Puerto Rico’s 6-5 win sets up must-win for U.S. against Dominican Republic

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SAN DIEGO (AP) Puerto Rico is squeezing every bit of fun it can out of this World Baseball Classic.

Come Monday night, the party moves on to Dodger Stadium.

Yadier Molina and Puerto Rico advanced to the WBC semifinals after scoring four runs in the first inning and then holding on for a wild 6-5 win against the United States on Friday night.

When Edwin Diaz struck out Josh Harrison to end the game with Brandon Crawford standing on third base, players raced out of the Puerto Rico dugout to join the celebration on the infield. After a few minutes in the clubhouse, the team returned to the field waving small flags and ran over to celebrate with a large group of fans on the first-base side who were chanting, beating drums, rattling noisemakers and waving flags.

“We are happy for the job all the guys have done,” Carlos Beltran said. “I think the boys have done a good job playing for their country. We’re happy for our country and for our people. They are very proud of us and we hope to God we finish the mission.”

Puerto Rico advanced to the championship round for the second straight WBC. It reached the championship game in 2013 before losing to the Dominican Republic.

By clinching Pool F with a day to go, Puerto Rico (2-0) will play the Netherlands on Monday night at Dodger Stadium.

The other semifinal spot from Pool F will go to the winner of Saturday night’s game between the United States (1-1) and the Dominican Republic (1-1). That team will play Japan on Tuesday night.

Puerto Rico took a 4-0 lead in the first, watched Buster Posey and Adam Jones hit impressive home runs, and then benefited from a two-run, two-base, two-out throwing error in the sixth by third baseman Nolan Arenado, who won the Gold Glove Award in each of his first four big league seasons.

With most of the 32,463 fans on their feet and chanting in the top of the ninth, a U.S. rally fell just short. Crawford hit a two-run triple to the left-center gap off Diaz with two outs to pull the Americans within a run and spark chants of “U-S-A! U-S-A!”

Diaz then struck out Josh Harrison for his second save to send the Puerto Ricans into a frenzy. Backup catcher Roberto Perez carried a Puerto Rican flag with him onto the field.

Puerto Rico can sweep the pool when it plays Venezuela (0-2) on Saturday afternoon. Puerto Rico beat the Dominican Republic 3-1 on Tuesday night.

“They are a very good team and they are doing a lot of things right,” U.S. manager Jim Leyland said. “You tip your hat to them.”

The United States will have to regroup to face a Dominican Republic team it lost to one week earlier in the opening round in Miami. In that game, Nelson Cruz hit a go-ahead, three-run home run in the eighth as the Dominicans rallied from five runs down to win 7-5.

Puerto Rico took a 4-0 lead on six straight singles and a sacrifice fly in first inning off Marcus Stroman.

Carlos Correa, Beltran and Molina had RBI singles in Puerto Rico’s opening onslaught. Stroman finally got an out when Rosario hit a sacrifice fly to make it 4-0. Molina tried taking third on the play but overran the bag and was tagged out. Stroman got Rivera to fly out to right to end it.

“The first inning was just incredible,” Beltran said. “It gave us so much confidence for the rest of the game.”

The United States pulled to 4-3 on Eric Hosmer‘s RBI single in the second and then homers by Posey leading off the fifth and Jones with one out in the sixth, both off starter Seth Lugo. Posey’s second homer of the tourney went an estimated 398 feet to left-center. Jones, who played at San Diego’s Morse High, homered for the second time in two games.

Puerto Rico regained a cushion in the sixth on the error by Arenado, who short-hopped a throw to first after fielding a grounder by Angel Pagan that took a high bounce.

Leadoff batter Javier Baez was hit by a pitch from Mychal Givens and stole second. Andrew Miller came on and walked Eddie Rosario. With T.J. Rivera batting, Baez and Rosario pulled a double steal. Rivera and pinch-hitter Kike Hernandez struck out. Pagan’s grounder took a wicked hop and Arenado fielded it above his shoulders. He got set, but his throw skipped past Hosmer, and Baez and Rosario scored.

“That is just part of the game,” Leyland said. “That is the human element of it. That is a great third baseman. I have no problem whatsoever with that.”

Lugo (1-0) allowed three runs and five hits in 5 2/3 innings, struck out two and walked one.

Stroman (0-1) allowed four runs and eight hits in 4 2/3 innings, struck out two and walked one.

The Rockies celebrate Pi Day in style

Colorado Rockies on Twitter
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Update: Turns out the Rockies’ social media team Photoshopped this. Kudos, then, for a believable ‘shop job.

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Today is March 14, better known to nerds as Pi Day. The Rockies celebrated in style on Tuesday afternoon, lining up 19 players in order to display what appears to be Pi to the 31st digit: 3.1415926535897932384626433832795.

Stick to sports. /sarcasm

Venezuela rallies in 9th inning to defeat Italy 4-3 in WBC tiebreaker

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Team Venezuela defeated Team Italy¬†4-3 in Monday night’s Group D tiebreaker, earning the right to advance to the second round — Pool F — of the World Baseball Classic.

Italy took an early 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning when John Andreoli doubled and promptly scored on a Daniel Descalso RBI single off of Venezuela starter Omar Bencomo.

Venezuela finally crossed the plate in the top of the sixth as Alcides Escobar led off with a walk and Odubel Herrera reached on a throwing error. Then, after Escobar was forced out at third base on a grounder, Ender Inciarte grounded a single to right field on a ball deflected by first baseman Chris Colabello, plating Herrera to tie the game at one apiece.

Andreoli broke the tie in the seventh inning, drilling a solo home run to right-center field off of Jose Alvarado, giving Italy a 2-1 lead.

Italy reliever Tiago Da Silva kept Venezuela off the board in the eighth, but Mike De Mark started the ninth by serving up a game-tying solo home run to Miguel Cabrera. DeMark then walked Victor Martinez and allowed a long go-ahead RBI single to Rougned Odor that was several inches from becoming a two-run home run. Odor thought it was a homer off the bat, which is why he didn’t run hard and was held to a single. Lefty Frailyn Florian relieved DeMark and gave up a single to right field to Carlos Gonzalez. Gonzalez tried to stretch it into a double and was tagged when he slid off the bag. Alcides Escobar then laid down a suicide squeeze bunt to give Venezuela an insurance run at 4-2.

The drama didn’t end there. With veteran MLB closer Francisco Rodriguez on the hill attempting to nail down the game, Alex Liddi led off the bottom of the ninth by crushing a solo home run to center field, cutting Italy’s deficit to 4-3. From there, Rodriguez was able to settle down, getting Gavin Cecchini, Drew Maggi, and Andreoli to ground out consecutively to end the game in a 4-3 victory for Venezuela.

Venezuela (2-2) joins Puerto Rico (3-0) from Pool D into Pool F, along with the Dominican Republic (3-0) and the United States (2-1) coming from Pool C. Venezuela kicks off play in the second round on Wednesday night at Petco Park against the United States.