Netherlands Walks Off Into Second Round

Given a second chance, Jurickson Profar sent The Netherlands on to the second round.

Profar drew a bases-loaded walk in the ninth to cap a late rally, and the Dutch beat Taiwan 6-5 on Wednesday in Seoul to clinch a spot in the second round out of Pool A.

The win also sends Israel to the second round and eliminated both Taiwan and host South Korea. Taiwan and Korea’s head-to-head game will now decide who finishes third (and earns a spot in the next World Baseball Classic) and which team is sent to the qualifiers for the next WBC.

The Netherlands (2-0) trailed 5-4 in the eighth before Didi Gregorius’ third double of the game tied it.

Profar stepped to the plate with the bases loaded an no outs in the ninth and appeared to pop out to right on the first pitch, but the umpires ruled time had been called prior to the pitch (Netherlands wanted to put a pinch-runner into the game) and Profar’s at-bat continued. He eventually worked a full count and took ball four high and outside from reliever Hung-Wen Chen (0-1).

Gregorius finished 3-for-4 with three RBIs and Wladimir Balentien went 4-for-4 to lead the Dutch. Righthander Shairon Martis (1-0) pitched a scoreless inning of relief for the win.

After using the majority of its top pitchers against Korea in its opener, Netherlands’ starter Jair Jurrjens struggled, allowing three walks, three hits and two runs in three innings and reliever Lars Huijer gave up three more runs in two innings. But Mike Bolsenbroek gave the Netherlands a chance to recover with three scoreless innings of relief.

Chih-Hao Chang went 3-for-4 to drive the upset bid for Taiwan (0-2). His two-run homer in the fifth tied the game and sparked the rally that gave them a 5-4 lead, but the bullpen couldn’t hold it.

The Netherlands wraps up pool play against Israel on Wednesday at 10 p.m. ET. Taiwan finishes against South Korea on Thursday at 4:30 a.m.

CUBA 6, CHINA 0: Bladimir Banos combined with three relievers on a one-hit shutout as Cuba (1-1) won its second game of Pool B in Tokyo.

Banos (1-0), a 34-year-old righthander, pitched five innings, allowed a hit and struck out four. Banos carried a perfect game into the fifth inning. Vladimir Garcia followed with two hitless innings of relief and Livan Moinelo and Miguel Lahera finished it with one apiece.

Cuba broke a scoreless tie with a four-run fourth, kickstarted by an RBI single off the wall by right fielder Yoelquis Cespedes, the 19-year-old half-brother of Yoenis Cespedes. Roel Santos followed with a two-run triple and Alexander Ayala hit an RBI double to cap the outburst and Cuba coasted from there.

Santos, Ayala, and Yurisbel Gracial all had three hits to lead Cuba’s 14-hit attack. Outfielder Victor Mesa, the No. 1 prospect in the WBC, entered as a pinch-hitter in the eighth and doubled. That was Mesa’s first appearance in the World Baseball Classic as Cuba has opted to keep him on the bench.

Bruce Chen made it through 2.2 scoreless innings for China (0-1) as he danced around continual trouble by getting ground balls that were adeptly handled by third baseman Ray Chang and shortstop Joey Wong.

But China didn’t want to let Chen go past 49 pitches, because it would have prevented him from pitching again in the first round due to the rules of the tournament. Using Chen twice is crucial on a team lacking in pitching. Chen’s 49th pitch induced a double play, but the game got away from the Chinese after he departed. Reliever Xia Luo (0-1) showed plenty of guts but little stuff with an 80-82 mph fastball. He gave up five hits and four runs, and overall China’s bullpen surrendered all six runs on 11 hits in 5.1 innings.

China next faces Australia at 5 a.m. ET on Thursday. Cuba’s next contest is also against Australia, at 10 p.m. ET on Thursday.

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