SAN FRANCISCO—For four innings the favorite was on the ropes again during the World Baseball Classic semifinals.
One night after upstart Puerto Rico held onto an early lead against Japan, the Netherlands took an early 1-0 lead against the Dominican Republic. But the unbeaten Dominicans, silenced for four innings, figured out cunning lefthander Diegomar Markwell, scoring four runs in the fifth inning.
The Dominican bullpen held on and nailed down a 4-1 victory, as the DR improved to 7-0 in the 2013 Classic. The Dominican will play Puerto Rico at 8 p.m. Eastern on Tuesday night for the WBC championship.
"Whoever wins the Baseball Classic, it's really going to be the Caribbean's," Dominican Republic manager Tony Pena said. "It could be Puerto Rico or the Dominican Republic, but it will belong to the Caribbean."
Edinson Volquez got the win for the DR, giving up the first-inning run but limiting the damage and tossing five innings while allowing just two hits. He walked the first two batters he faced but no one else and struck out five.
Righty Kelvin Herrera followed with two dominating innings, while Pedro Strop tossed a scoreless eighth to set up closer Fernando Rodney. The Rays closer has pitched in every WBC game and got his sixth save with a scoreless ninth as he struck out two. All together, the Dutch lineup—fortified by the addition of No. 1 prospect Jurickson Profar—had just four hits, three of them singles, and all of them coming with two outs. Dominican pitchers combined for 10 strikeouts.
Their biggest rally was in the first, when Volquez walked Andrelton Simmons and Profar to start the game. Both runners advanced on a grounder to Volquez and Simmons scored on Balentien's groundout to short. Moises Sierra made a running catch going into the stands on an Andruw Jones flyout to end the inning and the threat.
Sierra, a late addition to the lineup replacing Ricardo Nanita (flu), then came up with one of the game's biggest hits. Carlos Santana got a one-out double off Markwell in the bottom of the fifth, and Sierra followed with a double down the left-field line, tying the game. He was just 1-for-5 in the Classic coming into the game.
"Sierra didn't play much (but) it's not because he can't play, he's very talented and he's been in the major leagues (with the Blue Jays)," Pena said. "Today he showed the kind of ballplayer that he is and all of his amazing talent. That (catch was) one of the most important parts of this game, and there was a double that he made which really helped us here."
Dutch manager Hensley Meulens got the bullpen up but left Markwell in, and with two outs, Jose Reyes singled to center field, scoring Sierra with the go-ahead (and ultimately winning) run. Miguel Tejada singled to put runners at the corners and end Markwell's night.
"We had Reyes on two strikes," Meulens said. "Reyes just battled and blooped a single in there. Roger (Bernadina) was playing a little deep, he couldn't get to it. (Markwell) has been our best pitcher the whole tournament.
"Reyes was a switch-hitter . . . I wanted him to bat righthanded.He got him to two strikes. He had Tejada on two strikes and he got a hit. So we had the best guy on the mound."
Reliever Tom Stuifbergen (Twins) then gave up back-to-back RBI singles to Robinson Cano and Edwin Encarnacion, only getting out of the inning when Cano was thrown out going first to third on Encarnacion's hit. But the four-run inning was more than enough.
The DR likely will send Sam Deduno to the mound tomorrow against Puerto Rico's Giancarlo Alvarado.
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