All eyes seemed to be on KC Royals shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. when World Baseball Classic pool play began last week. Witt, after all, is the young phenom touted as Kansas City's next franchise player, a once-in-a-lifetime-type talent capable of doing great things.
But fans haven't seen much of Witt in Team USA's two Pool C games. He didn't play at all in Saturday's 6-2 victory over Great Britain, and didn't get into Sunday's 11-5 loss to Mexico until the contest was beyond reach; pinch-hitting for Nolan Arenado in the eighth, he lashed an RBI double.
Salvador Perez, the face of the Kansas City franchise until Witt someday assumes that role, is a different story. Quite arguably the leader of Team Venezuela, Perez had a decent Pool D game against the Dominican Republic Saturday, going 1-for-4 with a double off the tough Sandy Alcántara.
He exploded Sunday night.
KC Royals catcher Salvador Perez almost single-handedly beat Puerto Rico
Perez simply owned Puerto Rico pitching Sunday. He singled home a run in the first, then blasted a three-run homer in the second to give Venezuela a 7-0 lead. Then, not content with two hits and four RBIs, he doubled home another run in the fifth. It was his second two-bagger of the game.
Perez finished his big night 4-for-4 with five RBIs and three runs scored, and is hitting .625 in pool play. Kansas City teammate MJ Melendez had an RBI double for Puerto Rico and has driven in three runs in his club's two pool games.
Venezuela, now 2-0 and well-positioned to advance to the quarterfinals, plays Nicaragua (0-2) Tuesday night at 10 p.m. CDT on Fox Sports 2. In a game set to be shown on Fox Sports 1 at 6 p.m. CDT today, Puerto Rico (1-1) faces Israel (1-0).
KC Royals Nicky Lopez and Vinnie Pasquantino are in the quarterfinals
The five teams in Pool A all finished 2-2 but, thanks to WBC tie-breaker criteria, Team Italy, including Kansas City infielders Lopez and Pasquantino, are headed for the quarterfinals. They'll open against hot Japan (4-0) Thursday.
Lopez's bat has been nothing less than scorching for Italy. He went 2-for-4 with a triple and pair of RBIs in his club's 7-1 Sunday victory over The Netherlands, and is hitting .500 (8-for-16) with a double, triple and seven RBIs in four games. Pasquantino, who's also played all of Italy's pool games, is at .235.
Things could be better for KC Royals starting pitcher Brady Singer
While teammate Bobby Witt Jr. succeeded in his only at-bat against Mexico Sunday night, Brady Singer suffered. Making his first appearance in the tournament, Singer entered in the fourth inning with Team USA down 3-1. But he surrendered four runs on four hits (including a homer)), a shaky performance that gave Team Mexico all it needed.
The U.S. (1-1) returns to action tonight in an 9 p.m. CDT game on Fox Sports 1.
A KC Royals infielder is headed for World Baseball Classic quarterfinal play
The hot bat Robbie Glendinning took into WBC play hasn't cooled much. His two homers, six RBIs and .375 average are reasons why Team Australia will open quarterfinal play against Cuba Wednesday.
Australia's 3-1 record trailed only Japan's perfect 4-0 in Pool B.