U.S. Team Rallies to Advance to WBC Semifinals With 6-5 Win
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
MIAMI, March 17 -- The World Series wasn't decided here Tuesday night. It just looked like it. A relieved and overjoyed group of U.S. ballplayers swarmed the field and enveloped Jimmy Rollins even before he jumped on home plate to secure Team USA's bottom-of-the-ninth, come-from-behind 6-5 victory over Puerto Rico in a thriller of a game that kept the U.S. team alive in the World Baseball Classic.
Third baseman David Wright struck a one-out single to right field with the bases loaded against Fernando Cabrera, scoring Brian Roberts and Rollins to cap a pulsating three-run rally and ignite a wild celebration that featured a pile-up on the ecstatic Wright.
"The celebration was pretty wild," Wright said. "I never thought we'd be dog-piling in March. It was something pretty special, something I'll always remember."
On the brink of elimination since its loss Saturday to Puerto Rico, the U.S. team ensured itself a spot in this weekend's semifinals in Los Angeles while Puerto Rico watched its fortunes splinter in the most unimaginable way.
The last team to lose in the WBC, with its first loss coming Monday against Venezuela, the Puerto Ricans became the latest to go home. The U.S. team will face Venezuela on Wednesday night to determine seedings for the semifinals.
With the U.S. team trailing 5-3, Shane Victorino led off the ninth against lefty J.C. Romero with a single, then moved to second on a single by Roberts, who had battled back from an 0-2 count. Derek Jeter pushed Victorino to third with a fly to right, then Roberts stole second.
At the plate with one out was Rollins, who after a grueling nine-pitch at-bat drew a walk to load the bases and force Romero's departure.
Cabrera proceeded to walk Red Sox slugger Kevin Youkilis, who had hit a home run in the third inning, on five pitches, bringing the U.S. team within one. That brought Wright to the plate.
"The bases loaded, one out, the game on the line, that's what you dream about as a kid when you're playing in your back yard with your friends," Wright said.
After dominating the tournament before Monday's 2-0 defeat by Venezuela, Puerto Rico found itself hanging on the same fragile limb as the United States, the very team it pummeled Saturday night. The Puerto Ricans had scored 26 runs and given up just four in the tournament, but they still couldn't afford Tuesday's loss.
As the U.S. team danced and celebrated, Puerto Rico's players hurried with heads down into their dugout.
"The heart of my lineup was coming up," U.S. Manager Davey Johnson said. "I was thinking the guy on the mound was in a whole lot of heap of trouble. . . . I really enjoyed that. The right people were up and it was exciting."