3/10/2013 3:15 P.M. ET
Cubans, Dutch meet with Classic survival at stake
By Jason Coskrey / Special to MLB.com
TOKYO -- The goal is simple for Cuba and the Kingdom of the Netherlands: win or go home.
Japan has already booked its spot in the final round of the 2013 World Baseball Classic, while Cuba and the Kingdom of the Netherlands will meet on Monday to decide which team will join the two-time defending Classic champions in San Francisco.
The Cubans and the Dutch have already met once in this edition of the Classic, a second-round matchup that the Kingdom of the Netherlands won, 6-2.
"That's what it's come down to," the Kingdom of the Netherlands' manager Hensley Meulens said. "We have to be very good tomorrow to beat another good team in Cuba. We beat them the first game, but tomorrow is a different story."
The winner will join Japan in the final round of the Classic, which will be held in San Francisco's AT&T Park, home of the World Series champion Giants. Monday's winning team will face the Japanese on Tuesday to decide seeding in the semifinals. The loser is eliminated from the tournament.
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The Dutch are coming off a 16-4 beating at the hands of Japan, yielding six home runs in the defeat on Sunday.
"We have to pitch better [on Monday], keep the ball down, keep the ball in the ballpark," Meulens said. "We gave up six home runs today, and it's hard to win like that. We have to regroup, turn the page tonight, get back tomorrow here and prepare for Cuba, get good pitching.
"We still hit the ball a little bit today, but it was a little bit too late. ... [We need to] score early and give our pitchers a chance to hold the game. But we are going to have pitch a lot better tomorrow to beat the Cubans."
The Netherlands' only offense against Japan came in the sixth inning, on a three-run double by Wladimir Balentien and an RBI single by former Braves star Andruw Jones.
The Dutch will have to bounce back quickly to be ready for Monday's game with Cuba.
"Tomorrow is a new game, and we are going to come out and play hard like we have done before," Balentien said. "I have confidence in my teammates, so I think tomorrow we'll be all right."
The Cuban offense caught fire in an elimination game against Chinese Taipei on Saturday. Cuba hit four home runs and scored 14 runs before the game was called at 14-0 after the top of the seventh, due to the mercy rule.
Jose Abreu, Frederich Cepeda, and Yasmani Tomas hit multi-run homers and Alfredo Despaigne hit a solo shot for Cuba in the win.
"It is a very difficult situation, unless you've got ... great location, because Cuba hits early in the count and they have got great power -- and they are hitting a certain pitch or certain location," Chinese Taipei manager Chang-Heng Hsieh said of pitching to the Cubans on Saturday through a translator. "In order to get outs, you need a money pitch to get through Cuba's lineup."
Jason Coskrey is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.