The Dominican Republic entered the World Baseball Classic as one of the favorites to win it all while the Netherlands would have been happy just to win a game or two. Few gave the Dutch team any kind of shot when the teams met on Saturday at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan, Puerto Rico, but that’s why they play the games. The Netherlands took advantage of errors by Dominican catcher Miguel Olivo and shortstop Hanley Ramirez and a wild pitch by starter Edinson Volquez to push three unearned runs across in the first inning and held on for a stunning 3-2 win. The Netherlands managed just three hits in the game.
Big league journeyman Sidney Ponson started for the Netherlands, which featured a roster that included only a couple names that even the most astute baseball fan might recognize. Outfielder Greg Halman is the Mariners’ top prospect according to Baseball America. Pitcher Rick Vanden Hurk has appeared in 22 games with the Marlins over the past two seasons. Eugene Kingsale was a part-timer with the Orioles, Mariners, Padres and Tigers from 1996 to 2003. Randall Simon hit .283 over eight big league seasons. Yurendell De Caster appeared in three games for the 2006 Pirates. Several other Netherlands players are current minor leaguers, while the rest play in the Dutch league.
On the other hand, the Dominican Republic features a stacked roster full of names you know very well: Ramirez, Volquez, Jose Reyes, Miguel Tejada, Robinson Cano, David Ortiz, Pedro Martinez, Adrian Beltre, Moises Alou and Jose Guillen, just to name a few. With 30-30 club member Ramirez at short, Reyes didn’t even start for the Dominican Republic. There isn’t a single player on the Dominican roster who hasn’t played in the big leagues, and that even includes the manager, three-time All-Star Felipe Alou.
The fact that a lot of the top players skip the World Baseball Classic certainly detracts from it, but an occasional upset like this could help it live up to its name. It appeared the Dominican Republic might tie the game in the bottom of the ninth when Willy Taveras walked and advanced to second on a groundout, but Dutch catcher Kenley Jansen cut down the speedy Taveras on a steal attempt with a missile of a throw to third. Reliever Leon Boyd then walked Ramirez, but caught Jose Bautista looking as Ramirez broke for second to put the finishing touches on one of the more shocking upsets you’ll ever see. The Netherlands players celebrated like they had just won the World Series instead of an opening round WBC game, but who can blame them?
Jay LeBlanc is an assistant news editor at The Washington Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.