Neither of the top two World Baseball Classic favorites is safe entering the final day of the group stage.
With only Wednesday's slate of games left to play, both Team USA and the Dominican Republic sit at 2-1 and could see their chances of advancing to the knockout stage of the tournament disappear if they lose. At the same time, with a win, Team USA could clinch a spot in the next round.
Team USA will face Colombia, which sits at 1-2 and would match its opponent in the standings with a win Wednesday. Meanwhile, 2-1 Canada and 2-1 Mexico will play each other earlier the same day, with the winner guaranteed to advance and the loser facing either elimination (should Team USA win) or a three-way tie with the U.S. and Colombia in the event of a U.S. loss (more on that later).
The Dominican Republic, meanwhile, has a much simpler situation. Venezuela has already advanced after starting 3-0, and Puerto Rico is also 2-1. The Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico play Wednesday in a straight-up elimination game.
Pools A and B have already been decided, with Cuba and Italy emerging from A via tiebreakers after all five teams finished 2-2 and Japan going undefeated in Pool B, followed by 3-1 Australia.
When does Team USA play in the World Baseball Classic?
The USA-Colombia game is scheduled for 10 p.m. ET (FS1) at Arizona's Chase Field. Canada plays Mexico at 3 p.m. ET (FS2) at the same location, while the Puerto Rico-Dominican Republic showdown will be at 7 p.m. ET (FS1) at loanDepot Park in Miami.
World Baseball Classic Pool C standings
Here are the full standings entering Wednesday, with every team except Great Britain having played three of its four games. The Brits already played all four teams in the group and have been eliminated:
So it's win-and-in for each of the three North American countries. If Team USA wins, it advances, and the loser of Mexico-Canada is out. But with a loss for Team USA, things get mighty complicated.
What happens in a tiebreaker for Team USA?
Here are the WBC's first and second tiebreaker rules, taken straight from MLB's site:
The team that won the games between the teams tied shall be given the higher position. If three or more teams are tied and one of those teams won its games against all other teams it is tied with, then it will be placed in the higher spot. Similarly, if one of those tied teams lost its games against all other teams it is tied with, then it will be placed in the lowest spot.
The tied teams shall be ranked in the standings according to the lowest quotient of fewest runs allowed divided by the number of defensive outs recorded in the games in that round between the teams tied.
The U.S. losing would create a three-way tie with Colombia and the loser of Mexico-Canada. The first tiebreaker would depend on that last team, as Colombia would advance if the other two teams are the U.S. and Mexico because it would've defeated both teams.
If Mexico wins and puts Canada in the three-way tie, though, things would advance to the second tiebreaker, as the U.S. beat Canada, Canada beat Colombia and Colombia would've beaten the U.S.
Here are the run quotients in games involving a tie among Team USA, Canada and Colombia. Canada allowed 12 runs total against 48 outs in its games against the U.S. and Colombia. Team USA allowed one run against 21 outs in its win over Canada, and Colombia allowed five runs against 27 outs in its loss to Canada.
We don't need to get into all the math, but here's the state of play: If Team USA loses by three runs or fewer, the Americans advance. If Colombia wins by four or more runs, it advances so long as it doesn't allow more than nine runs. Basically, Canada would be praying for a comically high-scoring game, and the U.S would enter the game with a virtual lead of four runs on Colombia. Here's a handy chart.
Here's a breakdown of what would happen with each pair of winners Wednesday:
Mexico, 3-way tiebreaker
No one ever said pool play is simple.
World Baseball Classic Pool D standings
As a reminder, here is where things stand in Miami:
Given the hype surrounding both Team USA and the Dominican Republic squad entering the tournament, it is a testament to the chaos of the World Baseball Classic that both the U.S. and the D.R. face a very real chance of elimination Wednesday.
Team USA's lineup is so stacked that it was batting Jeff McNeil, a 2022 MLB All-Star, in the No. 9 spot. The Dominican Republic opened the tournament with Gary Sanchez, a two-time All-Star and Silver Slugger winner, in the same spot.
Both teams faced some questions about their pitching, but that was supposed to be a topic of conversation when they faced the likes of Japan and Cuba — not in the first round.