And with the blink of an eye, the last two weeks of madness in the World Baseball Classic is set to wind down Tuesday night, pitting the powerhouse Dominican Republic squad against the somewhat Cinderella team from Puerto Rico.
Both teams made it out of the loaded pool C to advance to the quarter-finals in Miami a week ago. Puerto Rico took a misstep in their first game, losing to the Americans 7-1. The Dominican Republic had a dramatic comeback against team Italy, finally squeaking by and winning 5-4. With the Americans and Dominicans both winning their first game, they each got the right to square off against one and other for the right to advance to the semi-finals, leaving the other to play in an elimination game against the Puerto Ricans after they had eliminated Italy the day before. The Dominicans won a tight one, edging the Americans 2-1, scoring the go ahead run in the top of the ninth and advanced in the tournament. The Puerto Ricans got their chance at redemption against team USA, and won the elimination game 4-3, sending them on to the semi-finals and sending the Americans back to their respective Spring Training venues.
Once the venue switched to the West Coast out at AT&T Park in San Francisco, the final four teams standing from the original field of 16 where the Latin American clubs from pool C, Japan and the Netherlands. Japan returned to America looking to keep their perfection intact in the WBC, winning the only other two tournaments in its brief history. It was there the Puerto Ricans shocked not only Japan but the rest of the baseball world when they took down the Japanese by a score 3-1, placing themselves in the championship game. The Dominican Republic kept their perfect record intact and moved to 7-0 in the tournament by dispatching the Dutch, setting up the all Latin American final set to go down tonight out by the Bay.
The Dominicans are favored and will be led on the mound Samuel Deduno. Deduno has been solid this far in the tournament, and matches up well with the relatively weak lineup of the Puerto Ricans. Puerto Rico will send Giancarlo Alvarado to the mound in hopes of slowing down the powerful lineup of the Dominican Republic. Alvarado is sporting a 2.16 ERA in the WBC, but the task of slowing down Jose Reyes, Robinson Cano, Hanley Ramirez, Edwin Encarnacion and others is daunting to say the least.
This is the third game the two teams have played against each other up to this point in the tournament, with the Domincans winning both by a combined score of 6-2. Puerto Rico will have to hope the clock doesn’t strike midnight on them before the ninth inning tonight, or their magical run will come crashing down as they watch their fierce rival celebrate their first World Baseball Classic title right in front of their very eyes.