WBC: Puerto Rico eliminates Japan
The two times winners lose 1-3 on a bad night by their offense that went into the eighth with just two hits
Riccardo Schiroli in San Francisco
San Francisco. Puerto Rico won (3-1) the first semi final of the 2013 World Baseball Classic against Japan. After eliminating Venezuela in the first and Team USA in the second round, Puerto Rico knocks off the two-time defending Champion and will compete for the World Champion title on Tuesday.
Puerto Rico took an early lead as Japan's star starter Maeda walked himself into trouble in the first inning. With runners at first and second, shortstop Mike Aviles got a base hit that scored second baseman Irving Falu from second.
Maeda wouldn't give up much more to Puerto Rico.
"In the beginning" said Japan's manager Koji Yamamoto "Maeda was affected by the wind. But I think he pitched a great game".
Japan's problem was not going to be their pitching for most of the game. Their offense struggled against Puerto Rico starter Mario Santiago, who gave up only two hits before leaving with a sore arm in the fifth.
Alex Rios continued the scoring in the seventh, when he jumped on a slider by Japanese reliever Nohmi with Aviles on board and sent it into the left field bleachers for a two-run homer.
Japan had a real chance in the eigth against reliever Fontanez. Toritani tripled to center field and scored on a base hit by Ibata. Also Uchikawa singled and forced Puerto Rico manager Rodriguez to give the call to Romero in the bullpen.
Japan made things easy for the reliever: Ibata took off for third and then went back to the second base bag, where Uchikawa had already got. For Puerto Rico it became easy to get the second out.
"I do not regret the attempt" said Yamamoto "Moving runners for Abe was the right thing. Unfortunately, Ibata was a little late and it failed".
Mario Santiago credited Yadier Molina for his performance: "You know, when you work with the best catcher in baseball, you stick to his plan".
Manager Edwin Rodriguez credited Santiago: "He was very effective with his secondary pitches. This made a difference. But also Japan's pitchers threw a great game, except for one pitch. Rios is a Big League hitter, he would not pass on a mistake".
Rodriguez, in Puerto Rico there are big celebrations going on: "I can imagine that. We are playing for the people in Puerto Rico. We really do. We have been very proud of representing our country since the very first day".
After defeating Venezuela, Team USA and Japan, what's next? "We are going to play in the final. You know, this is a short series and anything can really happen".
The Kingdom of the Netherlands and The Dominican Republic will compete in the second semi-final on Monday March 18 at 9 pm US Eastern Time.
(From IBAF Website)