Puerto Rico jumped on Team USA starter Marcus Stroman for four runs in the first inning and hung on to beat the United States 6-5 in the second round of the World Baseball Classic. With the win, Puerto Rico clinched a spot in the semifinals and Venezuela was eliminated. Team USA and Team Dominican Republic will face off Saturday evening for the fourth and final spot in the 2017 WBC semifinals in Los Angeles.
The first six hitters in the bottom of the first for Puerto Rico all singled off of Stroman, resulting in four runs. But the US got a break when Eddie Rosario flew out to left field for the first out of the inning. That scored a runner from third, but when Yadier Molina tried to go from second to third on the play, he overslid third base and was tagged out for the second out. A fly to right field by T.J. Rivera ended the threat.
But then Stroman settled down Team USA fought back. An RBI single by Eric Hosmer in the top of the second scored Nolan Arenado, making it 4-1. In the fifth inning, Buster Posey hit a solo home run to make it 4-2.
Adam Jones connected for a solo home run in the sixth to make it 4-3 and it looked like momentum was with Team USA.
But Puerto Rico got an opportunity in the bottom of the sixth and took advantage. Javier Baez got hit by a pitch and stole second base to start the inning by Mychal Givens. Then Givens went 3-0 on Eddie Rosario and USA manager Jim Leyland had seen enough. He summoned Andrew Miller from the bullpen with the 3-0 count. Miller walked Rosario, but then Miller struck out Rivera and Enrique Hernandez, although Baez and Rosario stole second and third.
Then it looked like Miller would get out of the inning when he got Angel Pagan to hit a hopper to Gold Glove third baseman Arenado. The ball took a bad hop, but while Arenado made the catch, he then rushed his throw to first base and threw the ball away. Two runs scored and Puerto Rico had a 6-3 lead.
The score stayed that way until the top of the ninth. Mariners reliever Edwin Diaz came on to close out the game and he walked Arenado to start the inning and then gave up a single to Eric Hosmer. But with the tying run at the plate, Diaz struck out Buster Posey and pinch-hitter Paul Goldschmidt.
But the last hope for Team USA, Brandon Crawford, hit a one-hopper off the left field wall for a double. Or at least it should have been a double as Crawford tried to stretch it for a triple. The throw beat him and the tag was applied in plenty of time, but Crawford was called safe. With no replay in the second round, Crawford was given credit for a two-run triple.
However, that was all Team USA would get as Diaz struck out Josh Harrison to end the game.
Javier Baez was 1 for 3, was hit by a pitch, stole three bases (tying a WBC record) and scored one run. He also made a terrific play on defense, robbing Hosmer of a hit in the sixth inning. For his effort, Baez was named Player of the Game.
Here is that play by Baez:
Team Puerto Rico will now face off against Team Netherlands Monday night in Los Angeles in one semifinal. The winner of Saturday night’s game between the US and Dominican Republic will face Japan in the other semifinal on Tuesday.