In the weeks before the start of the tournament, the star-studded infield of the Dutch was laureled over and over again. The experts claimed that the pitching would be the Achilles heel. But the pitching did a lot better than many expected.
The Kingdom of the Netherlands has reached the semi-finals of the World Baseball Classic in Los Angeles. If you still don’t know, you must have been living underneath a rock. 😉
So far the team has played a tremendous tournament. Four wins (vs Korea, Taiwan, Israel and Cuba) and two losses (Japan (in round two) and Israel (in round one)).
In the first game for the Dutch, vs Korea, Rick van den Hurk had a very good outing. He needed 62 pitches (perhaps a bit too much for the number of innings) in four innings and limited the opponent to only three hits. Strange enough, his outing vs Japan in round two wasn’t nearly as good as he gave up five runs on seven hits in three innings. But despite this lesser outing, he kept the Dutch in the game as the bats were awake.
Once again the bats were awake in the game vs Taiwan. The Dutch collected thirteen hits and scored six runs, one more than their opponent. The pitching struggled at times, allowing five runs on ten hits. Jair Jurrjens pitched well in the first two frames but then allowed two runs in the third inning. His successor, Lars Huijer, who is one of the better pitchers in the Dutch hoofdklasse pitched a solid fourth inning before he gave up three runs in the fifth. The other two pitchers, Mike Bolsenbroek and Shairon Martis kept the Taiwanese from scoring in the remainder of the game.
The Dutch lost the game vs Israel in round one, mostly because they did not really put an effort into it (who can really blame them. They had reached the second round already and the game was only about the bragging rights). Perhaps they were deliberately fooling their opponent, knowing that they had to face them in round two again. The Dutch hitters were limited to five hits and scored two runs. Good old Rob Cordemans was hit hard in the sole inning that he pitched as he gave up three runs on four hits and two walks.
The game vs Japan in round two was eventually lost in the eleventh inning as the Dutch did not execute the tie-breaker situation in a proper way. But what a game it was. Every time when Japan took a lead during the regular nine innings, the Dutch managed to come back. When you keep in mind that Japan is the nr. 1 in the rankings of the WBSC, the Kingdom of the Netherlands did an extremely fine job and with all the scoring chances that they had in this game, they had the chance to beat Japan.
The Dutch restored the order in the game vs Israel. Even though it is a balanced team of mostly American borns, Israel was no match for the Dutch who blew them away 12-2.
Jair Jurrjens pitched six solid frames as he gave up one run on five hits, striking out five and walking none. The relievers did a good job too as they allowed only one run in the remaining two innings as the game was shortened due to the mercy rule.
The Dutch collected fifteen hits of which Andrelton Simmons, Wladimir Balentien and Yurendell de Caster each collected three.
Perhaps the biggest surprise was the blowout score vs Cuba. After one inning the Dutch had taken a 3-0 lead already and led 12-0 after five. Manager Hensley Meulens opted for Diegomar Markwell as starting pitcher. Markwell isn’t quite a flame thrower, but with pitches that painted the black and a lot of off-speed and breaking stuff, Markwell kept the Cubans in check for six innings. The fact that he did not give up a free pass, indicates that his control was superb.
It is too easy to say that the hitting won the games for the Dutch. Sure several players of the Kingdom of the Netherlands are at the top of the rankings with their batting average.
Wladimir Balentien is ranked 8th with a batting average of .591. There are players with higher averages but they only played three games at most, while Balentien played all six games. Jurickson Profar has an average of .522 as he is ranked 13th. As a team, the Kingdom of the Netherlands is hitting a very respectable .324, which is even better than Japan that has a team batting average of .319. The United States, with only MLB players in its ranks, is hitting .259 so far (just a comparison to show how good the Dutch are performing).
Even though the experts said that the pitching would be the Achilles heel of the Dutch, this part of the team has kept the Dutch in the games that they played. With mainly Dutch hoofdklasse players, the pitching did a fine job, even though it is lacking real big names like Chris Archer or Dellin Betances.
Without a doubt, the team can be very proud of what it has achieved so far.
This report was brought to you by Score66 Baseball