Team Israel, the longest of shots to start the World Baseball Classic, swept South Korea, Taiwan and the Netherlands to win Pool A in Seoul in the first round of the tournament. Saturday night, while most of the Jewish world was celebrating Purim, Team Israel opened second-round play in Tokyo against Cuba, the runner-up of Group B.
It was a new venue but the same result for Team Israel: a dramatic upset. Former Braves Jason Marquis and Ryan Lavarnway were again stars in the 4-1 victory.
Team Israel is now 4-0 in the tournament and, more important, 1-0 in the round robin that will determine which two of the four teams playing in Tokyo will advance to the semifinals in Los Angeles.
We decided, in addition to sending out a few tweets, to cover this weird, wonderful confluence of baseball magic and Purim by doing our first live blog with the functionality of our new website. You can read through the resulting chronicle of the win below.
Team Israel next plays the Netherlands at 6 a.m. Monday, then finishes pool play against host Japan at 6 a.m. Wednesday.
We’ll be blogging Israel vs. Cuba live at 10 p.m. Right now we’re watching Italy-Venezuela (now in the 10th inning) and USA-Dominican Republic.
Venezuela 11, Italy 10
In an amazing game in first-round play in Jalisco, Mexico, Venezuela evened its record at 1-1 with an 11-10, 10-inning win over an Italy team that is a lot like Team Israel: a roster filled with Americans playing gutsy, fundamentally sound baseball that resulted in a surprise win over the pool hosts in Game 1. Italy is now 1-1 with Puerto Rico left to play.
Megillah on the Bench
IAB VP Jordy Alter reading Megillat Esther in the dugout at the Tokyo Dome to celebrate Purim in a most unusual way. Chag Purim Sameach from Israel baseball in Tokyo!
Posted by Israel Baseball – World Baseball Classic on Saturday, 11 March 2017
Jordy Alter, the vice president of the Israel Association of Baseball, reads Megillat Esther in the dugout to celebrate Israel before the game against Cuba.
A Mensch on a Bench Purim
Team Israel’s life-size Mensch on a Bench gets into the Purim spirit. No word on what he’s drinking tonight.
Whoops: DR Takes Lead in 8th
While waiting for the Israel-Cuba game, I’m watching Team USA play the defending champion Dominican Republic. The Americans had a 5-0 lead, but Nelson Cruz just hit a three-run homer in the bottom of the eighth to give the Dominican Republic a 6-5 lead.
World Series Hangover?
Cleveland pitcher Andrew Miller was dominant all through the 2016 postseason — until he wasn’t. Now he has given up back-to-back homers and four runs in the eighth against the Dominican Republic, and Team USA is in trouble.
Rich Waltz and Buck Martinez are tonight’s commentators from #ShalomTokyo. If you have MLB.TV, here’s the link:
If not, we’re here for you.
Marquis on the Mound
Ex-Brave Jason Marquis, who started the first and third games for Team Israel, again takes the mound against Cuba. He’s been almost flawless so far.
Marquis Back in the Big Leagues?
That’s the goal for the Team Israel starter, Buck Martinez says. He struggled with the Reds back in 2015, but anything is possible.
1-2-3 First for Marquis
Lead-off batter pops out to shortstop Scott Burcham, then Ty Kelly throws out the No. 2 batter on a soft bouncer to third. Then the Cubans learn that you can’t get a fly ball past Super Sam Fuld in center. Three up, three down. We head to the bottom of the first, 0-0.
Meanwhile, in Miami
The Dominican Republic retires the USA in order in the ninth to complete the 7-5, comeback win.
Israel Shut Out in First
Against junkballing Cuban starter Noelvis Entenza, Sam Fuld grounds out to second. Ty Kelly flies out to right. Ike Davis walks on a 3-2 pitch that bounces, then advances to second on a wild pitch. Ex-Brave, ex-A Nate Freiman then bloops a 3-2 pitch to center, where outfielder Roel Santos makes a diving catch to save a run. It’s 0-0 after one inning.
So, in a continuation of the Seoul pool play, Israel continues to strand runners in scoring position.
All the off-speed pitches seem to have Team Israel off-balance.
Cuban cleanup hitter Alfredo Despaigne crushes a Marquis fast ball way out to left for a solo home run. Then Marquis walks Saavedra and gives up an infield single to Gracial. It’s the first serious trouble Marquis has faced in the tournament.
Marquis Limits the Damage; Cuba Up 1-0
Marquis gets a big strikeout for the first out on a 3-2 pitch with runners on first and second. A slow bouncer to third produces an out at first but moves two runners into scoring position with two outs.
