Lodi News-Sentinel

After dominating pool play, Venezuela looks like a World Baseball Classic frontrunne­r

- Jordan McPherson

MIAMI — On paper, it was the toughest of the four pools for opening-round play of the World Baseball Classic.

In actuality, one team stood well above its counterpar­ts.

Venezuela, one of three powerhouse teams in Pool D, made quick work of each of its opponents to go a perfect 4-0 in first-round action at Miami’s loanDepot park.

The final victory came Wednesday with a 5-1 win over Israel after beating the Dominican Republic 5-1 on Saturday, Puerto Rico 9-6 on Sunday and Nicaragua 4-1 on Tuesday. It marks just the first time that Venezuela went undefeated in pool play. Venezuela will face the runner-up from Pool C — which features Canada, Mexico, the United States, Colombia and Great Britain — in the quarterfin­als at 7 p.m. at loanDepot park, which will also host the semifinals and championsh­ip.

So how did Venezuela do it? The country’s star-studded lineup hit five home runs and had 15 total extra-base hits over the four games at the pitcher-friendly loanDepot park, with Anthony Santander one of 11 players across the entire World Baseball Classic to hit multiple home runs during pool play. Eduardo Escobar and Eugenio Suarez each hit solo home runs on Wednesday against Israel.

Santander, Suarez and Salvador Perez each logged at least five RBIs through Venezuela’s first four games.

Their starting pitchers combined to allow just three earned runs over 14 innings. Marlins lefty Jesus Luzardo rounded out the group on Wednesday with four shutout innings against Israel. Former Marlin Pablo Lopez threw 4 2/3 innings of one-run ball against Puerto Rico, Martin Perez allowed one run over 3 1/3 innings in the opener against the Dominican Republic and Eduardo Rodriguez gave up one run over two innings against Nicaragua.

Now, Venezuela is three wins away from its first ever World Baseball Classic title. The country has never played beyond the semifinals in the tournament.

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