Puerto Rico started Friday’s game with six straight singles, totaled four runs off Marcus Stroman and held on for a 6-5 win over Team USA to guarantee passage to Los Angeles for the World Baseball Classic semifinals.
After three straight Puerto Rican ground-ball singles to go up 1-0, Carlos Beltran and Yadier Molina’s line drive hits plated a couple more runs, and Eddie Rosario’s sacrifice fly capped the first-inning outburst.
Stroman settled in and did not allow a run in the rest of his outing, which lasted 4 2⁄3 innings.
Seth Lugo, Stroman’s counterpart, followed up on his strong Round 1 start with another nice outing, allowing three runs in 5 2/3 innings and earning a win.
Buster Posey and Adam Jones homered for the US.
Trailing 6-3 entering the ninth, the Americans started a rally and nearly tied the game. Closer Edwin Diaz allowed the first two batters he faced to reach, and with two outs, Brandon Crawford tripled home both runners to put the tying run just 90 feet from home plate. However, Diaz struck out Josh Harrison to end the game.
Both starters hoped to carry over good outings from Round 1 into Friday’s outings in Pool F, but only Lugo was able to do so. The first-inning barrage could have been worse, but Molina was thrown out at third on Rosario’s sacrifice fly when he slipped off the base as the tag was applied.
Team USA immediately got one of the runs back in the top of the second. Nolan Arenado led off with a double and scored on Eric Hosmer’s single, but the Americans couldn’t capitalize on a two-on, none-out situation after Posey walked. Daniel Murphy grounded into a double play, and Brandon Crawford grounded out to end the inning.
Posey’s solo home run in the fifth brought the US within two runs, and after Andrew McCutchen was ejected for arguing balls and strikes in the sixth, Jones’ second homer of Pool F made it a one-run game.
Mychal Givens, who came in to relieve Stroman, struggled in the home half of the sixth. He hit Javier Baez and was removed by manager Jim Leyland when he started Rosario off with three straight balls. Andrew Miller completed the walk, and a double steal with Enrique Hernandez at the plate put two in scoring position. It looked like Miller would be out of the jam when he got Angel Pagan to chop a ball to third with two outs, but an unexpected hop caused Arenado to throw the ball away, which allowed both insurance runs to score.
The result sets up a winner-take-all rematch between Team USA and the Dominican Republic Saturday night. The winner will finish the pool 2-1 and advance to the semifinals, joining Puerto Rico, Japan and the Netherlands. Puerto Rico has one last tuneup against Venezuela Saturday afternoon.