What Happened: It was a great story while it lasted, but the Netherlands’ improbable run through the World Baseball Classic ended with a 9-3 loss to Team USA. The three runs for the Netherlands equaled their best performance of the tournament, and Bryan Engelhardt hit the team’s first and only home run of the tournament.
Englehardt’s home run and his slow exit from the box as he watched the ball’s flight apparently enraged U.S. reliever Matt Lindstrom who immediately buzzed Vince Rooi with a pitch that sailed behind Rooi’s butt. Both benches emptied, but no punches were thrown. Lindstrom gave up another run before leaving the game with a sore shoulder. He joins Dustin Pedroia (oblique) and Chipper Jones (side) on the U.S. injury list.
San Diego’s Petco Park is supposed to be a place where home runs go to turn into fly outs, but the South Koreans managed to hit three home runs against Mexico starter Oliver Perez on their way to an 8-2 win. Japan shut out Cuba 6-0 in the opener of Pool 1 play.
The Stars: Bum-Ho Lee had only one hit during the first round of the WBC, but he homered as part of a 3-for-4 day on Sunday. Lee’s home run helped South Korea quickly recover from an early 2-0 deficit. Second baseman Young Min Ko came in as a puzzling defensive replacement in the middle of the fifth inning, but it proved to be a prescient pick, as he homered in the bottom of the inning. First baseman Tae Kyun Kim, arguably Korea’s best hitter, went 3-for-5 with a home run and 3 RBIs.
Japan’s ace Daisuke Matsuzaka dominated the Cuban lineup for six innings, holding them to five hits while fanning eight. Catcher Kenji Johjima, the team’s offensive star in the first round, stayed locked in on Sunday, going 2-for-4 with a double.
Second baseman Brian Roberts, an injury replacement for Dustin Pedroia, joined Team USA on Sunday and immediately became settled in, going 3-for-3 with a double and a triple. Jimmy Rollins tripled and homered while Adam Dunn hit his third home run of the WBC. U.S. starter Roy Oswalt held the Dutch scoreless for four innings striking out five.
The Prospects: It’s not often that you can see two of the best pitching prospects in the world on the same weekend, but a scout in San Diego could watch three in one weekend, with Stephen Strasburg facing UNLV on Friday, then Cuban lefty Aroldis Chatman and Korean lefty Hyun Jin Ryu on Sunday.
Neither Chapman, listed as 21 by his manager although his birthdate is not listed on the Cuban roster, or Ryu, 21, had their best outings on Sunday, but both showed why they are two of the best pitchers not pitching in affiliated baseball. The lefthanded Chapman battled control difficulties, but he also showed a fastball that touched 100 mph. Ryu doesn’t throw nearly as hard, but he showed off a very good feel for pitching with four pitches, including a fastball that he throws anywhere from 84 to 93 mph depending on the situation. Ryu gave up five hits in 2 2/3 innings before being pulled after throwing 65 pitches. By being pulled, Ryu could be used later in the second round if needed.
Netherlands righthander Juan Carlos Sulbaran signed with the Reds last summer as a 30th round pick out of Plantation, Fla.’s America Heritage High. He’s yet to appear in a minor league game, but he does have much more international experience than the average first-year pro. He held Cuba to one run in six innings last summer at the Haarlem Honkball tournament, then held the Cubans to two runs in 4 2/3 innings in the Olympics. Sulbaran got one more chance to be thrown into the deep end of the pool on Sunday and this time, he couldn’t keep his head above water. The U.S. hit him up for three runs on three hits and a walk in 1 1/3 innings.
Coming Up: Cuba faces Mexico tonight in an elimination game at 11 p.m. ET on Monday. South Korea will now face Japan Tuesday night at 11 p.m. with the winner advancing while the loser will face the Cuba-Mexico winner for the other spot in the semifinal round. The two Pool 2 winners, Venezuela and Puerto Rico will play tonight at 8 p.m. for a spot in the semifinals. The loser will face the U.S. tomorrow at 7 p.m. in an elimination game.