World Baseball Classic: Puerto Rico Advances to WBC Championship on Walk-Off Sac Fly

Team Puerto Rico defeated Team Netherlands 4-3 in extra inning, walk-off fashion on Monday in the first semifinal game of the 2017 World Baseball Classic in Los Angeles. Puerto Rico advances to its second straight WBC championship game.

In the bottom of the eleventh, Team Puerto Rico walked off with a sacrifice fly from right fielder Eddie Rosario and beat Team Netherlands 4-3 in an absolute nail biter.

With the World Baseball Classic’s rule, both teams started the eleventh inning with runners on first and second. The Netherlands failed to score with the bases loaded and one out.

Puerto Rico capitalized on the opportunity. Catcher Yadier Molina laid down a sacrifice bunt and advanced the runners to second and third. After an intentional walk to Javier Baez, Rosario hit the sacrifice fly to win the game.

Action started right away in the first inning. Molina back-picked Andrelton Simmons off of second base on a failed bunt attempt. After a single by Netherlands center fielder Jurickson Profar, he faced the dugout and started celebrating while off the base. Molina fired the ball over to first and back-picked Profar off of first base.

Following the two back picks, Netherlands right fielder Wladimir Balentien launched a two-run home run into the left-field bleachers. Balentien leads all players in the World Baseball Classic in home runs (four) and RBI (12). He finished the game 3-for-4 with the home run, a double, a walk, two RBI and two runs.

Puerto Rico answered right back in the bottom half of the first. Third baseman Carlos Correa hit a line-drive home run and tied the game at two. The home run was Correa’s third of the tournament.

T.J. Rivera, Puerto Rico’s first baseman, joined the home run action with his own in the bottom of the second inning. His home run provided Puerto Rico with a 3-2 lead.

Neither starter pitched past the third inning. Netherlands’ Rick van den Hurk pitched two innings, allowed the two home runs (three runs), gave up five hits and struck out one. Puerto Rican starter Jorge Lopez pitched 2.2 innings, allowed two runs on four hits and a walk.

Hector Santiago replaced Lopez and pitched 3.1 innings. On three hits and three walks, Santiago allowed one run and struck out four batters. The run Santiago allowed tied the game at three.

That run occurred on catcher Shawn Zarraga‘s double that scored Balentien. Jonathan Schoop attempted to score on the play as well, but a perfect relay from Puerto Rico’s outfielder Angel Pagan to second baseman Baez who lasered the throw to Molina beat him to the plate.

Tempers flared in the top of the tenth inning. Puerto Rican closer Edwin Diaz and Balentien started talking back in forth to each other. Diaz followed the chatter up with a pitch high and tight on Balentien. He struck out Balentien on the following pitch and struck out the entire side that inning.

Diaz worked out of the bases-loaded jam in the eleventh inning. And gave Puerto Rico the chance to walk it off in the bottom half. Puerto Rico is a perfect 7-0 in the 2017 World Baseball Classic.

The Kingdom of the Netherlands played without one of their top players, Didi GregoriusA right shoulder injury forced him to miss the semifinals. In the World Baseball Classic, Gregorius hit .348/.385/.652 with a home run, four doubles, five runs and eight RBI.

What to look forward to next?

Team USA and Team Japan face off in the second semifinal matchup at 6 p.m. PST, Tuesday at Dodger Stadium. USA sends Tanner Roark to the mound for his second appearance in the WBC. Tomoyuki Sugano gets the start for Japan. The winner takes on Puerto Rico in the championship game at 6 p.m. PST, Wednesday.

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