As Australia and Netherlands started their 11:30 PM ET game last night, it seemed like this year's version of the World Baseball Classic was finally going to get some much-needed drama. All four Pool B teams were in action on Tuesday in Taiwan and three of them (Netherlands, Chinese Taipei, and South Korea) more or less controlled their own ability to advance. Instead of drama, though, we ended up with a boring game and an advancement based on a tie-breaking technicality.
After the jump, we'll break down last night's WBC action, which will certainly be controversial if anyone cares enough to argue about it:
South Korea 3 Chinese Taipei 2, Chinese Taipei advances anyway
This just actually happened in what is supposed to be the premier international baseball tournament: Chinese Taipei held a 2-0 lead on South Korea entering the bottom of the eighth inning. South Korea was considered the home team by the draw, despite playing in front of the largest (and presumably also the loudest) crowd in Taiwanese baseball history. They got a leadoff double from Seung-Yeop Lee, who was singled in by Dae-Ho Lee. Three batters later, Jungho Kim hit a home run to put South Korea ahead 3-2. Kabyong Jin then struck out swinging and Korea was eliminated from the tournament before the game even ended.
Because South Korea was considered the home team by whatever arbitrary measure and because the WBC's weird TQB tiebreaker takes innings played into account, South Korea wasn't allowed to bat in the bottom of the ninth to attempt to build their lead to the six runs, and so their three-run comeback actually meant that they were immediately eliminated from the tournament the very second that they made the third out in the eighth inning. Chinese Taipei went down 1-2-3 in the ninth, then celebrated winning Pool B and advancing to the second round for the first time in their WBC history.
The World Baseball Classic, everybody!
Chinese Taipei, as the winner of Pool B, will play the runner-up from Pool A. That will be the loser of tomorrow morning's Japan/Cuba game. Because Japan will play the 7 PM Tokyo/5 AM ET game next Friday no matter what, Chinese Taipei's next game will either be at 10 PM ET Thursday night against Cuba or 5 AM Friday morning against Japan, dependent on the outcome of Pool A's final game.
Netherlands 4 Australia 1, Netherlands advances
Thanks to the vagaries of the World Baseball Classic tiebreaking formula, the Dutch team didn't have to deal with any innings-based tiebreakers and they knew heading into their Monday night in America/Tuesday afternoon in Taiwan game against Australia that all they needed to advance to the second round was take care of business against the worst team in Pool B. That was pretty much a foregone conclusion after Jonathan Schoop hit a two-run homer in the second inning to put Netherlands up 4-0. After that point, the Dutch team put the cruise control on. Robbie Cordemans spun five shutout innings and David Bergman, Leon Boyd, and Loek Van Miil all helped close things down. Australia threatened the whole game -- they matched the Netherlands with eight hits and the Dutch had six of their eight in the first two innings -- but they were never able to string much of a rally together. They'll go home from the 2013 WBC winless.
This makes the second straight WBC in which the Netherlands advance to the second round. Really, their performance in Pool B was pretty uneven. Their win over South Korea was impressive, but they were lackluster against Chinese Taipei and after a strong start against Australia, they didn't really play all that well. Thanks to Chinese Taipei's win over South Korea, Netherlands finishes second in Pool B with their 2-1 record. They'll play the winner of the Japan/Cuba game, either at 10 PM on Thursday (if Cuba wins) or 5 AM on Friday (If Japan wins).
China 5 Brazil 2
I don't honestly know why a win in the 2013 WBC qualifies you for the 2017 WBC, but it does and so China and Brazil were playing both for some pride and the ability to avoid a qualifying round in three and a half years. Brazi held a 2-0 lead for most of the game, but China put up five runs in the bottom of the eighth to notch their second win in as many World Baseball Classics. Brazil will have to accept the "Didn't suck as bad as we thought they were going to suck, but still didn't win any games" consolation trophy after losing three semi-close games.