SAN DIEGO — Yadier Molina and Puerto Rico are moving on to the World Baseball Classic 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.
Puerto Rico advances 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.
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. Brandon Crawford hit a two-run triple to the left-centre gap off Edwin Diaz with two outs to pull the Americans within a run. Diaz then struck out Josh Harrison to end it and send the Puerto Ricans into a wild celebration on the infield.
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.
Puerto Rico took a 4-0 lead on six straight singles and a sacrifice fly in first inning off Marcus Stroman.
The United States pulled to 4-3 on Eric Hosmer’s RBI single in the second and then impressive homers by Buster Posey leading off the fifth and Adam 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-centre. 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 a two-run, two-base, two-out error by Gold Glove third baseman Nolan 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.
Carlos Correa, Carlos 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.
Lugo allowed three runs and five hits in 5 2/3 innings, struck out two and walked one.
Stroman allowed four runs and eight hits in 4 2/3 innings, struck out two and walked one.