World Baseball Classic 2013 Results: Pool 1's Biggest Heroes, Goats
Japan became the first team to punch their ticket to the semifinals of the 2013 World Baseball Classic after their outstanding performance in Pool 1.
Following a back-and-forth game with a semifinal matchup against Japan on the line, the Netherlands was able to outlast Cuba in what could end up being one of the best games of the tournament.
Throughout the course of play in Pool 1, there were a number of players that stood out and it truly was a great round of action. Some players put in outstanding performances, while others cost their teams.
Here is a look at the heroes and goats from Pool 1 of the 2013 World Baseball Classic.
Hero: Kenta Maeda
Without a doubt, Kenta Maeda put in the best pitching performance of Pool 1. Japan's ace showed why he is deserving of his "hero" title during his two appearances.
In 10 innings, Maeda struck out 15 hitters while only allowing two hits. Since Maeda has expressed some interest in coming to the MLB, it would not be surprising if he starts to get more attention after his outstanding start to the 2013 World Baseball Classic.
Goat: Hung-Wen Chen
After Chinese Taipei blew their eighth inning lead against Japan in the first game of the quarterfinals, they were able to regain it in the bottom half of the inning and they were then just three outs away from an upset victory.
Hung-Wen Chen recorded the first out of the ninth inning and then issued a walk. Following that, he recorded the second out. Then, Takashi Toritani stole second and was driven in on a two-out RBI single to tie the game.
Chen went back out to start the 10th inning for Chinese Taipei and struggled once again. He gave up a single and a walk to lead off the inning and then was replaced. Japan would score once in the inning and it was enough to win the game.
Hero: Andrelton Simmons
There are high expectations for the major league players on World Baseball Classic rosters. In many cases, they are expected to be the leaders and stars of their team, and that was certainly the case with the Netherlands' Andrelton Simmons.
When his team needed him, Simmons came up in a big way. With the Netherlands in an elimination game against Cuba, Simmons tied things up with a two run home run in the bottom of the eighth.
Simmons also had a strong performance in the earlier games of the tournament.
Goat: Yulieski Gourriel
One of the things that Yulieski Gourriel has become known for during his time playing in Cuba is his defense. He won the Serie Nacional Gold Glove award during the 2008-2009 season (h/t Baseball-Reference).
However, it was Gourriel's defense that cost Cuba a shot at the semifinals in Pool 1. In the bottom of the ninth inning against the Netherlands, Gourriel committed a costly error that allowed Andruw Jones to reach base with one out. This was the beginning of the Netherland's rally to win the game.
Hero: Kalian Sams
Sometimes just hitting a fly ball to the outfield is enough in baseball. With one out and the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth, Kalian Sams stepped to the plate against Cuba with a chance to send the Netherlands to the semifinals of the 2013 World Baseball Classic.
Facing a one-and-two count, Sams hit a fly ball to center field and Andruw Jones tagged up and safely raced home. The sacrifice fly gave the Netherlands a huge upset and a spot in the next round.
Goats: Yander Guevara, Raciel Iglesias and Diosdany Castillo
It is hard to fault only one of the pitchers that stepped to the mound for Cuba in the bottom of the ninth of their game against the Netherlands because all of them struggled.
Following Yulieski Gourriel's error, Yander Guevara gave up a single to Curt Smith. Then, Raciel Iglesias was brought in to face Xander Boegarts and he allowed him to reach base on a single as well.
With the bases loaded, Cuba ultimately turned to Diosdany Castillo to try to get Kalian Sams to hit into a double play. Instead, he gave up a sacrifice fly that ended the game and Cuba's championship aspirations in 2013.
Hero: Alfredo Despaigne
Even though Cuba failed to reach the semifinals of the World Baseball Classic, Alfredo Despaigne had an outstanding tournament for the team. His power was an incredibly important piece of their lineup.
Despaigne hit .300 for the tournament and slugged three home runs. He also drove in eight runs over the course of the tournament.
Goat: Hong-Chih Kuo
Between 2008 and 2010, Hong-Chih Kuo put up strong numbers out of the Los Angeles Dodgers' bullpen, and Chinese Taipei was hoping that he could do the same for them during the 2013 World Baseball Classic.
However, Kuo struggled mightily during the tournament. In 3.1 innings, Kuo gave up five earned runs on five hits. In Chinese Taipei's quarterfinal matchup against Japan, Kuo gave up two runs and only recorded one out. These two runs helped kickstart Japan's comeback.
Hero: Chien-Ming Wang
The World Baseball Classic was an incredibly important tournament for Chien-Ming Wang. He is looking to return to the MLB and he was hoping to use the tournament to showcase his abilities (h/t Lee Chin-wei and Sofia Wu of Focus Taiwan News Channel).
Wang's first start came against Australia and he shut them out for six innings. Perhaps the more impressive performance was his start in the quarterfinals in which he held the powerful Japanese team to six hits and no runs over six innings.
In total, Wang threw 12 shutout innings while striking out three and walking one. There is certainly a chance that Wang could earn a contract with an MLB team as a result of his performance in the 2013 World Baseball Classic.