Puerto Rico stunned Team USA behind a great start by Nelson Figueroa to advance to the Championship Round in San Francisco. In addition, the win eliminated Team USA and gives Puerto Rico a chance to face the Dominican Republic to earn the #1 seed from Pool 2.
Pool 2 – Miami, Florida
Puerto Rico 4, USA 3
Team USA was stymied by a 38-year old journeyman pitcher who has posted a 20-35 record over nine years in the big leagues. But Figueroa pitched his heart on on Friday night tossing six shutout innings allowing just two hits.
Figueroa has pitched well this WBC. So far he has pitched 10 innings allowing just two runs for an ERA of 1.80. Over those 10 innings he has given up just seven hits winning both starts. And on Friday night he had the backing of the Puerto Rico offense.
By the time Figueroa left the game, he had a 4-0 lead.
It all started in the first inning. Angel Pagan led off the game with a single. After a couple of outs, Pagan moved to third on a Yadiar Molina single to right field. Up next was the RBI leader for Puerto Rico, Mike Aviles, who came through again. This time it was with a single to right field to drive in Pagan.
Figueroa’s counterpart Ryan Vogelsang pitched well too. Vogelsang tossed 5.2 innings giving up just two runs on four hits to take the loss. He left in the fifth inning with two outs and a man on first.
In to relieve Vogelsang was the Cleveland Indians Vinnie Pestano, who didn’t have a great night. Pestano came in to give up two hits and two walks without ever getting an out. The big blow came after he walked Carlos Rivera with the bases loaded to make the score 2-0. The very next batter, Andy Gonzalez, doubled into the left field corner scoring two runners to make it 4-0.
The USA tried to battle back late in the game. They got a run off of Giovanni Soto in the seventh innings. Joe Mauer tripled with one out and was driven home by a Giancarlo Stanton single putting the USA on the board.
Ryan Braun brought the USA a run closer in the bottom of the eighth with a double down into the left field corner scoring Jimmy Rollins from second. A pitching change and a couple of batters later, Ben Zobrist walked with the bases loaded to bring in the third USA run.
J.C. Romero shut the USA down the rest of the way. He came on in relief in the eighth to get Eric Hosmer to ground out with the bases loaded. Then he pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning striking out two to pick up the save and send Puerto Rico into the next round.
Up next for Puerto Rico is the Dominican Republic. The two teams will face each other Saturday night to determine the seeding heading into the Championship Round.