Puerto Rico beat the Netherlands, 4-3, on Monday night to advance to the World Baseball Classic final. Carlos Correa scored the game-winning run on a sacrifice fly by Eddie Rosario in the bottom of the 11th inning.
Extra innings followed the new WBC rules, so beginning in the 11th, both teams started with runners on first and second. Puerto Rico took advantage to win the game.
It’s the second straight time that Puerto Rico has reached the WBC championship game after losing to the Dominican Republic in 2013. This time around, it will face the winner of the semifinal between the United States and Japan, which is set for Tuesday.
Wladimir Balentien opened scoring for Netherlands in the top of the first inning with a two-run home run that he topped with the best bat flip of the tournament. The outfielder never made it in MLB, but he’s carved out an impressive career as a big-time slugger in Japan. That power was on display as he knocked in Xander Bogaerts to make it 2-0.
The lead didn’t last long as Correa hit a home run of his own in the bottom of the first inning to tie the game. Followed up an inning later by a solo shot from T.J. Rivera, Puerto Rico had quickly turned a deficit into a 3-2 lead.
Netherlands almost grabbed back the lead in the fifth inning but instead tied the game when Jonathan Schoop was thrown out at home. Shawn Zarraga doubled to left field, knocking Balentien in, but Yadier Molina was able to lay a tag on the next runner, Schoop, to keep it to one run.
That was an extremely good tagging play. For some balance, here’s Javier Baez avoiding the tag on a great sliding play:
Pitching dominated the second half of the game as neither team scored between the sixth and 10th innings. Edwin Diaz earned the win by pitching two scoreless innings, which included three strikeouts and one walk. The loss went to 7’1 hurler Loek van Mil, who gave up one run on one hit in 1.2 innings.
Now Puerto Rico finally gets another shot at WBC glory after falling short four years ago. We’ll find out Tuesday whether it’s Japan or the USA that will stand in the way of that happening.