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World Baseball Classic Pool A: Cuba v Panama

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World Baseball Classic: Pulse Check

Moncada and Robert Jr. save the Cuban team from certain elimination, Netherlands and Japan remain undefeated

Luis Robert got back to La Pantera things during a big comeback vs. Panama on Friday.
| Gene Wang/Getty Images

In terms of excitement, the World Baseball Classic has not disappointed thus far, with clutch hitting, dominant pitching (cough cough Shohei Ohtani), and a WHOLE LOT of horn honking.

If you’ve been watching you get it. If you haven’t, tune in, and you’ll understand in less than 15 seconds. Either way, it’s been well worth staying up long into the night, or even getting up at a ridiculous hour to watch.

The first two pools (A and B) kicked off Tuesday and Wednesday, and the Netherlands and Japan lead the way as the only teams that remain undefeated — we’ll find out early Saturday morning if both can pull off the pool-play sweep.

The final two pools (C and D) will officially begin at a more normal hour, with the first game starting at 11:00 a.m. CT Saturday morning — leading up to Team USA facing off against Great Britain at 8:00 p.m. CT. If this was a soccer match (or football, if you will), I’d be a bit more worried about USA’s chances, but with the immense talent on the American team, I’d be putting my money on them.

Pool A Results

The Netherlands asserts dominance, while Cuba and Panama hang on for dear life.
CBS Sports

Pool B Results

Japan is living up to expectations, while Korea and China fell victim to its prowess.
CBS Sports

Checking in on the South Siders

Yoán Moncada and Luis Robert Jr. have been the first two players to represent the Chicago White Sox in World Baseball Classic play, and while it took a couple of (albeit crucial) games to hit their stride, they were the stars of the show in Cuba’s must-win game against Panama late Thursday.

Moncada and Robert were both subpar in the WBC opener — and that might even be generous, given Luis’ first three at-bats were consecutive strikeouts. Yoán looked all right in his first at-bat when he was able to draw a walk, but his final three ABs resulted in extremely underwhelming ground outs and pop outs. Robert was able to find a bit of life inside him, and blasted a double to center in the eighth inning ... only to be called out on a challenged tag play at second base a few moments later.

Sigh. In the end, Cuba fell to the Netherlands, 4-2.

On Thursday morning’s game against Italy, Moncada and Robert were looking to bounce back from their abysmal, initial at-bats. The pair decided to pull a Freaky Friday situation, and Moncada was the one who had a tough time this game, going 0-for-5 with two strikeouts and a whopping seven runners left on base. Robert hardly fared better, though he did have an RBI single, going 1-for-5 with another two strikeouts, leaving two on base.

Don’t worry though, Moncada is in midseason form with his web gems over at third.

In their third game, both Moncada and Robert bounced back as catalysts for Cuba, busting open the game against Panama in a defining moment for their WBC experience. In the third inning of that game, Yoán led off with a double, and Luis followed with a base hit of his own, shaking off whatever yips they might have been having. Moncada scored the go-ahead run that put Cuba up, 5-4, and Robert followed that up with a single to add an insurance run that extended the lead to two.

Ultimately, the duo combined to go 5-for-11, with six RBIs — with Moncada having a particularly phenomenal day, responsible for three of those hits, four RBIs, a walk, and only one left on base. I know the Moncada haters are shaking in their boots, but I’m here to tell you that it’s OK, just embrace it.

The final White Sox WBC hot gossip is that while he was away with the Puerto Rican team, literally today, March 10, Nicholas Padilla was optioned from the White Sox down to Triple-A Charlotte — kind of harsh from the White Sox, but hey, business is business.

Good luck to Padilla and the rest of the White Sox players who begin their excursion into the classic! The eight-game pool play frenzy begins tomorrow at 4:00 a.m. CT — essentially Christmas morning, if you ask me!

WBC Highlights

Australia upset Korea Wednesday night in a battle of the long ball, seemingly trading three-run bombs back and forth throughout the game, including two from Australia to propel them to an 8-4 lead. Korea would fight back to bring it within one, but the Aussies prevailed in the end.

Shohei Ohtani lead Japan to victory in their opening game against China, with a one-hitter over four innings, and racking up five K’s. Naturally, he sprinkled in a two-run double.

Korea jumped on Yu Darvish early in Japan’s second game, but that was no match for an ever dangerous Japanese offense, which broke the game open in the fifth, sixth, and seventh innings to win, 13-4.

Chinese Taipei had a monster, game-tying, two-run homer against Italy to tie the game at seven, until another three-run shot in the bottom of the eighth drove them to a 11-7 victory.

The energy in the stadium was off the charts:

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