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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.

2017 Preview: The National League West

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For the past few weeks we’ve been previewing the 2017 season. Here, in handy one-stop-shopping form, is our package of previews from the National League West.

The Giants had the best record in all of baseball at the All-Star Break and the Dodgers lost the best pitcher in the world in Clayton Kershaw for a big chunk of the season. Yet, somehow, L.A. won the NL West by four games. The biggest culprit was the Giants’ suspect bullpen, which they put some real money toward fixing this winter. Is it enough? Or is a a Dodgers team with a healthy Kershaw just too talented for San Francisco to handle?

Below them is an intriguing Rockies team, though probably not a truly good Rockies team. The Dbacks have a lot of assorted talent but are nonetheless in reshuffle mode following a miserable 2016 campaign. The Padres, meanwhile, are in full-fledged rebuilding mode, but do possess some of the best minor league talent in the game.

Here are our previews of the 2017 NL West:

Los Angeles Dodgers
San Francisco Giants
Colorado Rockies
Arizona Diamondbacks
San Diego Padres

2017 Preview: The American League West

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For the past few weeks we’ve been previewing the 2017 season. Here, in handy one-stop-shopping form, is our package of previews from the American League West

There’s not a lot of separation between the top three teams in this division. Indeed, it would not be a surprise for either the Astros, Rangers or Mariners to end the year on top. Part of that is because none of these contenders are perfect, with all three facing some big challenges in putting together a strong rotation.

Meanwhile, the best baseball player in the universe toils in Anaheim, where he’ll most likely have to content himself to playing spoiler. Up the coast in Oakland . . . um, green is pretty?

Our 2017 AL West Previews:

Houston Astros
Seattle Mariners
Texas Rangers
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Oakland Athletics