2013 WBC: Second Round Bound

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The second round of the 2013 World Baseball Classic for the winners of Pool C and Pool D begins today in Miami, Florida. It’s double elimination format that advances two of the four teams into the final round in San Francisco, California.

Pool A and Pool B finished their side of the bracket and second round play last night in Tokyo, Japan with Japan and Netherlands patiently waiting in the final round for the final two teams to advance.

The four teams competing for the final two spots in San Francisco will be Italy, United States, Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico.

Dominican Republic is the clear favorite to come out of this round on top, with numerous MLB stars filling out their lineup. This 2013 Dominican Republic team is obviously determined to avenge their 2009 WBC first round exit, after beating Venezuela (9-3), Spain (6-3), and Puerto Rico (4-2) to finish as the number one seed out of Pool C play. They will take on Italy in the first game of the second round this morning, which on paper gives the Dominican Republic every advantage possible. That shouldn’t matter, though. This Italy team has been an underdog since they took the field for the first time last Thursday, against Mexico.

The Italians won that game 6-5 with a surprising ninth inning comeback. The next day Italy put the mercy rule into effect in the eighth inning when they beat Canada 14-4. They lost their final game against the United States 6-2 and finished as the number two seed in Pool D play.

It would be a huge mistake by the Dominican Republic if they overlook this Italy team in any way.

The United States will face off against Puerto Rico later today, which should be an exciting game, with more than a few MLB stars scattered all over the field. The United States and Puerto Rico both respectably finished with 2-1 records in Pool play.

 Gio Gonzalez of the Washington Nationals will be on the hill for Team USA in this one. He finished the 2012 season with 21-8 record, 2.89 ERA, and 207 strikeouts. Puerto Rico will start right-hander Mario Santiago, who has a career record of 36-51 in seven minor league seasons.

In double elimination format winning your first game is so crucial because a loss basically puts your team in an uphill climb from the start. So today could actually be the most important for all four of these teams going forward.

Follow Michael Stephenson on Twitter

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