Yoelqui Cespedes, brother of big-leaguer Yoenis Cespedes, grounds out to short to end the threat. 1-0 Cuba in the middle of the second.
Good Defense Continues
Team Israel has given Jason Marquis every reason to trust the defense behind him. Kelly, Burcham and Fuld have all made nice plays in the first two innings.
3 Hard-Hit Balls, No Runs for Israel
Zach Borenstein lines out to left, bringing up ex-Brave and Pool A MVP Ryan Lavarnway, who lines out to right. Team Israel is making good contact but has nothing to show for it. Blake Gailen works a seven-pitch walk. Tyler Krieger flies out to the wall in left.
At the end of two innings, Israel trails Cuba 1-0.
A reminder that this is the first time in the World Baseball Classic that Israel has trailed.
Top of the 3rd, Top of the Order
Jason Marquis faces the Cuban lineup for the second time, starting with leadoff hitter Roel Santos, who popped out in the first. He strikes out on three pitches to start the third. Alexander Ayala then flies out to Sam Fuld in center (don’t try to hit one over Sam Fuld). Frederich Cepeda then proves the point by flying out to Fuld to end the inning.
It’s a nice bounce-back inning for Marquis: three up, three out on nine pitches. 1-0 Cuba, middle of the third.
Second Time’s a Charm?
Team Israel sends the 9-1-2 batters up in the bottom of the third.
Scott Burcham’s out on a routine 6-3 grounder. Third baseman Graciel makes a nice stop on a Sam Fuld grounder for a 5-3 putout. Ty Kelly bounces out to second, and Cuban starter Noelvis Entenza has his first 1-2-3 inning. 1-0 Cuba after three innings.
Despaigne Again, Different Outcome
Alfredo Despaigne has been so locked in for Cuba that Marquis might want to pitch around him. Instead, he goes after him, sort of, and induces a groundout to short on a 3-2 pitch.
Willian Saavedra, who walked his first time up, singles up the middle. But Marquis strikes out Gracial for the second out. Carlos Benitez lines out to left on a sliding catch by Blake Gailen (there’s that good defense again), and it’s another fairly easy inning for Marquis. 1-0 Cuba, middle of the fourth.
Israel Gets Even
Ike Davis leads off the bottom of the fourth with another walk. (If Major League Baseball is serious about improving the pace of play, Noelvis Entenza will never pitch in the U.S. big leagues. He throws slow and works slow.)
Nate Freiman, who just missed an RBI single in the first inning, strikes out on a check-swing on a SLOW curve off the outside corner. Zach Borenstein strikes out on a change-up. Ryan Lavarnway, looking for Israel’s first hit, rips a double down the left-field line to drive in Davis, and Israel is on the board. Blake Gailen just misses doing the same thing to right, then pops out to the catcher in the middle of the diamond to end the inning. 1-1 after four.
Marquis Keeps Rolling Along
Yosvani Alarcon pinch-hits for Cuba to start the fifth inning against Marquis, and he grounds out to first. Cespedes grounds out to short. Santos lines a single to right as Cuba’s lineup comes up for the third time against Marquis, but Lavarnway guns him out trying to steal second on the first pitch to end the inning. Marquis should be good for at least one more inning. 1-1, middle of the fifth.
New Pitcher, No More Success
New pitcher for Cuba: Yoennis Yera. Tyler Krieger gets on via an E-5 to start the fifth. Scott Burcham hits a lazy fly ball to center after failing to get a bunt down for the first out. Sam Fuld strikes out. With Ty Kelly at bat, Krieger is thrown out trying to steal second. 1-1 after five innings.
Marquis Done in 6th Inning
Ayala leads off for Cuba, with the dangerous Despaigne due up third.
Ayala grounds out to Burcham at short. Cepeda strikes out looking on three pitches for the second out. Marquis works a full count against Despaigne, then hits him on a 79-mph curve. That’s it for Marquis; Zack Thornton is coming in to finish off the sixth inning.
Marquis, Thornton Keep Israel Even
Zack Thornton coaxes Saavedra to fly out to right to end the inning. 1-1 in the middle of the sixth.
Marquis’ final line: 5 2/3 innings, 4 hits, 1 walk, 4 strikeouts, 1 earned run.
Heart of Order Comes Through for Israel
Ty Kelly leads off the bottom of the sixth against Yera and flips a single into left field. Cody Decker pinch-hits for Ike Davis to get a righty against the left-hander Yera, but he flies out to right. Freiman walks on a 3-2 pitch to put runners on first and second with Borenstein coming up.
