U.S. avenges loss to Puerto Rico: WBC roundup
Americans pull out 6-5 win with 3 runs in final at-bat to advance to semifinals
Hobbled and humbled in the World Baseball Classic, Team USA is still swinging.
David Wright sliced a two-run single that capped a three-run rally in the bottom of the ninth inning Tuesday night, and the injury-plagued Americans qualified for this weekend's semifinals with a 6-5 win over Puerto Rico.
Wright's hit with one out eliminated Puerto Rico from the tournament.
"That situation is what you dream about when you're a kid," he said from Miami.
The United States advances to the next round at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.
It was an especially sweet victory after Saturday's embarrassment against Puerto Rico that triggered the mercy rule when the Americans fell 10 runs behind, ending the game in the seventh inning.
"Getting a crack at a team that embarrassed us a few days earlier, to have the resiliency to bounce back in the ninth and steal one from them was pretty big," Wright said.
This time the teams played a full nine, and the U.S. saved its best for last in the three-hour, 54-minute marathon.
Trailing 5-3, Team USA began its rally when Shane Victorino and Brian Roberts singled to the start the ninth against J.C. Romero (1-1). Derek Jeter flied out, Roberts stole second and Jimmy Rollins walked on a 3-2 pitch.
Fernando Cabrera came on to pitch, and he walked Kevin Youkilis to force in a run.
Wright then lined a 2-1 pitch just inside the right-field line, raising his fist when the ball dropped in. The New York Mets star called the hit the biggest of his career.
"You're talking about representing the United States of America," he said. "You've got that across the front of your chest. To be able to get that hit, that's got to be right up there at the top of the list."
Wright was mobbed by teammates after two runs scored.
The rally came after the Americans stranded seven runners in scoring position in the first eight innings.
The WBC has some marketing to do, as Tuesday's modest crowd of 13,224 showed.
Team USA will play Venezuela in Miami on Wednesday night in the final game of Round 2, which will determine seedings for the semifinals.
The Americans will advance despite a recent wave of injuries that has sidelined infielders Dustin Pedroia and Chipper Jones and reliever Matt Lindstrom for the rest of the tournament.
Left-fielder Ryan Braun was also unavailable Tuesday with a sore right side, but he hopes to return this weekend.
Alex Rios homered and then singled home the go-ahead run in the sixth for the Puerto Ricans. They totalled only five hits, but three walks led to runs, and U.S. starter Ted Lilly gave up three runs on two homers.
Carlos Delgado hit a two-run homer for Puerto Rico.
Jonathan Broxton (1-0) earned the win despite allowing a run in the ninth, his lone inning.
South Korea 4, Japan 1
Olympic champion South Korea is in contention for another big international championship.
South Korea qualified for the semifinals of the World Baseball Classic by beating defending Classic champion Japan and its slumping star, Ichiro Suzuki, 4-1 on Tuesday night in San Diego.
Japan held the South Koreans to only four singles but also issued seven walks, including four in the eighth inning.
Backed by a boisterous cheering section at Petco Park and led by left-hander Bong Jung-keun, the South Koreans joined Venezuela and the United States in the semifinals at Dodger Stadium on Saturday.
The final semifinal spot will go to the winner of Wednesday night's game between Japan and Cuba. Japan beat Cuba 6-0 on Sunday behind Daisuke Matsuzaka's six brilliant innings, as well as in the championship game of the inaugural Classic in 2006 at Petco Park.
South Korea jumped on Yu Darvish (1-1) to take a 3-0 lead in the first inning, with the first three batters reaching base and scoring. The first run scored on an error by shortstop Yasuyuki Kataoka before Lee Jin-young singled in two runs.
Bong (2-0) held Japan hitless until the fourth inning and allowed only three singles and one run in 5 1-3 innings. He walked three and struck out one. Lim Chang-yong got the last two outs for the save.
Darvish allowed two earned runs and four hits in five innings. He struck out seven and walked one.