The 2013 World Baseball Classic is in full swing right now, meaning there is plenty of action for baseball enthusiasts to catch all weekend long.
Some pool play is about to begin, while other teams are preparing for games that could land them in the semifinal round in San Francisco.
Let’s take a look at three must-watch matchups to catch over the next three days.
Schedule Courtesy of WorldBaseballClassic.com
Friday, March 8 at 9 p.m. ET: USA vs. Mexico
The United States is set to kick off its much-anticipated foray into the WBC on Friday evening, starting out with what should be a “warm-up” match against Mexico.
With that being said, the Americans would be foolish to underestimate their opponents in this one. The Mexicans have some great pitching on the mound and some decent bats.
Milwaukee Brewers SP Yovani Gallardo will be starting, with Sergio Romo and Alfredo Aceves sure to get some work later in the contest. Adrian Gonzalez is the player to watch when Mexico is at the plate.
Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey will be pitching for the USA, while an army of bats including Ryan Braun, Joe Mauer and Giancarlo Stanton will provide support for the knuckleballer.
Don’t be surprised to see the U.S. run away with a victory here, but Mexico should be able to keep it competitive for a few innings.
Saturday, March 9 at 5 a.m. ET: Chinese Taipei vs. Cuba
This is a do-or-die ballgame between struggling squads, neither of which are looking like they have much of a shot to advance much further after this.
However, considering the loser has to go home, we foresee a gritty, back-and-forth affair early on Saturday morning.
Chinese Taipei put together a solid performance against undefeated Japan on Friday, but was not able to hold on for the win after a late collapse.
Cuba is coming into this after being completely blindsided by the Netherlands in a 6-2 matchup that was never even close, especially after a three-run burst in the sixth inning by the Dutch.
Neither side should back down here, but we’re picking Chinese Taipei to keep their slim hopes alive when all is said and done.
Sunday, March 10 at 7 a.m. ET: Japan vs. Netherlands
This contest will feature two teams that have jumped out as early favorites to claim the WBC title. The winner will advance to the final round and compete in the event’s “Final Four” in San Francisco.
The surprise squad here are the Dutch. Slugger Andruw Jones leads a group that actually features a few MLB players on the roster—including Andrelton Simmons and Roger Bernadina, plus prospect Jonathan Schoop.
Manager Hensley Meulens is leading a lineup that shocked the world in 2009 with two victories over the Dominican Republic. He is looking to take the country further this time than its seventh-place finish in that tournament.
It will certainly be tough against the reigning, two-time defending champions Japan.
Japan proved its resolve in extra innings on Friday, overcoming Chinese Taipei 4-3 in the 10th after trailing 2-0 in the eighth.
Expect a thrilling contest between two proud nations on Sunday morning.