Great Britain, Israel advance in World Baseball Classic qualifiers

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While the Nationals tried to lock down a postseason spot and the A’s Kendall Graveman tossed six hitless frames (and an imperfect seventh frame) against the Rangers, Great Britain and Israel advanced in the World Baseball Classic qualifiers.

Israel blanked Brazil 1-0 in the semifinals, advancing to the qualifier final that will be played on Sunday against the winner of Saturday’s semifinal round. Cardinals’ right-hander Corey Baker, who spent the majority of his season in Double-A Springfield, led the charge against Brazil with five innings of one-hit ball, permitting three walks and striking out six. As Israel’s bullpen combined for another four shutout innings, third baseman Cody Decker scored on a sac fly to give Israel the one-run backing they needed to advance to the finals.

Great Britain, meanwhile, prevailed over Pakistan’s first national baseball team in seven innings by the mercy rule. It was the second such loss for Pakistan, whose 14-0 defeat was the second double-digit loss they had taken during this week’s qualifiers. Pakistan supplanted Thailand in the qualifiers after ranking among the top five finalists in the Asian Baseball Championship last autumn. They were the only World Baseball Classic-eligible team without a player in the MLB circuit.

Left-hander Greg Hendrix allowed one hit in a four-inning start for Great Britain, backed heartily by a 14-run showing that culminated with a six-run inning in the fifth. Although Great Britain’s lineup showed considerable creativity at the plate, scoring on a smattering of singles, sacrifice flies, a double, a triple, a double play, and a fielding error, not a single run was scored via the long ball. Saturday will see the last semifinal showdown between Great Britain and Brazil at 8PM EST, and the winner will advance to Sunday’s finale against Israel. The team that prevails in the finale will appear in Pool B of the 2017 World Baseball Classic alongside teams from Taiwan, South Korea, and the Netherlands.