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Ghosts of past return as Dominicans get set to face Dutch

by Jason Coskrey

Staff Writer

The Dominicans insist they’re not motivated by revenge. The Dutch are adamant that the past is the past.

Nevertheless, the memory of the 2009 World Baseball Classic refuses to dissipate ahead of Monday’s semifinal showdown between the two nations in the 2013 WBC.

An underdog Netherlands team upset the mighty Dominican Republic — not once, but twice — on its way to a surprising berth in the second round in 2009. Four years later, both teams say that holds no bearing on their upcoming matchup.

“What is in the past, is in the past,” Dominican Republic manager Tony Pena said. “I think we are here to play a game. They beat us. I was no part of it. Like I told my boys, I don’t even want to talk about it.”

The Dutch were just as eager to steer clear of the subject.

“Well, first of all, I think that was 2009,” Netherlands star Andruw Jones said. “It’s a different team, and we’re a different team.”

The Dominicans are 6-0 during this WBC and enter the semifinals as the only unbeaten team in the tournament, they’ll have to remain that way in order to take the title back to their homeland.

“I don’t know if it gets easier or harder,” Pena said. “It’s only one thing that I know. The only thing I know is that we’re going to go out and we’re going to play. We’re going to play hard, and we’re going to play the same way we have played through the tournament here.”

New York Yankees star infielder Robinson Cano has been at the forefront of the Dominican offensive, going 14-for-27 with a pair of home runs, four doubles and six RBIs in six games.

“Cano is one of the better, if not one of the best players in the big leagues,” Pena said. “To me, he’s a complete player. He’s the total package.”

Cano has been a leader both on and off the field for the Dominicans.

“I have to feel blessed to get to play in a combination with Robinson Cano,” said Toronto Blue Jays shortstop Jose Reyes. “He’s a superstar, great player. He makes me better. He makes everybody around him better.”

Texas Rangers slugger Nelson Cruz has been another steady contributor with a .360 average, and six RBIs, while Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Hanley Ramirez and Blue Jays infielder Edwin Encarnacion are among four players tied for second on the team with three RBIs.

Pirates pitcher Wandy Rodriguez has been a standout on the mound with a pair of wins and one run allowed through 9⅓ innings in the tournament.

“We’re going to have to play a clean game, pitch well, keep the ball down, (and) induce ground balls to give our great infielders a chance to make plays,” Netherlands manager Hensley Meulens said. “And we’re also going to have to run the bases well, have quality at-bats, keep the line moving to score the runs that we need to win tomorrow.”

The Dutch opened play in Pool D of the 2009 WBC with a 3-2 win over the Dominicans. Sidney Ponson started and earned the win, allowing two runs on five hits over four innings, while Sharnol Adriana drove in the lone RBI run for the Netherlands against a Dominican team that committed three errors.

The Dutch struck again a few days later, winning 2-1, after Gene Kingsdale hit a tying RBI single in the 11th inning and scored the winning run later that inning.

“We know we had a disappointing tournament in 2009, but this is 2013,” Reyes said. “This is a new tournament for us and we’re looking forward to this game and continuing to play the way that we’re playing, and don’t worry about what happened in the past, because this is the present and we are here now.”

Edinson Volquez, the losing pitcher in the teams’ first meeting in 2009, is expected to get the start on Monday.

“He’s a tough pitcher,” Jones said. “We didn’t keep up with how he’s been pitching in this WBC, but we know what kind of pitches he’s got. We know what kind of pitcher he is.

The Dutch will likely counter with Diegomar Markwell. Pena admitted the Dominicans don’t know much about Markwell, which could work in the Dutch hurler’s favor.

“Well, they always say good pitching stops good hitting, especially if you don’t know the guy,” Meulens said. “I think that for major league hitters, which they have over there, it’s always uncertain, what kind of pitch he throws, how the ball moves. So it might take them an at-bat or two to figure him out. Hopefully it will take them more than that.”