The World Baseball Classic has, thus far, had a staggered schedule due to time zone issues with hosting the event in multiple hemispheres. Pools A and B in Taichung and Tokyo respectively have already had each of its teams play at least two games, while Pools C and D in Phoenix and Miami have yet to begin. One of the beauties of this tournament is that the games can take place all over the world but still be in the same bracket. But we haven’t had a full day of classic madness yet.
That changes on Saturday.
The Czech Republic and Japan open Saturday’s action from the Tokyo Dome, with the final set to begin at 11 p.m. ET. If you want – and you should! — You can watch the World Baseball Classic all morning, noon and night.
It’s exciting to be playing high-level baseball in early March. Whether you’re a WBC fan, an MLB fan, or, arguably, both, each of these games has its own storyline. Here’s one thing to watch out for in every game.
Final: Japan 10, Czech Republic 2
Japan has been the best team in the tournament so far — Saturday was no different. After the upstart Czech Republic took first place in the group, Team Japan ripped off seven unanswered runs and got into the races, advancing to the second round in the process. New Red Sox signee Masataka Yoshida went 2-for-2 with three RBIs, giving him a .625 average through the first three games. Shohei Ohtani led off with an RBI double, and Shugo Maki capped off the win with a pinch-hit homer for Ohtani. The Czechs are down but not out in the big game against Australia on Sunday at 11pm ET.
Final: Chinese Taipei 9, Netherlands 5
In front of their electric home crowd, Chinese Taipei pulled off another stunning performance. For the second straight game, Yu Chang hit home with a huge home run — this time a grand slam — as Chinese Taipei held off the Netherlands to advance to the Pool A tournament. Chinese Taipei is back in action tonight against Cuba at 11 pm ET, while the Netherlands play Italy on Sunday at 7 am ET; Both games are on FS2. Both teams can control their destiny and advance to the quarterfinals with a win.
Nicaragua vs. Puerto Rico
Noon ET, FS2
Colombia vs. Mexico
2:30 p.m. ET, FOX
You’d think Mexico — currently No. 5 in the WBSC rankings — would have a rich history in the Classic, but the country has never been higher than sixth. If the Mexicans want to get out of this pool, it’s a big game for them with the US and Canada reeling. They’ve got the right pitcher on the mound — team captain Julio Urias, with some incredible Mexican flag cleats — and prime-time-mid-day television coverage. Colombia is in its second Clasico and has its hands full with Urias and a highly motivated Mexican team.
Dominican Republic vs. Venezuela
7 p.m. ET, FS1
Great Britain vs. America
9 p.m. ET, FOX
A stacked USA lineup should bolster a shaky pitching staff, especially at the top of the rotation, but if you’re worried about the lack of zip on Adam Wainwright’s fastball — which has been a serious concern so far in spring training — give him the perfect game; He won’t face Great Britain’s weakest line-up all season. Great Britain hasn’t announced the opener yet, but the Brits probably know they’re facing this Turner/Trout/Goldschmidt/Arenado/Tucker gauntlet, but they’re keeping him under wraps for his own safety.
Czech Republic vs. Korea
10 p.m. ET, FS1
How great baseball is on Saturday: You have to watch the Czech team twice. Korea is off to the worst start imaginable so far, losing both of its games despite a roster capable of making a deep run at the Classic. For all the love the Czech team has received, this is a must-win for them. Earning a split on Saturday would be a huge win, perhaps as expected, with a win over Japan.
Chinese Taipei vs. Cuba
11 p.m. ET, FS2
Cuba bounced back from its tough start to the Classic with a crucial win over Panama on Thursday, and while they need a little more help, a win here against Chinese Taipei would be enough for the Cubans to advance to the next round; The Netherlands should help them against Italy on Sunday. This is a Cuban team unlike any other, and there is a non-zero chance that this will be the last time you see Yoenis Cespedes play. I can’t think of a better reason to look there.