Netherlands plays spoiler, puts short-handed Dominicans one loss from ouster
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- Missing an injured Alex Rodriguez and several other stars, the Dominican Republic was punchless at the plate.
Sidney Ponson helped to hold the Dominican lineup in check, and the Netherlands pulled off a huge upset in their World Baseball Classic opener with a 3-2 victory Saturday.It was a startling loss for the heavily favored Dominicans, considered contenders to win the 16-team tournament. Now, they are one defeat from elimination in Group D pool play."That was a team we should have trounced 9-0," Dominican Republic manager Felipe Alou said. "We haven't pressed the panic button, but we know we cannot afford the luxury of losing again."The Dominican Republic had a chance to tie it in the ninth inning after Willy Taveras drew a leadoff walk and moved to second on Robinson Cano's hit-and-run groundout. But the speedy Taveras was thrown out trying to steal third with slugger Hanley Ramirez at the plate.
Tale Of The Tape
You want to talk upset? Among the players on the two teams' active rosters, the Dominican Republic had 1,801 career MLB home runs and 518 wins. The Netherlands managed just 82 homers and 95 wins (90 of which belong to Sidney Ponson). Here's a look at the disparity:
Ramirez then walked and was trying to steal second when Leon Boyd threw a called third strike past Jose Bautista for the final out. Netherlands players rushed out of the dugout to celebrate, hugging and clapping after winning with only three hits -- all infield singles."We've got to believe in ourselves," said Ponson, an 11-year major league veteran. "We did a great job with our defense and we've got to do that in every game. Now, we have to enjoy this because we beat one of the best teams in the Classic."Alou blamed the loss in part on two errors in the first inning, and said he wished the game had started later to give players more time to rest."That was a team that we should've shut out," Alou said. "We really haven't hit like a team like ours should. It was a hard-fought game, but now they are going to brag about having beaten the Dominican Republic."Next, the Dominicans will play Sunday against Panama, which lost 7-0 to Puerto Rico on Saturday. Puerto Rico and the Netherlands will square off Monday night.Ponson pitched four solid innings for the Netherlands, allowing two runs and five hits."This is a great moment for us -- something extraordinary," Netherlands manager Rod Delmonico said. "We were ready to play hard and our pitchers did a great job, especially the bullpen. Someone has to sign Ponson because of the job he did today."Miguel Tejada homered and Ramirez had a sacrifice fly for the Dominican Republic, which reached the semifinals of the inaugural WBC three years ago before losing to Cuba.Ramirez, Tejada and Cano are among the big league stars on a Dominican roster that also includes David Ortiz, Jose Reyes and Pedro Martinez. Still, the Dominican Republic went 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position and stranded 11 overall.Rodriguez, who played for the United States in 2006, was slated to anchor the Dominican Republic lineup before he was sidelined by a hip injury earlier in the week.He and the New York Yankees are trying to determine the best course of treatment for the injury, which could require surgery and a four-month rehabilitation period.The Dominican team was already without some of the nation's best players, including Manny Ramirez, Albert Pujols, Alfonso Soriano, Aramis Ramirez and Adrian Beltre.Martinez, auditioning for a major league job this season, tossed three shutout innings of relief and earned Alou's praise.With few well-known players, the Netherlands scored all its runs in the first inning against Cincinnati Reds All-Star Edinson Volquez, taking advantage of two key mistakes by the Dominican Republic.Gene Kingsale opened the game with a single and Sharlon Schoop followed with a bunt that left runners on first and second after an error by catcher Miguel Olivo.With two outs, Yurendell DeCaster walked to load the bases. Kingsale scored on Volquez's wild pitch, and two more runs came home on an error by Ramirez at shortstop.Volquez allowed two hits with three strikeouts and two walks in three innings.
E Kingsale scored, S Schoop to third, Y de Caster to second on wild pitch by E Volquez.
S Adriana reached on infield single to shortstop, S Schoop and Y de Caster scored, S Adriana to second on throwing error by shortstop H Ramirez.
M Tejada homered to right.
H Ramirez hit sacrifice fly to right, M Olivo scored, W Taveras to third.