DALLAS - The 2017 World Baseball Classic has gotten underway and moves along at a rapid pace. As a reminder, the tournament consists of three rounds. The first two are in Round Robin format in different cities, while the Semi-Finals and Final round are played single elimination style in Los Angeles.
The 16 qualifying teams were split into four randomly assigned pools, with each team playing a game versus the other three in the pool. These sets occurred in Seoul, Korea, Tokyo, Japan, Miami, Florida, and Jalisco, Mexico.
The two teams in each pool with the best records among the four moves on to the second round robin set. These two sets will be played in Tokyo and San Diego. Eliminated in the first round were Korea, Chinese Taipei, Australia, China, Mexico, Italy, Canada, and Columbia. There are tiebreaker scenarios for teams with the same records through the three round robin games.
As Round 1 wrapped up on March 13th, your Texas Rangers have had some key performances.
Jurickson Profar, Netherlands – Perhaps the one with the most to gain and the most to lose with his performance in the World Baseball Classic, the Rangers’ utility player made an outstanding showing in the first round. Profar went a robust 6-for-11 in the Netherlands’ three games in Seoul, including a left-handed rocket of a home run, a right-handed line drive base hit, a scorched left-handed double and game 2’s winning bases-loaded walk.
All of this happened while Profar manned a completely new position – Center Field. Despite a jammed finger, suffered in the third game against Israel, Profar continues to be an impact bat in the Dutch’s lineup, which would hopefully translate to the Major League team.
Adrian Beltre, Dominican Republic – The Dominicans made short work of the returning Ryan Dempster and Team Canada in their first game. They had a far closer and more exciting finish against the United States. Rangers’ captain Adrian Beltre contributed in the first game against Canada, with an RBI single off of Jim Henderson and a walk.
Don’t worry about the 1-for-7, Rangers’ fans. Beltre, who was not in the starting lineup for the third game against Colombia, escaped the first round without tweaking the calf muscle that had him questionable for the tournament.
Jonathan Lucroy, Sam Dyson, USA – The Bearded Battery Brothers, Dyson and Lucroy, got their action in games one and two respectively. Dyson had an outstanding 12-pitch seventh inning for the US against Colombia in the first game. Sporting exclusively fastballs in the 93-96 MPH range, the Rangers’ closer notched two called strikeouts and induced a grounder for a shutdown seventh inning.
Lucroy was behind the dish for the thriller between the US and Dominican Republic in game 2. He was able to navigate the Blue Jays’ Marcus Stroman through 4 and 2/3 scoreless innings before Tanner Roark and Andrew Miller had some execution issues. He carried an 0-for at the plate, but made it through the game unscathed. Neither Ranger was used in the third game of the first round for the United States.
Alex Claudio, Puerto Rico – Claudio was utilized for one out through the first three games that Puerto Rico played. Puerto Rico won Pool D by going 3-0 against Mexico, Italy, and Venezuela. The Puerto Ricans outscored their opponents 29-7 in their three game sweep.
Claudio’s lone appearance came on Saturday against Mexico when he struck out power threat Japhet Amador in the 8th inning of what was a 5-4 game at the time. The Puerto Ricans would eventually win 9-4 and Claudio was awarded a hold.
Martin Perez, Robinson Chirinos, Rougned Odor, Venezuela – The Venezuelans were lit up by Puerto Rico in their first game and traded haymakers while overcoming Italy. Martin Perez had a rough go of things against an Italian team that many felt had a weak lineup. While pitching to contact should be part of Perez’ game plan, avoiding hard contact is something he could not do against the Italians.
The Rangers’ third starter gave up three doubles, two singles and a homer. While Venezuela would rally back and win that game, Perez’ start was far less than hopeful, as the Rangers want to see their 25-year old homegrown talent overcome his mental hurdles while pitching in big games.
Rougned Odor was used as expected for the first three games – as a pinch hitting DH in the second game – with Jose Altuve also on the roster. In his two plate appearances, he hit a double off of switch-pitcher Pat Venditte. Odor also made an appearance in the third game against Mexico, notching a hit and a run scored in the losing effort.
Robinson Chirinos came on defensively against Italy after Royals’ catcher Salvador Perez had to be carried off the field due to a collision with his KC backup, Drew Butera. Chirinos got the start in the third game of Venezuela’s first round, against Mexico. The catcher’s role in the 7th inning rally was being hit by a pitch in the ribs with the bases loaded, driving in Rangers’ teammate Odor. He caught the tiebreaker game, as well and was fairly inconsequential at the plate, going 0-for-3 with three strikeouts.
Venezuela was privy to some interesting circumstances following their loss to Mexico. Even though Venezuela lost 11-9, Mexico allowed 1.12 runs per defensive inning over the course of the round. Venezuela allowed only 1.10, which controversially meant that Mexico was eliminated. A tiebreaker was played between the Venezuelan team and Italy, at the center of which we found Rougned Odor.
In the top of the 9th, with Italy and Venezuela tied 2-2, Odor did what we’ve come to expect Odor to do. He hit a ball hard and far and showed off the swagger that has made him a Rangers’ fan favorite. Unfortunately, it fell about an inch and a half short of where he thought it was going to, and the bat-flipping, pimp-walking Odor had a go ahead single instead of a double or triple.
The 23-year old, who had started the game instead of All-Star Altuve, wasn’t done yet. When Carlos Gonzalez singled next, Rougie made his way to third. Venezuela then put on a suicide squeeze with Alcides Escobar, and even if the Venezuelan shortstop hadn’t made contact, Odor would have been safe by a large margin. Now, instead of heading home after just three games, the Rangers’ Venezuelan contingent is headed to San Diego to play in the second round.
To recap, Lucroy and Dyson, representing the USA, Beltre, representing the Dominican Republic, Claudio representing Puerto Rico, and Perez, Chirinos, and Odor, representing Venezuela, are moving on to Round Robin Round 2 in San Diego at Petco Park.
Profar, representing the Kingdom of the Netherlands, is playing in the other pool of the second round at the Tokyo Dome in Japan. The Netherlands already sport a lost to Japan in the first game of Round 2, but they were able to hand Israel their first loss of the tournament to move to 1-1 in the Round 2.
Pool E, where Profar is playing, is set to wrap up on Thursday, March 16th. Pool F in San Diego, will start on Tuesday, March 14th and end Sunday, March 19th. The top two teams in both of those pools will play in the semi-final round at Chavez Ravine – Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.
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