The Netherlands and Puerto Rico will square off later tonight with a ticket to the World Baseball Classic title game on the line in Los Angeles. Unlike the previous two rounds, this game is single elimination... win and you advance, lose and you go home. Both semifinal games and the WBC title game will be held at Dodger Stadium.
The Dutch made it through to the semifinals with a 2-1 record in a tough Pool E that consisted of Japan, who won the pool, Israel and Cuba. Puerto Rico steamrolled through the first two rounds with an undefeated 6-0 record with wins over Mexico, Italy, Venezuela (twice), United States and the Dominican Republic.
On the hill for the Kingdom of the Netherlands will be former major-league right-hander Rick van den Hurk, who has not appeared in a big league game since the 2012 season with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
In Japan for the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks in 2016, he went 7-3 with a 3.84 ERA, while recording a 92/15 K/BB ratio, in 82 innings pitched across 13 starts. The 31-year-old Dutchmen has accomplished a below-average 6.43 ERA in seven innings over two starts at this edition of the WBC, while picking up a win.
Opposing van den Hurk for Puerto Rico is right-hander Jorge Lopez, who is in the Milwaukee Brewers' organization. Lopez has way less big league experience than his opposition on the mound, as he has only pitched in two major-league games, going 1-1 with a 5.40 ERA, along with a 10/5 K/BB ratio, in 10 innings pitched over two starts.
He had a very rough 2016 minor league campaign, sporting a 3-11 record, along with a 5.71 ERA, in 124 and 2/3 innings pitched across 25 appearances (24 starts) at the Double-A and Triple-A levels. In one start at the 2017 WBC, he is 1-0 with a 2.08 ERA, as he made one start that lasted 4 and 1/3 innings.
Japanese baseball superstar and former big league outfielder Wladimir Balentien has led the Netherlands in hitting through six games with a .591/.654/1.000 slash line, along with three home runs and 10 runs batted in. Texas Rangers' utility man Jurickson Profar, who has played center field for the Netherlands, has also hit over .500 for the WBC, slashing .522/.577/.870 with one home run and four runs batted in.
One of the team's better hitters, Didi Gregorius, who had five of his eight hits go for extra-base hits (four doubles, one home run), is out for the rest of the tournament after suffering a right shoulder injury in their latest exhibition game against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Puerto Rico's mix of veteran talent with young talent has really benefited them on the offensive side. Carlos Beltran has again figured out a way to dominate a meaningful tournament (WBC, MLB playoffs), posting a .471/.550/.529 slash line with five runs batted in. The left side of the Puerto Rican infield has combined for a .382 batting average, as Francisco Lindor has hit .389/.455/.722 with two home runs and four runs batted in, while Carlos Correa has slashed .375/.556/.813 with two home runs and seven runs batted in.
The Netherlands and Puerto Rico will face off against one another at 9:00 PM ET in order to earn a trip to the WBC title game on Wednesday against the winner of the Japan-USA game, which will be played on Tuesday.