The 2017 World Baseball Classic already has one of its biggest surprises in Israel, which beat Chinese Taipei, 15-7, on Tuesday at the Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul, South Korea, in the second game of the tournament. With its second win in as many days, Israel is in prime position to advance to the next round.
Israel wasted no time taking control of the game, coming out of the gate with four consecutive hits and scoring four runs in the top of the first inning.
Ryan Lavarnway added a two-run home run in the third inning and Nate Freiman tied a bow on the victory with a three-run shot in the ninth as Israel's balanced offense combined for 20 hits.
Chinese Taipei briefly closed the gap in the bottom of the sixth, scoring three runs to cut Israel's lead to 6-3. But Chinese Taipei's bullpen faltered in the top of the seventh as the Israelis pulled away with a five-run inning.
Playing in its first Classic, Israel is 2-0 in Pool A, having beat host Korea, 2-1, in 10 innings on Monday. Israel can win Pool A if it beats the Netherlands on Wednesday (10 p.m. ET). The top two teams from each of the four pools advance.
While Israel has enjoyed early success as a tournament darling, manager Jerry Weinstein wants his club focused on the next game, not the next round.
"One of the goals is to not put the cart before the horse," Weinstein said. "We're not in the second round yet. We're preparing for the game with the Netherlands and that's what we're thinking about right now. My experience has been that when you start getting ahead of yourself, you get out in the future, you're not taking care of the present. We need to take care of what we're doing here right now and when we know we're going to be in next round, then we'll start talking about the next round."
Israel once again benefitted from a strong performance from its starting pitcher. Corey Baker fired 4 2/3 scoreless innings, scattering three hits and striking out three. The 27-year-old right-hander is in the Cardinals' organization and reached Triple-A last season.
Chinese Taipei saw its offense come alive with four runs in the ninth, but the game was already out of reach by then.
Israel had 10 different players record a hit, including four players with three hits and two others with multiple hits. Freiman drove in four runs, Tyler Krieger drove in three, and Ike Davis and Lavarnway each contributed two RBIs.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Early offense: The Israelis chased Taipei starter Chun-Lin Kuo from the game before he could secure his third out, opening the top of the first with four straight hits and tagging Kuo for four runs in the frame.
Davis and Krieger each delivered two-run singles. Davis recently signed a Minor League deal with the Dodgers and Krieger is ranked as the Indians' No. 18 prospect by MLBPipeline.com.
"I just also think it was important, because last night was such an emotional game and a stressful game; to get out of the gate with high energy and get on top early, so that was good," Lavarnway said.
Captain comes through: Chih-Sheng Lin, selected as the team captain for Chinese Taipei, put his team on the board with a two-run double in the sixth. Lin has said he plans to retire from the national team after the Classic.
QUOTABLE "You know, for us, or for me, this is a huge deal to help possibly maybe kick‑start baseball in Israel. It's not as big as we'd like, and I think we can maybe change that with what we're doing." -- Davis, on growing the game in Israel
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS Israel entered WBC '17 ranked No. 41 in the world, according to the World Baseball Softball Confederation, and has already beaten the No. 3 (Korea) and No. 4 (Chinese Taipei) ranked teams.
WHAT'S NEXT Israel: Next up for Israel is its final game of pool play, against the Netherlands on Wednesday night. After beating Pool A host Korea and Chinese Taipei in its first two games, Israel would clinch a spot in the second round of the Classic with a win over the Netherlands. Israel will be the home team, with first pitch scheduled for 10 p.m. ET.
Chinese Taipei: Next up for Chinese Taipei is a matchup with the Netherlands on Wednesday morning. It's the country's second game of WBC '17. Chinese Taipei will be the road team in the 4:30 a.m. ET contest.