The "Elite Eight" (to borrow an NCAA tournament phrase since it's March) is almost full. The Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Cuba, Puerto Rico and Mexico joined Japan and Korea in the second round and there's just one spot left to fill. Standings
One day after its stunning win over the United States, Canada's chances of moving to the second round moved on to life support as Mexico built an early lead against Jeff Francis and picked up a spot in the second round in the Anaheim Regional.
Mexico manager Pequin Estrada held back his best pitcher, Esteban Loaiza, for this game considering it the most important one and Loaiza delivered giving up just one run in five innings of work. Jorge Cantu and Mario Valenzuela homered for Mexico.
So, Mexico has clinched a spot in the second round with a 2-1 record. They can do no worse than finish in a 2-team tie with Canada if the United States were to lose to South Africa Friday.
But here's how the tiebreakers shake out if the US were to beat South Africa as expected. The key figure is "number of runs allowed per inning played on defense among teams that are tied."
So if Mexico, Canada, and the US all end up 2-1, you would have these figures:
Mexico -- 3 runs in 17 innings for 0.17 runs per inning.
USA -- 6 runs in 18 innings for 0.33 runs per inning.
Canada -- 15 runs in 18 innings for 0.83 runs per inning
If the US loses to South Africa, Canada advances as the #2 team. If the U.S. wins, it moves on as the #2 team. (At least I think it does, the seeding is unimportant with a round robin). The standings linked above use a different figure: runs allowed per nine innings, but it all works out the same.
The United States, with Roger Clemens on the hill, takes on South Africa Friday at noon PT in Scottsdale.
Cuba powered past the Dutch to move on to the second round in San Juan and took Puerto Rico with them for the ride. Yoandy Garlobo and Osmani Urrutia each hit homers and Yulieski Gourriel had a double in three at bats. Third baseman Michel Enriquez was hit by a pitch for the fourth time in two games. There is no word if Craig Biggio has been trying to get Enriquez to join the Astros and take over his role as designated hittee.
Omari Romero got the win and Diegomar Markwell took the loss. Yadel Marti got his second save of the WBC with 3 1/3 innings of relief, joining Chan Ho Park of Korea for the saves lead in the WBC.
Puerto Rico and Cuba play each other tomorrow at 4:30 pm PT with nothing at stake other than seeding. Panama and the Netherlands play at 10 am PT in an attempt to avoid finishing winless.
The Dominican Republic pounded out three home runs and benefited from some poor fielding early from Italy to cruise into the second round. Albert Pujols and Moises Alou hit their first home runs and Adrian Beltre hit his third, tying him with Seong-Yeop Lee of Korea for the tournament high.
Odalis Perez pitched a shaky three innings, giving up three runs, but still got the win. Tony Fiore took the loss.
Australia pitched better than it did in its initial game, a 10-0 whitewash in 7 innings to Australia, but they still couldn't hit, garnering just one hit for the second straight game. Five Venezuelan pitchers combined to strike out 12 with 3 walks. Kelvim Escobar got the win and Francisco Rodriguez got the save.
Both teams move on to the San Juan Regional and play again on March 12 against either Puerto Rico or Cuba.