I wasn’t meant to be but what a game!In a slow but nerve wrecking matchup between the two best offenses of this year’s World Baseball Classic, Puerto Rico took on the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Puerto Rico hit .330 as a team in the previous two rounds as the Kingdom of the Netherlands hit .324. Eventually, Puerto Rico outlasted the Kingdom of the Netherlands and won in extra innings 4-3.
Without being flat out dominating, the Dutch pitching kept the team in the game with some rubber bands and duct tape. Rick van den Hurk struggled through the first two innings as he gave up home runs to Carlos Correa (two runs) and Eddie Rosario (solo) to give the Dominican Republic the lead. Jair Jurrjens pitched 2.1 innings, giving up four hits. Shairon Martis pitched 1.2 solid frames in which he did not allow a hit and struck out one. Tom Stuifbergen pitched two solid innings in which he allowed two hits and fanned two. Kenly Jansen was flat out dominating though as he pitched a 1-2-3 inning in the ninth in which he struck out two and retired Angel Pagan on a 4-3 ground out.
But this game was also the story of stranded Dutch runners and two baserunning boners in the first inning that eventually cost the Dutch the game. If Simmons and Profar would not have been thrown off their base, Wladimir Balentien’s home run would have scored four runs instead of two, and the Dutch would have won.
The Dutch started well as they got runners on first and second but Andrelton Simmons was bowled off second base by the laser arm of Yadier Molina and Jurickson Profar was bowled off first as he was showboating after his single to right field. Eventually, Wladimir Balentien did what he has been doing throughout the tournament: driving in runs as he hit a two-run shot to left field for the Dutch lead.
During a press conference, Puerto Rican manager Edwin Rodriguez said that he had close to none information about the Dutch team but when Jonathan Schoop came at bat with two outs and runners on first and second in the third inning, Rodriguez proved that this statement was nonsense when he replaced Jorge Lopez with Hector Santiago…The three matchups between the two in 2016 ended in strikeouts for Schoop and so did this one.
Manager Meulens pulled Van den Hurk after the second inning and replaced him with Jair Jurrjens. Despite giving up a dribbler to Carlos Correa, Jurrjens had an easy third inning with the help of his defense. After Puerto Rico hit back-to-back singles in the bottom of the fourth inning, Eddie Rosario bunted but Jair Jurrjens fielded the ball cleanly and fired it to third base where Yadier Molina was tagged out for the first out. But Javier Baez then stole second as he smartly slid around the tag of Xander Bogaerts to put runners on the corners with only one out. Eddie Rosario lifted the force out situation at second base as he stole second and put himself in scoring position. But Jurrjens pitched out of the jam as he retired the next two batters thanks to a pop up to second baseman Jonathan Schoop and a 4-2 ground out.
With two outs in the top of the fifth inning, Wladimir Balentien initiated a small rally with a double to left-center field. After Jonathan Schoop was walked intentionally, Shawn Zarraga socked a double into left field that drove in Balentien for the game-tying run. Jonathan Schoop tried to score all the way from first but was tagged out at home plate.
With one out and runners on first and second in the bottom of the fifth, Jair Jurrjens was replaced by Shairon Martis who got out of the inning by striking out Carlos Beltran and retiring Yadier Molina on a flyout to right field.
Tom Stuifbergen replaced Martis in the bottom of the seventh. Despite giving up a hit, he cruised through the inning.
In a questionable move, manager Meulens brought Kenley Jansen in the ninth to keep Puerto Rico from scoring. But this also meant that he wasn’t allowed to pitch in the tenth as the Dodgers limited him to only one inning.
Loek van Mil entered the game in the tenth. Even though he gave up a leadoff single he got out of the inning thanks to a double play and a flyout.
So both teams went on to the eleventh inning with the dreaded tie-breaker rule. This time the Dutch started well. With runners placed on first and second, Stijn van der Meer laid down a nice sac bunt to move the runners up a base. But the Dutch failed to cash in as they hit into a double play for the fourth time in this game.
The Puerto Ricans on the other hand, did it right as Yadier Molina laid down a sac bunt and moved the runners over before Eddie Rosario hit a sac fly to center that drove in Carlos Correa.
Loek van Mil took the loss, pitching two frames in which he allowed an unearned run. Best hitter for the Dutch was Wladimir Balentien once again. He went 3 for 4 with ta home run, two RBI and two runs scored.
Edwin Diaz got the win. In two scoreless innings, he did not allow a hit, walked one and fanned three.Best hitter for Puerto Rico was Francisco Lindor, who went 3 for 5 with a run scored.
Team Kingdom of the Netherlands made Puerto Rico work hard for its money so they can be proud of themselves. Too bad the tie-breaker rule did not pan out the way it should. Just like four years ago, the Dutch ran into an unbeaten team. Four years ago that team eventually won the WBC.
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