A matchup of top dog versus rising world baseball power is on tap, as the Netherlands takes on host Japan to open the teams' second-round slate at the Tokyo Dome on Sunday at 7 a.m. ET (8 p.m. local) on MLB.TV and MLB Network.Two-time Classic champion Japan breezed to a
A matchup of top dog versus rising world baseball power is on tap, as the Netherlands takes on host Japan to open the teams' second-round slate at the Tokyo Dome on Sunday at 7 a.m. ET (8 p.m. local) on MLB.TV and MLB Network.
Two-time Classic champion Japan breezed to a 3-0 run through Pool B in front of an electric home crowd in Tokyo. The eastern power outscored its three opponents -- Cuba, Australia and China -- by a combined score of 22-8 and slugged six home runs in its first three contests.
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"To be honest with you, I didn't expect [us] to hit so [many] home runs," Japan manager Hiroki Kokubu said. "That was more than I expected."
Japan will need to keep up its power production against a Netherlands team that is hungry to take the next step after a fourth-place showing in 2013. The Dutch are coming off a loss to upstart Israel in their Pool A finale, but their talented infield has been as good as advertised on both offense and defense
"We played a good round," Netherlands manager Hensley Meulens said. "We won the first two games. We're heading to Tokyo and we're going to have to play well to get to the finals."
3 things to know about this game
• These two countries staged their only two Classic encounters in the second round of the 2013 tournament. Japan enjoyed the upper hand, defeating the Netherlands twice -- by scores of 16-4 and 10-6 -- in a span of three days at the Tokyo Dome, where Sunday's matchup will also be held.
• The Netherlands' celebrated quintet of infielders -- Xander Bogaerts, Didi Gregorius, Jurickson Profar, Jonathan Schoop and Andrelton Simmons -- combined to hit .310 (18-for-58) and tallied eight of the team's nine extra-base hits in the opening round.
• Dutch pitchers will need to navigate around Yoshitomo Tsutsugoh -- Japan's cleanup hitter and the Most Valuable Player of Pool B -- if they want to win this matchup. Tsutsugoh batted .364 in Pool B and homered in Japan's first two games of the tournament. The lefty slugger also paced the Nippon Pro Baseball League in 2016 with 44 homers in 133 games for the Yokohama BayStars.
The World Baseball Classic runs through March 22. In the U.S., games air live exclusively in English on MLB Network and on an authenticated basis via MLBNetwork.com/watch, while ESPN Deportes and WatchESPN provide the exclusive Spanish-language coverage. MLB.TV Premium subscribers in the U.S. have access to watch every tournament game live on any of the streaming service's 400-plus supported devices. The tournament is being distributed internationally across all forms of television, internet, mobile and radio in territories excluding the U.S., Puerto Rico and Japan. Get tickets for games at Marlins Park, Tokyo Dome, Estadio Charros de Jalisco in Mexico, Petco Park, as well as the Championship Round at Dodger Stadium, while complete coverage -- including schedules, video, stats and gear -- is available at WorldBaseballClassic.com.
Matt Kelly is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @mattkellyMLB.