top of page

World Baseball Classic 2023: Rivalry and history of Cuba-Netherlands duel

— The V World Baseball Classic's Opening Day between the Netherlands and Cuba By Yirsandy Rodríguez It has been six years since the World Baseball Classic last took place, and finally we can say it: Welcome back! We are already a few hours from hearing the voice of play ball, and the first game of the V World Baseball Classic is a duel full of expectations between Cuba and the Netherlands that will take place at the Taichung Intercontinental Baseball Stadium at 11:00 pm (Eastern Time in the United States) this Tuesday. It made me think about what the long-awaited edition, which was scheduled for 2021, would have looked like, but was interrupted by COVID-19. While the United States is the defending champion, the Dominican Republic - 2013 - and Japan - 2006 & 2009 -, champions in the first three editions of the event, have already shown appreciable strengths. Both right-handers Tom de Blok and Yariel Rodriguez have been announced for the Cuba vs. Netherlands matchup, backed by a pair of bullpen players who will be key to the team's success. While De Blok was chosen at the last minute, he received the confidence of the coaching staff led by manager Hensley Meulens, who is joined by renowned pitching coaches Bert Blyleven and Mike Harkey. De Blok will be making his first start in a World Baseball Classic, although he participated in the 2017 team as a reliever. Cuban right-hander Yariel Rodriguez will also make his World Baseball Classic debut. Cubans last saw him perform in an international event on June 1, 2021, when he pitched 6.1 innings with 11 strikeouts against Canada in the Olympic Qualifying tournament in Florida, in an attempt to save right-hander Carlos Juan Viera's deficient start. It is the fifth matchup between the two teams at the World Baseball Classic level, where the Netherlands has won three straight games and leads 29-20 in runs scored. Aside from that particular record, the main story will once again be whether the "Tulipanes" will continue to dominate Cuba, aided by the impact of a generation of Major League players. I imagine you were asked the same question at some point: how has Cuba vs. the Netherlands become one of the most anticipated matches in the World Baseball Classic? The rivalry between the two teams dates back to the early 2000s, so the historic rivalry has been important. The convincing mastery of the "Tulipanes" Cuba vs. the Netherlands... or Cuba vs. the Kingdom of the Netherlands... in what context do these confrontations take place? I am certain that Cuba's 11-2 win in the First World Baseball Classic will remain indelible in the minds of baseball fans everywhere. In the opening inning, Ariel Borrero hit a rule double that flew past centerfielder Andruw Jones, along with home runs by Yoandy Garlobo and Osmany Urrutia. Cuba's offensive looked adjusted on that Thursday, March 9, 2006, when it defeated the Netherlands 11-2. Right-handers Ormary Romero and Yadel Martí - a pair of pitchers from Santiago de Cuba and Industriales, Cuban baseball's eternal rivals - managed Tulipanes' lineup from top to bottom. Nevertheless, the story changed after the second Classic. During the 2013 edition, the Netherlands won 6-2 and 7-6 in the Second Round. Avenging the setback of 2006, Diegomar Markwell -with four runs and six hits in 3.1 innings- triumphed in the first game, while the Netherlands made an impressive comeback in the second. With a well-timed RBI single by Yasmany Tomás and a sacrifice fly by Eriel Sánchez, Cuba had taken a 6-4 lead. However, as lefty Norberto González closed out the bottom of the eighth inning, Tulipanes shortstop and leadoff man Andrelton Simmons crushed a 77 mph curveball for a two-run home run. In the IV World Classic's Second Round on March 14, 2017, Markwell came out smiling again with a 14-1 victory. Right-handed Lázaro Blanco, Cuba's starter, surrendered four earned runs in 1.2 innings while the Netherlands' lineup was 5-for-10 against him. The most notorious executioner of Cuba, Wladimir "Coco" Balentien, continued his 2013 work against Cuba. Balentien went 3-for-4, scored three times, hit two home runs, and had five RBIs in the game. A weak Cuban pitching staff gave the Tulipanes a 7-for-12 record when they found runners in scoring position. As a result of that impressive knockout, the Cuba team was eliminated from the IV World Classic and saw their streak of consecutive defeats extend to three, a trend they will work hard to reverse against the Netherlands this Tuesday. Is Cuba prepared to retaliate? Are the Tulipanes going to continue to pass sentence? Before and after play ball, enjoy our coverage!

—Revisiting the Dutch and Cuban showdown on Day One of the V World Baseball Classic

bottom of page