Tokyo -- Having dropped its first two games of the World Baseball Classic (WBC), South Korea no longer controls its own destiny.
In order to reach the quarterfinals as one of the top two teams in Pool B, South Korea must win its two remaining games and pray for help from other countries.
South Korea lost to Australia 8-7 on Thursday and then to Japan 13-4 on Friday. It will next play the Czech Republic at noon Sunday and close out the first round against China at 7 p.m. Monday. All games are at Tokyo Dome.
As unlikely as it may be, there is one scenario in which South Korea can still make the quarterfinals.
Japan currently leads the group with two wins and it should cruise past the Czech Republic and Australia to go undefeated.
As of Saturday morning, Australia and the Czech Republic have one win apiece, while South Korea and China have two losses each.
For South Korea to advance, Japan must win out to finish at 4-0 and South Korea must win its final two games.
This assumes that Australia will lose to Japan. And if Australia falls to the Czech Republic but beats China, then Australia, South Korea and the Czechs will all finish at 2-2.
The first tiebreak category is the head-to-head record, but in this particular case, head-to-head matches won't solve the deadlock. They will instead go to a tiebreaking formula: the lowest quotient of earned runs allowed by defensive outs. Simply put, the team with the fewest earned runs surrendered will come out on top.
Through two games, South Korea has given up 21 earned runs in 17 defensive innings. As of Saturday morning, Australia had given up seven earned runs in nine innings, and the Czechs had allowed five earned runs in nine frames.
If Japan wins out, South Korea wins out, and Australia loses to China but beats the Czech Republic, then the standings will be as follows: Japan (4-0), Australia (2-2), South Korea (2-2), Czech Republic (1-3) and China (1-3).
In this case, Australia will hold the head-to-head edge over South Korea thanks to Thursday's win and will join Japan in the quarterfinals.
South Korea has a rest day Saturday. Australia is favored over China at noon Saturday, and Japan should handle the Czechs starting at 7 p.m. Saturday.
The South Korea-Czech Republic game begins at noon Sunday. The Czech team is made up mostly of amateurs who have regular jobs off the baseball field, but the Europeans showed some resilience in their 8-5 victory over China on Friday.
The Czech Republic frittered away a 4-1 lead by allowing four runs in the bottom of the seventh. But it mounted an impressive comeback with a four-run ninth.
The Czechs blasted two long balls. Given the state of South Korean relief pitching, which has served up 15 runs in 10 2/3 innings in the first two games, powerful Czech hitters could run into a few pitches and that could easily lead them to a stunning win.
If South Korea manages to beat the Czechs, then they will have to root hard for the European country to beat Australia, starting at noon Monday. Depending on that result, South Korea could end up playing a meaningless game against China, beginning at 7 p.m. that night.