Pittsburgh Pirates Back In World Baseball Classic Action

Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports /

News: The World Baseball Classic started back up for teams in Pool F last night.  The second round of the tournament is also round-robin.  Last night one Pittsburgh Pirates player got into action.

Pool F is made up of the top two teams who advanced from Pool C and Pool D.  Pool C is represented by the Dominican Republic and Team USA.  Meanwhile, the two teams that advanced from Pool D are Team Puerto Rico and Team Venezuela.  The Pittsburgh Pirates still have multiple players involved in the World Baseball Classic, including Andrew McCutchen and Josh Harrison on Team USA, and Gregory Polanco and Startling Marte on the Dominican Republic.

Last night, Team Puerto Rico took on the powerhouse that is the Dominican Republic.  Puerto Rico swept their games in the first round, and they continued to stay hot last night.  Lead by Yadier Molina’s two-run homer, the Puerto Rico national team won the game 3-1.  This is the first time the Dominican Republic has lost since 2009.

The only Pittsburgh Pirates player to appear was for the Dominican Republic last night.  Gregory Polanco once again started in center field.  At the beginning of the tournament, it seemed to be a forgone conclusion that the Dominican Republic would use Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Starling Marte in center field.  Meanwhile, manager Tony Pena would have a left handed hitter and plus defender in Polanco to use late in games. It has not worked out that way thus far.

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Polanco has been one of the hottest hitters on the Dominican Republic.  Through round one, Polanco played in two of the three games, going 4 for 8 with an OPS of 1.056 to lead the team.  He carried over his hot bat to last night’s game.  In the game, the Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder collected two hits in three plate appearances.  On top of his two hits, Polanco also worked a walk.  He was the only player to have multiple hits in the game, and only Robinson Cano reached base as much as Polanco did, three total times. Polanco had a single and a double down the first base line.  He also added a stolen base. It is great to see Polanco swinging well this early, and he will be a big part of the Pittsburgh Pirates success if he continues to progress offensively.

The odd thing here is that Starling Marte has continued to ride the bench.  Marte sat out the first game of the tournament for the Dominican Republic because he twisted his ankle.  However, he was in center field for their second game when they played Team USA.  In fact, Marte had a really good game, getting three hits in four at-bats including a solo home run off Andrew Miller.  Nothing has been said publicly about the lack of playing time.  It very well could be that he still is feeling some tenderness in that ankle.  With the way Polanco is swinging that bat, manager Tony Pena may just feel it is better to let Marte get healthy as long as Polanco and the other outfielders are producing.

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USA vs Venezuela 9:00 ETS

Tonight, Team USA takes the field against Team Venezuela.  Venezuela’s ace Felix Hernandez will toe the rubber against Drew Smyly.  Team USA still has Pittsburgh Pirates Andrew McCutchen and Josh Harrison on their roster.  Some may have forgotten as McCutchen has not appeared in a game since Team USA’s very first game of the tournament.  Meanwhile, Josh Harrison has received one at-bat thus far, a pinch hit in the 8-0 blowout against Team Canada in America’s last game.  It will be interesting to see if McCutchen gets back on the field tonight.  It is highly unlikely that Harrison will get into the game as he seems to be the very last guy on the bench.