Perhaps the most anticipated game of the 2013 World Baseball Classic became an instant classic on Thursday night. Erick Aybar came through with a pinch-hit, go-ahead single in the ninth inning off the most dominant closer in 2012 to help the Dominican Republic get past the USA 3-1.
Pool 2 – Miami, Florida
Dominican Republic 3, USA 1
Both teams featured dominant pitching for most of the game. R.A. Dickey got the start for Team USA and was much better this time out. He tossed five innings allowing just a single run on five hits. He had the knuckleball working striking out four batters.
However, he was matched pitch for pitch by Sam Deduno who pitched four innings striking out seven while allowing just one run. He kept the US bats quiet by coming through with big strikeouts when he needed it.
The only run Dickey gave up was in the second inning when Hanley Ramirez took him deep hitting a solo home run to left field. Dickey looked like the reigning Cy Young winner even picking off Alejandro De Aza on first base.
The USA struck first when Deduno lost his control for a bit. After three singles loaded the bases, Eric Hosmer took a four pitch walk to bring in the only USA run.
The Dominican bullpen was dominant. It pitched five innings allowing only one hit and no walks.
It was the American bullpen that broke first. USA manager Joe Torre sent in closer Craig Kimbrel with the score tied in the top of the ninth. The Dominican Republic had the 6-7-8 hitters coming up to bat.
Kimbrel, who was the first pitcher to ever strikeout more than half of the batters he faced, gave up a lead off double to Nelson Cruz. Cruz sent a rocket into the right-center field gap for a double. USA right fielder Giancarlo Stanton made a great play diving to stop the ball and fired the ball into second just behind a sliding Cruz.
Carlos Santana followed up Cruz and bounced a ball to second base for the first out. However, on the play Cruz was moving and was able to make it to third base easily. Dominican skipper Tony Pena sent up Erick Aybar to pinch hit for Ricardo Nanita.
After taking a horrible called second strike on a low and away slider, Erick Aybar came through ripping a single over the drawn in infield into right field to score the go ahead run. The single sent the entire dugout into a state of celebration, along with every Dominican fan in attendance. But they weren’t threw.
Erick Aybar took off for second base during the next batter stealing the base easily. He was driven home by Jose Reyes and the score was 3-1 in favor of the Dominicans.
Fernando Rodney was called on to finish off the game and that is exactly what he did. The Dominican closer came in and had a 1-2-3 innings to pick up the save. Pedro Strop picked up the win pitching the eighth inning, while Kimbrel took the loss for Team USA.
Joe Mauer was the hitting star for Team USA picking up a pair of singles to raise his WBC average to .444.
Aybar got the big hit for the Domincan, but Nelson Cruz picked up a pair of doubles to help them to the win.
The USA now faces Puerto Rico on Friday night in an elimination game. The winner of that game will advance to the Championship Round with the Dominican Republic which has already booked its ticket.