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Dutch stun Cuba to reach finals USA, Dominicans rally to win WBC Pools

TOKYO, March 11, (AFP): The Netherlands snatched a game-winning run in the bottom of the ninth inning to earn a nail-biting upset win over Cuba and their first ever spot in the World Baseball Classic final series on Monday. The unfancied Dutch looked down and out at 4-6 in the eighth inning, but Andrelton Simmons levelled the scores with a two-run homer. At 6-6 in the ninth, Kalian Sams hit a sacrifice fly with the bases loaded to take the dramatic win. The Netherlands have now secured a berth in the championship semifinals in San Francisco, after crashing out in the first stage in 2006 and the second round in 2009. Meanwhile Cuba, the 2006 finalists and one of the pre-tournament favourites, head home wondering how they let victory slip through their fingers at Tokyo Dome.

The Netherlands had made most of the running, with a sacrifice fly by Andruw Jones earning them an early 1-0 lead before Smith hit a single to get a second-base runner back home for 2-0 in the bottom of the third.
But Cuba evened the score at 2-2 in the fourth inning through Jose Fernandez’s single and a solo home run by Alfredo Despaigne. Simmons gave the Netherlands a 3-2 lead by hitting a sacrifice fly to the left, and a Cuban error gave them another run for 4-2. However Yulieski Gourriel’s double again allowed Cuba to even the scores 4-4 in the fifth. As tensions rose, Cuba then went ahead for the first time 6-4 in the eighth through Yasmany Tomas’s single and Eriel Sanchez’s sacrifice fly. But the Netherlands tied it once again thanks to Simmons’ two-run homer under pressure. And in the ninth, Jones took the first base on a Cuban error and then Curt Smith and Xander Bogaerts connected two singles for full bases, before Sams hit a fly to the centre field, sparking jubilation in the Netherlands dugout.

The Netherlands will now play two-time defending champions Japan, who have also qualified, on Tuesday to determine their seeding for the four-team showdown in San Francisco later this month. The United States and the Dominican Republic both posted come-from-behind victories Sunday to win their respective pools and advance to the second round of the World Baseball Classic. Adam Jones belted the go-ahead two-run double in the eighth and pitcher Heath Bell earned the win as the USA rallied to beat Canada 9-4 in a winner-take-all contest. Robinson Cano had three hits and blasted a fifth-inning home run to help lift the Dominicans to a 4-2 win over host Puerto Rico in a battle for first place in Pool C.
“It was like a game seven and we don’t need to get pumped up for a game seven,” American outfielder Jones said. “We were just fortunate to get bigger hits.”
The USA finished first in Pool D and will play Pool C runner up Puerto Rico in one of two second round games on Tuesday in Miami. Pool C top seed Dominicans will face reigning European champions Italy in the other.
The USA fell into a 2-0 hole early and trailed 3-2 after seven innings, but Jones’ double off Canada pitcher Jimmy Henderson put the Americans ahead to stay in front of a crowd of 19,413 at Chase Field in Phoenix.
Jones finished with three RBI for the USA who eventually broke the game open with another four runs in the ninth.


US catcher Jonathan Lucroy had an RBI single in the final inning before Eric Hosmer cleared the bases with a double. Bell, who plays in the major leagues for the Arizona Diamondbacks, posted the win with a scoreless seventh inning and then pitcher Steve Cisek got out of a bases loaded eighth-inning jam by getting Canadian Tim Smith to ground out to end the inning. Prior to Sunday’s game, officials announced that there would be no further discipline against the Canadian or Mexican players who were involved in a ninth-inning bench-clearing brawl the day before. Mexico, which appeared to start the fight, had four players ejected. Three Canadians were tossed during Team Canada’s 10-3 romp which resulted in Mexico being eliminated from the tournament. Miguel Cabrera smacked four RBIs as Venezuela scored six runs in the fourth inning to beat Spain 11-6 in a Pool C contest earlier Sunday at San Juan, Puerto Rico.


National pride was the only thing on the line Sunday as Venezuela lost any chance of advancing to the second round by losing its first two games to the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. Winless Spain will have to go through the qualifying rounds to try to return to this tournament the next time around in 2017. Spain scored two runs in the fifth on a single by Salomon Manriquez to make it 6-5. But Venezuela tacked on five more runs — two in the sixth and then three in the eighth as Cabrera and Pablo Sandoval blasted back-to-back homers in front of a crowd of 13,290 at Bithorn Stadium. As opposed to the round-robin format in the first round, the next round will be double-elimination, meaning the teams to win two games each advance and the teams which lose twice are out. The WBC semi-finals are March 17 and 18 at San Francisco’s AT&T Park. The final game is also in San Francisco on March 19.
 

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