Israel’s remarkable winning run at the World Baseball Classic came to a grinding halt in Tokyo on Monday.
After winning its first four games in the Classic, finishing Pool A in first place with a 3-0 record before surprising Cuba with a 4-1 win in their first game in the last eight on Sunday, Israel was hoping to move to the brink of qualification for the semifinals with a victory against the Netherlands.
But instead, its chances of advancing to the last four at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles suffered a significant blow with an emphatic 12-2 defeat.
The game was shortened to eight innings by the tournament’s early-termination rule after the Netherlands opened a 10-run lead late in the contest.
Didi Gregorius of the Yankees doubled, homered and drove in five runs to move the Dutch tied with Israel at 1-1 in Pool E.
Netherlands starter Jair Jurrjens – who pitched in the Major Leagues for eight seasons with the Tigers, Braves, Orioles and Rockies – held Israel to one run in six impressive innings.
Israel, whose squad is built around MLB-affiliated Jewish Americans, had beaten the Netherlands 4-2 in Pool A action last week, but Monday’s contest unfolded very differently.
The Dutch took a 2-0 lead in the top of the second inning and added four more runs in both the third and the fourth innings to open a 10-0 gap from which Israel was never going to come back.
“We didn’t pitch very well, so we didn’t deserve a better fate necessarily. We were behind too many counts and had too many noncompetitive pitches with hitters ahead in the count,” said Israel manager Jerry Weinstein.
“I think we probably got pretty much what we deserved there. It wasn’t for lack of effort or anything. Just bad execution tonight and also they punished us tonight.”
Monday’s lopsided defeat complicates Israel’s position, especially when considering it faces favorite Japan in its final Pool E game on Wednesday.
Japan, which has a 1-0 record, plays Cuba on Tuesday. The Netherlands faces Cuba in its final pool game on Wednesday.
Israel will likely require a win for a chance to advance to the semifinals. Should Israel lose and fall to 1-2, it would need help from Cuba and the Netherlands to avoid being eliminated outright, depending on how Tuesday’s action plays out. If multiple teams finish at 2-1 or 1-2, tiebreakers would come into play, with runs allowed per defensive inning played serving as the first breaker.
“Thus far everything’s going pretty good for us, so I don’t have a history with this team facing adversity and how we reacted,” said Weinstein. “I can tell you what I expect. I expect us to come out and play, even like we played tonight, we played with effort, we played with passion and we don’t let things in the past control what we do in the present. I don’t think this will have any effect on us. These guys are professionals. They will file this one away. They will wash it off in the shower and we’ll be ready to go for Japan.”