Team USA finishes off Netherlands
Rollins, Roberts combine for five hits, five RBIs at top of order
By Joe Frisaro / MLB.com
Facing elimination on Sunday night, the United States rebounded with a convincing 9-3 win over The Netherlands at Dolphin Stadium.
Roy Oswalt responded with a gutsy performance while Jimmy Rollins and Brian Roberts energized the top of the order.
Rollins had a homer, triple and four RBIs. Roberts, meanwhile, made an immediate impact in his Team USA debut with three hits, including a double and triple. Adam Dunn added a homer as the game got out of hand in the late innings.
Roberts reached in all five of his plate appearances. He was 3-for-3 with a single, double, triple and two walks as he put himself in position for a cycle.
After being upended, 11-1, by Puerto Rico on Saturday, Team USA played in Sunday's elimination game. The Netherlands, a Cinderella story, is now finished in the Classic, having lost twice in as many days.
In the loss to Puerto Rico, Team USA's top four hitters went 0-for-12. It was a different story on Sunday, with Rollins and Roberts combining to go 5-for-7 with two walks, four runs scored and five RBIs.
The United States on Tuesday will play the loser of Monday night's Puerto Rico-Venezuela game. For Team USA, the stakes are the same.
The loser will be eliminated, while the winner will advance to the semifinals, regardless of the outcome on Wednesday, the final day of Round 2 play at Dolphin Stadium.
"As far as payback, we got outpitched and outhit the first game badly," U.S. manager Davey Johnson said. "I don't care too much about the 10-run rule. That doesn't bother me too much. That can happen in a ballgame, especially in the spring.
"But we're looking forward to playing somebody from [Monday] night's game. It doesn't much matter to me who it is. We've been beaten by both of them, so it doesn't much matter to me."
A crowd of 11,059 watched Oswalt set an early tone on Sunday. Baffling The Netherlands with a 94 mph fastball and a 79 mph changeup, he tossed four scoreless innings, striking out five while not issuing a walk. The Astros right-hander exited after 70 pitches. He worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the third inning, retiring Randall Simon on a popout to short.
"I think the biggest thing for a starting pitcher, you try to set a tone early," Oswalt said. "The first inning, you try to go out there and get some quick outs, get the guys in the dugout and let them swing the bat a little bit."
The energetic Rollins challenged Oswalt after Saturday's loss.
"I told Roy last night when we got on the bus, 'I don't know if they make big-game pitchers down in Mississippi,'" Rollins said to Oswalt. "He said this wasn't his first rodeo and he came and proved it."
With runners on the corners in the fourth inning, Oswalt escaped by striking out Kenley Jansen looking, preserving a three-run early lead.
Pitching has been the strength of The Netherlands throughout the Classic. Entering Sunday, the team combined to allow 14 total runs in five games. But the United States slapped out 11 hits, and scored in five of the first six innings.
Right-hander Rick VandenHurk of the Marlins was lifted after two innings, giving up three runs (one earned) while throwing 55 pitches.
Rollins' two-out, two-run homer in the second inning gave Team USA a three-run cushion. Both runs were unearned because with two outs, Curtis Granderson reached on a two-base error by right fielder Dirk Van't Klooster. Four pitches later, Rollins ripped a two-run shot to right field.
"I got to face VandenHurk during the season and it's going to be a challenge," Rollins said. "He's tall. He throws the ball well, knows his spots, throws a curveball well, so you just have to go out there and accept the challenge."
Team USA struck quickly in the first inning.
Roberts made a grand entrance as Dustin Pedroia's replacement.
Roberts joined the team on Sunday, filling in after Pedroia left with a left strained oblique. Ironically, Pedroia was 2-for-16 in the Classic. Roberts had hits in his first three at-bats.
In the first, Roberts singled with one out and he scored on David Wright's sacrifice fly.
Team USA tacked on three more runs in the fourth inning. Rollins and Roberts again were key contributors, with each delivering back-to-back triples. Rollins' three-base hit scored Chris Iannetta, who walked. Roberts triple was hit third straight of the game. He scored on Kevin Youkilis' RBI fielder's choice grounder.
Yurendell De Caster's RBI double in the seventh inning put The Netherlands on the board. Bryan Engelhardt homered off Matt Lindstrom in the eighth inning, and some tension built when Vince Rooi stepped into the batters box. Lindstrom, who has a 100 mph fastball, sailed a pitch to the screen.
The errant toss upset The Netherlands' bench, and players began walking onto the field, but order was immediately restored. Rooi lifted a flyout to right field, and on his way to the dugout, he trotted across the mound, within a few feet of Lindstrom.
Lindstrom didn't make it through the inning. During the sequence with Sharnol Adriana, the Marlins closer appeared to favor his right side. He stretched his arm, and retired Adriana on a sacrifice fly to right field.
Immediately, he was tended to on the mound, and left the game. The hard-throwing right-hander felt soreness in his shoulder, and he will have an MRI on Monday.
Lindstrom said the incident with Rooi at the plate was prompted by Engelhardt's home run trot and the fact his shoulder wasn't completely right.
"It also was to send a message, a little bit," Lindstrom said. "I don't know. It's early still in March, and stuff like that. I thought that he took a little bit too long [rounding the bases]. He knew he got it. Whatever. I wasn't trying to hit [Rooi]."
Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.