After being lampooned as the “Jamaican Bobsled Team of the World Baseball Classic,” team Israel swept to its second win in 24 hours today with a rout of the heavily favored Chinese Taipei (Taiwan) team by a score of 15-7.
Just hours after they stunned the host team from South Korea with a nerve-wracking, 10-inning win, the Israelis came storming into the second game of the round-robin tournament, scoring four runs in the first inning before a crowd of 3,200 at the Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul. Taipei’s offense was helpless against Israel’s starting pitcher, Corey Baker, who went 4-2/3 innings, scattering three hits and walking none. Taipei went on to mount rallies in the 6th and 9th innings, but Israel’s aggressive offense overwhelmed six Taiwanese pitchers, blasting 20 hits, including two home runs, three doubles, and a triple.
— MLB (@MLB) March 7, 2017
Israel, which on three occasions against Korea failed to produce any runs with bases loaded, got a bases-loaded single from Tyler Krieger in the first inning to go up 4-0 on Taipei and chase starting pitcher Chun-Lin Kuo from the game.
Catcher Ryan Lavarnway hit a two-run home run in the third inning to put Israel up 6 – 0 in the third.
Chinese Taipei captain Chih-Sheng Lin keyed a two-run double in the sixth inning to make the game close, but Israel scored nine unanswered over the next three innings, including a run in the seventh off an error from pitcher Chen-Hua Lin during a squeeze bunt attempt by Scott Burcham.
Nate Freiman closed out Israel’s scoring with a three-run shot in the final frame. Taipei scored four in the bottom of the inning, bringing the final score to 15 – 7.
The World Baseball Classic’s first round finishes up this week, with the winners of each pool advancing to the second round in Tokyo next week. Next up for the Israelis is perhaps their greatest challenge so far: Team Netherlands, which has several current major-league players on its roster, including Boston Red Sox star Xander Bogaerts, New York Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorius, and Los Angeles Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen. If they defeat the Netherlands, the Israelis will automatically advance to the second round.
— WBC Baseball (@WBCBaseball) March 7, 2017
The ESPN article comparing Israel to the Jamaican bobsled team called Israel “the biggest underdog ever” in the classic. It also illustrated how overmatched Israel appears to be.
Of the 16 nations represented in this year’s WBC, Israel was the very last one in and is the only participant not currently among the top 20 in the world rankings. (It’s No. 41, just behind baseball powerhouses such as Poland and the Ukraine.) As if that weren’t enough, the team had to travel halfway across the world (with its lifesize “Mensch on a Bench” mascot), where it’s the lowest seed in a four-team pool that features host country South Korea (2009 runners-up) and 2013 final-four squad Netherlands. Of the 28 players who made the trip to Seoul, not a single one is presently listed on a major league 40-man roster. No wonder bookmaker Bovada has Team Israel listed at 200-1 odds to win the whole thing, the longest shot in the tourney and 100 times as unlikely as 2-1 favorite USA.
[Photo: World Baseball Classic 2017 / YouTube ]