Classic field narrowed to great eight

Classic field narrowed to great eight

And then there were eight.

Three more World Baseball Classic games captivated a global audience Wednesday, and we now have the octet of teams that will move on to Round 2 in Miami and San Diego.

The last nation to book its ticket to Round 2 was Mexico, which earned its spot with some sweet revenge against Australia in Pool B in Mexico City.

After losing their first game to the Aussies by mercy rule in a 17-7 rout, the Mexicans returned the favor with a 16-1 mercy-rule pasting that lasted only six innings. Former Major Leaguer Karim Garcia did a good portion of the damage, going 4-for-4 with two home runs, four RBIs and four runs scored.

"It was a fantastic game for Mexico after starting out on the wrong foot," Mexico's manager, Vinny Castilla, said. "But my guys never let their spirits get down, and what I told them and I told you guys after the first game, we haven't lost anything. We're still in this tournament, and sure enough, here we are, and they gave everything they had."

Mexico moves on to Round 2 but not before meeting Cuba tonight to determine the winner of Pool B at 9 p.m. ET. The winner will play Japan in San Diego on Sunday at 4 p.m. ET in the first game of Round 2's Pool 1, and the loser will meet Korea there at 11 p.m. ET.

"Obviously, we want to make it to the first place," Castilla said. "We never play baseball to lose. You always walk out onto the field to play and to win, because if you do that, if you choose that you want first or second, boy, baseball is going to come right back and bite you."

Elsewhere in the Classic on Wednesday, Venezuela closed out Pool C play in Toronto by beating the United States, 5-3, and clinching the top seed in Round 2 at Dolphin Stadium in Miami, where the Venezuelans will meet the upstart Dutch in the first game of Pool 2 on Saturday at 1 p.m. ET.

It was an especially meaningful game for Venezuela, which lost to the Americans, 15-6, in its only Classic setback.

"Well, you know, when you play with a powerhouse like the United States, for anyone, it's a really important highlight in your life," Venezuelan manager Luis Sojo said. "It's a very important win, because you're playing against a real powerhouse. I think Venezuela was always waiting for this win after they clobbered us."

And in San Juan, home team Puerto Rico remained undefeated in the Classic by knocking off the surprising Netherlands team, 5-0, to take Pool D and open up their Round 2, Pool 2 adventure against the United States at 8 p.m. ET on Saturday in Miami.

I believe it was a great victory," first baseman Carlos Delgado said. "It was a great series for us. ... Something we have to do is give a lot of credit to our team. In three games we only had one run against us. And before that there was talk about batting, batting, batting, but pitching is what [won it for] us.

"There is space to improve. The important thing is that we did qualify in first place and we're going to Miami, and we're going to keep on playing hard."

The first two teams to advance to Round 2, Asian Pool A clubs Japan and Korea, touched down in the United States and warmed up with some Spring Training exhibitions.

Japan came back to beat the San Francisco Giants, 5-3, and will meet the Chicago Cubs today in Mesa, Ariz.

Korea will try to do the same. The Koreans, who won Pool A by beating Japan, 1-0, in the final game at the Tokyo Dome, lost to the San Diego Padres, 10-4, in an exhibition tuneup on Wednesday and will meet the Los Angeles Dodgers in Glendale, Ariz., today.

Korea and Japan will practice again Friday and begin Pool 1 play in San Diego on Sunday, and the manager of the defending champion of the World Baseball Classic knows what to expect now that the tournament is down to eight and the games have become much more important.

"Adapting to the conditions of the U.S. is important," Japan manager Tatsunori Hara said.

"But most importantly is staying within your game."

Doug Miller is reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.