Netherlands vs. Korea
For a Korean national baseball team that had finished third in the first World Baseball Classic, second in the second one and won the Gold medal in the 2008 Olympics, their goal in the 2013 WBC was nothing short of a championship.
After being upset by the Netherlands 5-0, they now have to scramble just to make the second round.
The Dutch team was used to big upsets as they knocked the Dominican Republic out of the 2009 tournament with two stunning victories. But both of those games were close and the Netherlands needed some breaks to win both games. Four years later, the outcome against Korea was never really in doubt. The Netherlands pitching staff, led by former Blues Jays farmhand, starter Diegomar Markwell, held the powerful Koreans to only four hits. In contrast, the Dutch team pounded out ten hits and walked four times as well.
The Netherlands took an early lead when Andruw Jones led off the bottom of the second with a double and scored after a sacrifice bunt by Xander Bogaerts and a sacrifice fly by Curt Smith.
The Dutch team tacked on two more runs in the fifth inning when they loaded the bases with one out. Roger Bernadina hit a ground ball to second base that Korea was unable to turn a double play on, allowing Dashenko Ricardo to score from third. Then former Mariner Wladimir Balentien singled home Andrelton Simmons to give the Orange a 3-0 lead.
Korea threatened to get back in the game in the top of the seventh when Dae Ho Lee led off the inning with a walk and then Hyunsoo Kim singled to put two on and no outs. The next batter grounded out to put runners on first and third with one out. But former Giants farmhand Orlando Yntema pitched out of the inning by striking out Minho Kang and then getting "The Lion King" Seung Yuop Lee to foul out down the right field line. Orioles prospect Jonathan Schoop made a great running catch coming over from second base.
Defense was expected to be a strength of both of these teams, but only the Netherlands showed it, as Simmons, Bogaerts and Schoop all made great defensive plays and Korea committed four errors. The final error came in seventh when the Netherlands scored their final run. After a Bernadina double scored Simmons, Korean pitcher Woochan Cha walked Balentien to load the bases with no outs. Andruw Jones then hit a comebacker to the mound and Cha got the out at home, but Schoop took out Korean catcher Minho Kang and caused Kang to throw the ball into right field, allowing Bernadina to score. Kang had to leave the game with an injury.
The game ended when former Cubs number one draft pick Mark Pawelek entered the game in the ninth with a man on and two outs. Pawelek struck out pinch-hitter Ahseop Son to end the game.
Andrelton Simmons was 3 for 5 with a pair of doubles. Andruw Jones was 2 for 4 with a double.
Korea now has their backs against the wall and they will probably need to beat both Australia and host Chinese Taipei to advance to the second round. The Netherlands are probably just one win away from a surprising second straight trip to the second round of the WBC. The Netherlands will take on Chinese Taipei tonight at 12:30 am Chicago time.
Japan vs. Brazil
If two-time defending champion Japan learned one thing in their first game of the 2013 World Baseball Classic, it was that the rest of the world is gunning for them this time. Japan hosted Cinderella Brazil, considered by many to be the worst team in the sixteen-team field, and were lucky to escape with a 5-3 victory.
Brazil got on the board in the bottom of the first inning when Rays farmhand Leonardo Reginatto singled home Royals farmhand Paulo Orlando, who had reached second with a lead-off infield single and a Japanese throwing error. But Japan tied it up in the top of the third when Yoshio Itoi singled off of Brazilian starter Rafael Fernandes (who pitches in the Japanese minor league), scoring Hayato Sakamoto.
Both teams tacked on another run in the fourth inning. Fernandes was relieved in the top of the fourth by Astros minor leaguer Murilo Gouvea, who gave up a one-out walk and single to put runners on the corners. Japan then took the lead on a Sakamoto sacrifice fly. But Brazil evened the score again when Reginatto led off the bottom of the inning with a double and scored one out later on a Reinaldo Sato single.
Brazil then took the lead in the bottom of the fifth when Reginatto, who gave Japan fits all game, hit a two-out double, scoring Paulo Orlando. The normally loud Japanese fans grew increasingly quiet as Brazil held onto that lead into the top of the eighth inning. Then left fielder Seiichi Uchikawa led off the eighth with a single and after the sacrifice bunt, which is practically required after a lead-off single in Japanese baseball, Uchikawa then scored on a single by pinch-hitter Hirokazu Ibata.
Brazilian manager Barry Larkin then went to his bullpen, but reliever Kelsey Kondo immediately loaded the bases on a single and a walk. Japanese pinch-hitter Shinnosuke Abe (One of Japan's best hitters who didn't start because of a knee injury) gave Japan a 4-3 lead on a vicious line drive that Brazil managed to turn into a ground out. Then third baseman Nobuhiro Matsuda tacked on an insurance run with a clean single to center. Larkin then pulled Kondo for Ernesto Noris, but by then the damage had been done.
Brazil would bring the tying run to the plate in the ninth inning when left fielder Tiago Magalhaes hit a one-out single. but JC Muniz struck out and Iago Januario flew out to end the game.
Tadashi Settsu got the win for Japan with three innings of relief, allowing just one run on two hits. He struck out four and didn't walk anyone. Kazuhisa Makita got the save. Oscar Nakaoshi took the loss for Brazil.
Nobuhiro Matsuda was 2 for 4 for Japan. Leonardo Reginatto went 3 for 4 with two doubles for Brazil. Paulo Orlando was 2 for 4 with a stolen base and Tiago Magalhaes also went 2 for 4.
Brazil now must beat Cuba tonight at 9:30 central to stay alive in the tournament. Japan takes on China tomorrow morning at 4 am.
Chinese Taipei vs. Australia
It was considered a national embarrassment that the Chinese Taipei team was sent home from the 2009 WBC without a win. Chien-Ming Wang made sure that wasn't going to happen this time.
The former Yankee looked every bit the all-star he once was as he shut down Australia for six inning and Chinese Taipei defeated Australia, 4-1 in the first game of the 2013 World Baseball Classic.
Wang completely dominated Australia for six shutout innings, allowing four singles and no walks. In normal Wang fashion, he shut down any hope the Aussies might have had by inducing three ground out double plays.
The host country took an early lead when right fielder Dai-Kang Yang led off the bottom of the first with a clean single to left. After the de rigueur sacrifice bunt, Yang scored on a single by Taiwanese slugger Cheng-Min Peng. Chinese Taipei increased their lead to 3-0 in the third inning off of Australian starter, former Padres pitcher Chris Oxspring. Chih-Sheng Lin scored one run on a one-out double that bounced over the fence, and then Chinese Taipei tacked on one more on a ground out by Szu-Chi Chou that scored Chen-Min Peng.
Peng increased the Chinese Taipei lead to 4-0 with a solo home run in the fifth, the first home run of the 2013 tournament. Australia scored their only run in the seventh inning after Wang exited, when third baseman Stefan Welch hit a solo home run off of reliever Yao-Hsun Yang.
The save went to former Cubs farmhand Hung-Wen Chen, who pitched a perfect ninth inning, striking out one.
First baseman Peng was 2 for 3 with a walk and the home run for Chinese Taipei. Center fielder and Astros outfielder Che-Hsuan Lin was 2 for 3 with a double. Second baseman Yen-Wen Kuo, who played in the Reds system, was 2 for 4.
Chinese Taipei's win, combined with Korea's loss, sets up a show down between the two Asian powers for what is likely to be the last spot in the second round from this group. But first, Chinese Taipei will have to take on the Netherlands tonight at 12:30 am Chicago time.