After turning a clutch double play in the top of the 11th, Puerto Rico got a game-winning sacrifice fly from Eddie Rosario to earn a 4-3 win over the Netherlands to remain undefeated and advance to Wednesday’s World Baseball Classic final.
Under international baseball rules, starting in the 11th inning, each team will start with runners on first and second base. The Netherlands squandered its chance when Curt Smith grounded into an inning-ending double play.
Each half of the 11th followed the same script. After a sacrifice bunt, the defending team intentionally walked the following batter to load the bases. Instead of grounding into a double play, though, Rosario lined the first pitch he saw into center field. Jurickson Profar’s throw did not arrive nearly in time as Carlos Correa crossed the plate with the winning run.
In Wednesday’s championship game, Puerto Rico will face the winner of Tuesday’s semifinal between Team USA and Japan.
Correa and T.J. Rivera both homered for Puerto Rico, and Francisco Lindor collected three hits. Starter Jorge Lopez allowed two runs in 2 2⁄3 innings, and Edwin Diaz was credited with the win with two scoreless innings.
Wladimir Balentien had three hits for the Netherlands, including a two-run home run. Rick Van Den Hurk allowed three runs in two innings before the Dutch bullpen pitched 8 2⁄3 innings without allowing an earned run.
While the game played out as a low-scoring affair, it looked like it would turn into a slugfest early. Balentien’s homer gave the Netherlands a quick 2-0 lead in the first, but it could have had more. Earlier in the inning, Andrelton Simmons was picked off second base by Yadier Molina. After a single moved a runner to third, Profar was tagged out as he celebrated away from first base.
Puerto Rico did not wait long to respond. After Lindor’s one-out double, Correa crushed a two-run home run of his own to tie the game.
An inning later, Rivera’s home run put Puerto Rico ahead, and Van Den Hurk’s night eventually ended after just two innings.
Lopez did not last much longer than his counterpart. With two outs in the third, Edwin Rodriguez went to his bullpen, and the high-scoring pace of the first couple innings slowed down dramatically.
Each team had chances to score but could not get the clutch hit they both needed. With two on and none out in the fourth, Dutch pitcher Jair Jurrjens aggressively fielded a bunt and threw out the plodding Molina trying to reach third. Javier Baez and Rosario each stole a base to put two runners in scoring position, but those steals proved insignificant when Jurrjens retired Rivera and Reymond Fuentes to strand the runners.
The Netherlands was able to tie the game in the top of the fifth. Balentien barely missed his second homer of the night when his fly ball caromed off the top of the wall, and he had to settle for a double. He came around to score on Shawn Zarraga’s double after Jonathan Schoop was intentionally walked, but Schoop was cut down at the plate thanks to a tremendous relay by Angel Pagan and Baez.
Over the course of the game, the teams combined to leave 19 runners on base. Puerto Rico turned four double plays to get out of trouble, and the Netherlands got an impressive ninth inning from Kenley Jansen to send the game to extras.
The top of the 10th heated up in a matchup between Diaz and Balentien. After fouling a couple pitches off, Balentien took exception to an up-and-in fastball, which led to the benches slowly clearing as umpires and leaders easily restored order. Balentien promptly lost the battle when he was called out on strikes on a fastball on the outside corner.
Lindor led off Puerto Rico’s half of the 10th with a broken-bat single, but Van Mil induced a ground-ball double play off the bat of Correa. In his first at-bat after pinch running for Carlos Beltran, Enrique Hernandez flied out to center to send the game to the 11th and trigger international baseball’s extra-innings rules.
In Tuesday’s semifinal action, Team USA will take on two-time champion Japan. In the Americans’ first and only prior trip to the semifinal in 2009, Japan topped them, 9-4, en route to its second straight World Baseball Classic title. Tanner Roark takes the ball for the US, and he’ll be opposed by Tomoyuki Sugano.