Cuban baseball player Yoenis Cespedes scores a hit during a group A game against the Netherlands during the World Baseball Classic at Taichung Intercontinental Stadium in Taichung, Taiwan, Wednesday, March 8, 2023. (AP Photo/I-Hwa Cheng)
TAICHUNG, Taiwan (AP) — After a six-year absence, the World Baseball Classic began with a 4-2 victory for the Netherlands over Cuba in a Group A game in Taiwan.
In another game on Wednesday night, Panama faced Taiwan in Group A.
Fighting in Pool B begins Thursday in Tokyo, when South Korea will take on Australia and host Japan – led by Angels star Shoehi Ohtani – will face China. Group C and D matches begin Saturday in Phoenix and Miami.
The United States won the last tournament in 2017 and is among the favourites, along with the Dominican Republic and Japan. Japan have won twice (2006, 2009) and the Dominican team once (2013).
It is the first World Baseball Classic in which MLB players can play with Cuba. Former major league hitter Yoenis Céspedes, who participated with Cuba in 2009 and finished the tournament with a .458 batting average and began his major league career three years later with the Oakland Athletics. He played parts of eight seasons with Oakland, Boston, Detroit and the New York Mets.
Céspedes had no hits as a designated hitter and walked two. Cuba barely got three hits. The game pitted the two favorites in the group against each other and gave the Dutch a big boost in their first duel.
Cuba took the lead 1-0 in the second on Yadil Mujica’s double to drive in Yoelkis Guibert.
Didi Gregorius singled off Roger Bernadina to tie it 1-1 in the third. The Netherlands went ahead 4-1 in the sixth when Josh Palacios drove in Gregorius and Chadwick Tromp’s single drove in two more runs.
Cuba cut the difference to 4-2 in the seventh but failed to score again.