals 0
- For Venezuela, Odubel Herrera went 2-for-5 with a pair of knife-twisting singles. He knocked in Victor Martinez in the sixth inning, putting Venezuela up 8-0 and generally just being cool.
- The Royals announcer called an inside pitch that hit the handle of a hitter’s bat a "jam job," which was nice.
- Miguel Cabrera hit a home run so hard that it hit a fan and actually injured them.
- Former Phillies Rule 5 success story Ender Inciarte had a hit but also left three RISP with two outs. Thanks a lot, Ender; your homeland only had an 11-run lead to speak of by the end of the game.
- Venezuela used eight pitchers in nine innings, none of which were Edubray Ramos.
- Cabrera, Martinez, Jose Altuve, Carlos Gonzalez, Martin Prado, Salvador Perez; this is a good baseball team.
Twins 3, USA 2
- Oh my god, all of America lost to the Twins, a team that was middle of the pack at best in all offensive categories last season. Thankfully, the Twins made a lot of improvements this year that really turned over the roster and improved in some key areas—god, no, none of the happened, America lost last night to Minnesota, it sucked.
- Since they did not lose, Minnesota gets to stay in the Union, though, which is a win for The Gopher State. I don’t make the rules.
- All right, all right; let’s get to what everyone’s asking. Did Pat Neshek pitch? Yes he did. And unlike precious 2016 All-Star and Cy Young Award vote-getter Andrew Miller, Neshek pitched a whole inning for Team USA, allowing no hits, no runs, and striking out one hitter: Joe Mauer.
- In fact, if it weren’t for Miller - who gave up two earned runs in the second inning - America would still be a country, not a howling shame-hole.
Colombia 9, Rays 7
- Jorge Alfaro did play for Colombia, but did he start? Yes he did. But did he catch? Stay tuned.
- No he did not. Manager Luis Urueta put Alfaro at first base, where he played the entire game.
- Yes, Alfaro was the first Phillie to hit a home run with his WBC team. The historic moment was capped off by Colombia’s comeback win. After going down 5-0, it took a ninth inning surge to seal the victory, in which Colombia, down 7-3 at the time, scored six runs to take a two-run lead. Alfaro singled early in the inning and was eventually knocked in to make it 7-5.
- I wish there were more video clips of this game online. It sounds like a good one. Fortunately, we have a ton of Tim Tebow Playing Baseball Badly clips instead. Thanks, MLB!
Athletics 7, Italy 0
- Phillies prospect Nick Fanti entered the game in the fourth inning, with he and his Italian countrymen down 1-0. He gave up a single and then a Matt Chapman double made it 3-0.
- No, that wasn’t it. Fanti had gotten one out, then walked a guy, then struck another one out. Then he hit Alejandro De Aza with a pitch.
- That wasn’t it either. Then he induced a ground-out and the inning ended.
- Then the A’s scored four more runs off two other pitchers.
- Then that was it. Italy lost.
Dominican Republic 10, Pirates 6
- The Dominican squad thundered through Bradenton and torched the Pirates without even needing the help of their Phillies’ representative, Hector Neris.
- This isn’t surprising, there’s a ton of pitchers available. Even newly acquired Phillies reliever Joaquin Benoit is listed in the D.R.’s "Designated Pitcher Pool," which is a waist-high pool of tepid water in which pitchers are forced to wait until their country calls on them. The World Baseball Classic is weird.
- Young Pirates firecracker Gregory Polanco went 3-for-3 with a double and two walks for the Dominican Republic. Having to make a choice between his team and his country, Polanco turned on his friends in black and yellow. It was the right choice.
- The Dominican team must be contained in an oppressive cube when not on the diamond, or they will just burn through the earth’s crust and make a hole clear to the other side. I imagine that would jack up the rotation of the planet a bit, but would potentially make travel between WBC locations simpler. Potentially.