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Ponson, Dutch come up just short

Starter solid, but bested by Silva as Venezuela ekes out win

Bryan Englehardt (right) is congratulated by Gregory Halman after scoring on a single by Vince Rooi in the second inning. (Alan Diaz/AP)

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MIAMI -- The Netherlands knew it had to push, to convert every opportunity, if it wanted to beat Venezuela on Saturday in the opener of the second round of the World Baseball Classic. The first chance to score, the team figured, might well be the last.

Unfortunately, pushing turned out to be exactly the wrong thing to do.

A key out at home plate, combined with a pair of Venezuelan home runs, sent The Netherlands to a 3-1 loss. Vince Rooi rapped an RBI single in the second inning that tied the game after Venezuela took an early lead, but that was all the Dutch team could manage against an effective and efficient Carlos Silva and the Venezuelan bullpen.

With The Netherlands trailing 1-0 in the second inning, Yurendell DeCaster led off with a ground ball to shortstop, reaching base on Cesar Izturis' error. The next hitter, Bryan Engelhardt, doubled to center field. Third-base coach Wim Martinus waved DeCaster home, but DeCaster was easily thrown out at the plate on an 8-6-2 play. Rooi singled home Engelhardt, but the out at the plate proved costly as The Netherlands did not score again.

The second was the only inning in which The Netherlands got a runner past first base against Silva.

"We needed one more run to tie it up, but it would have helped if we would have scored there," said Netherlands manager Rod Delmonico. "But we were trying to be aggressive and sometimes that happens in baseball. But yeah, that was a big play for them."

Had there been runners on second and third, Rooi's single would have scored two runs, and the tone of the game might have been quite a bit different. If nothing else, The Netherlands might have been able to get into the soft underside of a Venezuelan bullpen that was exposed at times during the opening round of the Classic.

Instead, Silva cruised through seven innings before handing it over to the relief corps. Only two outs went to pitchers other than the starter and closer Francisco Rodriguez.

"I don't know," Engelhardt said when asked about the decision to send DeCaster. "It was nobody out. Maybe the coach needed to stop the guy at third base. After the game, you think about it. ... It was a very important point."

Starter Sidney Ponson spearheaded yet another excellent pitching performance for the underdog Dutch squad, but two mistakes did him in. He twice paid for missing up in the zone with fastballs -- once on Endy Chavez's first-inning leadoff triple that led to a run, and once on Cabrera's home run. Otherwise, the right-hander was very solid, allowing no other hits over five innings.

"We had two bad mistakes and it cost us two runs today," Ponson said. "If we didn't do those, the outcome could be different. Those guys had three hits, three runs. Our pitching is pretty good, the hitting is pretty good, it's just today the ball didn't fall our way, it fell their way."

Rob Cordemans pitched two spotless innings before Dennis Neuman allowed a solo homer to Jose Lopez in the eighth.

Silva was even better, though, making it through seven full innings before bumping up against the Classic's 85-pitch limit for the second round of pool play. He escaped from the only jam he faced -- with some help, of course, from the Dutch team on the basepaths.

The Netherlands did put together a late rally that fell just short. Sidney De Jong laced a pinch-hit single in the eighth, and Sharlon Schoop's infield single put two men on with one out. But Carlos Vasquez got Gene Kingsale to pop up for the second out, and Rodriguez induced a groundout from Sharnol Adriana to end the inning. Rodriguez allowed a single in the ninth, but struck out two and wasn't really threatened in the final inning.

Still, for a team that wasn't even expected to advance to the second round, The Netherlands turned in another excellent showing.

"They aren't playing here just because of luck," Rodriguez said. "They play good baseball. They just beat another good team in the Dominican Republic, and they showed a lot of heart with today being no different. It was a close game throughout, and thankfully it went Venezuela's way."

The Netherlands will face the United States on Sunday night at Dolphin Stadium.

"Tomorrow, if we lose we go home," Ponson said, "and I don't think nobody in the clubhouse wants to go home."

Matthew Leach is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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