The Dominican Republic broke through for four runs in the fifth inning and that was all they needed as they defeated the Kingdom of the Netherlands, 4-1, in the semi-final of the World Baseball Classic. They advance to face Puerto Rico tonight for the WBC Championship.
The Dominican Republic has a star-studded lineup, but it was their pitching that carried the day in the semi-final. Dominican starting pitcher Edinson Volquez did get into trouble to start the game as he walked the first two Dutch batters, Andrelton Simmons and Jurkison Profar. But he settled down very quickly after that. Although the Netherlands got a run on two ground outs by Roger Bernadina and Wladimir Balentien, Volquez limited the damage to one run. The Orange never threatened again.
But for a while, it looked like that one run might be enough. Netherlands veteran Diegomar Markwell kept the all-star laden Dominican Republic off the board for four innings with a fastball at 83-84 mph and off-speed stuff in the mid-70s. But the Dominicans finally figured him out in the fifth inning. Carlos Santana got things going when he shot a 3-2 pitch down the left-field line for a one-out double. Next up was Moises Sierra, who was a last-minute replacement for Ricardo Nanita, who was ill. After Markwell made him look silly when he badly missed a 64 mph curve ball, Sierra crushed the next pitch into the left-field corner to tie the game at one.
After Alejandro De Aza grounded out for the second out, it looked as if Markwell might escape with minimal damage. But he then had to face the top of the order and both Jose Reyes and Miguel Tejada singled, scoring Sierra and giving the Dominicans a 2-1 lead.
Dutch manager Hensley Meulens then made a call to the bullpen, bringing in Tom Stuifbergen to face Robinson Cano. But his first pitch went wild, and Reyes scored from third base to give the Dominican Republic a 3-1 lead. After then intentionally walking Cano, Edwin Encarnacion singled home Tejada for another insurance run. Bernadina threw Cano out at third base to end the inning, but by then the damage had been done.
Facing the Dominican bullpen, the Netherlands might as well have been down ten runs instead of only three. The Dominican pitching staff only gave up four hits in the game and all four came with two outs. When Fernando Rodney retired the side in order in the ninth, the Dominican Republic clinched their first ever trip to the WBC Championship game.
Volquez got the win for the Dominican Republic. He went five innings and allowed one run on two hits and two walks. Volquez struck out five. Rodney got his sixth save in the tournament. He's now pitched 6.1 innings and has given up only one hit.
Markwell took the loss. His final line was four runs allowed on six hits over 4.2 innings. He walked one and did not have a strike out.
Reyes and Tejada were both 2 for 4. Sierra was 1 for 3 with that big double and a nice catch on a foul ball in left field as he fell into the stands.
For the Dominican Republic, this game was both revenge and redemption for their humiliation at the hands of the Netherlands in the 2009 tournament. And while the Netherlands didn't get the result they wanted, they had their best WBC tournament ever.
The Dominican Republic faces Puerto Rico tonight for the WBC Championship at 8 pm Chicago time. I'll be up with a preview and a game thread a half hour before game time.