SAN DIEGO – (Special to Digital Sports Desk by The Sports Xchange) – Second baseman Javier Baez singled, stole three bases and scored a run as Puerto Rico advanced to the final round of the World Baseball Classic with a 6-5 victory over the United States on Friday night at Petco Park. Puerto Rico (2-0) strung together six singles in a four-run first inning, and a throwing error by U.S. third baseman Nolan Arenado gave them two unearned runs and a 6-3 lead in the sixth.
The U.S. and the Dominican Republic, both 1-1, will play for the fourth and final WBC semifinal berth on Saturday night. Two-time winner Japan and the Netherlands already have qualified. The final round begins Monday in Los Angeles.
Brandon Crawford hit a two-out, two-run triple off Edwin Diaz in the ninth before Josh Harrison struck out to end the game.
Buster Posey and Adam Jones had bases-empty homers for the U.S., each hitting his second of the WBC.
Angel Pagan, Francisco Lindor and Carlos Correa began the parade of singles in the first inning off Marcus Stroman (0-1), with Correa driving in the first run. Carlos Beltran singled in Lindor and Yadier Molina followed with a single to drive in Correa.
Baez singled to load the bases before Eddie Rosario’s sacrifice fly to left field made it 4-0. Molina tagged and beat the throw to third but was tagged out when he came off the back, blunting the rally.
Arenado doubled and Eric Hosmer singled to make it 4-1 in the U.S. second off Seth Lugo (2-0). Posey’s homer in the fifth made it 4-2 and Jones’ homer in the sixth made it 4-3.
Baez was hit by a pitch and stole second in the sixth before Rosario walked. The two then pulled a double steal. Andrew Miller struck out Enrique Hernandez before Pagan grounded to Arenado, whose one-hop throw got past Hosmer at first base.
HOW THE GAME WAS WON: Stroman gave up three hits in 4 2/3 scoreless innings in his previous start against the Dominican Republic, but the top of the Puerto Rican lineup aggressively attacked him in the first inning. Most of their six singles were hit hard, some weren’t, but they all counted. Before giving up two runs in the ninth, Puerto Rico’s bullpen had pitched nine scoreless innings in this round.
MISSED OPPORTUNITY: Daniel Murphy, DHing for the second time in the U.S.’s five WBC games, grounded into a double play with runners on first and second with the score 4-1 game in the second inning. Nolan Arenado has won four straight Gold Gloves with Colorado, but his uncharacteristic throwing error gave Puerto Rico two insurance runs in the sixth.
TIP OF THE CAP: San Diego native Adam Jones hit his second homer in as many games at Petco Park, trimming the gap to 4-3 in the sixth inning. Andrew Miller struck out two after replacing Mychal Givens in the sixth.
UP NEXT: Puerto Rico has quick turnaround, playing Venezuela (0-2) at 12:30 p.m. PDT Saturday. The United States (1-1) will meet the Dominican Republic in the final game of the second round on Saturday night, with Royals left-hander Danny Duffy scheduled to face Twins right-hander Ervin Santana with a berth in the semifinals on the line