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Dutch primed to pull off another upset

Netherlands takes on favored Puerto Rico on Monday

Rick VandenHurk, who has pitched 22 games in the Majors, will start for the Netherlands. (AP)

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SAN JUAN, P.R. -- The Netherlands will attempt to pull off another upset when it meets Puerto Rico in Game 4 of Pool D play of the World Baseball Classic on Monday at 6:30 p.m. ET.

Puerto Rico is favored to win the game not only because its roster has 21 players with Major League experience but because it is playing before an enthusiastic hometown crowd. The game will take place at Hiram Bithorn Stadium, where 17,348 fans cheered the team to a 7-0 victory over Panama on Saturday.

The Dutch showed on Saturday, however, that they play well when the odds are against them. They beat the Dominican Republic, considered one of the strongest teams in this year's Classic, by a score of 3-2.

The Netherlands relied on good pitching to beat the Dominicans, and the team is looking to continue that trend when it sends Rick VandenHurk to the mound to face Puerto Rico.

The right-hander has pitched in only 22 games in the Major Leagues, but he is a highly regarded 23-year-old prospect of the Florida Marlins who is realizing a dream to pitch under the tutelage of his boyhood idol, Bert Blyleven, the pitching coach of the Netherlands.

The Dutch relievers considered it a plus rather than a detriment that they had not faced many of the Major League players on the Dominican team. VandenHurk and the rest of the pitching staff are hoping that their lack of exposure to big league hitters will continue to help them fare well against Puerto Rico.

"It's even better that they haven't heard of us, because we can do our own stuff. It is maybe a little bit different than what [the Major Leaguers] had seen before," said manager Rod Delmonico.

Puerto Rico hit very well against Panama in its first game of the Classic, winning thanks to the bats of Ivan Rodriguez (3-for-4 with two home runs and four RBIs), Carlos Delgado (3-for-4 with a home run) and Geovany Soto (2-for-4 with an RBI).

Puerto Rico manager Jose Oquendo said during a Sunday morning workout that Yadier Molina would replace Rodriguez behind the plate. He did not want to say if Rodriguez would replace Soto in the lineup as the designated hitter.

Puerto Rico will send right-hander Ian Snell to the mound to start against the Netherlands. Snell started Puerto Rico's exhibition opener last week against the Twins and was almost perfect, retiring nine of the 10 batters he faced in three innings of work.

The game between Puerto Rico and the Netherlands will be closely watched in Europe. The Dutch win over the Dominican Republic was big news in the Netherlands, and it was the lead story on the Web site of De Telegraaf, the country's largest newspaper, with a circulation of 776,000.

The winner of the game between Puerto Rico and the Netherlands will automatically qualify for the next round of the Classic and play for the top seed in Pool D on Wednesday. The loser will face the winner of Sunday's game between the Dominican Republic and Panama.

Will Gonzalez is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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