World Baseball Classic, Round two, Pool two: USA – Puerto Rico 6-5
PUE 010 201 001 5 5 1 USA 021 000 003 6 10 0
The excitement level for the World Baseball Classic in the United States might was not that high so far, compared to other participating countries. But this will change now. David Wright capped a three-run rally in the bottom of the ninth with a two-run walk-off single to right field, sending the USA into the semi-finals and the Puerto Rican team home. They turned a 3-5 deficit into a 6-5 win in one of the most thrilling game endings in WBC history.
After Puerto Rico crushed the Americans last Saturday 11-1, this one was much closer and way more dramatic. Alexis Rios homered in the top of the second to put Puerto Rico 1-0 in front. But Team USA countered with three runs in the next two frames, highlighted by Kevin Youkilis’ solo shot to left field. It was a short-lived lead, as Carlos Delgado tied the game with a two-run homerun in the fourth. Rios regained the lead for Puerto Rico with a RBI single in the sixth. They added an insurance run in the ninth on a RBI single by Ramon Vazquez, setting up the drama in the bottom of the frame.
Shane Victorino and Brian Roberts led off the ninth with singles, Derek Jeter flied out, before Jimmy Rollins walked to load the bases with one out. Fernando Cabrera (BS 1) came in to replace J.C. Romero (L 0-1), but wasn’t much better, as he walked Youkilis on five pitches to force in Victorino for the fourth American run. Wright stepped to the plate, looked at the first three pitches for a 2-1 count and sliced the fourth into right field, sending home Roberts and Rollins to decide the game in walk-off style. Team USA celebrated like winning a World Series, putting the World Baseball Classic back into the headlines of American newspapers.
Ted Lilly (USA) started and allowed two hits, three runs and three base on balls in 3 1/3 innings. Jonathan Sanchez (PUE) began for Puerto Rico, giving up five hits, three runs and two walks in 2 2/3 innings. Jonathan Broxton (W 1-0) picked up the win. Both pitching staffs got help from their defense throughout the game. Mark DeRosa and Brian Roberts made diving stops, Carlos Beltran saved a homerun against Brian McCann with a grab over the center field wall. The squad of manager Davey Johnson will play Venezuela in the seeding game of Pool two today, before traveling to Los Angeles for the final round.