Six Chinese Taipei pitchers combined on a one-hitter over the Netherlands in World Baseball Classic action, giving the hosts their second win in two attempts. The 8-3 victory all but assured that fifth-ranked Taiwan will qualify for the second round of for the first time.
Dutch starter Tom Stuifbergen looked strong out of the gate, and the Netherlands appeared as if they would put the game out-of-reach in only the second inning. With one out in the frame, Taiwanese starter Yao-Ling Wang walked Andruw Jones, Xander Bogaerts, and Curt Smith to load the bases.
Faced with the potential of needing a win against Korea in game three, manager Chang-Heng Hsieh treated the contest as if it was an elimination game. Hsieh brought the early hook for Wang, who had a strong 2012 season in the Chicago Cubs’ system and earned a win in Taiwan’s qualifying run.
Wei-Lun Pan was the first hurler out of the bullpen, and the right-hander plunked Kalian Sams with the first pitch, giving the Netherlands a 1-0 lead. Still needing two outs, Pan faced the number nine hitter, Dashenko Ricardo, who on Pan’s next pitch stroked a single up the middle. The safety scored two and put runners on the corners.
Pan bore down and got Atlanta Braves’ shortstop Andrelton Simmons on pop out deep in foul territory before bouncing out top Baltimore Orioles’ prospect Jonathan Schoop to end the rally.
Stuifbergen looked ready to rock to start the bottom of the second, nodding his head in unison with the chanting home crowd as he glared at the plate. His first batter was Cheng-Min Peng, who worked an eight-pitch single to left. Szu-Chih Chou followed with a walk and, two batters later, Chien-Ming Chang stroked a single through the hole at shortstop to plate Lin.
Stuifbergen would get the next two batters on his way to retiring five in-a-row, but the Orange failed to score in the third or fourth. The Netherlands’ hurler ran into trouble again when faced with the heart of the order, walking Lin to start the bottom of the fourth. Chou then ripped a double to put runners on first and third with no outs.
Yung-Chi Chen plated Lin with a single over second base and Chang was intentionally walked to load the bases. Dutch manager Hensley Meulens, who also coaches for the San Francisco Giants, left Stuifbergen in to face the No. 8 hitter, but his starter hit Hung-Yu Lin to score Chou, and the game was tied at three.
Meulens made the call to the bullpen, bringing in former Washington Nationals’ prospect Shairon Martis. Martis got three straight outs, but the first two were on fly balls to center, plating two more runs on the sacrifice flies. By the time Martis finally escaped the jam, the score was 5-3.
Pan, meanwhile, had settled in nicely. After a walk with two outs in the third, the Taiwanese hurler sent down 10 batters one after another, working through the sixth inning.
In the bottom of that frame, Chinese Taipei put the game out of reach. Yung-Chi Chen reached on a throwing error by Simmons and was sacrificed to second by Chang. The plan worked, as Hung-Yu Lin laced a ground-rule double to left center to plate Chen. Two batters later, Dai-Kang Yang made Simmons pay for his miscue with a two-out, two-run homer that landed just inside the right field foul pole.
The inning would end one batter later, but the host nation had run its lead to 8-3. Yang’s dinger was the second by Chinese Taipei in two games.
Jun-Ho Tseng, only 18 years old, and Ching-Ming Wang (no relation to Chien-Ming Wang) split the seventh, with Tseng earning his first-ever international strikeout, though he did walk two.
Jonatan Isenia took over for Martis with one out in the bottom of the seventh, ending the frame on a nice grab in foul territory by Bogaerts, who handled four chances cleanly in his second career appearance at the hot corner.
Former Los Angeles Dodger Hong-Chih Kuo pitched a 1-2-3 eighth and Isenia wiggled out of a jam in the bottom of the inning to give the Netherlands one final chance to come back.
Hsieh took no chances with a five-run lead, bringing in his closer Hung-Wen Chen, who dialled up his fastball to finish off the game. Chen struck out the final two batters to ice the victory, pumping his fist with excitement after the last out.
Pan earned the victory with his 4 2/3 innings of stellar relief work. Taiwan’s pitching staff walked seven, but struck out six and did not allow a hit after Ricardo’s single with one out in the second.
Stuifbergen, a Minnesota Twins’ minor leaguer, took the loss after lasting only three innings. He was charged with five runs on four hits and three walks, setting down one swinging. Martis tossed 3 1/3 frames, striking out a pair. All three runs charged to him were unearned and he was tabbed with a blown save. Isenia finished off the final five outs with three Ks.
Chang was the only hitter for Chinese Taipei with two safeties, reaching base three times to pace the club. Chen scored twice and drove in one, with Yang leading the squad with three RBIs.
The seventh-rated Dutch team will enter a crucial game with winless Australia on Mar. 5 at 4:30 a.m. GMT. Taiwan will go for the Pool B sweep against arch-rivals Korea on Mar. 5 at 11:30 a.m. GMT. A win would ensure that Chinese Taipei would advance to the Tokyo Dome in the second round.
Stay tuned for more news, reviews, and analysis.