The 2017 World Baseball Classic got underway bright and early on Monday morning. First pitch was at 4:30 a.m. ET, and the game was between Israel and Korea on Korean soil (the game was held in Seoul). And it was a tense nail-biter that ended in a 2-1 upset win by Israel, the perfect way to kick off three weeks of country vs. country contests.
Israel struck first in the second, scoring on a bases-loaded walk, which is the most exciting kind of walk there is. Korea tied the score in the bottom of the fifth on a single from Geon-chang Seo, who plays in the Korean Baseball Organization. The whole game featured impressive, sometimes unlikely defense, which is what kept the score so tight.
The game was knotted at 1-1 through nine innings, so they went to the 10th. And that’s where the tie was broken. Ike Davis drew a one-out walk, and went to third on a Ryan Lavarnway single. Davis was replaced by pinch-runner Michael Myers (no, not that one). Then Scott Burcham hit a two-out single to second that very well could have been an out, but it was placed so perfectly that once second baseman Geon-chang Seo got the ball into his glove, he had trouble getting it out to make the throw. Ike Davis scored, and Israel led 2-1. Korea couldn’t muster any offense in the bottom of the 10th.
There were 15 hits between the two teams: eight for Israel, and seven for Korea. There were just two doubles, both from Israel. Everything else was a single. Josh Zeid, who last played in the majors in 2014 for the Houston Astros, pitched the final three innings and deservedly got the win. He allowed one hit, two walks and notched three strikeouts.
That Israel was able to keep up with this Korean team is pretty remarkable, considering Israel’s roster isn’t exactly full of difference-making stars. Jason Marquis, who had a career 4.61 ERA in the MLB and is 38 years old, started this game. The lineup featured major-league names like Ike Davis, Ryan Lavarnway and Sam Fuld, and it seemed at one point during the game that Fuld had an issue airing out a throw. So Israel wasn’t exactly playing with an advantage.
This victory means a lot to Israel. It’s their very first WBC tournament, and this was their very first WBC win. They are the underdoggiest underdog of this whole shebang, and with this game they showed they can at the very least outlast (if barely outscore) one of the more talented teams in their pool. And they did it all without a single current major leaguer on their roster. (Though they have plenty of former major leaguers.)
This loss is meaningful to Korea, too, as it puts them at risk of another first-round exit. In 2013, they were bounced in the first round when a tiebreaker in their pool prevented them from advancing and ending their team’s dream of WBC redemption. They lost to Japan in the 2009 WBC final, and in 2006 they also lost to Japan in the semifinal. It’s all about redemption for Team Korea, and they’re in danger of losing out once again.
If the whole WBC is going to be like this, get ready. We’re all in for an exciting and nail-biting few weeks. The next game is at 10 p.m. ET on Monday night, when Israel takes on Chinese Taipei. You can catch it on MLB Network at MLB.tv.
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