A 7-6 victory for the Netherlands on Monday was its second in four days against Cuba at the World Baseball Classic. This one allowed the Dutch to advance to the WBC finals in San Francisco, while sending the Cubans — and their talkative manager, Victor Mesa — home.
Longtime major leaguer Andruw Jones scored the winning run on a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the ninth, and as his teammates mobbed him near home plate, Jones looked toward Cuba's dugout — probably for Mesa — and started screaming. It might have seemed like poor sportsmanship, but all Jones did was speak so that Mesa could understand. It's unclear if Mesa — who appeared to scream back — actually got the message.
On Friday, after the Dutch had stunned Cuba 6-2 in the opening of second-round play at Tokyo, Mesa was bluntly uncomplimentary in defeat, saying of the Netherlands:
"I don't think they are a very good team to be honest. We could have scored more. I think we should have scored more than five runs."
Open mouth, insert feet.
It's one thing to prop up (or knock down) your own team with psychological ploys, but the statement made Mesa seem churlish at best and, more likely, foolish. As if the Netherland's needed more motivation to knock out the team ranked No. 1 internationally.
Well, there's no more reason to hear from Victor Mesa anymore, is there?
Meanwhile, the Netherlands continues its impressive run to the finals. Trailing in the bottom of the eighth with two outs, Andrelton Simmons of the Atlanta Braves tied the score 6-all with a two-run homer. After reliever Loek Van Mil pitched out of a jam in the top of the ninth, the Dutch loaded the bases with one out in the bottom half for Kalian Sams, who flied to center deep enough for Jones to score.
The Dutch overcame the loss of three starting players, including slugger Wladimir Balentien and outfielder Roger Bernadina. They also lost third baseman Yurendell de Caster in the fifth inning. If anything, injuries might be a reason to doubt their chances in the finals. It's not going to be because they're "not a very good team."