The Statue of Liberty is Kaput! Good enough relief pitching and some really not so hot at bats from the bottom of the American batting order ends the World Baseball Classic for the host country. Behind the unbelieveable pitching of Nelson Figueroa, Puerto Rico hangs on to beat the US 4-3.
It doesn’t take much in short tournament. A lack of timely hits at the wrong time — any time, really — and suddenly the big bad Americans are heading home.
A game that featured the apparently tournament-mandated handful of bunts, some head-scratching managerial choices, one of the most egregious stolen base attempts of the year and far too many bad at bats for most US fans liking, team USA could not come back against J.C. Romero and a handful of minor league relief pitchers.
They tried, they rallied late but now the final four is set. Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic will play for the first seed in Pool 2 and the right to face the Netherlands, while the loser gets Japan.
Another tight game, though one that seemed more about failure than success compared to last night’s triumph. The Puerto Rican pitchers kept the US off-balance, changing speeds from “slow” to “slower” until their “please don’t murder this ball, Giancarlo” prayers were answered. Andy Gonzalez delivered the big blow, a two-run double off Vinnie Pestano in the sixth inning which proved to be the difference.
Credit where it is due: Nelson Figueroa pitched a brilliant game, working the corners of the plate with aplomb, making the most of his “limited” arsenal of pitches. As Ben Badler notes on twitter, Figueroa pitched 60 innings of winter ball this year so he isn’t exactly shaking off the rust like some pitchers.
Nelson Figueroa in last two WBCs: 17.1 IP, 2 ER.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) March 16, 2013
The former Met went six strong, allowing just two hits and a single walk with two strikeouts. He threw right up to the 80 threshold and looked good doing it. The parade of Puerto Rican relievers didn’t inspire a great deal of confidence though they did the job, allowing three runs with a four run lead isn’t failing now is it??
If fingers must point, why not pick on Adam Jones and Shane Victorino at the bottom of the American lineup? The two outfielders (though Victorino DH’d tonight) combined to go 0-8 with four strikeouts, included making two quick outs in the ninth inning against platoon-heavy former Phillies reliever J.C. Romero.
So the tournament must press on without the hosts. Will interest wane now that the US are out? Depends on where you live. This event was designed to grow the game internationally and it appears to be succeeding. Having the US of A in the mix keeps the domestic sports networks interested but there is still great entertainment ahead when the tournament shifts to San Francisco.
Hopefully, no time or brainpower is spent wondering where it all went wrong for the USA. They lost three games in this tournament by a total of six runs. That’s it – but that’s all it takes.
They were beaten by a bad pitcher who had it all working for him in a big moment. Would Mike Trout have turned in a better AB than Adam Jones in the ninth inning? Probably, but who cares?
Puerto Rican fans don’t. They’re celebrating a trip to the semi finals. The ownership of the San Francisco Giants might care a little bit.
They are now faced with selling tickets to three games without the biggest draw. The good old dynamic pricing structure looks like it might offer some hot, real-time bargains.
This is how the tickets were priced earlier this week, after the US beat Puerto Rico the first time and looked like a semi final lock.
And here is what they look like now. Quite the difference. They’re basically giving them away at this point!
Tickets for the final game going for less than half price just two days later? Some brave baseball fan is going to get quite the show at a very reasonable price, that much appears clear.