The games were a kind of odd doubleheader in that it was a night game in Korea on Monday night and a day game on Tuesday. This had the odd effect of both games being played on Monday in the United States—one very early in the morning and the other late at night. But it didn’t matter: Israel won both games and now they have an off-day before taking on the Netherlands on Thursday afternoon (or late Wednesday night in the US.)
In the first game, Team Israel took a 1-0 lead over the host country in the second inning when Korean starter Won-Jun Chang ran into control problems. After walking Nate Frieman to lead off the inning, Chang surrendered a double to Diamondbacks minor league outfielder Zach Borenstein. With runners on second and third with no outs, Chang struck out Cody Decker but then walked Ryan Lavarnway and Tyler Krieger to force in a run.
Former Cubs starter Jason Marquis started the game for Israel and held Korea scoreless for three innings, allowing two hits, one walk and striking out three. But Marquis was pulled before reaching the pitch limits that would prevent him from pitching again in this pool. So he’s going to be eligible to pitch against the Netherlands on Wednesday.
Korea would tie the game up off of Mets minor league reliever Zack Thornton in the fifth inning. Thornton walked and hit the first two batters of the inning and after a strikeout, second baseman Geonchang Seo singled to tie the game. But Korea couldn’t take further advantage of the rally.
The score remained that way until the tenth inning when former Cubs pitcher Chang-Yong Lim took the mound for Team Korea. After one out, Lim walked Ike Davis and then Lavarnway singled, putting runners on the corners. Lim got Tyler Krieger to pop up, but an infield single by Rockies minor leaguer Scott Burcham gave Israel the lead. Former Astros reliever Josh Zeid retired the side in order in the bottom of the tenth and Israel won their first ever WBC game.
(By the way, my apologies. In my preview Group A, I forgot that Lim pitched five innings over six games for the Cubs in 2013. In fairness, I think most of us have tried to forget as much of the 2013 season as possible.)
In the second game, Israel jumped on Chinese Taipei starter Chun-Lin Kuo for four runs in the first inning. Israel extended their lead to 6-0 in the third inning when Lavarnway hit the first home run of the WBC with a man on.
Meanwhile, Chinese Taipei didn’t manage a baserunner off of Cardinals minor leaguer Corey Baker until left fielder Chih-Hao Chang singled with one out. Baker exited after 4.2 scoreless innings, allowing just three hits and striking out three.
Chinese Taipei temporarily made a game out of it when second baseman Chih-Sheng Lin doubled home two runs with the bases-loaded in the sixth inning off of Nationals minor league reliever R.C. Orlan. They would take on another run in the sixth on a sacrifice fly by first baseman Yi-Chuan Lin to cut Israel’s lead to 6-3.
But Israel put the game out of reach in the top of the seventh when they plated five runs. The big play that inning was when Israel manager Jerry Weinstein ordered Burcham to lay down a suicide squeeze with the bases loaded. It was a good squeeze and when Chinese Taipei pitcher Chen-Hua Lin fielder the ball, he realized he had no play at the plate and threw the ball to first. That would have been a good play had anyone on Chinese Taipei bothered to actually cover first base. Instead, the ball went into right field and all three runners scored.
Former Athletics first baseman Nate Freiman hit a three-run home run in the top of the ninth inning to complete the rout. Chinese Taipei scored four runs in the bottom of the ninth to make the score a little closer.
Team Israel has not clinched qualification for the next round, but they are in a commanding position now having won the first two of three round-robin games. Neither Chinese Taipei nor Korea are eliminated, but they will likely have to beat a powerful Netherlands team in order to avoid elimination.
Tuesday morning, Korea takes on the Netherlands at 3:30 a.m. Central, so that game is probably over already by the time you read this. Then in Tokyo, Japan takes on Cuba at 4:00 am Central and then Cuba will face China at 9 p.m. Central on Tuesday.