Well, there will be a new champion at the World Baseball Classic. Team Puerto Rico has upset the two time defending champion Team Japan at AT & T Park in San Francisco to advance to the final of the WBC on Tuesday night with a 3-1 victory. Puerto Rico will face the winner of tomorrow night’s other semi-final game between the Dominican Republic and The Netherlands.
The quick pace of Puerto Rico’s pitching staff led by starter Mario Santiago kept Japan’s hitters off balance. Japan did not get on the scoreboard until the eighth. They had the go ahead run up at the plate but a baserunning blunder by Seiichi Uchikawa killed the rally.
Puerto Rico needed only three runs. Mike Aviles singled in a run in the 1st and Alex Rios, who had been struggling at the plate in the WBC, crushed a two run homerun in the 7th.
Frankly, not much was expected of the Puerto Rican team and their manager Edwin Rodriguez (formerly at the helm of the Marlins) said as much. The only big leaguers on the squad other than Aviles and Rios are Yadier Molina, Carlos Beltran and Angel Pagan. Four days ago, they came within six outs of being eliminated by Team Italy until they staged a late rally. Two days later they eliminated Team USA gaining a measure of revenge. Team USA had eliminated Puerto Rico in the 2009 WBC.
Give Team Japan credit though. They saluted both the fans and Team Puerto Rico before leaving the field. They might not have won the championship but they behaved like champions. A class act.
I would love to see a WBC Final between Puerto Rico and The Netherlands. Although the Dutch eliminated the Dominican team in the 2009 WBC, the D.R. is thus far undefeated in the 2013 WBC and has to be the favorite despite stellar play from The Netherlands. The WBC Final on Tuesday will be fantastic regardless of who wins tomorrow.