Author: Matthew Pouliot

Jonathan Schoop

Jonathan Schoop powers The Netherlands past Cuba


Diegomar Markwell pitched six innings of one-run ball and Jonathan Schoop knocked in four runs with a homer and a double as The Netherlands bested Cuba 6-2 in the start of Round 2 WBC play.

Markwell surrendered nine hits in his six innings of work, but was aided by five double plays and a botched sacrifice bunt. The only run he surrendered came on Alfredo Despaigne’s second-inning homer.

Schoop was involved in four of the double plays and was the offensive MVP, giving The Netherlands room to breathe with his three-run blast in the sixth. He finished the game 3-for-6.

First baseman Curt Smith also homered for The Netherlands. Andrelton Simmons went 2-for-4 with a walk and had a brilliant defensive game, factoring into all five double plays.

Cuba, meanwhile, was very sloppy, committing two official errors, botching a couple of other infield plays and failing in its attempt to play small ball.

The Netherlands’ victory was slightly marred by a terrible call on a foul popup to end the eighth. Smith tried to go into the camera well to catch the ball, but it obviously went off his glove and hit the cement floor. He then picked the ball up with his glove, making no attempt to suggest he caught it, and home-plate umpire Alfonso Marquez gave him the out call, at which point he turned around and headed to the dugout. Cuba disputed the call, but first-base umpire Gerry Davis failed to follow the play and no one else was in any sort of position to overrule Marquez.

The call, as bad as it was, hardly figured to be a game-changer. No one was on base at the time, and Cuba appeared to have mailed this one in a few innings earlier. Cuban manager Victor Mesa made himself the main attraction tonight, trying to rub up baseballs with his batting gloves while making pitching changes and then fuming after Marquez forced the pitchers to switch baseballs afterwards. He warranted ejection on a couple of occasions, and he certainly would have been tossed if he were managing any other team.

The Netherlands will next face the winner of Chinese Taipei and Japan as it attempts to advance to the semifinals of the World Baseball Classic. Cuba moves on to the loser’s bracket in the modified double-elimination round.

Dominican Republic routs Venezuela 9-3 in WBC

Robinson Cano

Robinson Cano went 3-for-5 with two doubles and three RBI and Hanley Ramirez added a long homer as the Dominican Republic torched Venezuela 9-3 in the start of Pool C play.

The Dominican team jumped out to a 3-0 lead off Anibal Sanchez in the bottom of the first, only to see the game halted by a 50-minute rain delay. When play resumed, both Sanchez and Dominican starter Edinson Volquez were gone from the game. However, the Dominican offense just kept scoring, adding two runs off Cesar Jimenez and four off Jhoulys Chacin.

Venezuela managed just two runs in the third and one in the fourth before being shut down for the rest of the night. Pedro Strop ended up with the win after retiring all five batters he faced. Santiago Casilla and Fernando Rodney finished the game with scoreless innings.

Pablo Sandoval doubled in two of Venezuela’s three runs. Miguel Cabrera was quiet, going 0-for-4 with a walk.

The Dominican offense got four hits from Jose Reyes and two RBI apiece from Nelson Cruz and Alejandro De Aza. Carlos Santana walked in all four of his plate appearances.

The convincing victory should give the Dominican Republic an easy path to Round 2. Even if the D.R., Venezuela and Puerto Rico all end up 2-1, the D.R. has a big head start in the tiebreaker. Spain and Puerto Rico are the next game up in Pool C on Friday. Saturday will feature the Dominican Republic versus Spain and Puerto Rico versus Venezuela.

Italy rallies in ninth, defeats Mexico 6-5

Drew Butera

Thanks to some shoddy outfield defense from Edgar Gonzalez, Italy pulled off a shocker Thursday, defeating Mexico 6-5 to start Pool D play in the World Baseball Classic.

Gonzalez, normally an infielder, misplayed two balls in left in the top of the ninth, opening the door for Italy’s two-run inning against Sergio Romo.

