Due to time zone issues with hosting an event in multiple hemispheres, the World Baseball Classic, thus far, has had a staggered schedule. Pools A and B, in Taichung and Tokyo, respectively, have already seen each of its teams play at least two matches, while Pools C and D, in Phoenix and Miami, have yet to start. One of the beauties of this tournament is that games can take place anywhere in the world but always in the same bracket. But we haven’t had a full day of classic madness yet.
That changes on Saturday.
The Czech Republic and Japan opened Saturday’s game from the Tokyo Dome and the last will kick off at 11 p.m. ET. If you want to — and you should! — you can watch the World Baseball Classic all morning, all afternoon, and all night.
Having high stakes baseball in early March is exciting enough. But each of these games has its own gripping story, whether you’re a WBC fan, an MLB fan, or, presumably, both. Here’s one thing to watch out for in every game.
It could be the game of the day, right off the bat. Japan have been the strongest team in the tournament so far and certainly look like the power of Pools A and B. Shohei Ohtani is the star, of course, but everyone in this team is knocking, including Lars Nootbaar, who has the whole Japanese team. grind the pepper like he did with the Cardinals last year. But in this game, Japan takes on WBC lovers Czech Republic, a team full of firefighters, cops, and high school teachers who won their classic opener in the most dramatic fashion. With Korea starting 0-2, the door was opened for the Czech team to sneak into the next round. A win over Japan, however unlikely, could unofficially land that. This game is exactly the purpose of this event.
The Netherlands were probably Pool A favorites heading into the tournament, and they couldn’t have asked for a better start, with narrow wins over Cuba and Panama. A win over Chinese Taipei would essentially advance the Dutch to the next round. Their success came not from their alignment, but from their pitching; they conceded just three points in two games. Much of that comes from their splendid defense, which has too many MLB top quality infielders to even fit on the field. Chinese Taipei can solve this problem by kicking the ball over the wall. their four homers so far are the best in the tournament.
Nicaragua versus Puerto Rico
Noon ET, FS2
Colombia vs Mexico
2:30 p.m. ET, FOX
You would think that Mexico – currently ranked No. 5 in the WBSC rankings – would have a rich history in the Classic, but the country has never finished higher than sixth. If the Mexicans are looking to get out of this pool, it’s a huge game for them, with the United States and Canada looming. They have the right pitcher on the mound – team captain Julio Urías, with amazing Mexican flag cleats – and midday prime-time TV coverage as well. Colombia are only in their second Classic and have their hands full with Urías and a highly motivated Mexican team.
Dominican Republic vs. Venezuela
7 p.m. ET, FS1
Great Britain versus United States
9 p.m. ET, FOX
America’s stacked roster may need to bolster a shaky pitching staff, especially at the top of the rotation, but if you’re worried about the lack of zipper on Adam Wainwright’s fastball – which has been a serious concern until now in spring training – this might give him a good game; he won’t face a weaker-than-Great Britain line-up all season. Britain hasn’t announced a starting pitcher yet, but when faced with that Turner/Trout/Goldschmidt/Arenado/Tucker gauntlet, maybe the Brits know about it, but they’re just keeping it hidden for their own protection.
Czech Republic vs. Korea
10 p.m. ET, FS1
Here’s how good baseball is on Saturday: you can watch the Czech team twice. Korea got off to the worst start imaginable so far, losing both games despite a roster that looked capable of potentially building a deep run in the Classic. Despite all the love the Czech team has garnered, this is absolutely a must win for them. With a win over Japan perhaps too much to look forward to, winning a split on Saturday would be a massive win.
Chinese Taipei vs. Cuba
11 p.m. ET, FS2
Cuba bounced back from their rocky start to the Classic with a critical victory over Panama on Thursday, and while they still need a little help, a victory over Chinese Taipei here could be enough to take the Cubans through to the next round; they will need the Netherlands to help them against Italy on Sunday. This Cuban team is unlike any other, and there is a non-zero possibility that this will be the last time you will see Yoenis Céspedes play. I can’t think of a better reason to look here.