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World Baseball Classic 2017: Bracket, Monday’s semifinal schedule, and scores

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Wladimir Balentien and the Netherlands try to end Puerto Rico’s undefeated WBC run in the first semifinal matchup of the 2017 WBC.

The world turns its eyes to Dodger Stadium this week as the best World Baseball Classic reaches its climax with three straight days of winner-take-all baseball games to determine the 2017 WBC Champions.

Tonight is the first step to discovering who will be that champion, as the Pool E runners-up Kingdom of the Netherlands takes on Pool F champion Puerto Rico for a spot in the finals. Both teams are returning to the championship round for the second tournament in a row; Puerto Rico were the eventual runners-up to champion Dominican Republic in that tournament. Expect the two high-octane offenses to bring their lumber to Dodger Stadium, but the teams will likely prefer to score their runs early.

How they got here

The Netherlands were a bit of an upstart two tournaments ago but proved the bona fides of #Honkbal with a run to the semifinals last time around. Their 2017 WBC started in Seoul, South Korea, as a part of Pool A. They earned wins against South Korea (5-0) and Chinese Taipei (4-2) but fell to Cinderella-story Israel, 4-2. It was enough to advance to the second round Pool E in the Tokyo Dome. They lost a heartbreaker to Japan, 8-6 in 11 innings after the controversial extra innings rule was invoked that put two runners on base to start the inning. No matter: they just decimated Israel 11-2 in their next game before taking down vaunted Cuba 14-1. That, combined with Japan going undefeated in the group, was enough to clinch them a spot in the semifinals.

Puerto Rico took a more direct rout to the semis. The Pool D and Pool F winners, Puerto Rico is 6-0 in the tournament and they have been dominant. In their tournament opener on March 10 in Jalisco, Mexico, they defeated Venezuela’s stacked lineup 11-0 in seven innings off home runs from Yadier Molina, Carlos Correa, and T.J. Rivera. They then beat Mexico 9-4 and Italy 9-3 to advance to Pool F in San Diego. They won tight games against the Dominican Republic (3-1) and the United States (6-5) to clinch their spot in the semis but then took down Venezuela 13-2 (with their “B” lineup). After losing 3-0 in the finals in 2013, they are looking for a title this time around.

Who got them here

The Netherlands have been led offensively by Wladimir Balentien (13-for-22 with three home runs and 10 RBI in six games) and Rangers infielder Jurickson Profar (12-for-23 with five doubles, a home run, and a stolen base). The rest of the offense is trouble, though, as seven of their 15 batters have hit home runs. Balentien, who spent parts of three seasons in MLB with the Mariners and Reds and is the current single-season Nippon League home run record holder, won Pool E MVP after going 8-for-14 with seven runs.

Jair Jurrjens (former Rockie—no, really, look it up) has received two starts in the tournament and has allowed three runs on eight hits with nine strikeouts in nine innings pitched. Left-hander Diegomar Markwell has one start and three appearances but has allowed just one run on six hits with one strikeout. The Dutch will also receive All-Star Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen for the championship round. This will be Jansen’s second appearance in the WBC for the Netherlands; he was a catcher (!) on the 2009 squad.

Puerto Rico have been driven by more than their bleach blonde locks (and beards). They rode their All-Star lineup to the WBC semifinals. Indians shortshop Francisco Lindor won Pool D MVP and is 7-for-18 with six runs and two home runs in just five WBC games so far. Astros teammates Carlos Beltran and Carlos Correa have also been impressive, going 8-for-17 and 6-for-16 respectively, though Correa has two home runs and two stolen bases to go with it. However, Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina, MVP of Pool F, has stolen the show for Puerto Rico. He’s “just” 6-for-17 with two home runs in five games, but he has clearly been the catalyst for the stellar pitching staff.

Mets farmhand Seth Lugo has been a bit of surprise, allowing just three runs on six hits in 11 innings, earning the win in each of his two starts. Jorge Lopez, who will get the start for Puerto Rico in Monday’s semifinal, allowed one run on two hits with five strikeouts in 413 innings against Mexico last week. Despite allowing two runs to Team USA on Friday, Mariners closer Edwin Diaz is still a dominant force out of the bullpen; he has six strikeouts in 313 innings pitched.

It has the makings for an exciting semifinal match-up in what should be an extremely fun three days of baseball at Chavez Ravine.

★ ★ ★

Meanwhile, the United States is ready for their return to the semifinal stage and manager Jim Leyland is done answering questions about the players who aren’t in uniform for Team USA. Leyland cites the fact that the players who are on the team are excited to be there. Considering how much fun this team is having, it’ll be hard to imagine more players won’t want to get in on the excitement when the tournament is contested next, in 2021.

What’s more is that, despite being relegated to a premium cable channel, the World Baseball Classic is finding a TV audience in the United States. Maury Brown reported this weekend that MLB Network has seen an 18% increase in viewership over the 2013 edition of the tournament. It will be interesting to see what those numbers look like from the weekend’s games, as they were played during the late-night hours on the east coast all week.

Semifinal Schedule for Monday, March 20

Netherlands vs. Puerto Rico

Location: Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles, California

Time: 7:00 pm MT

TV: MLB Network

Steaming: MLV.tv

Championship Round

WBC Championship Schedule

Date Team vs Team Time Venue
Date Team vs Team Time Venue
Semifinals
March 20 Netherlands (3) vs Puerto Rico (4) F/11 Dodger Stadium
March 21 United States (2) vs Japan (1) F Dodger Stadium
Finals
March 22 United States vs Puerto Rico 7:00 pm MT Dodger Stadium

Second Round Recap

WBC Pool F Schedule and Results

Date Team v Team Time Venue
Date Team v Team Time Venue
March 14 Dominican Republic (1) vs Puerto Rico (3) Petco Park
March 15 Venezuela (2) vs United States (4) Petco Park
March 16 Venezuela (0) vs Dominican Republic (3) Petco Park
March 17 United States (5) vs Puerto Rico (6) Petco Park
March 18 Puerto Rico (13) vs Venezuela (2) Petco Park
March 18 United States (6) vs Dominican Republic (3) Petco Park
March 19 TBD TBD N/A Petco Park

Pool F Standings

Rank Team Wins Losses Runs Scored Runs Allowed
Rank Team Wins Losses Runs Scored Runs Allowed
1 Puerto Rico 3 0 22 8
2 United States 2 1 15 11
3 Dominican Republic 1 2 7 9
4 Venezuela 0 3 4 20

WBC Pool E Schedule and Results

Date Team v Team Time Venue
Date Team v Team Time Venue
March 11 Cuba (1) vs Israel (4) Tokyo Dome
March 12 Japan (8) vs Netherlands (6) Tokyo Dome
March 13 Netherlands (12) vs Israel (2) Tokyo Dome
March 14 Cuba (5) vs Japan (8) Tokyo Dome
March 14 Netherlands (14) vs Cuba (1) Tokyo Dome
March 15 Israel (3) vs Japan (8) Tokyo Dome

Pool E Standings

Rank Team Wins Losses Runs Scored Runs Allowed
Rank Team Wins Losses Runs Scored Runs Allowed
1 Japan 3 0 24 14
2 Netherlands 2 1 32 11
3 Israel 1 2 9 21
4 Cuba 0 3 7 26