Netherlands beats Dominicans - again
Stunned twice by a pesky Netherlands team, the Dominican Republic is done at the World Baseball Classic.
Eugene Kingsale singled in the tying run and scored the game-winner in the 11th inning Tuesday night as the Netherlands rallied for a 2-1 victory over the heavily favoured Dominicans, earning a surprise spot in the second round.
After an error by first baseman Willy Aybar allowed the winning run to score, Netherlands players rushed out of the dugout and piled all over each other in a raucous celebration that resembled a World Series finale.
Jose Reyes, Robinson Cano and other Dominican stars slumped quietly in the dugout, staring ahead in shock.
"This is a miracle. The Dominican Republic is one of the best teams in the world," Netherlands manager Rod Delmonico said with tears in his eyes. "It is difficult to describe what took place. These kids have fought for three days. I have never had a team with this much passion."
It was the second time in four days that a Netherlands squad made up of little-known players upset the Dominican Republic, considered one of the favourites coming into the 16-team tournament thanks to a roster filled with major league All-Stars.
Even without injured Alex Rodriguez, the Dominicans featured David Ortiz, Hanley Ramirez, Miguel Tejada and Pedro Martinez, just to name a few. But in two games they couldn't solve an unheralded Netherlands pitching staff coached by former big leaguer Bert Blyleven.
Netherlands players were still on the field celebrating 15 minutes after the game ended.
The Dominican Republic reached the semifinals of the inaugural WBC in 2006, and a first-round exit in Group D this time seemed almost unimaginable a few days ago.
Then, the Netherlands won 3-2 in the teams' tournament opener Saturday. The Dominican Republic bounced back for a 9-0 victory Sunday over Panama, but was stymied again Tuesday night before a pro-Dominican crowd of 11,814 at Hiram Bithorn Stadium.
The Netherlands (2-1) will face Puerto Rico (2-0) on Wednesday for first place in Group D. Puerto Rico needed a late rally to win the first game between the teams, 3-1 on Monday. Both clubs begin second-round play Saturday in Miami.
"Tonight we are going to try to rest, even though it will be difficult with all the emotion," Delmonico said.
Tuesday night's game was scoreless until the 11th inning, when Kingsale misplayed Jose Bautista's two-out liner to right for an error that let the speedy Reyes score all the way from first base.
Reyes, who had walked, clapped his hands emphatically as he slid across the plate.
Leon Boyd struck out Hanley Ramirez to end the inning, though, and the Netherlands wasn't finished.
Pinch-hitter Sidney de Jong doubled to start the bottom half against Chicago Cubs reliever Carlos Marmol. A groundout by pinch-hitter Curt Smith moved de Jong to third, and he scored on Kingsale's single to right.
Marmol then uncorked a wild pick-off throw that caromed toward the right-field line and allowed de Jong to reach third.
After Sharlon Schoop struck out, Randall Simon was intentionally walked and Yurendell DeCaster slapped a one-hopper toward the first-base line that could have been handled by Aybar. But it glanced off his glove and rolled away into foul territory as Kingsale raced toward the plate.
Aybar retrieved the ball, spun and threw to Marmol covering first, but it was too late. DeCaster beat the play with a feet-first slide to the bag, then popped up and jumped into the arms of a teammate.
"I am very proud of the work we have done," DeCaster said. "I agree that this is a team with a lot of confidence, but I expect us to be even stronger in the next Classic."
Boyd earned the win to go with his save on Saturday against the Dominican Republic. Marmol took the loss.
Dominican Republic starter Ubaldo Jimenez set a tournament record with 10 strikeouts in four innings. The previous mark was eight by Japanese pitcher Koji Ueharaon in 2006 against South Korea.
"We have a solid defence," Delmonico said. "We know that we need to keep on working on our offence, but this team has a lot of confidence."