With just one game to wrap up Round 2, the Netherlands rallied to defeat Cuba early Monday morning (US time). The Netherlands will join Japan in the WBC finals in San Francisco.
Round 2 – Tokyo, Japan
Cuba 6, Netherlands 7
The Atlanta Braves Andrelton Simmons hit what might be the most important home run in Dutch baseball history helping the Netherlands get past top-ranked Cuba for a second time. The win propelled the Netherlands into the semifinals for the first time ever eliminating Cuba in the process.
It was a back and forth game with the Dutch taking lead after lead only to see Cuba come right back to tie the game. Netherlands took the lead in the bottom of the third inning with a pair of runs. The first coming on an Andruw Jones sacrifice fly. Curt Smith followed that up with a RBI single.
Cuba bounced right back to tie the game at two in the top of the third inning. Jose Abreu tied the game with a long home run to straight away center field.
Dutch starter Orlando Yntema tossed 3.2 innings allowing two runs on four hits. He didn’t factor into the decision. Shairon Martis relieved Yntema but didn’t fare as well. Martis also pitched 3.2 innings giving up four runs on five hits.
After more back and forth, Cuba finally took the lead in the top of the eighth inning.
It didn’t look good for the Netherlands after falling behind. Reliever Norberto Gonzalez was pitching great. He had gone four innings not allowing a run, until he faced Simmons in the bottom of the eighth.
Kalian Sams had walked to lead off the inning, but Gonzalez had bounced back to strike out the next two hitters. Then up came Simmons. On a 2-1 pitch, Simmons took a breaking ball and deposited it over the left field wall tying the game at six.
The home run was huge. It not only tied the game, but it gave that all important momentum back to the Dutch side.
Loek Van Mil came in to pitch the ninth for the Netherlands. He struggled a bit giving up two hits, but he struck out two in the inning and was able to get out of the inning without allowing a run.
It all fell apart for Cuba in the bottom of the ninth.
After getting lead off hitter Hainley Statia to fly out, Gonzalez was pulled in favor of reliever Yander Guevara.
Guevara immediately allowed two runners without getting an out. He gave up a single and another runner reached on an error. He was pulled for Raciel Iglesias who also didn’t get an out. He faced one hitter, Xander Bogaerts, allowing a single that loaded the bases.
Iglesias was relieved by Diosdany Castillo who finally came in and got an out, but it was a costly out.
With the bases loaded and one out, Kalian Sams sent a deep fly ball into center field scoring Andruw Jones from third and setting off the celebration from the Dutch bench.
The Netherlands victory lifts them into the semifinals in San Francisco. It is the first time for a European team to make it into the semifinal round of the WBC.
The Dutch will play Japan on Tuesday night in Tokyo to determine the seeding heading into the semis.