SAN FRANCISCO – The party started long before the game for a group of Dominican Republic supporters who set up shop near the press box waving flags, singing, dancing, banging drums and blowing whistles.
Midway through the second semifinal of the 2013 World Baseball Classic, the players in the Dominican dugout got to join in on the fun.
Seldom-used Moises Sierra made a highlight-worthy catch in the first inning and helped spark a four-run frame with an RBI double in the fifth to help the Dominicans earn their first trip to the WBC final with a 4-1 win over the Netherlands on Monday night at AT&T Park.
“Moises Sierra didn’t play much,” Dominican Republic manager Tony Pena said. “It’s not because he can’t play, he’s very talented and he’s been in the major leagues. Today he showed the kind of ballplayer that he is and all of his amazing talent.”
The Dominican Republic will face Puerto Rico, which defeated two-time defending champion Japan in their semifinal, for the WBC title on Tuesday.
Samuel Deduno is expected to take the mound against Puerto Rico’s Giancarlo Alvarado, formerly of the Hiroshima Carp and Yokohama BayStars.
“Well it’s a major challenge,” Deduno said. “I like challenges.”
Monday’s win should give the Dominicans and their fans a measure of revenge after being upset by the Dutch twice during the 2009 WBC.”
They kind of took it for granted in 2009, but they came to play this year, and that’s why they’re undefeated and that’s why they’re going to the finals tomorrow,” Netherlands manager Hensley Meulens said.
The Dutch took an early lead through an RBI groundout by Tokyo Yakult Swallows slugger Wladimir Balentien in the first inning.
Carlos Santana got the Dominican Republic going in the fifth with a one-out double and scored when Sierra lined a ball a few feet fair down the left-field line.
Back-to-back two out singles from Jose Reyes, who drove in a run, and Miguel Tejada chased Netherlands starter Diegomar Markwell, who left runners on the corners.
Reliever Tom Stuifbergen bounced his first pitch to Robinson Cano, and Reyes came home on the wild pitch. Edwin Encarnacion applied more pressure with an RBI single that made the score 4-1.
Sierra finished 1-for-3 and ended the first inning by out-dueling a fan along the left-field line to catch a popup by Andruw Jones, before falling into the seats. Reyes was 2-for-4 with an RBI and Miguel Tejada finished with a pair of hits.
“This has been one of my greatest experiences,” Sierra said. “To be able to represent my country has been the best thing that’s happened to me. Thank God I was able to do it well, and I performed well.”
Starter Edinson Volquez threw five innings of one-run ball to earn the win, and three relievers combined to shut out the Dutch the rest of the way. Fernando Rodney worked the ninth to earn the save.
The clock finally struck midnight on the Cinderella story for the Netherlands one game short of the final. The Dutch upset South Korea in the first round and added a pair wins over Cuba in the second to reach the semifinals.
Markwell lasted 4⅔ innings and was charged with the loss after allowing four runs on six hits. Markwell had helped secure two of the biggest wins in his nation’s history during this WBC, but ran out of magic against the Dominican Republic.
“He beat Korea, he beat Cuba, and he was up until the fifth inning today 1-0,” Meulens said. “But we should have scored more for him. It was tough to pitch in a one-run game in this environment against a great lineup. But he did great. And If I had to throw him again out there, I would.”
The Dutch were limited to just four hits in the loss.
For the Meulens family, the outcome was bittersweet.
The Netherlands manager hails from Curacao, but his mother is a native of the Dominican Republic. Meulens joked before the game that he was the only one in the stadium with a connection to both teams as well as the venue, where he serves as the hitting coach for the San Francisco Giants.
On this night, however, he bled Oranje.
“I managed the Dutch team,” Meulens said. “I’m from Curacao. My mom’s Dominican. I really appreciate the Dominican Republican people, but of course, I feel pain today after having lost this match and to not have been able to perform at the level that I need for the Dutch people.
“Of course, my mom, her family is from the Dominican Republic, but the pain is from the Netherlands side.”