Netherlands Does the Impossible…Twice

Mark TravisCorrespondent IMarch 11, 2009

Brilliant pitching, that was clearly unexpected coming from the Netherlands, has sent the top dog in Pool A home.

Shortly after stunning the Dominican Republic 3-2 on Saturday, the Netherlands has upset Goliath again. Thanks to the Netherlands, no one will have to deal with the DR again until 2012.

It was a pitching battle throughout the game, with neither of the two sides scoring in 9 innings. Ubaldo Jimenez worked the first four innings for the DR, and he set a WBC record with 10 strikeouts. Tom Stuifbergen started for the Netherlands, going for scoreless.

In the top of the 11th inning, the Dominican Republic put the first run of the game on the board when Jose Reyes scored on an error by Netherlands’ right fielder Gene Kingsale.

How would you feel in that position? You just let the opponent take the lead with only a half an inning to go, with the reputation of your country on the line. With the loss, you’d have to go home with your head down and think about the play for three years. After which you might have a shot at redemption.

Well, Kingsale doesn’t know what that feels like, and he doesn’t know it because in the bottom of the inning, Gene hit a single to right field to tie the game up at one. With Kingsale taking a lead at first, the Dominican Republic’s closer Carlos Marmol attempted to pick him off.

The ball sailed over first baseman Willy Aybar’s head and got far enough away to allow Kingsale to get to third. After striking out Sharlon Schoop for the second out of the inning, Marmol intentionally walked Randall Simon to put runners on the corners.

This brought third baseman Yurendell de Caste to the plate, who up to this point in the game was  0 for 4 with three strikeouts. After three balls, a foul ball and a swinging strike, the count sat at 3-2. It was the situation we all dream about, but with different numbers plugged in.

Bottom 11, two on, two out, 3-2 count, with everything on the line. But instead of hitting that monster homerun we all invision, he hit a bouncer to first base that was mishandled by Aybar, allowing Gene Kingsale to score. That mishap gave the Netherlands the win, and left Willy Aybar will the same feeling that Kingsale felt for about half an inning.

The Dominican had 28 major leaguers while the Netherlands had two.

To give you some more perspective on the dominance of the Netherlands’ pitching, here are some numbers: After three games of play in Pool A, they had a team ERA of 0.63. Held their opponent scoreless in 26 of 29 innings, and straded 35 runners on base.

Pretty good stats for a team whose ace is Sidney Ponson.

After losing today to Puerto Rico, the Netherlands will move onto Miami to face Venezuela. As for the DR, it’s back to the drawing board.