World Baseball Classic rolls on, and it’s bound to get rockier for Team USA

 

The World Baseball Classic was a monster success during first-round play at Marlins Park, with a total attendance of 163,878 for six games (the most ever for any first-round session at a U.S. site) and an average of 27,313 per game.

Still interested now that the tournament and Team USA have moved on to the second round?

Venezuela’s Miguel Cabrera celebrates with teammates after hitting a run against Italy during the ninth inning of a tie-breaker game at the World Baseball Classic in Guadalajara, Mexico, Monday, March 13, 2017. (AP Photo/Luis Gutierrez)

Here’s the deal. The U.S. plays Venezuela Wednesday night at San Diego’s Petco Park. The game starts at 9 p.m. on the MLB network and it won’t do for the American stars to lose it. The Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico are the other teams in this pool and only two can advance to the championship round at Dodger Stadium.

Venezuela barely survived first-round play in Mexico, needing a tiebreaker win over Italy to advance. Oh, and it took a three-run rally in the ninth inning to get by in that game.

It’s a big mistake, however, to think that Venezuela can’t be very good.

That dramatic Monday night rally against Italy featured a home run by Miguel Cabrera, the 2012 Triple Crown hitter and four-time American league batting champion. Also in the ninth, Rougned Odor of the Texas Rangers hit one off the wall to drive in a run and Alcides Escobar of the Kansas City Royals got another one home with a perfect squeeze bunt.

We haven’t even mentioned Martin Prado of the Miami Marlins yet. He’s hitting .438 for Venezuela and early in the tournament cranked out the first five-hit game in WBC history.

Tough competition, but it will get tougher for Team USA. Venezuela lost 11-0 to Puerto Rico in the opening round in a game that was called after seven innings due to the mercy rule.

[Expecting it to be the Zagnuttiest NCAA tournament of them all]

[Let Lane Kiffin be your guide to a healthier, happier life]

[NCAA berths didn’t come to UM during Rick Barry’s golden era]

You can stay up with all of this on the MLB network as Team USA continues play against Puerto Rico on Friday night and the Dominican Republic on Saturday night, or you can stick to spring training, which is missing a ton of its stars because of the WBC.

The following Houston Astros, for instance, are playing WBC games in San Diego this week. Jose Altuve for Venezuela, Carlos Beltran and Carlos Correa for Puerto Rico, and Alex Bregman and Luke Gregerson for Team USA.