Dutch center fielder Jurickson Profar drew a bases-loaded walk to help the Netherlands complete a wild late-inning comeback and punch a ticket to the second round of the World Baseball Classic with a 6-5 win over Chinese Taipei at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul, South Korea, on Wednesday night.
Earlier in the at-bat, Profar popped up to shallow right field and it appeared as if the Netherlands had hit into its first out of the inning. However, third-base umpire Chikara Tsugawa ruled that time had been called prior to the pitch from Hung-Wen Chen. The at-bat continued, and Profar took ball four to plate the winning run.
"We had to play a good game to beat them," said Netherlands manager Hensley Meulens. "They beat us last time [in 2013]. ... We knew they had some players missing from that roster that weren't here this year, but still, they played a great game."
The victory sends the Netherlands and Israel, who also won their first two games, to Pool E of the World Baseball Classic in Tokyo.
Designated hitter Didi Gregorius contributed three doubles, including the game-tying hit in the eighth inning to power the Netherlands' offense. The Yankees' shortstop accounted for each of the first five Netherlands runs.
Wladimir Balentien, a former Mariners and Reds outfielder and member of the Tokyo Yakult Swallows of Nippon Professional Baseball, singled four times in four at-bats, while catcher Dashenko Ricardo chipped in with two RBI singles.
"They shut us down a couple innings, but we managed to fight back, because we always want to battle, never give up," Gregorius said. "We have a great team. Everybody's pushing each other, help each other, everybody can go the right way."
Following Chih-Hao Chang's two-run homer that tied the game at 4, Chinese Taipei took the lead on a fielder's-choice groundout from Yi-Chuan Lin to cap off a three-run fifth inning.
The first three hitters in Chinese Taipei's batting order all collected multiple hits, highlighted by Chang's 3-for-5 day, but the rest of the lineup struggled.
Shao-Ching Chiang, a Minor Leaguer in the Indians' organization, silenced the Dutch bats throughout the game's middle innings, but he was charged with an earned run after reliever Fu-Te Ni allowed the equalizing run to score on Gregorius' third double.
"He joined us a little bit late," Chinese Taipei manager Tai-Yuan Kuo said of Chiang. "We have some confidence in him. That's why we have him pitch as a reliever."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Didi doubles down: Gregorius provided the offense for the Netherlands. The Bronx Bomber doubled and scored the first Dutch run in the second inning and followed it up with a two-bagger with two men on in the fourth to give his team the lead. But he was not done yet. Gregorius saved his best for last, slapping another double to left in the eighth to tie the game at 5.
"It's not just me," said Gregorius. "It's a team. If I don't get to bat with runners on, nothing would have happened. Guys got on base and I got a base hit and we tied the game and we went up, and I mean, that's what matters." More >
Chang cashes in: With Chinese Taipei trailing, 4-2, and a runner on-base in the fifth inning, Chang sent a towering drive into the right-field seats to tie the score. The pitch from Dutch right-hander Lars Huijer was out of the strike zone, but Chang dropped his bat head and connected, sending the crowd into a frenzy with a majestic blast.
Justice prevails: It looked as though the Netherlands might get robbed of a baserunner when Jonathan Schoop was called out, despite the replays clearly showing that he beat out his double-play ball in the eighth inning. The WBC '17 rules only allow replay reviews on home runs in the first and second rounds of the tournament, so the ruling on the field could not be reviewed. Iin the ninth inning, Meulens called timeout prior to Profar's popup, but play was not stopped until the ball was already in the air.
"That was called in time from way before, but nobody could hear me," Meulens said. "But the third-base umpire saw me coming onto the field, calling time. And that's why it looked crazy, but he was the only one of the umpires who saw me calling time."
"There's a lot to be said about Didi. He's a trouper. He's a pro. You know, he's not playing defense. He didn't care. He's contributing out of the DH slot. Today was a day that I probably would have played him at short, so they can both play defense. But he didn't care. He prepared. He had done in the cage, made sure he was ready for each at‑bat." -- Meulens, on Gregorius
WHAT'S NEXT Chinese Taipei: Chinese Taipei squares off against Korea on Thursday at 4:30 a.m. ET looking to pick up its first win in WBC '17.
Netherlands: The Dutch have guaranteed a spot in the second round, but they face undefeated Israel on Wednesday night at 10 p.m. ET to determine the winner of Pool A. The Netherlands will send right-hander Rob Cordemans to the mound to oppose Israeli righty Jason Marquis.