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World Baseball Classic roundup: Team USA survives against Canada, Japan advances to semifinals

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Winning pitcher Heath Bell celebrates Team USA's win. (AP)

USA 9, Canada 4: It was as entertaining as it was strange, but Team USA lived to fight another day while eliminating Canada from WBC competition.

Of course the strange part centers around how skipper Joe Torre handled everything from his lineup (no Giancarlo Stanton? What?) to his bullpen late with David Hernandez being left in to nearly squander a two run advantage as Craig Kimbrel and others sat idly by.

As several writers quipped during the game, Torre also turned this into the ‘World Bunting Classic’ as he called for three sacrifice attempts (a fourth was bunted foul) in run scoring situations. The first by Adam Jones was successful, but USA failed to cash in with runners at second and third. Ben Zobrist then laid one down in the fourth, which directly led to a defensive miscue and USA’s first run. Zobrist tried again in the eighth, but popped it up.

I think that would be the definition of a mixed bag of results, which means the small ball strategy debates shall rage on.

That aside, the Americans did recover to score three in said eighth on Adam Jones’ go-ahead two-run double. A Shane Victorino bloop single tacked on the third run to make it 5-3. Canada did get one back on Hernandez, but Brandon Phillips assured it wouldn’t be more after making a terrific diving stab on Adam Loewen’s grounder. USA then added four more in ninth with Eric Hosmer’s bases clearing double being the real clincher.

Due to a tiebreaker over Italy, USA wins Pool D and advance to round two in Miami. Canada will be forced to qualify again in 2017 as they fell to last in the pool.

For more on Team USA's victory and Joe Torre's rough day, check out Jeff Passan's firsthand account from Phoenix.

Japan 16, Netherlands 4: Japan’s mastery of WBC competition continued with a dominant win over the Dutch. Due to the mercy rule, the game was shortened to seven innings, but Japan made the most of it by plating at least one run in each. Takashi Toritani, Nobuhiro Matsuda, Seiichi Uchikawa, Atsunori Inaba, Yoshio Itoi and Hayato Sakamoto all homered in the onslaught, and with the win Japan now clinches a spot in the semifinals.

Dominican Republic 4, Puerto Rico 2: A great atmosphere coupled with solid baseball turned a mostly insignificant game into a fun four hours. Both teams began the tournament 2-0 and quickly punched their tickets to Miami. That took the pressure off and removed a little bit of the sizzle, although the result of the USA-Canada game earlier probably added to the intensity and urgency shown by both sides.

The Puerto Rican crowd was whipped into a frenzy when Mike Aviles connected for a two-run homer in the fourth. That gave them a very short-lived 2-1 lead as Robinson Cano immediately countered with a solo shot of his own. The Dominican Republic would then add solo runs in the sixth and seventh to secure the victory. Alejandro De Aza and Nelson Cruz were responsible for those RBIs.

With the win, the Dominican Republic is the winner of Pool C. That sets up a matchup with Italy on Tuesday afternoon. Puerto Rico will face the United States Tuesday evening.

Venezuela 11, Spain 6: Pride and a guaranteed spot in the 2017 World Baseball Classic were on the line Sunday morning as Venezuela cruised past Spain. Most of the damage came in a six-run fourth inning which was highlighted by an Elvis Andrus two-run single. Miguel Cabrera (three hits, home run three RBI) and Carlos Gonzalez (two hits, two walks, two runs)also contributed run scoring hits during the rally. Pablo Sandoval added a solo homer in the eighth to wrap up the game’s scoring.

Monday’s Matchup

• The only game scheduled for Monday is an elimination game between the Netherlands and Cuba (6:00 a.m. ET). The winner clinches a spot in the semifinals in San Francisco, but first must face Japan on Tuesday to determine their seed coming out of Pool 1.

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