Puerto Rico eliminated Japan from the World Baseball Classic at AT&T Park in San Francisco Sunday night, holding on to win the semifinal matchup 3-1.
Puerto Rico will be making its first WBC championship game appearance, and its opponent will be the winner of Monday’s semifinal showdown between the Dominican Republic and the Netherlands. Japan has been the only winner of the WBC (2006, ’09) in the tournament’s brief history, so a new champion will be crowned on Tuesday.
The Game: Mike Aviles’ run-scoring single in the first inning gave Puerto Rico a 1-0 lead, and Alex Rios made it 3-0 with a two-run home run off left-handed reliever Atsushi Nohmi to left in the seventh.
Right-hander Jose De La Torre played a key role in the game, tossing 1 1/3 scoreless innings in relief of starter Mario Santiago (4.1 IP, 2H, 0R). De La Torre entered the contest with one out and a runner on second in Japan’s half of the fifth. He walked his first hitter, but preserved Puerto Rico’s 1-0 advantage at the time by recording back-to-back strikeouts to end the inning.
Hirokazu Ibata’s RBI single off Randy Fontanez in the eighth inning brought Japan within 3-1. Later that inning, a crucial base-running miscue allowed Puerto Rico to eventually escape trouble.
Fernando Cabrera recorded the last two outs of the ninth for the save. Santiago was credited with the win, and Japanese right-hander Kenta Maeda (5.0 IP, 4H, 1R), who gave up Aviles’ RBI single in the first, took the loss.