Major League Baseball
WBC Daily: Japan, Cuba dominate; Czech Republic wins ; Chinese Taipei rallies
Major League Baseball

WBC Daily: Japan, Cuba dominate; Czech Republic wins ; Chinese Taipei rallies

Updated Mar. 10, 2023 5:03 p.m. ET

Another four tremendous games of World Baseball Classic action are behind us as Pool A and B are starting to get fascinating. Let's catch up on the latest from Taichung and Tokyo. 

Czech Republic 8, China 5

As one of three teams making its WBC debut in 2023 along with Nicaragua and Great Britain, the Czech Republic squad was one of the more obvious underdog stories to root for coming into the tournament. It helps that so many of their players are just regular dudes with day jobs:


But beyond their normie careers, this is still a team with legitimate talent, many of whom have been competing in the Czech Baseball Extraliga for years now. They also have Eric Sogard. Yeah, THAT Eric Sogard. 

The Czech roster also boasts several players currently succeeding in the American collegiate ranks, most notably star centerfielder Marek Chlup. Chlup one of the best hitters for North Greenville University, the No. 1 Division-II team in the country. He drove in the first run in WBC history for his country with a sac fly in the top of the 1st. 

But even more remarkable in this game was right-handed pitcher Daniel Padyšák, a Prague native who is currently a senior on the Charleston Southern baseball team. Less than a week ago, he was in South Carolina coming out of the bullpen against Michigan State. On Friday in Tokyo, here he was starting the Czech Republic's first-ever WBC game. Facing a fellow underdog in China coming off a relatively heroic performance against powerhouse Japan, Padyšák delivered four no-hit innings out of the gate to set the tone for what would be another instant classic in this tremendous tournament. 

China battled back late and retook the lead with some magic of its own in the bottom of the seventh, but that only set up another magical moment for Czech first baseman Martin Mužík in the ninth:

Sixth on the all-time Extraliga HR list, Mužík's dramatic dinger sent his dugout into a frenzy. They closed out the victory in the bottom of the ninth, and Czech baseball history was made.

No matter the level of competition, the win over China undoubtedly has the Czech team's confidence soaring. And they'll need it for the next challenge: Samurai Japan on Saturday night, facing a starter in Roki Sasaki who will in all likelihood be throwing harder than anyone on the Czech team has ever faced in their lives. We can't wait. 

Czech Republic makes a statement

Ben Verlander recaps the Czech Republic's first World Baseball Classic game and not only did they pick up their first run, their first home run, but they beat China as well.

Cuba 13, Panama 4

Following a disappointing first two games, the pressure was on for Cuba to finally demonstrate the offensive firepower its lineup suggested it would be capable of on paper. After notching just five runs on 11 hits across its first two games, Cuba exploded for 13 runs on 21 (!) hits against Panama and kept its slim hopes of advancing out of Pool A alive for another day.

Lefty starter Andy Otero was solid for Panama over his three innings, but the bullpen behind him was decidedly not. Panama held a 4-2 lead through five innings before a string of four consecutive relievers allowed multiple runs each as the game slipped away in a hurry. The high-profile White Sox duo of Yoan Moncada and Luis Robert Jr. finally looked like the big-league stars we know them to be, as they combined for five hits and six RBI as two of seven Cuban batters to register a multi-hit game. 

Panama and Cuba now each sit at 1-2 in Pool A and will each need to win their final games and get some help from the other results in order to advance in the quarterfinals. 

Japan 13, Korea 4

Coming off a devastating loss to Australia, Korea had its backs against the wall heading into Game 2 against its biggest rival. Korea came out swinging early, finding quick success against Yu Darvish including another titanic blast from catcher Eui-ji Yang to go up 3-0. 

It appeared Korea was prepared to bounce back in a big way after losing its opener. 

Or not.

This is what makes Samurai Japan so remarkable. Rather than panic that one of its aces had a tough outing, Japan could calmly turn to its deep stable of talented arms to keep the game in control. The four relievers following Darvish combined to allow just one more run on three hits, striking out eight and walking none. 

After a Kunwoo Park solo homer in the sixth cut the deficit to two, Japan's pitchers retired the final 11 Korean batters of the game in order. It was simply lights out. 

Korea vs. Japan Highlights

Japan took on rival Korea at the 2023 World Baseball Classic. Japan were led by Kensuke Kondoh and Shohei Ohtani, who both drove in two runs.

On the other side, Korea's thin bullpen was no match for the loaded Japanese lineup, which methodically tacked on run after run until the game was entirely out of hand. 

Shohei Ohtani had another casual 2-for-3 night with two walks, but the star in this one was new Red Sox outfielder Masataka Yoshida, who went 3-for-3 with five RBI. Right fielder Kensuke Kondoh – starting in the outfield for Japan after Seiya Suzuki's withdrawal due to injury – homered in the fifth.

New fan favorite Lars Nootbaar showed out as well with two hits and one of the best catches of the tournament thus far:

Japan piled on late, nearly triggering the mercy rule in the eighth before settling for a comfortable nine-run victory.

The main takeaway from this one is Japan finding its groove while Korea is all but toast. But the focus in Pool B now must shift to Australia, which has a real chance to make it to the quarterfinals with a win over Korea already in hand. Australia is off Friday, with its next game coming Saturday afternoon against China. 

Japan tops Korea

Ben Verlander says this is the team he expected to see out of Japan, and he also talks about the growing legend of Lars Nootbaar!

Chinese Taipei 11, Italy

Watching Japan play in the Tokyo Dome has been a treat, but the atmosphere at Taichung Intercontinental Baseball Stadium for Chinese Taipei's game against Italy on Friday night was truly something to behold. Beyond the party-like environment, this clash provided a much more competitive and tense game than Korea/Japan for those on the east coast up early watching ball. 

The home team went up early with an impressive blast from one of its stars, former big leaguer Tzu-Wei Lin

The back-and-forth battle proceeded from there, with the win probability chart mirroring a terrifying roller coaster that only the most ambitious thrill-seekers would eagerly take a ride on. The Italy offense continued the momentum from its opener against Cuba and immediately struck back with two in the second inning, four in the fourth and one in the fifth. But clinging to a two-run lead heading to the sixth, the bullpen was starting to get stretched to an uneasy degree.

With the relentless and overwhelming energy of the crowd behind them, the comeback was on for Chinese Taipei. The stadium went completely bonkers when Yu Chang launched a game-tying homer in the bottom of the sixth:

They tacked on another run before Kungkuan Giljegiljaw put the exclamation point on an incredible evening in Taichung: 


That was fun. And to think, Pool C and D haven't even started yet! We'll see you back here tomorrow for the next edition of WBC Daily. 

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