SAN FRANCISCO—In the 2013 World Baseball Classic, Puerto Rico took out one baseball giant after another.
It beat Venezuela in the first round, the United States in the second and Japan in Sunday’s semifinal at AT&T Park in San Francisco.
But Puerto Rico got three shots at “The Republic of Baseball,” as manager Tony Pena likes to call his homeland, the Dominican Republic. And it came up empty all three times.
It came up empty all night Tuesday against Dominican starter Sam Deduno and four relievers—Octavio Dotel, Pedro Strop, Santiago Casilla and finally Fernando Rodney—who combined to throw a three-hit shutout. Deduno tossed five scoreless, every reliever pitched a scoreless frame and Rodney got his seventh save in eight games as the Dominican Republic beat Puerto Rico 3-0 and won the World Baseball Classic.
“Samuel Deduno did a great job, not only tonight but throughout the WBC,” Pena said. “He pitched three times for us, and all were successful games . . . He could have thrown 95 pitches easy tonight, but we have the horses (in our bullpen). As I said from the start, our bullpen is the root of our team. We only need five innings from our starters. After that, I turn it over to them.”
It worked eight times in a row as the DR became the first nation other than Japan to win the WBC and redeemed itself from an embarrassing first-round exit in 2009. Moreover, the Dominicans became the first undefeated WBC champ, winning all eight of their games, including three matchups with Puerto Rico.
Tuesday night, on a rainy night with 35,703 on hand at AT&T, the Dominicans seized control early and survived as Puerto Rico couldn’t plate a run despite getting the leadoff man on in five of the last six innings.
Jose Reyes doubled to lead off the bottom of the first and moved to third on Erick Aybar’s sacrifice. After Puerto Rican starter Giancarlo Alvarado intentionally walked Robinson Cano, Edwin Encarnacion smoked a double to right-center field. Reyes and Cano scored, with Aybar leading the cheering Dominican dugout contingent, spilling out onto the field to wave both home.
“When I did that, the first thing that come through my mind when I hit that double is that was going to pull not just my team, but the whole Dominican Republic in front of me, because we have a very good opportunity to score a run, and we did it,” Reyes said through a translator. “We scored two runs right then in the first inning. That was huge.
“I can’t describe this feeling right now because like I said before, right now in the Dominican Republic, they were waiting for this moment so bad, and we did it for the whole Dominican Republic.”
Deduno also showed plenty of emotion, particularly when he ended the fifth by striking out Angel Pagan to end a two-on, two-out threat. Pagan didn’t take kindly to the outsized reaction, but passion and pride played huge roles in the Dominicans’ WBC unbeaten streak.
“The DR has huge talent,” Puerto Rico manager Edwin Rodriguez said via a translator. “Other teams also had great talent and stars from the major leagues. But the DR has a passion, desire, the drive to really show this kind of amazing performance, and they did accomplish it.”
Alvarado got out of the inning without further damage, and reliever Hiram Burgos held the DR to one run over 4 ? innings to keep Puerto Rico in the game. But Puerto Rico stranded eight runners and only got one runner to third base. That came in the third when Jesus Feliciano singled, moved to second on a wild pitch and moved to third on Angel Pagan’s groundout. Irving Falu grounded out to pitcher Deduno to end that threat.
Deduno, hoping to earn a spot in the Twins’ big league rotation, went five scoreless for the victory, giving up two of Puerto Rico’s three hits. He walked three but also struck out five. The four Dominican relievers got five more strikeouts and extended the bullpen’s streak of scoreless innings in WBC play to 25 2/3 innings.
Pena hinted that he had hoped to avoid using Rodney, saying he hoped to get two innings out of Dotel and save Strop to close things out in the ninth. Because the Dominicans didn’t lose in the first two rounds, they had not played back-to-back games until this championship game, coming on the heels of Monday night’s 4-1 win against the Netherlands.
But Dotel ran into trouble in the seventh, giving up a leadoff single to Mike Aviles and walking Alex Rios. Pena summoned Strop early, and Strop responded by striking out 35-year-old Mexican League veteran Carlos Rivera and 40-year-old pinch-hitter Pedro Valdes. He retired Jesus Feliciano on a foul pop to third baseman Miguel Tejada to end the threat.
The Dominican had scored an insurance run in the fifth. Alejandro De Aza got a bunt single in the fifth with one out and used some savvy baserunning to foil a potential double-play grounder off the bat of Reyes. Irving Falu fielded the grounder and went to tag De Aza, but the White Sox outfielder held up, forcing Falu to throw to first to get the fleet Reyes and get at least one out. Erick Aybar then doubled De Aza home for the final 3-0 cushion.
Cano was named MVP despite an 0-for-3 showing in the finale that included a walk and run scored. He went 15-for-32 with two homers and six RBIs and a .469/.514/.781 slash line, and the Yankees second baseman and potential free agent at the end of the season was emotional in the postgame celebration.
“As Tony said, you always remember the first time for everything: your first hit, playoffs, everything,” Cano said. “This is always going to be in our hearts for the rest of our lives. Everyone of us who played in this game will always remember the World Classic. This is such a thrill.
“We were always optimistic. We knew we had a winning team, and we were able to prevail for the DR, for our country, (in front of) the whole world.”
|The Dominican Republic went a perfect 8-0 to win the World Baseball Classic. Fernando Rodney picked up the final out of all eight games, a WBC record that will likely never be broken|
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