Borenstein lines an RBI single to right to give Israel the lead. Ty Kelly gets a nice jump off second and easily beats Cespedes’ throw home. That’s it for Yera; Jose Angel Garcia comes in to pitch for Cuba.
Lavarnway lines out to right; Freiman, who isn’t exactly fast, doesn’t challenge Cespedes’ arm by tagging up. Gailen lines a double to the wall in right to score Freiman and put runners on second and third with two outs. Cuba changes pitchers again, bringing in lefty Livan Moinelo. He intentionally walks Tyler Krieger to load the bases for Scott Burcham.
Burcham flies out to left. Another times Team Israel fails to get a big hit with the bases loaded. But Israel leads 3-1 after six innings.
1-2-3 Inning for Thornton
Zack Thornton stays in to pitch the seventh for Team Israel.
Krieger snacks a grounder up the middle and throws out Gracial for the first out. Guillermo Aviles comes in as a pinch-hitter for Benitez and strikes out looking. Alarcon lines out to Kelly at third to end the inning. It’s Israel 3, Cuba 1, middle of the seventh.
Israel Fails to Add On
Sam Fuld leads off the bottom of the seventh as the top of the Israel order faces Moinelo.
Fuld walks to start the inning. Kelly strikes out after working the count full. Decker strikes out. Freiman, who seems desperate for a fastball, strikes out looking, stranding Fuld at first. 3-1 after seven.
New Pitcher in the 8th
Brad Goldberg takes the mound in the eighth for Israel. Thornton faced four batters and retired all of them, with one strikeout.
Cuba Tries to Rally
The first batter to face Brad Goldberg, who was added to the roster for the second round, is pinch-hitter Jeferson Delgado, who gets an infield hit on a high chopper with weird spin. Victor Mesa pinch-runs for Delgado. That brings the top of the order up.
Santos strikes out on a high fastball. Ayala flies out to right. Cepeda walks on four pitches to bring up Despaigne, and manager Jerry Weinstein brings in his closer, Josh Zeid.
Zeid Gets out of a Jam
Josh Zeid comes in with two on, two out, and the dangerous Despaigne up to bat, representing the potential go-ahead run for Cuba. Huge moment.
Zeid walks Despaigne on four pitches to load the bases and bring up Saavedra. But Saavedra grounds to Ty Kelly, who steps on third for the forceout to end the top of the eighth. Israel still leads 3-1.
Israel Gains Insurance
Zach Borenstein leads off for Israel in the bottom of the eighth.
Borenstein walks because, more than any other team, that’s what Israel does: Get on base by drawing walks, running up opponents’ pitch counts.
Lavarnway has one more chance to be a hero on offense tonight. And he does it with a single to right, moving Borenstein to third. Gailen lays down a beautiful squeeze bunt to bring home Borenstein and move Lavarnway to second. Krieger draws a walk, putting runners on first and second and ending Moinelo’s night on the mound with Israel ahead 4-1.
Israel Looks to Pad Lead
Yosvani Torres, a right-hander, comes in to pitch for Cuba with runners on first and second and one out. Scott Burcham is up.
Burcham grounds to second, and Cuba turns the 4-6-3 double play to end the inning. Israel takes a 4-1 lead to the ninth inning.
We Go to the 9th
Team Israel needs three outs to start the second round of the World Baseball Classic with a win over Cuba.
Josh Zeid strikes out Gracial on three pitches.
Zeid strikes out Manduley on a slider.
Alarcon grounds out to short to end the game. Israel wins 4-1.
Ex-Braves Lead Another Israel Win
Team Israel trailed for the first time in the World Baseball Classic when Cuban slugger Alfredo Despaigne hit a long home run off former Atlanta Brave Jason Marquis to lead of the second inning, but that was only a temporary obstacle en route to Israel’s fourth consecutive win, 4-1 over Cuba.
Israel starts second-round pool play 1-0 and could almost lock up a spot in the Final Four with a win over the Netherlands at 6 a.m. Monday.
Marquis pitched 5 2/3 innings and gave up just the one run, along with four hits and one walk. He struck out four and relied and a solid defense to keep Cuba in check.
Team Israel’s second pitcher, Zack Thornton, retired all four batters he faced and got the win. Brad Goldberg struggled a bit in his first pitching appearance since joining Team Israel for the second round, but Josh Zeid got the final four outs for the save.
Former Brave Ryan Lavarnway had two of Israel’s five hits, including a double to bring in the tying run in the fourth inning.
Zach Borenstein knocked in the winning run on a single in the sixth, and Blake Gailen padded the lead with a sixth-inning double for one RBI and an eighth-inning squeeze bunt for another.