After defending champion Japan barely survived Brazil’s upset bid, South Korea was dealt quite a blow in its attempt to return to the World Baseball Classic finals, losing to The Netherlands 5-0 in Pool B play.
Diegomar Markwell, Orlando Yntema, Leon Boyd and Mark Pawelek combined on the shutout for the Dutch. Shortstop Andrelton Simmons went 3-for-5 with two doubled from the leadoff spot, and Andrew Jones went 2-for-4 with a double as the DH.
Korea played an uncharacteristically sloppy game, committing four errors. The team also collected just four hits, all of them singles.
While The Netherlands has a nice lineup — the team also features Nationals outfielder Roger Bernadina, Yakult Swallows slugger Wladimir Balentien and top Red Sox prospect Xander Bogaerts — pitching figured to be its undoing. Korea, though, could get no handle on today’s journeymen, none of whom are employed by major league clubs. The 32-year-old Markwell pitched in the Blue Jays system from 1997-2003, going 5-7 with a 7.04 ERA in Double-A his final season. Pawelek was a 2005 first-round pick of the Cubs, but he never made it past A ball in the Cubs or Reds systems.
Korea will now likely have to come back and beat both Chinese Taipei and Australia in order to advance in the WBC. The Netherlands will be aiming to go to the second round for the second straight tournament. In 2009, the Dutch advanced on a tiebreaker as one of three Pool D teams to go 1-2.
Some good news for the Nationals today: All-Star hurler Max Scherzer is due back from the injured list this week, this time (hopefully) for good. He’s slated to start during Thursday’s series finale against the Pirates.
It’s been a long road back for the right-hander, who earned his seventh consecutive All-Star designation after heading into the break with a 2.30 ERA, 5.6 fWAR, and a league-leading 7.56 SO/BB rate. An untimely back injury forced him to the injured list in the days leading up to the All-Star Game, however, and he hasn’t returned in any kind of part-time or full-time capacity since.
While Scherzer was originally expected to pitch for the Nationals sometime during their weekend series versus the Brewers, manager Dave Martinez elected to push back his return date by a few days. It’s not clear whether he felt some lingering pain during his 64-pitch simulated start on Saturday or whether the Nationals simply want to play it safe with their ace, but either way, the club apparently feels like Scherzer will be back to full strength before the end of the week.
If so, his return would be a significant asset to the Nationals, who could use a sub-3.00 ERA, 5.0-fWAR starter to help bolster their standing in the NL East. Still, there’s no guarantee that the veteran righty is ready to shoulder a full-time role in Washington’s rotation, nor is it certain that he’ll be able to match his results from the first half of the season. In one start between IL stints last month, he dealt five innings of three-run, two-walk, eight-strikeout ball in an 8-7 loss to the Rockies.