World Baseball Classic
WBC Daily: High drama, a USA triumph but a devastating Puerto Rico injury
World Baseball Classic

WBC Daily: High drama, a USA triumph but a devastating Puerto Rico injury

Updated Mar. 16, 2023 9:17 p.m. ET

As stateside pool play wrapped up, the Pool A and Pool B quarterfinals took place on the other side of the globe to determine our first two WBC semifinalists. 

Let's catch you up on a few fantastic games that took place in the Tokyo Dome — as well as the action in the United States.

Japan 9, Italy 3

If Cuba and Australia's presence in the quarterfinal was something of a surprise, Japan's was more of a formality. After sweeping through Pool B by a combined score of 38-8, Samurai Japan had one last opportunity to show off in front of their home fans in the Tokyo Dome.


On the other side, Team Italy represented another fantastic underdog story, having squeaked out of the beautiful mess that was Pool A as the runner-up. 

You can follow the full World Baseball bracket here

Even with the narrow advancement out of the group stage, Italy proved itself worthy with a fun combination of major- and minor-leaguers clearly capable of competing with anyone on the international stage. Japan, though, would be a far greater challenge than anything they'd seen thus far — beginning, of course, with Shohei Ohtani.

From the first pitch, the Japanese superhero was not messing around. In the second inning, he struck out young Royals slugger Vinnie Pasquantino on a 102-mph heater — harder than any pitcher he'd ever thrown in his MLB career.

Italy kept it close early, thanks in large part to some spectacular defense from Nicky Lopez.

But Japan ultimately flexed its offensive muscle as the game went on. The first big blow came from first baseman Kazuma Okamoto, the only player with at least 30 home runs in each of the last five NPB seasons.

Ohtani's stuff was as electric as always, but his command was relatively shaky, and Italy had a rally cooking in the fourth inning before Masataka Yoshida — certainly not known for his defense — shut down the party with a slick catch at the wall in left field.

Brothers David and Dominic Fletcher sparked another offensive push against Ohtani in the fifth inning, one that actually did produce some runs and brought Team Italy within two.

Italy vs. Japan Highlights

Shohei Ohtani threw 4.2 IP and struck out five while surrenduring two runs. Kazuma Okamoto and Masataka Yoshida added home runs in Japan's 9-3 win.

The two-run deficit was short-lived, with star slugger Munetaka Murakami finally breaking through in the bottom of the fifth with a massive RBI double. 

Murakami, coming off a record-setting 56 homers in NPB in 2022, was 2-for-15 with eight strikeouts in the WBC until that slump-busting moment.

With so many pitchers to choose from and an apparent commitment to get him some work regardless of the score, Yu Darvish then entered in a 7-2 game for an ultra-rare relief outing to help secure six of the final nine outs. 

Japan got one more exclamation point from Yoshida in the ninth with a swing that Red Sox fans should be very excited about seeing.

As expected, this tremendous team moves onto the semifinals in Miami, where Japan will surely face its toughest opponent yet: the winner of Friday's quarterfinal between Mexico and Puerto Rico. I wouldn't bet against Japan, though!

USA 3, Colombia 2 (Pool C) 

Mookie Betts and Mike Trout vaulted Team USA into the quarterfinals. The two men combined on five of the Americans' seven hits, all three of their RBI and two of their runs. 

Trout began with a first-inning triple, but could not make it home from there. In the third, he ensured Betts would get home from second base by pushing a single through the right side. 

Colombia vs. USA Highlights

Mike Trout powered the USA into the quarterfinals with a 3-2 victory.

Then, in the fifth, he punched another single into left, getting Betts and catcher Will Smith home for the go-ahead runs. Team USA scored no more, but all six of their relievers supplied scoreless relief to secure the win. 

Merrill Kelly, the U.S. starter, had fought his command to finish three wobbly innings. With his relievers' help, that was enough. The Americans advanced to the quarterfinals as Pool C's runner-up. They'll next face Venezuela on Saturday.

Puerto Rico 5, Dominican Republic 2 (Pool D) 

Perhaps the most exciting game of the tournament so far turned somber soon after its conclusion. Moments after he secured the save to ensure Puerto Rico's spot in the quarterfinals, closer Edwin Díaz hurt his right knee during the celebration. Díaz needed to be helped off the field, and his Puerto Rican teammates, including brother Alexis, needed to be consoled. 

It was reported Thursday that Díaz has a torn patellar tendon and will miss the 2023 season.

Puerto Rico upsets Dominican Republic, but loses Edwin Diaz

Ben Verlander and Alex Curry recap Puerto Rico's upset of Dominican Republic, including the loss of All-Star closer Edwin Diaz to a knee injury during the postgame celebration.

Before the freak accident, Puerto Rico won with boisterous play. Christian Vazquez started the scoring with a third-inning home run off of Dominican starter Johnny Cueto, and his teammates soon rallied for more. Vimael Machin singled, Martín Maldonado bunted for a hit, and Francisco Lindor and Kiké Hernández lashed singles to score them both. MJ Melendez drove in Lindor with a groundout for one more run, making it four in all in the third inning.

