SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – Missing an injured Alex Rodriguez and several other stars, the Dominican Republic flopped at the plate Saturday and was upset by the Netherlands 3-2 in their World Baseball Classic opener.

It was a startling loss for the heavily favored Dominicans, considered contenders to win the 16-team tournament. Now, they are one defeat from elimination in Group D pool play.

The Dominican Republic had a chance to tie it in the ninth inning after Willy Taveras drew a leadoff walk and moved to second on Robinson Cano’s hit-and-run groundout. But the speedy Taveras was thrown out trying to steal third with slugger Hanley Ramirez at the plate.

Ramirez then walked and was trying to steal second when Leon Boyd threw a called third strike past Jose Bautista for the final out. Netherlands players rushed out of the dugout to celebrate, hugging and clapping after completing the upset with only three hits – all infield singles.

Major league veteran Sidney Ponson pitched four solid innings for the Netherlands, allowing two runs and five hits.

Miguel Tejada homered and Ramirez had a sacrifice fly for the Dominican Republic, which reached the semifinals of the inaugural WBC three years ago before losing to Cuba.

Next, the Dominican Republic will play the loser of Saturday’s game between Puerto Rico and Panama.

Ramirez, Tejada and Cano are among the big league stars on a Dominican roster that also includes David Ortiz, Jose Reyes and Pedro Martinez. Still, the Dominican Republic went 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position and stranded 11 overall.

Rodriguez, who played for the United States in 2006, was slated to anchor the Dominican Republic lineup before he was sidelined by a hip injury earlier in the week.

He and the New York Yankees are trying to determine the best course of treatment for the injury, which could require surgery and a four-month rehabilitation period.

With few well-known players, the Netherlands scored all its runs in the first inning against Cincinnati Reds All-Star Edinson Volquez, taking advantage of two key mistakes by the Dominican Republic.

Gene Kingsale opened the game with a single and Sharlon Schoop followed with a bunt that left runners on first and second after an error by catcher Miguel Olivo.

With two outs, Yurendell DeCaster walked to load the bases. Kingsale scored on Volquez’s wild pitch, and two more runs came home on an error by Ramirez at shortstop.

Volquez allowed two hits with three strikeouts and two walks in three innings.

AP-ES-03-07-09 1620EST

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.