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Netherlands, Israel advance to 2nd round of WBC

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TOKYO (AP) Jurickson Profar drew a bases-loaded walk in the bottom of the ninth inning to lift the Netherlands to a 6-5 win over Taiwan on Wednesday in the World Baseball Classic.

The Netherlands improved to 2-0 in Pool A and advanced to the second round in Tokyo along with Israel, which also has a 2-0 record.

South Korea and Taiwan failed to advance to the second round, which starts on Sunday at Tokyo Dome.

Designated hitter Didi Gregorius contributed three doubles, including the game-tying hit in the eighth inning, to power the Netherlands offense. The New York Yankees’ shortstop had three RBIs.

Israel has been the surprise of the tournament so far, beating South Korea 2-1 in its opening game and overpowering Taiwan 15-7 on Tuesday.

In Pool B, Japan improved to 2-0 with a 4-1 win over Australia at Tokyo Dome. Sho Nakata hit a solo home run in the seventh inning and Yoshitomo Tsutsugo added a two-run homer in the eighth for the two-time champions.

In an earlier game, Roel Santos hit a two-run triple as Cuba scored four runs in the fourth inning in a 6-0 win over China.

Former major leaguer Bruce Chen held Cuba scoreless over the first 2 2-3 innings but a pitching change gave the Cuban batters the spark they needed.

Yoelkis Cespedes drove in the first run in the fourth off Luo Xia, and Santos’ clutch triple to center field made it 3-0. Santos then scored on Alexander Ayala’s double to left.

Cuba starter Vladimir Banos went five innings and allowed only one baserunner on a single from Yang Shunyi with one out in the fifth.

Cuba improved to 1-1 to keep alive its chances of advancing to the second round.

Giants place Hunter Pence on 10-day disabled list with right thumb sprain

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The Giants placed outfielder Hunter Pence on the 10-day disabled list with a right thumb sprain, per an official announcement on Friday. Pence initially sustained the injury during the club’s home opener on April 3, when he dove to intercept a line drive double from Robinson Cano and jammed his thumb. Weeks of playing through the pain hasn’t worked, so he’ll take a breather while the Giants give outfielder Mac Williamson a chance to start in left after getting called up from Triple-A Fresno.

Pence, 35, wouldn’t pin his recent struggles on his injury, but it’s clear that he’s having difficulty finding his footing this year. He slashed a meager .172/.197/.190 through 61 plate appearances in 2018, collecting just one extra-base hit and two walks during the Giants’ dismal 7-11 stretch. While it’s far too early in the season to make any final judgments, it doesn’t look like the veteran outfielder will be replicating the .275+ average, 4.0+ fWAR totals of years past (at least, not anytime soon).

Williamson, meanwhile, has gotten off to a hot start in Triple-A. Prior to his call-up this weekend, the 27-year-old batted an incredible .487/.600/1.026 with six home runs and a 1.626 OPS through his first 50 PA. A hot Triple-A bat doesn’t always survive the transition to the majors, but the Giants will use all the help they can get — especially as they take on the AL West-leading Angels this weekend.