Pitching gets better as the World Baseball Classic gets deeper into the final four. That proved true yesterday as Edison Volquez started the train with 4.1 innings of shutout ball. He struck out six. Five different relievers followed him, allowing just four hits and no runners to cross the plate. Dominican pitchers struck out 14 Venezuelan hitters.
Jhoulys Chacin matched Volquez through the first four innings. He got behind Gregory Polanco 3-1 to open the fifth inning and Polanco made him pay, taking him deep over the right centerfield fence for the first run, and the only run the Dominican pitching staff would need in the game.
The Venezuelans had an opportunity to score in the top of the fifth. A walk to Odubel Herrera and a bunt by Alcides Escobar moved Herrera to second. Robinson Chirinos singled to left, Herrera stopping at third. Fernando Abad came in to replace Volquez and he turned into “a bad” man by getting Ender Inciarte to ground into a 6-4-3 double play to end the threat.
It was the only time Venezuela would get a runner to third until the ninth inning. By then they were down 3-0 after Nelson Cruz slugged a solo homerun to lead off the eighth. Jeurys Familia had struck out the first two hitters. Jose Altuve blooped a single into right field that deflected off the glove of Robinson Cano. A Yangervis Solarte single advanced Altuve to third. With the tying run at the plate Omar Vizquel allowed his shortstop Alcides Escobar to come up to hit. He struck out swinging on a 3-2 pitch to end the game.
Vizquel chose to walk Robinson Cano intentionally in the third inning with a runner on second and two out to face Jose Bautista. The strategy paid off when Bautista struck out. Roughned Odor is having a rough time defensively, committing his third error, this one from his more natural position of second base. Venezuela chose to put Jose Altuve at third base for the game against the Dominicans. There were 16,390 who attended the game.
The Domincans next game is against the United States. The United States plays Puerto Rico today. A win by the United States over Puerto Rico and a Dominican win over the United States could result in a playoff round to see who advances to the final four if Puerto Rico then defeats Venezuela. Myworld is focused on a different form of March Madness as the World Baseball Classic winds down.
There is also the opportunity for the final four to repeat the 2013 final four when Puerto Rico upset Japan and the Dominicans crushed the Netherlands. It is looking more like at least three of the teams from last year’s final four will repeat.