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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.

Red Sox to extend protective netting at Fenway Park in 2018

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The Red Sox are the latest team to extend the protective netting at their ballpark this winter. According to a statement by club president Sam Kennedy, the exact dimensions of the netting have yet to be determined, but it will likely stretch “all the way to Field Box 79, down the left field line and then all the way down to almost Canvas Alley in the Field Box 9 area.”

Fenway Park received additional protective netting prior to the 2016 season, when the netting behind home plate was lengthened to the home and visitor dugouts. Per Kennedy’s statement, the current expansion should cover everything but the outfield corners, making it nearly impossible for a line drive foul to reach fans in the lower boxes.

After a toddler sustained serious injuries from a 105-MPH foul ball to the face at Yankee Stadium last September, over half of all MLB teams decided to take more extreme preventative measures in advance of the 2018 season. The Brewers, Cardinals, Braves, Astros, Royals, Pirates, Rangers, Padres, Nationals, Mariners, Phillies, Mets, Reds, Blue Jays, Giants, Yankees, Twins and Indians are among the organizations to address the issue over the last several years, while others have yet to take significant action.