Xander Watch was in full effect early this morning as the Netherlands faced off with Cuba in an elimination game. This was the first game of the tournament in which Xander Bogaerts didn’t get the starting nod. When I learned of this fact, at 6 am in the morning, I nearly fell immediately back to sleep. However I decided to stay up and watch the game anyway; what a good decision that ended up being.
In a back and forth affair that could be argued as the best WBC game so far this year, the two combatants were tied heading into the seventh inning. That’s when Bogaerts was taken off the bench and put into the game. In the bottom of the seventh, he batted with 2 men on and 2 men out. It was an almost impossible situation for someone to enter the game cold and give their team a lift, which was made even more impossible by the nasty sliders he kept receiving.
A Xander strikeout ended the inning. He would return to the dish once more in the bottom of the ninth, again with 2 men on base but this time with 1 out. With the fast turf in Tokyo, it would have been hard for Bogaerts to drive in the slow, 75 year old, Andruw Jones on second with a single. He would have to move him over to third without recording an out, to leave the sacrifice fly in play. After going down 0-2 in the count, he battled his way back and ended up looping a single into right field that did just that. The very next batter hit a game winning, walk-off, sacrifice fly.
This was by far Xander’s biggest hit of the tournament. It’s good to see he can come off the bench and make such a large impact, which is most likely going to be the role he’s assigned when he finally makes his way to Fenway. He even got some love from a fellow top prospect. Things are looking bright for the future of the Sox.