It's a G'day in World Baseball Classic
Aussies shock host Mexico, highlighting Classic Sunday
By Doug Miller / MLB.com
When Sunday's epic slate of action had come to a close, the Classic picture had become a little clearer and a lot more intriguing, and the main reason was the team from Down Under.
Not only did Australia break through with its first win in Classic history by beating heavily favored Mexico in Mexico City, but the Aussies did it in a mercy-rule inducing rout, winning 17-7 in a game that was stopped after eight innings.
Yes, the lightning-quick evolution of the global talent showcased in this tournament continues to amaze, and after one of the most unlikely results in international baseball history Saturday -- the Netherlands' 3-2 upset of the Dominican Republic -- Australia provided the now-requisite doozy Sunday.
Offense was on display in all five matchups, however, with none of the winning teams scoring fewer than eight runs and three countries putting up double digits.
Meanwhile, the United States took care of business in impressive fashion in Toronto, cruising past Venezuela, 15-6, to advance to the second round unscathed.
Panama and China were eliminated, with both countries being shut out -- Panama by the resurgent Dominicans and China by the advancing Korea.
And championship contender Cuba showed up and got to work hitting the ball, smacking six home runs in an 8-1 pasting of South Africa.
A memorable Monday is on tap, followed by the rest of this already unforgettable parade of passion, pride and pure athleticism, all the way to the final at Dodger Stadium on March 23. And all of it is on MLB.TV, every one of the 39 games, including today's.
Today will feature one game in each pool, with a lot at stake for every team that takes the field. Korea will try to get revenge on Japan in the Pool A finale and eke out a pool victory; Mexico and South Africa will face off in Mexico City in a battle to stave off elimination; The Netherlands will try to shock San Juan and the rest of the world one more time against the host Puerto Ricans; and Canada and Italy will play in Toronto, with the loser going home.
While the events of this year's Classic have hardly gone according to plan, one thing you can count on is high drama everywhere you look.
Just ask Australian catcher Andy Graham, who didn't hesitate to answer when asked if his club is now ready to win the tournament.
"Of course we are," Graham said. "We always have been. We came into this tournament knowing that we can win this. It's not back 10 years ago where we were just trying to gain respect. We're a force, a team that's going to bring some force. We're going to try to win every game we play."
As a scintillating Sunday turns over to the World Baseball Classic's first memorable Monday, here comes yet another day of international pool-hopping:
POOL A: TOKYO
With its 1-0 victory over Japan on Monday, Korea gets the top seed in Pool 1 of the second round in San Diego. The winner will take on the Pool B (Cuba, Mexico, Australia or South Africa) runner-up on March 15 at PETCO Park.
POOL B: MEXICO CITY
Mexico has a lot of soul-searching to do and not a lot of time to do it. After its shocking mercy-rule defeat to Australia, the home team has an elimination game against South Africa set for 10 p.m. ET.
POOL C: TORONTO
Another elimination will be at hand after Team Canada tries to bounce back from its heart-breaking Saturday loss to the United States against Italy at 6:30 p.m. ET, but the Canadians have the home-field advantage at Rogers Centre and a potent middle of the lineup with Major League mashers Justin Morneau, Joey Votto, Jason Bay and Matt Stairs. "I'll take the lineup that we have and match them position player by position player any day," Team Canada manager Ernie Whitt said. "And I'll take that lineup and match it against a lot of the big-league clubs right now."
POOL D: SAN JUAN
Can the Dutch do it again? Tough call, especially against a powerful Puerto Rican lineup in front of a raucous home crowd at Hiram Bithorn Stadium, but neither team is facing elimination in this game, so some pressure will be off. First pitch also is at 6:30 p.m. ET.
Mexico's manager, Vinny Castilla, knows what's at stake Monday.
"We're still fighting," he said after the loss to Australia. "We haven't lost anything, and I repeat, unity is our biggest asset. Of course the boys are all let down, as are the fans. No one expected this result, these outcomes. Things happen like this in baseball. No one expected this. Tomorrow is a new day, so we can't do anything about today's game anymore. So we'll do our best tomorrow."
Just another example of the everyday passion, emotion and unpredictability of the 2009 World Baseball Classic.