This ain't your father's Team Israel. But then, your father didn't have a Team Israel.
It's a team that is seeming more and more like a team of destiny, one that has certainly exceeded the expectations of all but the most devoted (and perhaps, most biased) fans.
Having swept through 1st round competition in Korea, defeating much higher ranked teams Korea, Netherlands and Chinese Taipei, they started the 2nd round in Tokyo by soundly beating baseball juggernaut Cuba 4-1 last night in front of 43,153 screaming fans. Jason Marquis continued his strong performance for Israel (as well as his effort to return to MLB), giving up only one run on four hits in 5 2/3 innings, striking out four.
For those of you who don't have MLB.TV (or haven't seen the recaps), highlights are linked here, courtesy of the WBC site.
He gave up Cuba's lone run on Alfredo Despaigne's monster shot to the second deck in left field in the top of the 2nd inning.
It would not be nearly enough for the perennial powerhouse, as Israel would come back to tie it in the bottom of the fourth on Ryan Lavarnway's RBI double, scoring Ike Davis.
Zach Borenstein drove in Ty Kelly on a single in an eventful bottom of the sixth inning, then advanced to third when Nate Freiman scored on Blake Gailen's RBI double.
That ended the scoring for both teams until the bottom of the eighth, when Gailen came through again on a surprising squeeze bunt, scoring Borenstein again. Cuba was caught flat-footed on the play. Even if he had wanted to try for Borenstein at home, second baseman Yordan Manduley was screened by base-runner Lavarnway and couldn't charge the ball, and had to give up the run for the out at first.
In the end, it wouldn't matter. After Brad Goldberg got the first two outs in the top of the eighth, Josh Zeid came on to close it out. After walking Despaigne to load the bases, he induced a grounder to Kelly which forced Frederich Cepeda at third. After a scoreless top of the ninth, Zeid struck out Yurisbel Gracial and Yordan Manduley before getting the ground-out from Yosvani Alarcon, ending the game in yet another improbable win for a team making its first appearance on the world stage.