World Baseball Classic recap: Homers help Japan and Venezuela survive

Japan's Nobuhiro Matsuda celebrates at home after scoring on Seiichi Uchikawa's sacrifice fly against Cuba in the eighth inning of their second round game at the World Baseball Classic at Tokyo Dome in Tokyo, Tuesday, March 14, 2017.(AP Photo/Toru Takahashi)
Japan’s Nobuhiro Matsuda celebrates at home after scoring on Seiichi Uchikawa’s sacrifice fly against Cuba in the eighth inning of their second round game at the World Baseball Classic at Tokyo Dome in Tokyo, Tuesday, March 14, 2017.(AP Photo)

It doesn’t look like the World Baseball Classic is going to slow down at all. Nearly every game has been thrilling, and the games in the last 24 hours are no exception. So let’s get to it.

Venezuela 4, Italy 3
These two teams were facing off in the Pool D tiebreaker to determine who would advance to the next round of play. And while Venezuela came out on top, it was a very, very close game. Italy started things off with one run in the first, and then there was nothing for another four-and-a-half innings. Venezuela tied it in the sixth thanks to some defensive miscues, but Italy’s offensive machine John Andreoli homered in the seventh, putting Italy ahead 2-1.

But Venezuela did not give up. Miguel Cabrera opened the ninth inning with a monster game-tying homer, and it didn’t stop there. They scored two more runs to put the game out of reach for Italy, one thanks to Rougned Odor, who hit an almost-home-run that was reviewed and ended with him somehow standing on first base. This was a heartbreaker for Italy, who saw their chance to advance slip through their fingers in the last minutes of the game, and now they’re going home. (Though going 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position didn’t really help them.) But it’s good news for Venezuela, which moves on to the second round in Pool F. Less good news? Pool F also has the Dominican Republic, the USA, and Puerto Rico. That’s some tough competition.

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Japan 8, Cuba 5
Japan and Cuba are already in the second round, and playing in front of a hometown Tokyo crowd, this game was every inch a thriller. The lead see-sawed back and forth, changing hands almost every inning. Tied 5-5 in the eighth, a bad throw from Cuba allowed a Japanese batter to reach first base, and things just escalated from there. A sac fly scored the go-ahead run, but the big damage was done on a two-run home run that put the game out of reach for Cuba.

If you’re looking for heroes in this game, Japan’s got them. Tetsuto Yamada hit two home runs, including that monster two-run blast in the eighth. Yoshitomo Tsutsugoh went 3-for-3 with a walk and two RBI. They made Japan’s path to the semifinals a lot easier. With that win, all Japan has to do to move on is beat Israel on Wednesday. Cuba’s road to the semis is a little more complicated. They need to beat the Netherlands to stay alive, and then they need Israel to beat Japan to force a three-way tie. Even then, Cuba may not advance.

CAN’T MISS PLAY
With so much great baseball, picking just one play is a tough job. But someone’s got to do it. Even with that amazing Miggy homer in the mix, this jack from Yamada won the day. The noise from the crowd at the Tokyo Dome is absolutely electric.

WHAT’S NEXT?
Tuesday night features two big games between incredibly talented teams. Cuba is fighting for its life in the tournament against the Netherlands, but the big draw is the grudge match between the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. In the 2013, those two teams faced off in the WBC final, with the Dominican Republic coming out on top. Who will prevail in this exciting rematch? You’ll just have to watch and see.

  • Dominican Republic vs. Puerto Rico (Pool F Game 1, San Diego): Tuesday 3/14, 9pm ET, MLB Network and MLB.TV

  • Netherlands vs Cuba (Pool E Game 5, Tokyo): Tuesday 3/14, 11pm ET, MLB Network and MLB.TV

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Liz Roscher is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email her at lizroscher@yahoo.com or follow her on twitter! Follow @lizroscher