Israel’s national team is showing no signs of slowing down at the World Baseball Classic, ex-tending its perfect run in the tournament on Sunday with a 4-1 win over Cuba in Tokyo in its first game in the last eight.
After winning Pool A with an unbeaten 3-0 record, Israel has got its sights set on reaching the last-four at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.
It entered Sunday’s game against Cuba as an underdog yet again, but finished with another impressive victory against one of the traditional powerhouses of world baseball.
Unlike in its previous two games, Israel didn’t get off to a fast start, with Alfredo Despaigne’s home run giving Cuba a 1-0 lead in the top of the second inning.
Israel tied the score in the bottom of the fourth inning, with Ryan Lavarnway’s double scoring Ike Davis.
Former Major Leaguer Jason Marquis and three relievers limited Cuba to five hits in all, and Zach Borenstein’s single in the sixth put Israel on top.
“We’ve been looking forward to this the whole offseason,” Borenstein said. “We have some-thing to prove. Our goal is to win the last game of the tournament.”
With host Japan a firm favorite to finish Pool E in first place, especially after defeating the Netherlands 8-6 in 11 innings on Sunday, Israel can take a huge step towards securing its place in the semifinals should it defeat the Netherlands on Monday.
A win for Israel combined with a Japan victory over Cuba on Tuesday would clinch the blueand- white’s place in the last four.
Israel, whose squad is built around MLB-affiliated Jewish Americans, beat the Netherlands 4-2 in Pool A action on Thursday, albeit in a game neither team had to win after already securing their progress to the second round.
“We’ve pitched extremely well, we’ve had timely hitting and played good defense,” manager Jerry Weinstein said.
Pitching on three days’ rest, Marquis struck out four in Israel’s opening game of Pool E. Including Sunday, Marquis has now started three of Israel’s four games in the Classic, allowing just one run over 92/3 innings of work.
“We’re not surprised by anything,” Marquis said of Israel’s unblemished start, “but I think it’s a great story for people back home who follow the game, and who are in our shoes and being of Jewish heritage to look up to players like us, who may not have otherwise had that opportunity.”
Marquis left the mound after 69 pitches, meaning he will not be able to pitch for Israel again in Tokyo. It was a different approach for Weinstein than in Marquis’ first two starts, when the manager pulled his ace before the 50-pitch mark so that he could come back on short rest.
“We felt like winning this game was extremely important,” said Weinstein, “and if Jason was rolling, we would just roll with him and hopefully get another chance to use him in the next [round].
“We are basically 0-0, these four games don’t really mean anything,” added Weinstein. “What is important is tomorrow’s game which we have to take one pitch at a time. We have to play well tomorrow to give ourselves a chance to move on.”