World Cup: U.S. Falls To Netherlands

The Netherlands and host Panama stayed unbeaten in World Cup play on Friday, moving to 5-0 to take a commanding lead in Group A by beating North American favorites the United States and Canada.

The Dutch took an early six-run lead and held on to beat the Americans 7-5, while Canada fell 12-3 to Panama.

U.S. pitcher Matt Shoemaker (Angels), the Double-A Texas League pitcher of the year, struggled in defeat, giving up all seven runs in three innings of work. He gave up a three-run first-inning homer to indy leaguer Curt Smith (formerly of the Cardinals organization), and a pair of walks and a single loaded the bases in the third for Orioles prospect Jonathan Schoop. Schoop tripled to drive home three runs and scored on the play on an error by second baseman Joey Thurston (Marlins) to make it 7-1.

The U.S. chipped away led by Thurston, who went 4-for-4 with two RBIs, and the American bullpen finished with 11 strikeouts in six scoreless innings, led by Justin Cassel (White Sox), who tossed three scoreless innings. A.J. Pollock (Diamondbacks), who had two hits and two RBIs, singled home a run in the bottom of the ninth, and Thurston's single brought Chad Tracy (Rangers) to the plate as the potential winning run. But veteran Dutch closer David Bergman retired Tracy on a grounder to Smith at first to end the game.

Canada meanwhile gave up 13 hits to Panama and stranded 12 runners itself in the loss. Former Expos slugger Fernando Seguignol and former Giants infielder Angel Chavez each hit three-run homers for the hosts. Canada plays the Netherlands today while the U.S. plays host Panama today and Canada on Sunday to finish group play.

Puerto Rico beat Greece 10-1 and remains one game behind the Americans and owns the head-to-head tiebreaker, having beaten Team USA in its opener. Japan, which beat winless Taiwan 3-1 on Friday, is two games behind the U.S. in the gropu.

In Group B, Cuba remained undefeated with a 5-1 victory against Italy, with Jose Abreu and Rusney Castillo hitting home runs to back Freddy Alvarez, who struck out six in seven innings. Australia won an 11-9 roller-coaster ride against the Dominican Republic, blowing a four-run ninth inning lead. Mitch Dening (Red Sox) delivered a three-run double in the 10th, and former Futures Game MVP Justin Huber doubled, homered and had five RBIs. Venezuela beat Germany 10-5 and stands second in Group B at 4-1, while Korea beat Nicaragua 6-4 to tie Italy at 3-2 for third place in the group. The top four teams from each group move on to the medal round.