By Jerry Díaz
The Netherlands once again defeated Cuba in a World Classic match, this time by a score of 4-2.
On the afternoon of Wednesday, March 8 (early morning in the Eastern United States), the teams of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and Cuba faced each other in the first game of the World Classic 2023 held at the Intercontinental Stadium of Taichung (Taiwan).
Some six thousand spectators witnessed another victory of the Europeans in these tournaments over the Cubans in what has become a classic (never better said) of the event. Two evenly matched teams in which one played exquisite baseball and the other committed costly errors.
Cuba took the lead in the second when Yadil Mujica doubled home Yoelkis Guibert, who entered the lineup at the last minute due to a hand injury to Alfredo Despaigne. Mujica also drove in the Cubans’ second run in the seventh, this time with a groundout that allowed Guibert to score.
The losers totaled only three hits. The aforementioned one by Mujica, another double by Guibert in the seventh and another two-bagger by Luis Robert in the eighth, but the Guantanamero was picked off the bag in the middle after that.
The Netherlands finished off with a rally in the sixth
Didi Gregorius started the sixth with a base on balls. Jonathan Schoop increased the threat with a hit to right. At that moment Cuba’s manager Armando Johnson decided to take Onelki Garcia (0-1) out of the box and bring in another reliever, Carlos Juan Viera.
The right-hander from Las Tunas struck out Wladimir Balentien and was about to do the same with Josh Palacios. However, the seventh bat of the Netherlands was left alive after a foul ball disputed by Lorenzo Quintana, who insisted to the umpire that he had caught the ball without it hitting the ground. Palacios took advantage of that second opportunity and hit a single to center field to give his team the lead.
After another strikeout to Andrelton Simmons and a stolen base by Palacios, the ninth in the order Chadwick Tromp got a bloop single that dropped between the shortstop and the center fielder. The hit scored Schoop and Palacios to extend the deficit to four to one.
The winners had seven hits, the only one with a multihit was center fielder Roger Bernadina.
From the mound Yariel Rodriguez showed the baseball world that he is Major League material and threw four innings with six strikeouts. All the experts’ comments about the Camagüey native were positive.
This was the fifth time that the Netherlands and Cuba met in the World Baseball Classic. The only Cuban victory was in the now distant 2006 while the two-time semifinalists now have four straight wins over the Caribbeans.
Also in Pool A are Taiwan, Panama, and Italy, which rests on the first day.
The World Classic has begun. For Cuba, new faces, same result against the Dutch.