Edwin Díaz injures knee

Edwin Diaz tore the patellar tendon in his right knee, according to reports, and will miss the 2023 season for the Mets.

Juan Soto immediately answered with a home run to begin the bottom of the third, but the rest of the game's scoring was limited to the fifth inning, when both teams managed one run. The Puerto Rican one was a rare Little League home run for Lindor, who singled past Julio Rodríguez in center and took off around the bases. That might've been the game's high point for Puerto Rico. Díaz's injury was its clear nadir. 

Mexico 10, Canada 3 (Pool C)

Mexico piled on runs while its pitchers cruised through a Canada lineup notably absent of the injured Freddie Freeman. The playoff-tested José Urquidy started and finished four innings, and the five pitchers who followed him combined to surrender only one hit over five frames. 

The day's star was Randy Arozarena, the 2020 playoff hero. He had fans chanting his name while he racked up five RBIs in four plate appearances — a homer, a double, a walk and a hit-by-pitch. Joey Meneses, the 2022 late bloomer, delivered two hits, and Rowdy Tellez amassed three. Even the Dodgers' Austin Barnes, batting ninth in the Mexico lineup, worked three walks to keep the bases busy.

Rowdy Tellez launches one

Rowdy Tellez's blast powered Mexico to a 10-3 rout of Canada.

As the Pool C winner, Mexico will face Puerto Rico on Friday in Miami. The plan is for the Dodgers' Julio Urías to start that game, though the Dodgers will decide how many pitches Urías can throw.

Venezuela 5, Israel 1 (Pool D)

Jesús Luzardo twirled four scoreless innings, Venezuela's star-laden lineup came through with key hits and the Venezuelans advanced to the quarterfinals unbeaten. Venezuela's offense was thought to be its strength entering the tournament, but the starting staff was just as effective during pool play. 

The Miami Marlins' Luzardo, who was born in Peru and raised in the United States by Venezuelan parents, was only the latest standout. It probably helps that Salvador Perez is catching them. 

On Wednesday, Ronald Acuña Jr. started the scoring with a two-out RBI single in the first inning. After a walk and a wild pitch, Eugenio Suárez drove in two more runs with another single. Eduardo Escobar and Suárez tacked on solo shots in the fourth and sixth innings, while Israel scored its only run on a three-single, two-out rally in the seventh.

By winning once this week and finishing fourth in Pool D, Israel did ensure itself a spot in the 2026 WBC.

Cuba 4, Australia 3 (Quarterfinals) 

The stakes felt especially sky-high in the first quarterfinal game of the tournament. Australia, having advanced out of the group stage for the first time in five tries at the World Baseball Classic thanks to a massive upset over Korea, looking to make more history for its national team with an unlikely roster featuring VERY little MLB experience. Cuba, having lost the first two games of Pool A but rallied back to advance on the tiebreaker, is looking to reestablish itself as a true international baseball power after falling off in recent tournaments. 

It became clear in the early going that Cuba's pitching staff — well-rested and fully operational — was a much more daunting challenge for the Australian offense than anything they'd seen in Pool B besides Japan. 

Cuba starter Yariel Rodriguez was effectively wild, walking five but only allowing one run on two hits with his high-90s heater and vicious secondary stuff. But Australia struck first with an RBI single from Phillies prospect Rixon Wingrove, and it was game on.

Cuba tied it in the bottom of the third, and the tension really started to set in with the game tied 1-1 through four frames. Three straight Cuban batters reached base to start the bottom of the fifth, opening things up for a four-run inning punctuated by a two-run Yoekis Guibert single to make it 4-1 Cuba.

Backed by the adorable encouragement of leadoff hitter Tim Kennelly's daughter in the crowd, the Aussies continued to battle back with a massive two-run homer from Wingrove.

A double play to end a Cuban rally in the eighth sent the Aussie hitters to the bottom half with momentum for a possible comeback …

… but Cuban closer Raidel Martinez – one of the best relievers in Japan's NPB for the past few years — had other ideas. His nasty change-up got Darryl George to whiff for the final out:

With the victory, Team Cuba advances to a semifinal game at loanDepot Park in the part of Miami quite literally known as Little Havana. They will take on the winner of Saturday's game between Venezuela and Team USA.

Pedro Moura is the national baseball writer for FOX Sports. He previously covered the Dodgers for The Athletic, the Angels and Dodgers for the Orange County Register and L.A. Times, and his alma mater, USC, for ESPN Los Angeles. He is the author of "How to Beat a Broken Game." Follow him on Twitter at @pedromoura.

Jordan Shusterman is half of @CespedesBBQ and a baseball writer for FOX Sports. He has covered baseball for his entire adult life, most notably for, DAZN and The Ringer. He's a Mariners fan living in the Eastern Time Zone, which means he loves a good 10 p.m. first pitch. You can follow him on Twitter @j_shusterman_. 

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