Tuesday, March 14, 2017

A World Baseball Classic Rivalry: Japan vs. Cuba II

From the desk of:  PLANET BASEBALL

Pool - E

JAPAN          2-0
Netherlands  1-1
ISRAEL        1-1
CUBA            0-2

Netherlands  12
Israel              2

Team Israel experienced their first ever taste of defeat in World Baseball Classic competition, and it was bitter to say the least.  A consortium of eight Israel pitchers managed little to stem the rate of Netherlands production, whom pounded out 15 hits and 12 runs.  Designated hitter Did Gregorius lead the charge going 2 for 3, with a walk, double, home run, five RBI, and three runs scored.  Clean-up hitter and right fielder Wladimir Balentien went 3 for 4 with a walk, three runs scored and three RBI.

With pitching limits extended in the Second Round, Netherlands starter Jair Jurrjens (who last pitched for Colorado in 2014) faced 23 batters, throwing 74 pitches with 53 going for strikes.  He threw six innings, allowing just a run on five hits, and fanned five for the victory.


In what has fast become a genuine WBC rivalry, Cuba looking to turn tables on undefeated Japan.

In their view I'm sure, Cuba is coming off a disappointing 4-1 loss against Israel.  Los Cubanos previously fared no better against Japan during the WBC Pool-A opening game one week ago, in which they bowed by an 11-6 final.

In four games to date, Cuba has defeated China and Australia - not exactly Murderer's Row and the Gas House Gang.  Then there's aforementioned losses against Japan and Israel to ponder.  And so will the real Cuban team please stand up?  Because so far the Cuban level of competition we've been growing accustomed to has yet to materialize.

The new breed Team Japan is still undefeated after four games of tournament  play.  With Pool-A proving a rather weak division, Netherlands represented their toughest opponent to date.  Japan emerged victorious by a close 8-6 margin.  Japan has nonetheless outscored their opponents through four games by a 30-16 margin.

CUBA   5

Look What Japan Did To Cuba ... Again!

Japan jumped out to an immediate lead with a one-out Tetsuto Yamada home run to left/center.  Cuba answered right back with a two-run home run in the top of the second from second baseman Yurisbel Gracial.

Japan then tied things up in the third, but Cuba continued pressing forward with two more runs in the top of the fourth on a two run single from right fielder Victor Mesa.  Japan struck again for a pair in the fifth to knot the game at four.  Each team would then trade a run in the sixth to forge another five all tie.

In the bottom of the eighth, it was Japan who would emerge to deliver a knockout blow.  A run scoring sac-fly broke the deadlock, then Tetsuto Yamada gave Japan an 8-5 lead with his second home run of the game.

Kazuhisa Makita pitched a scoreless ninth with a pair of strikeouts to earn the save.

What a great game!

Cuba is obviously in a bind.  They must win their upcoming game against Netherlands, while Israel must lose to Japan in the Pool-E finale in order to forge a three-way tie.  WBC tie-breaker math will eliminate one of the three.  The remaining teams will then participate in a tie-breaker game.

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