Team Israel busted out of Pool A in the World Baseball Classic with a 4-2 win over the Netherlands last night in Seoul. So far, Israel is undefeated after playing Korea, Chinese Taipei, and the Netherlands, two of them pretty darn good teams.
Israel topped the Netherlands, which as we noted earlier has a roster made up of major leaguers like Xander Bogaerts, Kenley Jansen, Didi Gregorius, and Jonathon Schoop. Israel has, well, Ike Davis, Sam Fuld, and a bunch of American Jews you’ve probably never heard of, who, nonetheless have a good amount of minor league experience among them. It’s hard to gauge cumulative experience and talent against a handful of established stars—especially in only one game—but Israel’s win last night added to their burgeoning Cinderella narrative.
Israel came out strong against the Dutch, going up three runs in the first inning on hard contact. The Netherlands put up single runs in the third and the eighth, but fell short.
The matchup gifted us with an extremely wacky at-bat between 7-foot-1 pitcher Loek Van Mil and 6-foot-8 first baseman Nate Freiman. It resulted in a walk, which is a pretty boring outcome for a matchup where a 7-foot tall pitcher should really have a pretty good chance of locating an enormous strike zone. I’m going to conclude without evidence that the location of these balls means Van Mil was struggling to adjust his strike zone above Freiman’s knees.
Here’s the matchup and the pitch that resulted in a walk:
Ryan Lavarnway, who batted .556/.692/.889 with three RBI and a homer, was named Pool A MVP.
Going into its second-round pool in Tokyo, Israel will again be joined by the Netherlands, and whichever two teams make it out of Pool B. Japan clinched one of those spots spot after Australia mercy ruled China last night. Australia and Cuba play each other tonight for the second spot.
A Japan/Cuba/Israel/Netherlands pool would be a lot of tough competition, so don’t get too comfortable with the Menschs on the Bench. Sure is fun to watch the underdog run, though.