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Cuba loses 4-2 to the Netherlands in their opening match of the V World Baseball Classic

Netherlands now leads Cuba 4-1 in World Classics.Cuba's only triumph came in 2006



As if three consecutive victories were not enough, the Netherlands managed to put another victory in editions of World Classics over Cuba, extending its dominance over the Caribbean team 4-1 since 2013 in World Baseball Classics.


As part of Group A of the world tournament, the Netherlands won a clash at Taichung Intercontinental Stadium in Taiwan, 4-2, the first game of the 2023 edition of the international event.


After losing on Tuesday, the Cubans will try again this Thursday at 6:00am (in Havana and the Eastern US), when they face a real danger in Italy. Italy and Cuba have never met in World Classics editions.


It was Cuba's second defeat in an initial round game in the history of these tournaments. In 2017, Cuba lost 11-6 to Japan in the Group B debut, but won matches against China and Australia to advance to the second round. The teams that have lost the first game in the history of the World Classics - Taiwan (2006), China (2009), Australia (2013) and South Korea (2017) - have never advanced further in the tournament.



It turned out to be a pitching duel between Cuba's Yariel Rodriguez and the Netherlands' Tom de Blok. When the pitchers left the mound, the scoreboard showed them tied at 1 run. For Cuba, which had promoted Yariel from his role as reliever to starter with high expectations for this game, the tie was something they did not expect or desire.


It was for this reason that Didi Gregorious' single to center in the third inning, driving in Roger Bernadina from second base with two outs, was so important.



In the first inning, Cuba loaded the bases with walks and had only one out, but failed to score a run against a nervous Blok. Due to the unexpected absence of Alfredo Despaigne, Lorenzo Quintana was placed fifth in the Cuban lineup, and conceded a double play groundball in a well executed play by the Dutch to end the inning.



Additionally, the Cubans struggled offensively, hitting three hits throughout the game, as well as failing to produce with runners in scoring position, an extension of their problems in warm-up games previous to the tournament. Against the Netherlands, Cuba went 0-for-7 with RISP, leaving five men stranded.


However, Cubans took the lead first. In the second inning, Yoelkis Guibert walked for the first of two walks he received in the game, and Yadil Mujica hit Cuba's first single, a double along the right-field line, to bring Guibert home.




De Blok left the game after three innings. He threw 58 pitches, with one earned run, four walks and two strikeouts, in what is considered a quality outing. On the other hand, with 66 pitches, 42 strikes, 6 strikeouts, one walk, and two hits, Yariel did exactly what everyone was expecting of him - scouts included - as he pitched four innings of one run and three hits.




Until Netherlands' explosive sixth inning, both bullpens kept the score even.


De Blok and right-hander Derek West, Netherlands first reliever, retired nine straight Cuban batters since Mujica's hit in the second inning until Roel Santos drew his second walk in the 5th. Yoan Moncada, a dangerous player, came into play in the fifth inning when Santos got on base, and right-hander Eric Mendez was brought in to take care of him. In what was the Dutch first tactical change that worked exactly as planned, Santos stole second to put more pressure on Mendez, but he retired Moncada on a foul fly by Simmons to end the threat.


For half of the game, both teams were conspicuously silent offensively. With the game tied at one run in the bottom of the sixth, Netherlands rallied to win. Onelki Garcia - who had worked the fifth inning without difficulty - started the inning by walking Gregorious and accepting Jonathan Scoop's single to right. Cuba's manager Armando Johnson called in Carlos J. Viera, in a substitution not expected by many, and Viera began his work striking out Wladimir Balentien's powerful bat, but he could not avoid the single of the seventh in the order, right fielder Josh Palacios, for a 2-1 lead in Gregorious's legs.



When Viera struck out Simmons for his second out of the inning, it seemed as though he would cut the damage, but the eighth hitter, catcher Chadwick Tromp, hit a 85 mph slider off him in the outer zone, dropping the ball in front of Luis Robert in center field. As a result, the Netherlands took a 4-1 and never looked back.




Yadil Mujica drove in a run with an RBI groundout in the seventh, but that was all for Armando Johnson's squad. In the end, the Netherlands prevailed thanks to the Dutch bullpen.


With one out in the eighth and facing right-hander Franklin Van Gurp, Cuba put a runner in scoring position when Luis Robert - was 0-for-3 with 3 SO - doubled to deep center field. Nevertheless, after Céspedes grounded out to shortstop and Quintana was in the batter's box, Luis Robert separated a world from second base in a lousy offensive play, and was surprised by the Netherlands catcher, Tromp, with a quick throw to second, which was reviewed by the referees but eventually confirmed.



In the ninth, Wendell Floranus had no trouble closing out the game. He retired all three batters he faced, including a strikeout on catcher Quintana. He was also helped from his star shortstop, Bogaerts, during the last out of the game.



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