Orioles prospect Jonathan Schoop doubled and hit a towering three-run home run—his second homer in four games—to lead the Netherlands to a 6-2 World Baseball Classic victory over Cuba in the first game of Pool 1, the second round of WBC play.
The Dutch advanced to the second round in 2009, when Schoop's older brother Sharlon was on the team, but were seen as the Cinderella club that year, with two stunning defeats of the Dominican Republic. This time around, the Netherlands are more of a known commodity, especially to Cuba, which lost to the Netherlands in the 2011 World Cup in Panama.
The Dutch won gold then and many veterans of that team have helped this WBC club to a 3-1 start in the 2013 Classic. Schoop played in Panama and was not fazed by Cuban pitching in a game that began Friday afternoon in Tokyo.
The second baseman had three of the Netherlands' 14 hits off seven Cuban pitchers, as Cuba manager Victor Mesa wore out a path to the mound making changes while also trying the umpires' patience by rubbing up the baseballs with his gloved hands, a no-no.
Mesa's offense rapped 12 hits of its own, but Schoop was part of a brilliant Dutch defensive display that thwarted rally after rally with five double plays. He teamed with Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons and first baseman Curt Smith on four of them (three 6-4-3s and a 4-6-3), and Simmons made a brilliant catch in center field and doubled off a runner at first for the other.
That helped lefthander Diegomar Markwell survive six innings while giving up nine hits and one walk without a strikeout. Cuba got only one run off him, a second-inning solo homer by Alfredo Despaigne, his second of the Classic. Yulieski Gourriel also homered for Cuba, but the previously undefeated Cubans couldn't score otherwise.
Meanwhile Smith got the Netherlands on the board with a solo homer in the top of the second off Cuba starter Ismel Hernandez, and Simmons made it 2-0 when he singled home Kalian Sams (Mariners), who had doubled.
It was 2-1 in the sixth when Schoop batted with two on and two out against Cuban righty Yadier Pedroso. Schoop hammered a deep homer to left field that broke the game open, a three-run shot that made it 5-1. Gourriel's seventh-inning shot off Leon Boyd tightened the game again at 5-2, but the Netherlands answered when Schoop doubled home Simmons in the eighth to make it 6-2.
Loek Van Mil (Indians) retired the Cubans in order in the ninth to complete the game and a tremendous day of WBC action for Europe. Italy upset Mexico 6-5 earlier in the day in Arizona, and the Dutch capped the day with a victory. If European baseball ever had a better day, it would have to be when the Netherlands won the 2011 World Cup.
It's unlikely Spain will keep the Eurodream going Friday when it plays host Puerto Rico in Pool C first-round action. But for one day, on two continents, Europe took center stage in the World Baseball Classic.
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