An late rally was not enough to overcome a huge error for Team USA as Puerto Rico advances to semifinals of the 2017 World Baseball Classic. Puerto Rico is looking to do one better than its runner-up finish in the 2013 WBC, and now they have their chance.
Team USA and Marcus Stroman came out as flat as you could in the bottom of the 1st inning. At the same time, Puerto Rico came out rolling. Six straight singles to start the game led to a 4-0 lead after an inning. Angel Pagan, Francisco Lindor, Carlos Correa, Carlos Beltran, Yadier Molina, and Javier Baez all singled to start the game. Eddie Rosario drove in the 4th run of the game with a sacrifice fly that turned into a double play. Molina over slide the bag at 3rd base and Nolan Arenado held the tag completing the double play which was huge in getting the USA out of the jam.
In the top of the 2nd the USA came right back. Arenado led off the inning with a double and was driven home almost immediately on a RBI single by Eric Hosmer. After a walk, Seth Lugo would pitch his way out of the inning with a double play ground ball helping his cause.
Stroman really settled down after the first inning. He didn’t give up another hit until Puerto Rico came through with 2 infield singles in the bottom of the 5th which prompted Jim Leyland to pull Stroman after 4.2 innings of work. Mychal Givens came into relieve Stroman and got out of the inning getting Molina to fly out.
It got a bit more exciting in the 6th inning. Andrew Miller was called on to relieve Givens with no outs and 2 runners on. And Miller finally looked like Miller getting the first 2 hitters to strike out. Then with runners at 2nd and 3rd after a double steal, Miller got Angel Pagan to ground to 3rd base. Arenado made a great stop on a bad hop, but then threw the ball away allowing 2 runs to score for Puerto Rico.
The USA rallied in the top of the 9th. Arenado led off with a walk and was followed by an Eric Hosmer single. That brought up Buster Posey, who already homered, as the tying run. Edwin Diaz would get Posey swinging on a 3-2 count, but he wasn’t out of the inning. Both runners advanced on a wild pitch with Paul Goldschmidt at the plate. Diaz then sent Goldschmidt down swinging, and Brandon Crawford represented Team USA’s last hope. Crawford came up huge with a 2-run triple just beating the throw at 3rd.
Replay showed Crawford was out at third, but with no replay it was up to Josh Harrison to try and tie it up for Team USA. But Diaz got Harrison swinging to end the inning and put Puerto Rico in the semifinals.
With the win Puerto Rico earns a trip to Los Angeles. Team USA will have to defeat defending champion Dominican Republic on Saturday for a trip to L.A.
Eric Bynum is Managing Editor here at BaseballdeWorld. He spent three years as an ESL teacher in South Korea, and is now working on his master's degree in history with a focus on baseball and WWII. He has played and/or written about baseball for the past 30 years and is an avid Atlanta Braves fan.