When the 2023 World Baseball Classic Pools were announced, many fans and experts alike picked Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic to battle for Pool supremacy along with Venezuela. Now, with Venezuela jumping out to wins over both of their rivals, their spot in the Quarterfinals seems all but secure. As a result, the Wednesday Pool D matchup between Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic will basically serve as a true elimination game.
Losses to Venezuela
Heading into this year’s World Baseball Classic, it looked like the Dominican Republic could be set to win their first championship since 2013. While some expected Venezuela to put up a tough fight in the opening Pool D matchup, no one expected Venezuela to dominate reigning National League Cy Young winner Sandy Alcantara in an eye-opening 5-1 win.
A few days later, it was Toronto’s Jose Berrios turn to be dominated by the newest World Baseball Classic hero, Anthony Santander who helped to lead Venezuela to their second Pool D matchup win, this time holding off Puerto Rico in a 9-6 thriller. Now, with Pool D matchups left against Israel and Nicaragua, it appears Venezuela is set to win the Pool.
Finding the Second Place Team
At this point, the only team eliminated in the Pool is Nicaragua, who are winless through 3 games, leaving Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Israel left to fight in the remaining Pool D matchups. While Israel can’t fully be counted out, they will be heavy underdogs in the final games against the Dominican Republic and Venezuela.
Assuming the Dominican Republic can take care of business against Israel, it will set up a final single elimination Pool D Matchup between the two international baseball giants. Meanwhile, perhaps a big advantage for Puerto Rico, who finished as the runner ups in the past two World Baseball Classics, is already winning their second game and getting a day off before their matchup with the Dominican Republic.
Looking for an Edge
In a game featuring some of the very best MLB players, finding one player to play hero feels like trying to find a needle in a haystack. For the Dominican Republic, it could be the bat of Manny Machado, Juan Soto, Rafael Devers or perhaps that of the elder statesman Robinson Cano. Meanwhile, Puerto Rico counters with the former Mets middle infield duo of Javier Baez and superstar Francisco Lindor. Maybe the game will rely on the shoulders of rookie manager Yadier Molina or a comeback performance for the Dominican Ace Sandy Alcantara.
However this Pool D matchup ends, it will likely serve to add another interesting twist to these two increasingly bitter baseball rivals. Puerto Rico would likely love nothing more than getting revenge for their 3-0 loss to the Dominican Republic in the 2013 World Baseball Classic finals. On the other end, the Dominican Republic would likely love the opportunity to keep Puerto Rico firmly at the top of the best teams to never win a World Baseball Classic.
With this Pool D matchup set for tomorrow afternoon, the baseball world will turn it’s attention to these two baseball islands full of Major League talent. With an expected raucous atmosphere that is rarely seen in MLB games, both teams will likely fight until the very final out.
In a game that could very likely come down to a singular critical at-bat, one star will have to step up and become the next international hero. Could it be Manny Machado or Francisco Lindor? Maybe a Ketel Marte or a Martin Maldonado? Let us know who you think pulls out this incredible Pool D matchup in the comments below!
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