Puerto Rico scored three times in the bottom of the eighth to beat Italy 4-3 and keep its World Baseball Classic hopes alive on Wednesday night.
Italy was eliminated after losing its second straight game.
Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo put Italy on the board in the fifth, delivering a bases-loaded double that plated three runs. That was all the offense could muster, though, and it proved to be insufficient after poor defense led to a run in the sixth and an awful managing decision and some additional lousy glovework opened the door for a rally in the eighth.
Puerto Rico had its big guns due up in the eighth, with Carlos Beltran being followed by Yadier Molina, Mike Aviles and Alex Rios. The obvious decision should have been to go to Jason Grilli, Italy’s one major league pitcher, with the hopes that Brian Sweeney or someone else could have handled the lesser lights in the ninth.
Instead, Puerto Rico manager Edwin Rodriguez decided to save Grilli for the ninth. Chris Cooper, who had pitched 2 2/3 scoreless innings, stayed in to face Beltran, walked him on four pitches and was pulled. Nick Pugilese then gave up a hit to Molina. Sweeney came in and retired one of the two batters he faced. Finally, Pat Venditte came in and surrendered the lead. With no ninth-inning rally forthcoming, Italy lost without ever using its best pitcher.
Puerto Rico will now face the loser of Thursday’s U.S.-Dominican Republic matchup. The winner of both games will clinch spots in the semifinals.
Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman extended his hitting streak to 30 games with a single to center field in the bottom of the sixth inning of Wednesday night’s win against the Phillies. Prior to that at-bat, he had grounded out, been hit by a pitch, and walked.
Freeman entered Wednesday night batting .382/.477/.673 with 11 doubles, seven home runs, 27 RBI, and 24 runs scored over his past 29 games. Though his numbers are lacking compared to National League MVP Award favorite Kris Bryant, Freeman will get some top-five votes. On the season, he entered Wednesday hitting .307/.404/.576 with 33 home runs, 88 RBI, and 99 runs scored in 673 plate appearances.
Freeman’s 30-game hitting streak is the longest such streak in the majors this season, according to ESPN Stats & Info. He has also reached base safely in 46 consecutive games.
Mets manager Terry Collins has been scheming out his rotation for the final few days of the season. As ESPN’s Adam Rubin reports, Bartolo Colon may start on short rest against the Phillies on Friday since he threw just 47 pitches in Monday’s loss to the Marlins.
Collins also said that if the Mets clinch a Wild Card spot prior to Sunday’s game against the Phillies, Noah Syndergaard will be limited to only 25 pitches in his start. He would then start the Wild Card game for the Mets. If Syndergaard is needed to pitch a full game against the Phillies, it sounds like Colon would start the Wild Card game, though Collins did not specify.
The Mets are limping to the finish line, having lost five starters in Steven Matz, Jacob deGrom Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, and Jon Niese. They’ve also withstood injuries to David Wright, Wilmer Flores, Neil Walker, and Lucas Duda.