Taiwan took a giant leap in their quest to reach the second round of the 2013 World Baseball Classic by outplaying the Netherlands 8-3 at the Taichung Intercontinental Baseball Stadium yesterday afternoon to improve to 2-0 in Pool B.
Pan “Du Du” Wei-lun (潘威倫) came off the Taiwanese bullpen sooner than expected to rescue struggling starter Wang Yao-lin (王躍霖) in the top of the second and kept the damage to three runs (all charged against Wang), before retiring all but one of the next 13 batters he faced over 4-2/3 innings of one-hit ball to earn the win.
His outstanding performance set the bar for the pitchers who followed. They combined for three innings of hitless relief, the highlight of which was Wang Ching-ming’s (王鏡銘) stellar seventh, which finished on an inning-ending double play to escape a one-out-with-two-on jam and deny the Dutch any chance of a comeback.
With the hurlers doing their best to hold off the Dutch offense, which claimed a quick 3-0 lead in the top of the second, the Taiwanese hitters were able to get a run back off starter Tom Stuifbergen in the bottom of the second. Lin Chih-sheng (林智勝) led off the inning with a single to left and scored three batters later on Chang Chien-ming’s (張建銘) base hit to left to make it 3-1.
After a scoreless third, Taiwan’s offense finally came to life in the fourth, attacking the Dutch pitching by amassing a single and a double on top of three walks and a hit batsman to plate four runs to put the home team 5-3 ahead.
Taiwan struck again in the sixth for three insurance runs as Lin Hung-yu (林泓育) drove in the runner from second on a ground-rule double to deep-center to set the stage for Yang Dai-kang’s (陽岱鋼) two-run home run off reliever Shairon Martis that sent the stadium rocking.
“I wasn’t sure if [the ball] would go over the fence, I guess the wind must’ve also helped carry the ball a little,” a modest Yang said after the game.
Even though the visitors managed to place runners on first and second with one out against 18-year-old Taiwanese reliever Tseng Jen-ho (曾仁和) in a seemingly golden scoring opportunity, his successor, Wang, was able to induce a grounder to short for a timely inning-ending double play to end what was the Netherlands’ final scoring threat.
Kuo Hong-chih (郭泓志) and Chen Hung-wen (陳鴻文) chipped in a perfect eighth and ninth respectively for the second straight game to keep the one-hitter intact.
“[Wang’s] double-play ball was huge for us because [the Dutch] could have turned it into a big inning with the kind of offensive power we’ve seen before,” Taiwanese skipper Hsieh Chang-heng (謝長亨) said after the game.
The hosts have a well-deserved day off today to prepare for tomorrow night’s showdown against South Korea, with the opening pitch scheduled for 6:30pm. Taiwan beat Australia on Saturday, while the Netherlands pulled off a shock win over South Korea.
Meanwhile, Cuba defeated Brazil 5-2 in their opening game of the Pool A first round yesterday.
Barbaro Arruebarruena earned Cuba’s first hit to send Jose Fernandez to third base in the fifth inning, before scoring the first run on Guillermo Heredia’s grounder to the short stop, as Brazil missed a double play.
Outfielder Alexei Bell hit a single to the left field to make it 2-0.
Pinch hitter Raul Gonzalez made it 3-0 in the sixth inning and Arruebarruena added two more runs, before Brazil managed to claw two back.
Brazil’s fourth batter Daniel Matsumoto hit an infield single with the second and third bases occupied to pull one back, before Reinaldo Sato welcomed a runner from the third base by hitting a grounder to the short stop.
In the four-team round robin in Fukuoka, two-time defending champions Japan beat China 5-2 later in the day.
The hosts defeated Brazil 5-3 in their opener on Saturday.
Japan and Cuba — finalists in 2006 — have one win each and Brazil two defeats.