SAN DIEGO – Puerto Rico advanced to the four-team championship round of the 2017 World Baseball Classic thanks to a 6-5 victory over the United States in round-robin action in Pool F.
Puerto Rico, which is a perfect 5-0 in the tournament after holding off a late US rally, eliminated Venezuela from this year’s competition with the win.
Puerto Rico raced out to a 4-0 lead in Friday’s game at Petco Park in San Diego thanks to a series of run-scoring singles by Carlos Correa, Carlos Beltran and Yadier Molina.
But US starter Marcus Stroman settled down after the rocky bottom of the first inning to hold the islanders scoreless until the middle of the contest, while the American batters started chipping away at the lead.
Hosmer drove in the first run for the US with a single in the top of the second inning before home runs by Buster Posey and Adam Jones in the fifth and sixth innings cut the lead to 4-3.
The Puerto Ricans, however, got two runs in the bottom of the sixth on a throwing error by American third baseman Nolan Arenado and then held that 6-3 lead into the ninth.
Edwin Diaz was handed the ball with the task of recording the final three outs; he managed to do that by striking out the side in the top of the ninth but not before the Americans gave their opponents a huge scare.
Arenado and Hosmer got the rally started with a walk and a single before Diaz struck out Posey and Paul Goldschmidt.
Brandon Crawford then connected on a triple to left field that got past his San Francisco Giant teammate Angel Pagan, drove home both Arenado and Hosmer and brought the crowd to its feet.
Diaz, however, was able to calm his nerves and strike out Josh Harrison to end the game.
Puerto Rican starter Seth Lugo got the win and Stroman took the loss.
Despite the defeat, the US team is still alive in the World Baseball Classic and will face the Dominican Republic on Saturday night for a spot in the four-team championship round.
Puerto Rico will take on Venezuela earlier Saturday in a meaningless game.
Already in the semifinals along with Puerto Rico are Japan and the Netherlands, which advanced out of Pool E.
Puerto Rico will take on the Netherlands on Monday, while Japan will square off against either the Dominican Republic or the US on Tuesday.