Netherlands stuns Cuba to advance at World Baseball Classic
Team heads to North American for championship round
Kalian Sams' ninth-inning sacrifice fly scored Andruw Jones with the winning run, capping a comeback from a two-run, eighth-inning deficit and lifting the Netherlands past Cuba 7-6 Monday and into the World Baseball Classic semifinals.
The Netherlands, the first European team to reach the final four, advanced along with two-time defending champion Japan. At the semifinals in San Francisco on March 17-18, they will be joined by two teams from among the United States, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Italy.
"This game will go down as the biggest game in Dutch history," Netherlands manager Hensley Muelens said. "To come back like that after being down in the eighth is amazing."
The Dutch had beaten Cuba 6-2 in the opening game of the second round.
"I told the guys before the game the better team will win, and tonight the better team won," Muelens said. "The guys were resilient and stayed together, and that's why we won."
Cuba went ahead 6-4 in the eighth when Shairon Martis walked Frederich Cepeda, Yasmany Tomas had a one-out RBI single off Leon Boyd and Eriel Sanchez hit a sacrifice fly.
Kalian Sams walked on four pitches from Norberto Gonzalez leading off the bottom half and, after a pair of strikeouts, Andrelton Simmons homered to left on a 2-1 pitch.
"I felt like I had to step up," Simmons said. "He gave me a pitch to hit, and I was really happy I could tie the game for us."
Jones reached on a fielding error by third baseman Yulieski Gurriel with one out in the ninth, Curt Smith singled him to second and Raciel Iglesias relieved loser Yander Guevara.
Xander Bogaerts' single loaded the bases, Diosdany Castillo came in to pitch, and Sams flied to deep center as Jones came home.
Loek Van Mil, the fourth Dutch pitcher, got the win with a two-hit ninth.
Jones' bases-loaded sacrifice fly and Smith's RBI single put the Dutch ahead in the third, but Jose Fernandez's RBI single and Jose Abreu's homer off Netherlands starter Orlando Yntema tied the score in the fourth.
The Dutch took a 4-2 lead in the bottom half when Simmons hit a sacrifice fly, and Randolph Oduber stole third and scored on catcher Frank Morejon's throwing error. Gurriel retied it with a two-run double in the fifth.