If you stuck it out and watched the game through to the end you saw a celebration fit for a World Series victory. The World Baseball Classic means something to all the players involved. And when a team wins on the biggest stage - say, in Miami with a trip to the semis on the line - the celebration rivals that of any postseason celebration. That's what we saw from Puerto Rico as they knocked off the United States to get revenge for their 2009 loss at the hands of the very same team.
Ryan Vogelsong got the start for the Americans and he pitched decently. He went 5 2/3 innings while allowing just four hits. However, he did allow two runs. Puerto Rico jumped out on top right away with a run in the first inning, and they never looked back.
Puerto Rico's run came via station-to-station baseball. Three singles pushed across the first run of the game. Puerto Rico would never relinquish that lead. The United States once again struggled to score early and put up zeros for most of the game. Then, Puerto Rico broke things open.
In the top of the sixth inning, the Puerto Ricans looked like they might go down quietly to keep this a 1-0 game. After getting the lead runner on, Puerto Rico made two quick outs. Then they battled back and scored three times in the inning. A two-run double by Andy Gonzalez was the big blow.
With a comfortable 4-0 lead, Puerto Rico looked ready to cruise to San Francisco. But Team USA fought back. They scored a run in the bottom of the seventh innings and got the game back to a manageable score. Then, in the bottom of the eighth, things looked promising.
Ryan Braun doubled home a run, then shortly thereafter, the U.S. loaded the bases. Ben Zobrist drew a walk to push another run across. Now, down two with the bases loaded, the United States looked ready to overtake Puerto Rico. It was up to Eric Hosmer to bring the United States all the way back. With the bases loaded and two outs now, Hosmer couldn't do more than slap a weak ground ball to second base.
In the bottom of the ninth, the United States went easily. They couldn't even get a runner aboard against J.C. Romero of the Puerto Rican squad. Jimmy Rollins ended it on a fly ball to center field, and the celebration began.
Puerto Rico will now take on Japan on Sunday. The Japanese team has the benefit of rest. They've tried to stay sharp by getting in an exhibition game. Puerto Rico, on the other hand, will use tomorrow as their travel and preparation day, then face the Japanese club in the first game of the semis.