After six days of back-and-forth play in Group A of the World Baseball Classic, they had to call in a mathematician to settle the question of advancement.
When Italy defeated Netherlands 6-1 Sunday in the final game played at Taichung, Chinese Taipei, it left the Group A standings in an utter muddle. All five teams — Cuba, Panama and the hosts being the other three — finished with identical 2-2 records.
By rule, that meant the question of advancement came down to which two teams had the best ratio of runs allowed to outs recorded. No need to get out your slide rules, folks; here are the answers:
Place Team Ratio
1. Cuba .139
2. Italy .157
3. Netherlands .186
4. Panama .200
5. Chinese Taipei .295
World Baseball Classic: Netherlands runs turned out to be key
The contest came down to a question of how many runs Netherlands could score in its loss to Italy. The answer turned out to be just one, and that was enough to advance Cuba and the Italians ahead of their European brethren.
Had Netherlands posted three more runs, even in defeat Sunday, they would have been the second team to advance by a margin of .186 to .194.
There was a chance of precisely that happening. In the bottom of the ninth, Roger Bernadina walked and Wladimir Balentien singled, putting Netherlands one long ball of way of winning the fractional dispute. But Juremi Profar fanned, Chadwick Tromp popped out and Ray-Patrick Didder whiffed, killing that prospect.
Don’t you just love it when math and baseball intersect?
Or the Orange could have just won outright and saved everybody some trouble. But a six-run Italy fourth inning chilled that prospect. Seven members of Team Italy hit safely in that fourth, David Fletcher starting it with a ground rule double and Nicky Lopez ending it with a two-RBI triple.
On the other side, a dozen Netherlands batters went down on strikes at the hands of Team Italy starter Matt Harvey and five successors.
Cuba benefitted by virtue of having allowed just 15 runs — two fewer than Italy and four fewer than Netherlands — in its 108 innings of play.