Anthony Rizzo was credited with a two-run double on a ball that bounced out of Gonzalez’s glove, giving Italy the lead. Mexico tried to rally in the bottom of the ninth, loading the bases against Jason Grilli before Jorge Cantu grounded out to end it.

Adrian Gonzalez, Edgar’s younger brother, reached base five times, and Cantu delivered a three-run double for Mexico.

Italy jumped out to a 2-0 lead against Rodrigo Lopez in the top of the first, but it didn’t last long, as Mexico responded by loading the bases in front of Cantu’s double in the bottom of the inning. Mexico added a fourth run on a Ramiro Pena double in the second.

Italy was able to come back and tie the game in the fourth, when Twins catcher Drew Butera hit a two-run homer. Mexico, though, again responded in the fifth. Luis Cruz doubled in Eduardo Arredondo to make it 5-4. The game might have ended with that score, but Gonzalez had trouble on both a ball hit over his head by Nick Punto and Rizzo’s fly in the ninth.

Pool D play will continue Friday afternoon, when Canada takes on Italy. Mexico and the United States will have their showdown Friday night, with Yovani Gallardo and R.A. Dickey slated to start. That would now seem to be a must-win game for Mexico.

Dominican Republic downs Yankees 8-2 in exhibition

Robinson Cano

The Dominican Republic is glad Hiroki Kuroda decided to sit out the World Baseball Classic. He’s the only pitcher with any luck slowing their offense the last two days.

Kuroda, a native of Japan, struck out four in three scoreless innings Wednesday, but the Dominican Republic scored in every frame afterwards on its way to an 8-2 win over the Yankees.

The Dominican team has total 23 runs and 39 hits in the 15 innings not pitched by Kuroda the last two days.

Leading the Dominican offense today was supposed weak link Ricardo Nanita. Starting in left field with Jose Bautista absent from the roster, Nanita went 3-for-5 with two doubles and two runs scored in this one.

Nanita and Moises Sierra, both Blue Jays players oddly enough, will likely platoon in left field for the Dominican team in the WBC. Nanita, a left-handed hitter, batted .306/.353/.465 at offense-heavy Triple-A Las Vegas last season. Sierra, a right-hander, hit .289/.360/.472 in 377 at-bats for Las Vegas and .224/.274/.374 in 147 at-bats in the majors. Neither was considered a candidate to make the Blue Jays this spring.

Jose Reyes, Edwin Encarnacion and Carlos Santana (finally a non-Blue Jay) all had two hits apiece for the Dominican Republic today. Yankees farmhand Vidal Nuno was the starting pitcher after being loaned to the Dominican Republic for the day. He pitched four hitless innings in what was essentially an intrasquad game for him.

Dominican second baseman Robinson Cano went 1-for-3 with an RBI while facing his Yankees teammates today.

Miguel Cabrera’s two homers lead Venezuela past Mets

Miguel Cabrera, Asdrubal Cabrera

Miguel Cabrera went 3-for-4 with a pair of homers and Gerardo Parra added a three-run shot as Venezuela beat the Mets 14-10 in an exhibition Thursday.

Marlon Byrd homered as part of a seven-run fifth inning for the Mets, but Venezuela had already totaled 12 runs by that point.

Featuring perhaps the most well balanced lineup among the WBC teams, Venezuela is a threat to win the tournament if its pitching holds up. It’s top arms weren’t on display today, though: Ramon A. Ramirez, a brief big leaguer with the Reds in 2008-09, started and threw three scoreless innings. Byrd’s homer came off former major leaguer Romulo Sanchez.

Besides Cabrera and Parra, Santiago Perez (3-for-4, three runs scored), Carlos Gonzalez (2-for-3, 2B, BB) and Omar Infante (2-for-4, three RBI) had nice days for Venezuela. Mets starter Jon Niese was touched up for four runs in 2 1/3 innings, while Carlos Torres gave up seven runs in 1 2/3 innings.