The 2009 World Baseball Classic is moving towards the decisive phase with long strides. Three of the four semi-final spots are set. Cuba or Japan will follow Korea, Venezuela and Team USA to Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, where the final round will take place next weekend.
World Baseball Classic Schedule March 18:
Midnight 12am CET, WBC Pool 2: Venezuela – USA
(Dolphin Stadium, Miami, Florida, ESPN America, MLB Network, MLB.tv live)
The last two games were high-pressured competitions for Team USA, needing wins to avoid elimination, capped by the thrilling ninth inning in yesterday’s matchup with Puerto Rico. David Wright’s walk-off hit send the USA to the semis. Tonight they face Venezuela with starting pitcher Jeremy Guthrie of the Baltimore Orioles on the mound, determining the first seed from Pool 2. Manager Davey Johnson hopes that the right-hander can go six innings, as he had to use his bullpen heavily the past few days. It will be the third contest between the two teams in the World Baseball Classic, with each having one victory on its belt. Armando Galarraga of the Detroit Tigers should receive the starting nod.
Thursday, 4am CET, WBC Pool 1: Cuba – Japan
(PETCO Park, San Diego, California, ESPN America, ESPN2, MLB.tv live)
In another duel between Baseball-heavyweights Cuba and Japan will determine the last participant in the World Baseball Classic semi-finals today at PETCO Park in San Diego. The game comes just three days after their last meeting, when Japanese pitching with Daisuke Matsuzaka at the top shut out the powerful bats in a 6-0 win. Additionally their offense frustrated the Cuban pitching with their slap-hitting approach at the plate, using singles and small ball to score the six runs. But since then things have changed quickly. Cuba adjusted to the pitcher-friendly ballpark and defeated Mexico to stay alive. Japan had not much going in a 1-4 loss against Korea. Both starting pitchers, Hisashi Iwakuma and Yuniesky Maya, already pitched in relief on Sunday in the first match of the two teams. The winner goes to Chavez Ravine, the loser home.