3/11/2013 4:00 P.M. ET
Japan, Netherlands to battle for Pool 1 victory
By Jason Coskrey / Special to MLB.com
TOKYO -- The first two tickets to San Francisco have been punched at the 2013 World Baseball Classic. All that's left in Pool 1 now is to decide is who flies first class, and who gets stuck in coach.
Japan and the Kingdom of the Netherlands have both qualified for the final round of the Classic, but will still face each other on Tuesday at 6 a.m. ET on MLB Network and ESPN Deportes, in order to decide the Pool 1 winner and runner-up.
The Pool 1 winner will face the Pool 2 runner-up on March 17, while the Pool 1 runner-up will face the Pool 2 winner the next day.
The Classic final is scheduled for March 19.
The Dutch took the long road to this point. They lost, 8-3, against Chinese Taipei in Taichung, Taiwan, and were blasted, 16-4, by Japan in Tokyo. That loss put the Kingdom of the Netherlands into a do-or-die game against Cuba, which the Dutch won, 7-6.
"Well, the guys came together as a group today," Kingdom of the Netherlands manager Hensley Meulens said on Monday. "We were hit with a bunch of injuries today, starting yesterday with [Roger] Bernadina getting hit in the wrist and not able to start the game today. We got injuries during the game today with [Wladimir] Balentien, he came out of the game after his first at-bat, and then [Yurendell De Caster] going down with another injury coming out of the game. So we really relied on Kalian [Sams] and [Xander] Bogaerts. Bogaerts had a rough tournament, but came up with a big hit in that ninth inning to stretch the inning and give us a chance to come off and get the sac fly.
"That's why we won. The guys were resilient, they stick together, and when we needed it more, they got together as a group in the dugout and they weren't going to die. Even when they scored the two runs to go ahead in the eighth, they were not going to die, and they came back one more time. Cuba played a good game, but you know, again, we played the better game."
The Dutch may be without one of the big hitters in their lineup after Balentien strained a muscle in his leg.
"I don't know if he's going to be able to play tomorrow," Meulens said. "Those leg injuries -- he's strained a quad muscle in his left leg, and you know, we have to see the treatment the rest of tonight and tomorrow and get some more testing done if he is able to play again or what the severity of the injury is.
"I can't answer that question yet. But I can tell you, when you have leg injuries, usually you've got to take a couple days off before you can get back on the field. We are not going to risk his season and we are not going to risk him being able to play for us again in the semifinals."
Japan played a much better game than the Dutch on Sunday, with Takashi Toritani, Nobuhiro Matsuda, Atsunori Inaba, Yoshio Itoi and Hayato Sakamoto, all going deep in the romp, to equal the single-game record held by Cuba (in 2009) with six home runs.
The Japanese are 4-1 in their last five games in this year's Classic, beating Brazil, China, Chinese Taipei and the Netherlands.
Jason Coskrey is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.