The 2017 World Baseball Classic kept barreling its way toward next week's trip to Los Angeles on Monday, as second-round play continued in Tokyo and Pool D finally finished up first-round action in Mexico.
Netherlands and Israel were in action as Pool E proceeded halfway across the world, while Italy and Venezuela had to play a tiebreaker to see who would join Puerto Rico in the second round. The winner of that game would have only one day to fly to San Diego for its opening matchup against the United States.
Here is a look at how both matchups on the day's slate played out.
|WorldBaseballClassic.com (*lost tiebreaker)|
Netherlands 12, Israel 2
The hot bats of the Netherlands came through for a second straight game, blasting Israeli starter Corey Baker for four runs in two innings of work on their way to a 12-2 victory in eight innings.
Netherlands has scored 18 runs in its two second-round games, but its 1-1 record keeps it in some danger of failing to make the final round.
Didi Gregorius hit a three-run home run in the fourth inning and drove in five runs as part of a 2-for-3 outing. Wladimir Balentien went 3-for-4 and drove in three runs, highlighted by a two-run single in the third. Seven hitters in Netherlands' lineup had at least one hit, while Andrelton Simmons and Yurendell de Caster joined Balentien in leading the team with three hits.
Netherlands wasted very little time creating separation, scoring two runs in the second inning on a de Caster single before adding four in the third and fourth.
Israel got on base against Netherlands starter Jair Jurrjens but couldn't take advantage. Jurrjens gave up just one run on five hits in six innings pitched before giving way to the bullpen. Juan Carlos Sulbaran, Jim Ploeger and Orlando Yntema threw the final two innings to close it out.
"We wanted to play like it was Game 7 of the World Series," Balentien said, per Danny Knobler of MLB.com. "We had to win."
"We didn't execute pitches," Israel manager Jerry Weinstein said, per Knobler. "We fell behind and threw too many non-competitive pitches."
Netherlands' win over Israel makes Pool E a lot more interesting, as all four teams still have a shot at advancing. Israel could have clinched a finals berth with a win.
Japan will have a similar opportunity Tuesday against Cuba, which dropped its second-round opener to Israel.
Venezuela 4, Italy 3
Venezuela remained alive in the World Baseball Classic with a dramatic ninth-inning rally.
Italy held a 2-1 lead entering the final frame, but Miguel Cabrera blasted a game-tying home run before Rougned Odor gave the victors the lead with an RBI hit that was nearly another homer. Odor then scored an insurance run on Alcides Escobar's suicide squeeze.
MLB Network highlighted Cabrera's clutch drive:
Venezuela's rally in the ninth spoiled Italy starter A.J. Morris' outing. He threw five brilliant shutout innings, not allowing a single hit and striking out five. He consistently flummoxed Venezuela's powerful lineup and built on the momentum from Italy's run in the first.
John Andreoli doubled and Daniel Descalso singled him home to open the scoring, as the World Baseball Classic shared:
While Morris turned heads for Italy, Venezuela starter Omar Bencomo and relievers Deolis Guerra and Jose Alvarado kept their team in the game, combining to allow just two runs in eight innings of work.
The strong pitching for Venezuela set the table for the offense to get to Italy's bullpen, which it did in the first inning after Morris exited. Ender Inciarte notched an RBI single in the sixth off Trey Nielsen, but reliever Pat Venditte escaped further damage.
Andreoli broke the tie and continued his power surge in the bottom of the seventh with a solo home run, as MLB Network captured:
From there, Italy's Tiago Da Silva pitched a shutout eighth before Mike DeMark blew the save. Venezuela's Francisco Rodriguez made things interesting by allowing a solo homer to Alex Liddi to make it a one-run game but ultimately earned the save.