How do you settle a five-way tie? The World Baseball Classic’s Pool A in Taiwan got to try their luck Sunday when five days of games left the entire quintet in the same spot: Two wins, two losses.
Their answer — runs allowed divided by outs — left Cuba and Italy advancing to the quarterfinals in Tokyo. It also meant two-time semifinalists Netherlands were eliminated, with host Chinese Taipei now needing to make it through qualifiers just to reach the 2026 tournament.
Matt Harvey got the win in the group’s final game as Italy defeated the Netherlands, 7-1, causing all five teams in Taichung to finish 2-2. Harvey pitched four innings of one-run ball for Italy, and Milwaukee Brewers prospect Sal Frelick had three hits and two RBIs.
Italian players had to wait a few minutes after the final out to find out they advanced behind Cuba, which won the group by allowing 15 runs in 108 innings (a ratio of .139 that led the pool). That was followed by Italy (17/108, .157), Netherlands (19/102, .186), Panama (21/105, .200), and Chinese Taipei (31/105, .295).
Chadwick Tromp homered in the third for the Netherlands, but Italy went ahead to stay with six runs in the fourth. Nicky Lopez had two hits and two RBIs for the Italians, managed by Mike Piazza .
The Netherlands loaded the bases with nobody out in the sixth, but failed to score. Then, needing four runs in the ninth to advance, put two on with no outs only to strand the runners again. Juremi Profar struck out, Tromp popped out to the pitcher in foul territory near the plate, and Ray-Patrick Didder struck out.
Padres infielder Xander Bogaerts went 4 for 15 (.267) with one RBI in the tournament.
Earlier, Yoán Moncada and Erisbel Arruebarrena homered, leading Cuba to a 7-1 win over Chinese Taipei, which led the group in both runs scored and allowed. Red Sox utility infielder Yu Chang was named MVP after going 7 for 16 with two homers and two doubles in pool play.
Ohtani blasts Japan to the top
Shohei Ohtani hit a three-run homer that landed just below his image on a video advertising board in Tokyo, sending Japan to a 7-1 victory over Australia to win Pool B and set up a quarterfinal meeting with Italy.
Ohtani also walked twice and finished with four RBIs. His first-inning drive on a hanging curveball from Will Sherriff traveled an estimated 448 feet. It was the first home run of the tournament for Ohtani, who is 6 for 12 with eight RBIs and seven walks.
Winner Yoshinobu Yamamoto struck out eight in four scoreless innings, allowing one hit and no walks. The Pacific League’s MVP in 2021 and 2022 threw 42 of 60 pitches for strikes, topping out at 96.9 miles per hour.
Australia (2-1) is second in Group B, ahead of the Czechs and Korea (both 1-2 after Korea won head-to-head, 7-3, on Sunday) and eliminated China (0-3). Australia would advance with a win over the Czechs on Monday, when Korea plays China.
Meanwhile in Miami and Pool D play, Garrett Stubbs hit a two-run double in a three-run eighth inning, helping Israel rally for a 3-1 win over Nicaragua in its WBC opener. Red Sox reliever Richard Bleier had two strikeouts in one relief inning to earn the victory.
In Phoenix and Pool C, Canada routed Great Britain, 18-8, the game setting a WBC combined scoring record despite being halted by the mercy rule after seven innings. Center fielder Tyler O’Neill went 4-for-4 with four RBIs. The Canadians (1-0) face the United States, which played Mexico later Sunday, on Monday.
New rules drawing raves
Rule changes introducing a pitch timer, defensive shift restrictions, and bigger bases for this year continue to draw favorable reviews from major league players, who say the rules are accomplishing a goal of speeding up the pace of games. Entering Grapefruit and Cactus League play Sunday, 9-inning games were averaging just over two hours, 36 minutes, down from 3:00.46 last spring. Meanwhile, teams collectively were batting .262, up from .243 last season. Runs per game were up, too, from 4.28 to 5.44 . . . In a feature-length Sports Illustrated profile , two-decade Los Angeles Angels owner Arte Moreno said he ended explorations about selling the franchise because, “when you got right down to it, I didn’t want to go. I just had the whole personal talk with myself. You know, you have a lot of time to think about it. I’m walking these [bidders] around the stadium. We’re on the field, looking around the stadium and I’m thinking, ‘How many guys ever get a chance to do this?’ " Moreno said he received three bids from vetted parties, all in excess of the $2.42 billion the Mets cost Steve Cohen in 2020. Moreno also said he vetoed trading Ohtani at last year’s trade deadline, and that “we will not trade Ohtani while we are contending for a playoff spot” despite the two-way star being a free agent after this season . . . Cincinnati’s Joey Votto played in his first Cactus League game against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Votto had surgery to repair the biceps and the rotator cuff in his left shoulder on Aug. 19 and missed the last 46 games of the season . . . San Diego reliever Craig Stammen suffered a torn capsule and strained the subscapula in his throwing shoulder Friday, and told reporters Sunday “it’s highly unlikely that I pitch again.” The 13-year veteran has spent the last six seasons with the Padres, their longest-tenured player, and made just 33 appearances last season due to tearing his rotator cuff. He was in camp as a non-roster player. “I’m fighting back tears talking to certain people, but I feel really at peace,” said Stammen, who turned 39 on Thursday. “I kind of knew this was a possibility last year, even in July. I kind of went through the whole grieving process.”