Shawn Zarraga

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Puerto Rico walks off against Netherlands in 11th inning to advance to WBC finals

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The World Baseball Classic’s extra-innings gimmick helped decide which of the two teams playing Tuesday night into early Wednesday morning would advance to the finals. Puerto Rico ultimately walked off a 4-3 winner in the bottom of the 11th against the Netherlands.

The game started off interestingly enough with both teams trading two-run home runs. Wladimir Balentien crushed his off of Jorge Lopez in the top half at Dodger Stadium. Carlos Correa returned the favor, victimizing Rick van den Hurk in the bottom half.

Puerto Rico broke the 2-2 tie in the bottom of the second when T.J. Rivera swatted a solo home run to left field, also off of van den Hurk.

Netherlands tied it with a two-out rally in the fifth. Balentien doubled — and very nearly homered again — Jonathan Schoop was intentionally walked to bring Shawn Zarraga to the plate. Zarraga lined a double to left field, plating Balentien, but Schoop was out at the plate on an umpire-reviewed play at the plate.

From there, it was five innings of both teams’ pitching shutting down the opposition. The game went to extra innings after Kenley Jansen pitched a perfect ninth inning for the Netherlands. Edwin Diaz started the 10th for Puerto Rico and things got interesting after Jurickson Profar struck out. Balentien swung hard and fouled off a first-pitch fastball from Diaz. He stared Diaz down and nodded as if to say, “You got away with that one.” Diaz threw him another fastball — this one at 100 MPH — and Balentien again fouled it off. He again stared down Diaz, nodding, and then saying a few words. With his third pitch of the at-bat, Diaz threw up-and-in at Balentein. Neither Balentien nor his teammates liked the pitch all that much and some Netherlands players scattered onto the field. Order was quickly restored and home plate umpire Lance Barksdale issued warnings to both benches. Diaz ended the at-bat by painting the outside corner with a 99 MPH fastball. Schoop struck out to end the inning.

Puerto Rico put its leadoff runner on base in the bottom of the 10th, but Carlos Correa grounded into a double play and Enrique Hernandez struck out against Loek Van Mil to send the game to the 11th.

The 11th inning, of course, features an abnormal rule. From the 11th inning on, each team will start with runners start on first and second. Needless to say, most managers choose to bunt to put the go-ahead run on third base. Netherlands executed this in the top of the 11th, so Puerto Rico intentionally walked Yurendell Decaster to load the bases with one out. Curt Smith then grounded into an inning-ending double play.

Puerto Rico took advantage of its opportunity in the bottom half. Yadier Molina moved Carlos Correa to third and Xander Bogaerts to second with his bunt, so Netherlands chose to intentionally walk Javier Baez, bringing up Eddie Rosario. Rosario lifted a fastball to shallow center field. Jurickson Profar caught the ball and fired home, but it was a weak throw and Correa scored easily, securing the 4-3 walk-off victory for Puerto Rico.

Netherlands is eliminated after a valiant run through the WBC. Puerto Rico is headed to the finals, playing the winner of Tuesday night’s game between the United States and Japan.

Netherlands defeats Israel 12-2 in second round of World Baseball Classic

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Team Netherlands got so far ahead of Team Israel in Monday morning’s World Baseball Classic game that the “early termination” rule was invoked, ending the game in a 12-2 victory after eight innings. The rule ends the game after completion of an inning in which a team leads by 10 or more runs after the seventh inning.

Netherlands scored early and often. It took a 2-0 lead in the second inning on a two-run single by Yurendell Decaster, then scored four more in the third on a two-run single from Wladimir Balentien, and RBI doubles by Didi Gregorius and Shawn Zarraga. In the fourth, Netherlands scored four more on another Balentien single and a three-run home run by Gregorius, pushing the score to 10-0.

Israel pushed a run across in the fourth inning on a Nate Freiman solo home run and again in the seventh inning on a Blake Gailen RBI single, reducing the deficit to eight runs.

However, in the eighth, Netherlands was able to invoke the “early termination” rule after scoring two more runs on a Gregorius sacrifice fly and a Zarraga RBI single. Israel was unable to score in the bottom half of the eighth, so the game ended.

Starter Jair Jurrjens pitched six outstanding innings for the Netherlands, giving up just the one run on five hits with no walks and five strikeouts while tossing 74 pitches. Juan Carlos Sulbaran, Jim Ploeger, and Orlando Yntema got two outs apiece to carry the team through the eighth.

Netherlands and Israel are now tied in Pool E with identical 1-1 records. Netherlands will face Team Cuba on Tuesday night while Israel will take on Team Japan on Wednesday morning.