After a six-year hiatus, the 20-team World Baseball Classic began in Taiwan with the Netherlands beating Cuba 4-2 in the first game of Group A.
In Group A’s late game on Wednesday, Panama faced Taiwan.
On Thursday in Tokyo, Group B action will get underway with South Korea taking on Australia and the host nation’s Japan, headed by Angels ace Shohei Ohtani, taking on China. Competition in Groups C and D gets underway in Miami and Phoenix on Saturday.
Together with Japan and the Dominican Republic, the United States, which won the last event in 2017, is one of the favourites. Dominica won it once, while Japan won it twice (in 2006 and 2009). (2013).
MLB players may now represent Cuba in the World Baseball Classic for the first time. Yoenis Cespedes, a former MLB player who represented Cuba in that event in 2009, hit.458 in that competition before starting his MLB career with the Oakland Athletics three years later. He spent a portion of eight seasons playing for the New York Mets, Boston, Oakland, and Boston.
As the designated hitter, Cespedes had zero hits and two walks while Cuba only mustered three hits. The encounter between the two group favourites provided the Dutch with a significant early boost.
Yadil Mujica scored twice in the second to give Cuba a 1-0 lead by putting Yoelkis Guibert on the board.
In the third, Didi Gregorius singled Roger Bernadina into the score to make it 1-1. The Netherlands seized a 4-1 lead in the sixth when Josh Palacios singled home Gregorius, and a Chadwick Tromp single scored two more.
In the eighth, Cuba reduced the deficit to 4-2 but was unable to add to it.