PEORIA, Arizona (AP) — The Netherlands national team has done a lot of travelling for the World Baseball Classic.
The journey started with a training camp in Arizona. Then, the Dutch team opened the WBC in Taichung, Taiwan and flew to Tokyo for the second round, before coming back to Arizona for two exhibitions this week. They head next to San Francisco for the WBC semifinals.
In the team's first exhibition against Major League Baseball teams, Andruw Jones hit a home run to lead the Netherlands past the San Diego Padres 9-3 Thursday. The Dutch will play against the Seattle Mariners on Friday.
Few, if any, expected the Netherlands to rack up this many frequent-flyer miles. A first-round exit was realistic, and a second-round exit seemed certain in a pool with Japan, Taiwan and Cuba.
The Dutch kept on advancing, though, and these underdogs are now two wins from a WBC championship. They play the winner of Pool 2 (either the United States, Dominican Republic or Puerto Rico) in the semifinals on Monday.
"We're not just happy to be here. We believe we can win this tournament," Netherlands manager and former major leaguer Hensley Meulens said. "We consistently have good at bats, we have excellent range in the field and we're aggressive on the base paths. If we can throw strikes, we can compete with anybody."
The Dutch showed a combination of defensive speed and gap power against the Padres, who fell behind early and never recovered.
Jones, a former Major League outfielder who will play professionally in Japan after the WBC, is the only big name on the roster. He went 2 for 2 with two runs scored and two RBIs.
After his homer in the second inning, he walked in the fourth and singled in the sixth.
"Andruw is our leader. The entire team takes their cue from him," Meulens said. "He hasn't been swinging for the fences. He's been focused on quality at bats and making solid contact, and the others are followed suit that's what makes us tough to play."
Padres starter Eric Stults allowed two runs and four hits and a walk over four innings. Stults has allowed two runs or more in four spring starts.
Shortstop Everth Cabrera was 2 for 3 and scored once as part of a San Diego lineup featuring several minor leaguers. Padres outfielder Jaff Decker had a home run and a double with two RBIs
NOTES: Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Kenley Jansen was added to the Netherlands' roster for the rest of the WBC. Jurickson Profar was also added to the roster, replacing Yurendell de Caster (plantar fasciitis).