Dutch hang tough in loss to Braves

Netherlands hangs tough in exhibition loss to Braves

ORLANDO, Fla. -- The jitters showed up early, but Team Netherlands settled down Sunday against the Atlanta Braves and wound up giving themselves a dose of confidence that they will be able to use in the World Baseball Classic.

A couple of Netherlands errors on potential double-play balls in the first inning and a two-run homer by David Kelton in the third proved the difference as the Braves' split-squad unit came away with a 4-0 exhibition victory at Disney's Wide World of Sports complex. After the shaky first, the Netherlands matched Atlanta pitch-for-pitch in a brisk-moving game that took only two hours, four minutes.

If the Netherlands gets the same kind of pitching against Puerto Rico on Wednesday that it showcased against the Braves, manager Robert Eenhoorn will be happy.

"Our pitchers did a good job today," Eenhoorn said. "If we make those double plays, we're looking at a 2-0 game. And we had one chance ourselves to do something with the bases loaded. We made some plays in the field as the game went on that helped our pitchers hold them down. Overall, even though we didn't score, there were a lot of things that were encouraging."

Veteran starter Calvin Maduro got high marks from Eenhoorn for not letting the game get out of hand in the first. After Michael Ryan's leadoff single, Edgar Renteria smacked a double-play ball to the right of shortstop Railey Legito, who misplayed it. Instead of two outs and nobody on, it was two on with nobody out.

Brian Jordan singled to load the bases before Brian McCann hit another double-play ball that handcuffed second baseman Michael Duursma. Two runs scored on the play and a subsequent walk to James Jurries loaded the bases again. But just when it looked as though the Netherlands was going to be buried early, Maduro retired Kelton, Eddie Perez and Cesar Crespo to minimize the damage.

The only other scoring came when Netherlands lefty Diegomar Markwell and Kelton -- a couple of former Minor League competitors -- crossed paths in the third.

Markwell said he left a pitch up that Kelton deposited beyond the 385-foot sign in left field with a man on.

"I played against him in 2002 in the Minors and I know he has good power," Markwell said. "I tried to go in on him, but the ball caught a little too much of the plate."

The Netherlands didn't manage a hit off Braves starter John Smoltz, although third baseman Ivanon Coffie narrowly missed a homer off Smoltz down the right-field line. Coffie's drive went foul by a few feet.

It looked as though the Netherlands might break through in the fifth when Coffie and Dirk van Klooster delivered one-out singles and Chairon Isenia walked to load the bases against non-roster invite Kevin Barry. But Legito and pinch-hitter Hainley Statia fanned to end the Netherlands' only threat.

"We swung at a couple of high pitches after getting the bases loaded with one out," Eenhoorn said.

Although the Netherlands managed only two hits, team members believe it will be a different story offensively in Puerto Rico. Andruw Jones and Randall Simon, expected to be offensive headliners, were a combined 0-for-4.

"This was our first game with everybody being together," Coffie said. "It was good to get a game like this under our belts. We've got hitters who could get hot in a hurry. Hopefully, that will happen for us as we get into the Classic."

Robert Falkoff is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.